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Analytic Methods for Evaluating the Economic Development Consequences of New Technologies and Innovations

One important area of research is to explore the economic development consequences of productivity-enhancing innovations that are being introduced into existing transport systems. A framework should be provided and benchmarks should be established for understanding the broad economic consequences of these innovations. To be assured that research encompasses the issues important to decision makers in the new millennium, a systemwide and regional economic perspective will have to be maintained. Researchers must be mindful of the direct social effects of transportation investment as well as the economic effects.


This can include any new technologies that can enhance the efficiency of the existing highway system. Examples include intelligent highway systems, congestion pricing, intermodal freight facilities, geographic positioning systems, and instrument landing systems. Within each of these areas, numerous innovations are being developed. Policy makers and practitioners need to gain a clear understanding of the effects of these innovations on economic development through enhanced delivery of transportation services and a more efficient use of scarce resources. Scarce resources may extend beyond transportation investment dollars to include land use, air quality, and noise pollution.


In this context, it becomes critical that highways, rail lines, airports, and seaports be considered as a system, where the system goes beyond the fixed infrastructure, such as a stretch of highway or a rail line, to include the vehicles that use the infrastructure. The concept of intelligent highway systems underscores this trend. Simply put, vehicles are being linked to each other and to traffic control devices to improve the efficiency of the total highway system. Similar types of innovations in intelligent traffic management are emerging for air, sea, and rail systems.


To accomplish this kind of evaluation, it also becomes important for researchers to consider the more fundamental issues of understanding the effects of different “attributes” of highways (and other modes) on economic development. That is, do we know anything about the effects on productivity of reducing highway congestion or improving pavement condition? These attributes are in fact what new technologies are attempting to address.  Yet, we do not currently have solid empirical evidence of the effects of these attributes.


Exploring the economic effects of components or attributes of highway systems is essential in informing the policy debate and in aiding the efforts of local decision makers.  That is particularly important insofar as we are at the point of tweaking existing infrastructure systems with capacity adjustments and new technologies.  From an economic perspective, that makes for economic decisions that are much more subtle and harder to measure. Yet the importance of these decisions for economic development is still growing as we continue to move into a more globally competitive economy.


Sponsoring Committee:AMS50, Economic Development and Land Use
Source Info:committee members, prior white papers
Date Posted:08/11/2007
Date Modified:08/13/2007
Index Terms:Technological innovations, Technology, Economic development, Highways, Land use planning, Intermodal transportation, Decision making, Policy making,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Planning and Forecasting

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