?We are reading chapter 8 this week, cost benefit analysis. After the discussions we have had,…

We are reading chapter 8 this week, cost benefit analysis. After the discussions we have had, and some of our other readings, we should think that CB analysis would be what economists, in particular, would like to bring to the table in any discussion of public policy. For the assignment, I want you to read the four postings I have on RamCT called Rail 1 through Rail 4. They are by Ed Glaeser, an urban economist at Harvard. He has a new book out about cities (Glaeser loves cities, particularly New York) and has been all over the media lately, promoting his book. He even had an appearance on The Daily Show. That makes him officially a big shot!
So, read the 4 articles. He wrote these for the NYTimes Economix blog. It is a quick back-of- the-envelope look at the cost and benefits of high speed rail. If you follow the news, you know that President Obama had a lot of money in the stimulus for high speed rail, but many of his plans have been de-railed by Republican governors who ran on platforms to not take the money and not build high speed rail. With gasoline headed again towards $4.00 a gallon, we will see how quickly public opinion turns on this. But, is it a good idea, at least in the US? Read the articles, and in a couple of pages, please do the following:

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AUGUST 12, 2009, 9:52 AM How Big Are the Environmental Benefits of High-Speed Rail? By EDWARD L. GLAESER State of California A conceptual view of high-speed rail on San Francisco Bay. Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard. How large are the environmental and other social benefits of high-speed rail? I’ve now reached the halfway point in this series of blog posts on the president’s “vision for high-speed rail.” The national discussion of high-speed rail must get away from high-flying rhetoric and tawdry ad hominem attacks and start weighing costs and benefits. Environmental benefits are one potentially big plus from rail lines. Today, I focus only on the social benefits that come from switching travelers from cars and planes to rail, not any indirect benefits associated with changing land-use patterns. I’ll get to those next week, when I also discuss high-speed rail as an economic development strategy. As I did last week, I use a simple, transparent methodology, focusing on costs and benefits during an average year. Today, I’ll estimate the environmental and other social benefits that will help offset the costs of rail. To estimate the social benefits of rail on ridership in any given corridor, I calculate: (Number of riders who switch from cars to rail) times (Social costs of cars minus social costs of rail) plus (Number of riders who switch from air to rail) times (Social costs of air minus social costs of rail) minus (Number of new riders who are taking rail) times (Social costs of rail) I’d like to include buses, but this post is too long already. Only about 2 percent of inter-city vehicle miles are traveled by bus, and a Center for Clean Air Policy report has convinced me that buses wouldn’t make much of a difference. I’m going to ignore fatalities for both rail and air and noise externalities (typical estimates for these are modest), and ignore any traffic congestion associated with getting to and from the airport or train station….

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