Cost-effectiveness of Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from High-speed Rail and Urban Transportation Projects in California
Transportation Research Part D, 40, 104-113, doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2015.08.008
As California establishes its greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program and considers options for using the new revenues produced under the program, the public and decision-makers have access to tenuous information on the relative cost-effectiveness of passenger transportation investment options. Towards closing this knowledge gap, the cost-effectiveness of greenhouse gas reductions forecast from High-Speed Rail are compared with those estimated from recent urban transportation projects (specifically light rail, bus rapid transit, and a bicycling/pedestrian pathway) in California. Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions are joined with full cost accounting to better understand the benefits of cap-and-trade investments. Results are largely dependent on the economic cost allocation method used. Considering only public subsidy for capital, none of the projects appear to be a cost-effective means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., relative to the current price of greenhouse gas emissions in California’s cap-and-trade program at $11.50 per tonne). However, after adjusting for the change in private costs users incur when switching from the counterfactual mode (automobile or aircraft) to the mode enabled by the project, all investments appear to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a net savings to the public. Policy and decision-makers who consider only the capital cost of new transportation projects can be expected to incorrectly assess alternatives and indirect benefits (i.e., how travelers adapt to the new mass transit alternative) should be included in decision-making processes.
This manuscript builds on our UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies report Cost-Effectiveness of Reductions in Greenhouse Gas Emissions from California High-Speed Rail and Urban Transportation Projects. It is supersedes our 2015 Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting conference proceeding (paper 15-5007).