Smart Transport Networks

Smart Transport Networks

Market Structure, Sustainability and Decision Making

NECTAR Series on Transportation and Communications Networks Research

Edited by Thomas Vanoutrive and Ann Verhetsel

Transport is debated by many, and liberalization processes, transport policy, transport and climate change and increased competition between transport modes are the subject of heated discussion. Smart Transport Networks illustrates that whether concerning road, water, rail or air, knowledge on the structure of transport markets is crucial in order to tackle transport issues. The book therefore explores key factors concerning the structure of transport markets, their environmental impact, and questions why decision makers often fail to tackle transport-related problems.

Chapter 4: Handling biases in forecasting when making transportation policy

Kenneth Button and Brien Benson

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, transport, urban and regional studies, transport

Extract

To slightly misquote the late American political scientist, Ezra Solomon (1986, p. E1), ‘The only function of [traffic] forecasting is to make astrology look respectable’. While Solomon was, of course talking about economics, the sentiment extends to traffic and transportation forecasting in its many guises. Transportation forecasting, as we now understand it, is relatively new, but even an early assessment of traffic forecasting in Britain did not paint a very complementary picture of the engineering-based methods used at the time: ‘an assumption of zero change from the base year would not have produced larger forecast errors . . . for trips the errors would have been considerably less . . . [than those obtained from a transport model]’ (Mackinder and Evans, 1981, p. 25). We are simply not very good at it or, in some instances we allow vested interests to manipulate predictions to achieve their own self-serving ends. The practical challenges of producing good forecasts have perhaps grown over time. Most forms of modern transportation require a substantial amount of expensive, durable, and inflexible infrastructure to be efficient. This infrastructure embraces not only roads, ports, rail lines, and the like that is directly used for movement, but also specialized facilities to build airframes, cars, ships, and railway units. It is also a sector that has traditionally been the subject of significant regulation, generally for economic, military, and political reasons but more recently for environmental protection.

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