Out of Control Policy Blog

A Free Market Reading List on Transportation Policy and Planning

As we continue to immerse ourselves in the soap opera of federal transportation reauthorization, I thought it might be useful to plug several recent books on transportation policy presenting free market approaches to transportation planning and investment. These books include strategies that reduce the role of public financing for roads, restore consumer & user priorities in investment decisions, and promote policies that allow for the rational and efficient management of the entire transportation network.

  1. Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century, by Sam Staley and Adrian Moore (Rowman & Littlefield). Sorry, I have to plug my own book. But seriously, the chapters on the importance of travel speed as a key to economic productivity (Chapter 3), thinking of transportation systems as spiderweb networks (chapter 5), and the thinking three dimensionaly in building new capacity (Chapters 6, 7 & 8) really present new ideas that inextricably tie market-based approaches to transportation planning.
  2. Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads, edited by Gabriel Roth (Transaction Publishers). This is truly one of the most comprehensive and best collections of essays on free-market approaches to highways and roads available. Chock full of theoretical and practical insights.
  3. Gridlock: Why We're Stuck and Traffic and What To Do About It, by Randal O'Toole (Cato Institute). This highly accessible, thin volume grapples head on with a comprehensive range of transportation planning issues, including transit investment, green technology, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and even driverless cars.
  4. The Privatization of Roads and Highways, edited by Walter Block (Ludwig Van Mises Institute). This is a free market purist's treasure trove of ideas, theory, history and applications. Many of the ideas can't be applied in the here and now, but they provide a rich tapestry of strategies for a long term framework for privatizing the entire transport system.
  5. Curb Rights: A Foundation for Free Enterprise in Urban Transit, Daniel Klein, Adrian T. Moore, Binyam Reja (Brookings Institution). This thin but very accessible book presents a profound approach to priviatizing transit drawn from experience but (IMO) underappreciated in the free market community.
  6. The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You THink, and What We Can Do About It, by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley (Rowman & Littlefield). This book may be the most accessible on the list with concise journalistic-style arguments for why speed is important to modern life, the 10 myths of sprawl and urban travel, interviews with luminaries in privatizing and pricing roads, and checklists for how to solve the problem. Lots ideas that can be taken off the shelf and applied now at the federal, state, and local levels.

Samuel Staley is Research Fellow


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