Dr. David Levinson

Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

The Economics of Transportation Networks
51 minutes, 23.7mb, recorded 2006-05-08
David Levinson

David Levinson tells how the story of transportation networks' evolution involves repeating series of peaks and declines. Drawing on specific examples from water, rail and road systems, he explains how competing modes, markets and politics lead to situations where what was once the right choice became the wrong one.

According to Levinson, financing networks, and therefore growing networks, is a significant challenge. He provides compelling examples of the intricacies involved in financing transportation systems. In particular Levinson explains how road systems have been financed by tolls or gas tax, as well as examples of more recent innovations in transportation economics.

Pointing out research showing economies of scale leading to growth through increased demand and improved quality of service, Levinson draws some parallels between transportation and communication systems economics. The complexities of networks is revealed through factors such as the complementarity of the transportation and communication systems, the relationship between infrastructures and the vehicles using them, and the issue of standardization.

David Levinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota and director of the Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems (NEXUS) research group. In the academic year 2006-2007 he will be a visiting academic at Imperial College in London. He currently holds the Richard P. Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation Engineering.

In January 2005 he was awarded the CUTC/ARTBA New Faculty Award. He earned a Ph.D in Transportation Engineering at U.C. Berkeley in 1998. His dissertation "On Whom the Toll Falls", argues that local decision making about managing and financing roads will be more likely to lead to direct road pricing, which will allow the efficient allocation of scarce road resources (and thus reduce congestion). He has conducted research into travel behavior.

He received the 1995 Tiebout Prize in Regional Science for the paper "Location, Relocation, and the Journey to Work". From 1989 to 1994, he worked as a transportation planner, developing integrated transportation - land use models used in Montgomery County, Maryland and applying those models for multimodal network planning and for growth management.


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