Perspectives on efficiency in transportation

David Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This paper considers the engineer's, economist's, manager's, and planner's perspectives on transportation efficiency respectively. This paper examines the measures used in each perspective and weighs their advantages and disadvantages for various purposes. It illustrates each measure with an example drawn from the case of the Twin Cities ramp metering shut off. The first section summarizes various measures of mobility that are used to assess transportation. This is followed by an exposition of transportation consumer surplus and its limitations. Similar treatment of accessibility and productivity are provided. The conclusions call for consideration of equity in addition to efficiency when evaluating broader effectiveness and for taking the subjective point of view of . the traveler rather than the "objective" point of view of the omniscient planner/engineer/economist/manager.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-155
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Transport Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author would like to thank research assistants Pavithra Kandadai Parthasarathi, Seshasai Kanchi, Lei Zhang, Atif Sheikh, and Shantanu Das who contributed to this report. The author thanks Betty Deakin for comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This paper draws in part on work done while the author was at the Montgomery County, Maryland Planning Department. The author would also like to thank the Minnesota Department of Transportation who funded this research through the project Measuring the Equity and Efficiency of Ramp Meters. All opinions and errors in this report remain those of the author.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Accessibility
  • Benefit-cost
  • Measures of effectiveness
  • Mobility
  • Performance based programming
  • Performance measures
  • Productivity
  • Ramp metering
  • Systems evaluation
  • Utility

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