Economic Impacts of Transportation Infrastructure
The economic impacts of transportation infrastructure can be categorized as core (fundamental), operational and geographical:
  • Capacity (core). Improving intermodal (terminals) and modal capacity through infrastructure investments is a core strategy to promote economic opportunities. An economy has greater capacity to move passengers and freight, which conveys economies of scale.
  • Costs (core). Transport developments are commonly associated with lower transport costs, implying that mobility becomes more affordable. Alternatively, additional volumes can be carried at the same cost (see the Transport Costs section for a detailed overview).
  • Time (operational). The economic benefits of time improvements are multidimensional. First, passengers and freight will arrive at their destinations faster, which at least is a convenience, but in the majority of cases has an economic value. Second, time gains result in better levels of inventory management and a better utilization of transport assets (infrastructure, terminals, vehicles, containers, etc.).
  • Reliability (operational). Commonly involves a higher probability that a passenger or cargo unit will reach its intended destination within a scheduled timeframe and without loss, spoilage or damage (for cargo). Reliability enables economic systems to better synchronize their activities, which like time benefits, also enables a better utilization of transport assets.
  • Accessibility (geographical). The capability to access to a wider market base is a common economic benefit for firms. Inputs such as raw materials, parts, energy or labor become more readily available for an economy while at the same time outputs such as finished goods have access to a market base that can reach the global level. A greater accessibility to regional and global markets for passengers has also economic impacts linked with commercial transactions and tourism.
  • Location (geographical). An important impact of transportation concerns influencing the location of economic activities since specific sites in proximity to modal or intermodal infrastructure are likely to generate higher value than less accessible sites. This is often referred to as the clustering effect. Thus, through location decisions involving commercial, residential or manufacturing activities the economic landscape is modified (see the Transport and Location section for a detailed overview).
Improvements in one or more of these characteristics usually result in improvements in the competitiveness level of an area.