Build Your Own Toll and Transit Plan With the Balanced Transportation Analyzer

Yesterday, TSTC board member Charles Komanoff presented the newest version of his masterpiece Balanced Transportation Analyzer (BTA) to a packed room at the Manhattan headquarters of Sam Schwartz Engineering.  The Analyzer estimates how different tolls and transit fare incentives would influence commuter behavior in NYC, and calculates the resulting travel speeds, revenues, and other benefits. Charlie and his team spent much of the last year perfecting the massive spreadsheet, which includes 40 or so individual tables, and hundreds of inputs.

Charlie and his collaborator, longtime labor mediator and transit advocate Ted Kheel, have applied the BTA to what’s been dubbed the Kheel-Komanoff Plan.  Under that plan, variable tolls would be applied on the East River bridges and the northern boundary of the Manhattan central business district, a taxi surcharge would be implemented, and, critically, subway fares would be halved (and made time variable) with bus fares eliminated outright.

The Kheel-Komanoff Plan would also cut traffic in the Manhattan CBD dramatically and raise travel speeds significantly.

The Plan has been covered on Streetsblog and here on MTR.  The BTA itself has gotten less attention.

Several years ago, Tri-State staff visited NYMTC’s 55 Water Street offices and were shown the “nerve center” of a dozen or so computers running the agency’s much-criticized but widely-utilized Best Practice Model. That model is the typical “black box” planning model which only highly-trained agency staff can operate.

In contrast, the BTA allows anyone with a cursory understanding of spreadsheets to view and adjust assumptions and variables to test various policy alternatives.  And it’s available online for all to use.  Beyond its use in demonstrating the value of the Kheel-Komanoff Plan, the BTA should become a benchmark for transparency when it comes to future transportation planning models.

5 Comments on "Build Your Own Toll and Transit Plan With the Balanced Transportation Analyzer"

  1. Transit Academic | July 23, 2009 at 11:20 am |

    You have got to be kidding. The Best Practices model includes about 50 years worth of academic research on transportation modeling. It may be a black box to you, but to someone who actually knows what they are talking about it makes a lot of sense. The BTA being in Excel may make it more transparent, but chances are it is much less _accurate_. Get real.

  2. Clark Morris | July 23, 2009 at 8:54 pm |

    Free bus and cheap train fares are not the answer. The advantage of the Metrocard is that the bus and subway systems were integrated from a fare point of view. Self sustaining fares might be a better answer (by self sustaining I mean fares that allow ridership to increase without the deficit increasing until capital expenditure is needed).

    Free fares can be a deterrent to ridership. A

  3. J. Stanley | July 25, 2009 at 7:57 pm |

    Transit Academic — “Chances are” ! Apparently, you haven’t even looked at the model. How about doing so, before you trash it? You might just find that the BTA incorporates the best of that 50-year history you talk about. With an analyst of Komanoff’s calibre, one could have predicted this in fact…

  4. Anonymous | July 26, 2009 at 1:57 am |

    You should probably look at the model before you write it off…

  5. Okay, so why not make the Best Practices model available online, in open source?

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