Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads

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The poor health of today's roads—a subject close to the hearts of motorists, taxpayers, and government treasurers around the world—has resulted from faulty incentives that misdirect government decision-makers, according to the contributors to Street Smart. During the 1990s, bad government decision-making resulted in the U.S. Interstate Highway System growing by only one seventh the rate of traffic growth. The poor maintenance of existing roads is another concern. In cities around the world, highly political and ...

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Overview

The poor health of today's roads—a subject close to the hearts of motorists, taxpayers, and government treasurers around the world—has resulted from faulty incentives that misdirect government decision-makers, according to the contributors to Street Smart. During the 1990s, bad government decision-making resulted in the U.S. Interstate Highway System growing by only one seventh the rate of traffic growth. The poor maintenance of existing roads is another concern. In cities around the world, highly political and wasteful government decision-making has led to excessive traffic congestion that has created long commutes, reduced safety, and caused loss of leisure time.

Street Smart examines the privatization of roads in theory and in practice. The authors see at least four possible roles for private companies, beyond the well-known one of working under contract to design, build, or maintain governmentally provided roads. These include testing and licensing vehicles and drivers; management of government-owned facilities; franchising; and outright private ownership. Two chapters describe the history of private roads in the United Kingdom and the United States. Contemporary examples are provided of road pricing, privatizing, and contracting out are evident in environs as diverse as Singapore, Southern California, and Scandinavia, and cities as different as Bergen, Norway, and London, England. Finally, several chapters examine strategies for implementing privatization. The principles governing providing scarce resources in free societies are well known. We apply them to such necessities as energy, food, and water so why not to "road space"? The main obstacle to private, or semi-private, ownership of roads is likely to remain the reluctance of the political class to give up a lucrative source of power and influence.

Those who want decisions about road services to be controlled by the interplay of consumers and suppliers in free markets, rather than by politicians, will have to explain the need for change. Street Smart makes a powerful case for the need for change and sheds light on the complex issues involved. Gabriel Roth is a transport and privatization consultant and a research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads by Gabriel Roth was named one of the Best 10 Books of the Year 2007 in planning by Planetizen, the Planning and Development Network. Their website reads: "In this provocative and enlightening compilation, the leading thinkers on privatization put forth market-based solutions for providing roadways and dealing with traffic congestion... A valuable resource for understanding the argument for privatization." “This collection of well-written, mostly nontechnical papers advocates private investment in roads around the world. The authoritative editor, a former World Bank economist, has assembled many leading writers on this current, widely discussed approach to relieving bottlenecks in highway construction… [T]his volume is the best and most comprehensive collection of information on a piece of future transportation policy, but not all of it. References and index are similarly excellent and comprehensive. There is no comparable recent book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers; academic audiences, upper-division undergraduate and up; professionals.” —D. Brand, Choice "Private turnpikes were commonplace in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but they eventually succumbed to competition from railways and onerous government regulations. Street Smart makes an eloquent and convincing argument that the time is ripe for the private sector to make a comeback with a boost from modern electronic tolling technology and innovative contract designs. Chapters are organized into five parts that complement each other nicely. Early chapters explain why market forces allocate resources efficiently and describe various roles for the private sector in supplying road infrastructure and services. Later chapters describe the history of private roads and some recent, encouraging, developments with privatization, and suggest alternative ways forward in the course of privatization. Written by leading economists, engineers and other professionals, Street Smart is essential reading for academics, policy analysts and policy makers, as well as firms contemplating involvement themselves." Robin Lindsey, Department of Economics, University of Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Why involve the private sector in the provision of public roads? 3
Ch. 2 De-socializing the roads 25
Ch. 3 Do holdout problems justify compulsory right-of-way purchase and public provision of roads? 43
Ch. 4 The political economy of private roads 79
Ch. 5 Improving road safety by privatizing vehicle and driver testing and licensing 97
Ch. 6 Congestion pricing : the Singapore experience 117
Ch. 7 Congested roads : an economic analysis with Twin Cities' illustrations 141
Ch. 8 Estimating congestion prices, revenues, and surpluses : an example from Manila 171
Ch. 9 Hot lanes in Southern California 189
Ch. 10 How should the revenues from congestion pricing be spent? 225
Ch. 11 The rise and fall of non-government roads in the United Kingdom 245
Ch. 12 America's toll road heritage : the achievements of private initiative in the nineteenth century 277
Ch. 13 Streets as private-sector public goods 305
Ch. 14 Private roads to the future : the Swedish private road associations 327
Ch. 15 Role of the private sector in managing and maintaining roads 347
Ch. 16 New Zealand's path to a good road 375
Ch. 17 Development of highway concessions on trunk roads in the United Kingdom 399
Ch. 18 Commercializing the management and financing of roads 423
Ch. 19 HOT networks : a new plan for congestion relief and better transit 451
Ch. 20 The way forward to the private provision of public roads 501
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