Thursday, November 29, 2012

Matt Kahn on Project Evaluation


In the above video Matt Kahn explains why many projects that do not pass muster in a benefit cost test still move forward. This NY Times article provides somereal world examples of the politics of rail investment in Los Angeles, especially how rail investment is not equitably spread around. From the Times story, Mayor Villaraigosa explains his support for a new rail line that doesn't stop in an African-American neighborhood:
But Mr. Villaraigosa also emphasized the benefits that the rail network — including a recently constructed light-rail line that carries passengers through the northern parts of South Los Angeles — would offer the area even if a Leimert Park stop was not built. He also noted his efforts to expand the Crenshaw line, which was originally designed as a bus line with a fraction of the money it now has.
“All of that happened because I drove it,” he said. “This was a busway before I made it into a light rail.”
The story does not make clear what the benefits of the rail line are expected to be, but I'm pretty sure that Leimert Park is better off with a busway that stops in the neighborhood than with a light rail line that does not. USC's Lisa Schweitzer explains why the residents of Leimert Park are upset:
“It comes out of this history in which the answer is always no,” she said. “When it comes to requests from South L.A., the answer is always no, we can’t afford it. And, conversely, when it comes to the West Side, the answer is always yes, because they’re so politically empowered and so wealthy.”
Too many transit projects are failures on economic and equity bases. For those of us who support transit, we need to be much more reflective about the investment choices we have made.
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