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We knew that fixing the world’s transportation problems would be easy. As part of its quarterly series of roundtable discussions, Bloomberg Businessweek brought together five transportation “thought leaders” to discuss solutions to the major transportation challenges facing the world. The all-star cast recruited to discuss the world’s transportation problems — including aging infrastructure, land use reform, and financial troubles —  were Michael Replogle, global policy director and founder of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy; Dennis W. Archer, former mayor of Detroit and co-chair of the National Transportation Policy Project; Christopher H. Lee, founder and managing partner of Highstar Capital; Balaji Prabhakar, professor at Stanford University; O.P. Agarwal, senior urban transport specialist at the World Bank; and Dale Moser, president and chief operating officer of Coach USA.

With traffic congestion costing us increasingly large chunks of time and money, 20 percent of CO2 emissions coming from the transportation sector, and increasing automobile dependence, the group discussed the importance of re-thinking the way we look at getting around and using our land — i.e., free roads and free parking are not actually free; they cost us quite a bit in time, resource and land consumption, and environmental externalities stemming from policies that only encourage driving. They also discussed the viability of intercity bus service versus rail lines, problems with public-private partnerships, what Singapore does right, congestion pricing, the externality costs of transportation (which they estimate to be as much as 10 percent of gross domestic product!), and the importance of technology for efficiency and security.

The group highlighted a daunting number of problems, but did express hope at the end. Archer concluded: “Could you imagine what the American populace would learn if only Congress would begin to have hearings on transportation and come up with legislation that would allow us to be as progressive as other countries? Once they address this issue, I am absolutely convinced that we will be miles ahead given all of the interest that’s been expressed here.”

Read the whole roundtable discussion here.

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