Archive for the ‘Infrastructure’ Category

More Roads or Public Transit? Insights from Measuring City-Center Accessibility

January 23, 2023

Lucas J. Conwell, Fabian Eckert & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak in the new NBER paper research whether the cities should have more cars/roads or more public transit :


Water Infrastructure and Health in U.S. Cities

March 15, 2021

Brian Beach of Vanderbilt University in this NBER paper:

Using insights from history to answer central questions in urban economics

September 28, 2020

W. Walker Hanlon and Stephan Heblich in this new NBER WP:

This article reviews recent literature using insights from history to answer central questions in urban economics. This area of research has seen rapid growth in the past decade, thanks to new technologies that have made available increasingly rich data stretching far back in time. The focus is to review innovative methods to exploit historical information and discuss applications of these data that provide new insights into (i) the long run growth of cities or regional economies and (ii) the spatial organization of economic activities within cities. The review also surveys the growing literature outside urban economics that uses the historical urbanization as a proxy for economic growth, discusses differences between how economic historians and urban economists think about the relationship between urbanization and growth, and considers how these views might be reconciled.


The Macroeconomic Consequences of Infrastructure Investment

August 3, 2020

Valerie Ramey in this new NBER WP:

Can greater investment in infrastructure raise U.S. long-run output? Are infrastructure projects a good short-run stimulus to the economy? This paper uses insights from the macroeconomics literature to address these questions. I begin by analyzing the effects of government investment in both a stylized neoclassical model and a medium-scale New Keynesian model, highlighting the economic mechanisms that govern the strength of the short-run and long-run impacts.

The analysis confirms earlier findings that the implementation delays inherent in infrastructure projects reduce short-run multipliers in most cases. In contrast, long-run multipliers can be sizable when government capital is productive. Moreover, these multipliers are greater if the economy starts from a point below the socially optimal amount of public capital.

Turning to empirical estimation, I use the theoretical model to explain the econometric challenges to estimating the elasticity of output to public infrastructure. Using both artificial data generated by simulations of the model and extensions of existing empirical work, I demonstrate how both general equilibrium effects and optimal choice of public capital are likely to impart upward biases to output elasticity estimates. Finally, I review and extend some empirical estimates of the short-run effects, focusing on infrastructure spending in the ARRA.


We voted to keep the bullet train out: Palghar tribals

May 29, 2018

The usual research on infrastructure projects keep the crucial human displacement factor out of their analysis. Most are not even aware of any such issue.

Yesterday there was bypoll in Palghar and this piece says tribals of the region voted to keep Bullet train out:


Politics of building a metro line to airport: Case of Melbourne

April 24, 2018

Prof Ian Woodcock of RMIT Univ writes on the topic:

Public discussion of rail links to airports has been narrowly focused on the idea of a single line and where to run it. In Melbourne, the politics of this debate has so far prevented a railway from being built, because it is not possible for one line to meet all of the landside access needs of the airport. The issue of rail access for a new western Sydney airport has also not been resolved.

The history of planning for a Melbourne Airport rail link has been dogged by party-political differences focused on the idea of a single railway and the question of its route out to Tullamarine. Traditionally, the Coalition parties have favoured the express proposals, while the Labor Party has preferred alignments that benefit local commuters.

This difference and the impossibility of resolving it with a single line would be one of the reasons we have so far not gone to the bother of actually building anything. It has also distracted attention from more incremental ways to improve landside access to the airport beyond the SkyBus. Its market is similar to the main targets of the express route proponents.

Politics everywhere…

The author says Melbourne Airport traffic is going to be similar to that of Heathrow soon. However, London has multiple options:


New road infrastructure in UK: The effects on firms

August 1, 2017

It is always tricky to do such studies. Does road connectivity lead to firm agglomeration and more productivity? Or do roads eventually get built in higher productivity places?

A team of researchers Steve Gibbons, Henry Overman, Teemu Lyytikainen, Rosa Sanchis-Guarner try and see impact of new roads on firms:

Wasted urban infrastructure: The city of Detroit

February 17, 2017

City/urban economics is always more interesting to read. Even if the papers are highly technical, atleast there is something real to learn and ponder.

This interesting bit of research looks at the issue of why in Detroit people do not live near the business centre of yore?

Bangalore Power cuts and ET Reformer of the year award to Power Minister…

October 20, 2015

This one is a rambling post.


The tragedy of Bellandur lake in Bangalore..

October 5, 2015

Once a city of lakes too, Bangalore is struggling to maintain its lakes. The foam at Bellandur lake caused a huge outage on social media but hardly bothered the authorities.

This story on how the lake is used for garbage filling in the night is just amazing case of complete neglect and mismanagement:


How a metro railways moved from a PPP to public sector control in UK

August 25, 2015

M Asher, S Sheikh and V Ramakrishnan have a piece on this shift of ownership.

How a large transport sector PPP (Public Private Partnership) in UK, a high-income country, with a reputation for good public financial management,  came to be restructured from a PPP to full public sector control in less than a decade, and the implications this episode holds for India, a middle-income country.

Interesting bit.

Infra is not just an ownership thing as we like to assume. Infact most infra worldwide has been built by public sector only. What matters more is the microeconomics and incentives around the sector. One has to think deeper through the contracts involved, pricing, scale and so on.


How IDFC is transitioning to a bank and what to expect?

May 22, 2015

Personally, I think IDFC was made into a bank a wee bit too early. Given how China and even India is pushing new development financial institutions to fund infra, we might have to soon look at domestic front too. We actually might need a few more IDFCs in future.  Anyways, nothing can be done now. In finance, we have to go in circles and keep pulling out old wine in new bottle.

In this interview, IDFC chief Rajiv Lall explains how the transition is happening. Interestingly, the bank starts big from MP of all places:


The sheer decline of Bengaluru/Bangalore..

March 2, 2015

For people who have some association with Bangalore and have spent time in the city in the past, revisiting the city keeps giving them new shocks over its decline. For those living in it for long, have got used to the decline and can only deplore.

Rahul Jacob has a similar story as well. He used to visit the city as his grandparents lived there. He just cannot imagine the decline since then. He begins citing PM Nehru’s words on the city:


Planning by the people – Colombian urban experience

January 19, 2015

Aravind Unni an architect working with YUVA (Youth for Unity & Voluntary Action) in Mumbai has a superb article on this.

Colombia’s social urbanism and inclusive transportation projects have left a lasting impression on urban planning in the global south. The author explains how urban planning got democratised in Colombia and why India is still far behind.

It has some good pictures as well on how Colombia shaped its urban agenda without a lot of noise.  Countries after countries sort their policies and issues but none make the noise as we in India do. It is a different story that despite all the noise we are not able to do even half of what we set out to do..

How Andhra Pradesh’s new capital (around village Thullur) is becoming a real estate haven…

January 16, 2015

Picture is worth 1000 words and economists should use them to make a point as well.

S. Ananth, an independent researcher from Vijaywada has this superb pictorial article on the topic:

The announcement by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu that the new capital will be located in and around the village of Thullur, about 25 km from Vijayawada, has dramatically altered the socio-economic dynamics of these sleepy villages. Until the announcement these villages were considered to be little more than backwaters of the main city. The following photos attempt to highlight the rapid pace of change over the past five months.

The mainstay of these villages was agriculture and petty commodity production where they grow vegetables, fruits like guava and bananas, paddy, sugarcane, cotton and in a few cases flowers. In the more fertile villages, vegetables are the most important corps. Abundant supply of water is an added advantage: in certain areas, groundwater is available at about 50 feet. During monsoon, groundwater is available at about 30 feet. Earnings can be as high as Rs 1.5 lakhs per annum (in the case of those growing vegetables). High level of investment in education is a marked feature in all the villages.

In almost every village, a common way to bide time is to gather at a common point (usually near a temple or panchayat office) and “discuss” everything under the sun. One such gathering of elderly people in Thullur village.

Locals believe that the present village housing blocks will not be brought under land pooling for the new capital. Residents of Thullur village point out that the chief minister has promised to “develop” their common areas in a different way: regeneration of the lakes, addition of walking tracks around the lakes, development of parks, temples, etc. One of them was confident that each village will have an “outer perimeter” beyond which land and development of the capital will be taken up – creating pockets of the “old village” within the “modern” capital.

The announcement of the capital in the region has literally shaken the area from its stupor. The pickup in construction activity immediately catches a traveller’s eye. The road from Vijayawada to Thullur village indicates the rush to construct shops and apartments, especially among villages that are close to Vijayawada city. A large number of apartments are coming up on the road from Vijayawada to AP capital region villages. Almost all the apartments advertise their bank approval prominently. It is indicative of the manner in which information asymmetry works or is perceived to work. High cost of apartments means that buying agricultural land is still attractive. Unlike in other cities, a luxury apartment means one that has a large carpet area with a few fittings thrown in as a perk. Most of these apartments now cost three times the cost in early 2013.

Before any development, housing prices shoot through the roof.

Cases of land grabbing and cheating have sprung up as well:

A visit to these villages seems to indicate that real estate and ancillary service industries are the only business that interests people – at least, those willing to venture into a business. Everything seemingly revolves around land: people are either keen to buy land, sell land, mediate between the buyers and sellers or offer some service to those trying to fix a deal. The attempt to make a quick buck from real-estate speculation seems to encompass all classes, castes and overshadows everything else. The urgency to close a deal is indicative of the thinking that the good times are unlikely to last long.

A discernible feature is that of roadside kiosks that have now taken to real estate broking because it is a more profitable occupation. These include kiosks that in the past served as a tailoring shop, dual-purpose units like a motorcycle repair kiosk that doubles as a real estate broking office, a bicycle repair kiosk to one that stored agricultural equipment.

The business logic is impeccable and incredibly simple: even if one land deal can be intermediated and the transaction completed, then the commission earned (about 1% of the deal value) is often more than the incomes earned by most over the past one year. In other cases, the obsession of the region’s middle classes for “extra-income” with little or no “investment” other than their labour is satiated. In most of cases, it only requires drawing on one’s social capital and social networks.  

The influx of brokers from outside the villages is easily discernible. A year ago, most of these villages had only the occasional visitor – mostly connected with the agricultural commodity trade. Most of these brokers are from neighbouring cities like Guntur and Vijayawada. Residents blame these outsiders for all the fraudulent land transactions in their villages

An abnormal rise in land prices have resulted in instances of land grabbing. Land grabbing or threats related to purchase and sale of land was unheard of in the region. There were the occasional civil disputes that would snake their way through the courts. A rare dispute related to completing a land transaction was usually “settled” through the informal arbitration mechanism, which usually consisted of the local elite presiding and mediating the two sides – the anthropological equivalent of the “big man” or the “elder”. However, the influx of outsiders means that the “local big men” or “elders” do not control the social levers that they did in the past and are helpless to arbitrate in any dispute.

The picture below is a flexi-banner notice issued by the Superintendent of Police at a bus shelter warning people about and against land grabbing. Of course, a real estate agent uses that as a good place to market himself and his business..

Hype and more hype..


Why should there be more accidents in Bangalore on Wednesdays and Sundays and between 12 PM to 9 PM?

January 9, 2015

Bangalore traffic police has released some analysis (it does some work after all) and requires some thinking.

It seems higher accidents are seen on Wednesdays (803 in 2014 ) and Saturdays (773 in 2014 down from 797 in 2013). In terms of daytime, max accidents  happen from12 PM to 9 Pm (the article says from 12 to 5 but we see higher accidents between 6-9 PM as well):


Should the govt. guarantee infrastructure projects?

June 5, 2014

Kaushik Basu now at WB as chief econ writes this paper.

He says the govts have become way too cautious towards providing guarantees for large mega infra projects. Well, there is one thing of providing guarantees carelessly and other thing of providing them with care and planning. He suggests second such kind of guarantee:


Why not go for Surface Rail public transport instead of Metros/Rapid Bus system?

June 4, 2014

The blogger has always wondered why we don’t go for Mumbai Local train system in Indian cities instead of fancy metro? Mumbai local may not be as elegant but carries far larger number of passengers. Moreover, in some cities the existing train lines could be used to atleast connect some points in the city. This will save both costs and time.

Anyways, here is an interesting paper by experts in the matter making a case for surface rail. It is written by M Ravibabu of  Ministry of Railways and V Phani Sree of Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University:


Why Sweden has so few road deaths??

March 4, 2014

Economist has this interesting story on Sweden’s roads and its road policy.

The authorities had made a zero road accident target in 1997. It is already on the way:


Delhi Airport Metro Fiasco…Lessons and Way forward

December 5, 2013

Kumar V Pratap of Planning Commission writes a nice case study on Delhi airport metro fiasco:

The latest public-private partnership project to fall through, the Delhi Airport Metro Express, brings to light flaws in the concession agreement between the public and private parties. Improper risk sharing and aggressive bidding, coupled with the application of the jugaad principle, have led to contractual disputes resulting in the cancellation of the partnership.

In most infrastructure PPP projects, the key reasons  for failure are nearly similar- overbidding, overestimation of traffic flows and confusion over responsibilities. These reasons were responsible for failure of Delhi Metro Airport line too.


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