Challenges for Transport and Public Services
Edited by Karst T. Geurs, Roberto Patuelli and Tomaz Ponce Dentinho
Chapter 9: Industrial accessibility and the efficiency of the US freight railroads
The majority of the analyses of accessibility have involved the implicit underlying assumption that government action, often involving subsidies or public investment, could improve accessibility. Furthermore, the emphases of these analyses have seen a focus on personal travel, often concerning notions of social equity. Here we make no judgment about the underlying ethos of this way of approaching accessibility, or whether it has resulted in significant social welfare gains. Our interest is in freight transportation and the ways in which institutional changes have improved access of producers to markets and of suppliers of inputs to the production process. Accessibility in this context is seen as relating to the efficiency of provision and not just to the existence of transportation capacity. Inadequate or over-costly freight transportation, and with it lower levels of access, can stymie production, and thus limit social welfare. The analysis is limited to the United States (US) railroad system, and to considering the impact that regulatory changes over 40 years have had on its efficiency and its ability to provide industry and consumers with access to the inputs and goods that they are seeking.
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