Transportation Mega-Project Decision-Making: The Case of NY 2nd Ave Subway

Increasing population and economic activity in urban areas have intensified the need for more efficient public transportation. Such efforts include the expansion of existing transportation systems and the construction of new infrastructure projects. Either way, such investments require careful prioritization, evaluation and selection among competing project alternatives. But the decision-making processes seem far from rational, as attested by commonly observed overextended project planning, cost over-runs and demand over-estimates. Research on transportation mega-projects hypothesizes political considerations as well as irrational decision-making processes. Yet, to date not much research has been carried out to establish analytically and empirically the key factors which underlie such decision-making practices. The scant research on the subject points to political motivation, interest groups and funding availability as dominant factors. Yet, the statistical validity and significance level of these factors have yet to be ascertained using established research methods. Against this background the main objective of the proposed research is to examine methodically how economic, organizational and political factors affect decision-making on transportation mega-projects investment. To this end the project will seek to analyze a comprehensive database of international transportation mega-projects. In the New York (NY) metropolitan area, heavily dependent on public transport, an insufficient and aging public infrastructure is a particularly problematic, yet transportation solutions seem very slow. The proposed paper seeks to make sense of this dilemma by comparing the case of the New York Second Avenue Subway to a comprehensive data base of currently 55 international transportation mega-projects, expansion pending. It includes information on projects' history, planning, politics, economic and finance, and projects' cost and demand results. Subsequently the project will use statistical methods to elicit the key factors which determine the selection of transportation mega-projects. Once the project establishes these factors the project next would like to determine how well they can explain the decision to carry out the NY City Second Avenue Subway mega-project. This project cannot be explained on the basis of conventional social cost-benefit rationale, but rather on the basis of the political and organizational factors discovered by the preceding analysis of the database. The project will further test for the hypothesis that common phenomena such as costs over-run is not just the results of project delays and technical risks but rather the outcome of the non transportation-economic decision process such as that of the 2nd Avenue subway. There are several reasons to choose the Second Avenue Subway project. First, prior research projects endowed us with some in-depth knowledge about this particular metropolitan transportation effort. Second, it is one of the projects for which only an incomplete cost-benefit analysis has been done, and arguably the "real" costs and benefits have not been sufficiently proved. Located in the New York metropolitan area, the project will argue that it is a quite typical urban project, which illustrates major associated nuances and problems of projects in dense urban and metropolitan areas. A comparison with other projects in the data base will also allow to evaluate whether it fits the patterns of large-scale infrastructure projects more generally, independent of their context.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $6024.00
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Mooney, Deborah

  • Performing Organizations:

    City College of New York

    Civil Engineering, Steinman T-127
    140th Street and Convent Avenue
    New York, NY  United States  10031
  • Principal Investigators:

    Berechman, Joseph

  • Start Date: 20110901
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20130531
  • Source Data: RiP Project 29274

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01474836
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University Transportation Research Center
  • Contract Numbers: 49111-16-23
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Mar 7 2013 1:00AM