Thursday, August 23, 2007

Commuter Rail

This piece from the current issue of Flagpole talks about the never-ending push for a commuter rail line between Atlanta and Athens. Supporters of the idea would do well to read “Urban Rail Transit Derailed” by Robert W. Poole Jr. of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and the Reason Foundation.

Poole summarizes “On the Social Desirability of Urban Rail Transit Systems,” an article by Clifford Winston and Vikram Maheshri that appears in the September 2007 issue of Journal of Urban Economics (volume 62, issue 2, pages 362-382 – the PDF can be obtained through Galileo if you have a password).

Quoting Poole, "the authors conclude that rail transit is erroneously believed by the public to be socially desirable, because 'supporters have sold [rail systems] as an antidote to the social costs associated with automobile travel, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary.' They conclude that, in fact, rail transit is “an increasing drain on social welfare.” For what it is worth, Winston is affiliated with the Brookings Institution and Maheshri appears to be a grad student in economics at UC-Berkely, neither of which is known as being particularly conservative in their institutional outlooks.

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