A Piece of the Puzzle: Essays on Accessibility, Transport Infrastructure and Distribution

Anders Bondemark, doctoral thesis, Lund University, May 2021

The overall aim of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of goal conflicts between various policies in the transport sector and their distributional impacts. This aim is broken down into two research themes: 1) What are the distributional outcomes of the transport system?, and 2) How do different actors incorporate distributional considerations into the allocation of infrastructure investments?. This thesis comprises of four papers. Papers I and II relate to the first theme and Papers III and IV to the second. In Paper I we study whether income explains why some choose to travel with public transport using single tickets when their cheapest ticket is a monthly travel card. We investigate this using the Swedish national travel survey and find a positive relationship between travel card possession and income among those for whom the monthly card is the cheapest ticket. This effect is present among individuals with annual incomes up to SEK 230 000. Our main explanation for the seemingly irrational behaviour is real or perceived liquidity constraints. In Paper II I study the effect of accessibility on other markets, in this case the market for food. Specifically, I study how accessibility explains variations in the price of food in supermarkets. I find a U-shaped relationship with higher prices in low and high accessibility locations and lower prices in medium accessibility locations. I attribute the higher prices in low accessibility locations to local monopolies and the lack of economies of scale. The higher prices in high accessibility locations I attribute to the location of a store being a quality for which people are willing to pay a premium in order to reduce travel costs in combination with congestion in stores. In Paper III we investigate how the Swedish Transport Administration (STA) compiled the draft 2018-2029 plan. We do this by studying which qualities of individual investments that explain inclusion probability, complemented by interviews with planners. The qualities we find influence inclusion probability is if the investment have a positive net benefit investment ratio, which have a positive impact, and the presence of negative, non-quantified environmental effects, which have a negative impact on inclusion probability. None of the parameters relating to the variables meant to capture distributional considerations are significant and the only distributional consideration that surfaced during the interviews were that each of Sweden’s 21 regions should each get at least one investment. In Paper IV we conduct a choice experiment to solicit the public’s preferences for aggregate benefits and distributional outcomes in the context of infrastructure investments. The distributional dimensions included are geography, gender, and income. We also conduct latent class analysis to capture heterogeneity. In general, individuals prefer infrastructure packages that entail large benefits and even distributions, however, if the benefits are unevenly distributed, they prefer those that favour non-metropolitan regions, women, and low-income earners. The groups revealed by the latent class analysis highlight different parts of the overall results. Finally, I argue that the interpretation of these results depends on whether accessibility hold instrumental or intrinstic value.

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