John Whitehead linked to this great online tool for quickie calculations of value of time used to justify transport projects. From the Political Calculations site:
Suppose, for a moment, that the people who run your local government really cared enough about you and your fellow citizens to do something that might actually benefit you, by funding a fancy transportation project that could shave 13 minutes off your time while commuting once it's done.
Is it worth it?
The answer, at this point, is "it depends". And honestly, what it depends upon is what your and your fellow commuters' time is really worth.And here is the explanation of their default model, based on an actual project:
All the default numbers in the tool above are taken from a federally-funded transportation project in North Carolina, which promised to spend $461 million to reduce the travel time of some 100,000 train commuters between Charlotte and Raleigh by 13 minutes a trip, which would bring their one-way transit time down to just under three hours. We then adapted the math developed by John Whitehead for determining the benefit-cost ratio for the project to estimate what value per hour saved per individual that the state's politicians were assigning to the primary declared benefit of the project.In case your value of time is sufficiently high that you won't check the model yourself, the value of time that justifies this particular project is $638 per hour. Yikes.
The "time savings" is often ephemeral, especially when talking about public transit. If, for example, a train to work would operate five minutes faster (and leave five minutes later); but your bus connecting to the train does not/cannot adjust its schedule (because it makes other connections), you must still leave your home at the same time.
If, on the other hand, a project produces time savings that permit operational savings (reduced personnel or equipment needs), the cost savings can be significant.
Or, if the time savings make public transit significantly more time efficient and attractive to more users than using a personal auto, then the benefits to the individual, the environment, and other road users can make the investment worthwhile.
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