US conference on benefit-cost-analysis in the transportation sector

Prof. Dr. Christoph Walther, PTV Head of Global Research (second left), presented the method development and project evaluation used for Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030 in Washington.

How can we calculate benefits and costs of transportation and infrastructure projects? Our Head of Global Research, Prof. Dr. Christoph Walther, explicitly addressed this question in his presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Benefit Cost Analysis, which took place in Washington in March. As a former specialist coordinator of the Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2030, he was invited as a keynote speaker by the US organisation. In the Infrastructure Assessment section, Prof. Dr. Christoph Walther presented the method development and project evaluation used for the central planning instrument of the German transport policy.

“In Germany, benefit-cost analyses in the transportation sector are usually only carried out as an ex-ante analysis, i.e. before implementation within the planning process,” explains Prof. Dr. Christoph Walther. “It is always difficult for politicians, when measures, in which investments were made, do not achieve their objectives or the objectives are achieved, but the measure is obviously not the cause. Therefore, ex-post analysis is not used as a standard method in planning processes in Germany.

This is quite different in the United States, where benefit-cost analyses are the basis for the evaluation of all legal projects before implementation or for the calculation of the project-related effects in order to be able to adapt them, if necessary.
In addition, a retrospective assessment is carried out in order to evaluate the desired effects and the achievement of the macroeconomic goals.

“Due to these differences, the exchange of knowledge across the Atlantic is of course very exciting. The participants of the conference were keen to find out what is happening in Germany concerning the development of methodologies for assessing new transport infrastructure. This is why I embedded the presentation on the assessment methods in the context of the overall BVWP process (BVWP = Federal Transport Plan),” says the PTV scientist. “However, there are also overlaps and joint scientific efforts.The United States, for example, must reconcile independent infrastructure planning in the federal states and overarching national planning – similar to the way we proceed in the federal states. Moreover, research concerning the definition and analysis of transport system reliability is very similar. So, my presentation resulted in a very lively and interesting discussion.”

Contact with the American Society for Benefit Cost Analysis was established by the Technical Committee “Road Infrastructure Investment and Social Development” of the World Road Association, of which Prof. Dr. Walther is also a member.