Private Sector Solutions for Transportation Infrastructure

July 2, 2014

Increasing infrastructure spending is not a sustainable answer to the nation's congestion problems, says Clifford Winston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

Winston offers three private-sector solutions to improving infrastructure performance by decreasing congestion and delays: privatization of roads and airports, government implementation of private-sector technological innovations, and the development of private-sector technologies that improve the vehicles and aircraft that use public infrastructure.

Improvements in vehicle and airplane technology offer the most potential for improving transportation in the near future, says Winston:

  • New transportation modes have improved safety and performance, in spite of infrastructure problems.
  • Some safety innovations -- such as speed control and emergency braking systems -- will increase road capacity by allowing more vehicles to drive closer together.
  • The development of autonomous vehicles and aircraft have the potential to prevent accidents while reducing delays, improving travel time and creating smoother traffic flows. So far, seven states have approved driverless car testing.
  • Improvement in communication technology could allow for greater use of airspace, with digital devices automatically keeping aircraft at safe distances from one another, rather than relying on communication with air traffic control.

Privatization would be a major change and would require careful experiments in order to generate public support. Additionally, the public sector has a strong bias in favor of the status quo, which poses an obstacle to real innovation. This reality, writes Winston, is why private-sector transportation improvements offer the best chance of improving the U.S. transportation system.

Source: Clifford Winston, "How the Private Sector Can Improve Public Transportation Infrastructure," Mercatus Center, June 17, 2014.

 

Browse more articles on Environment Issues