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New Research Exposes Extreme Bias in Rail Demand Forecasting

Leonard Gilroy
April 12, 2005, 12:15pm

A new article in the Journal of the American Planning Association offers a damning indictment of planners' use of forecasts for transportation infrastructure projects. Here's the abstract: This article is a breath of fresh air, and it validates the concerns of those of us who have been warning for years about the extreme mismatch between forecasted and actual demand, particularly for new light rail projects. We repeatedly hear rosy ridership forecasts used as a primary selling point for new light rail systems when real world experience indicates that new systems almost never get close to meeting their promoters' lofty expectations. Here's more from the article: Ouch. The whole article is definitely worth a read, as it also outlines some remedies that would inject some sanity and accountability into the decisionmaking process. Suggested remedies include: Kudos to the researchers for bringing this dirty little (not-so-hidden) secret to light, and also to JAPA for publishing it. I doubt that most of the APA rank-and-file will welcome this research with open arms, given that they've invested themselves so heavily in light rail advocacy. But often in life the painful truths are the ones that most desperately need to be confronted.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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