A very interesting article from Newsroom a few days ago sheds light on some important changes in how transport projects will be assessed, moving forward. In particular, it looks at changes to the way we value travel time savings and the value of a life. These are standard inputs used in the business case process to help assess the costs and benefits of projects. The latter quantifies the benefits of avoiding a fatality, although of course, as the Vision Zero approach tell us, every life is priceless.

Governments and councils can save lives by improving our road and rail infrastructure but, with limited budgets, they must strike a balance. These must be weighed against other imperatives like providing access and parking for new residential and commercial developments, facilitating quicker commutes, accelerating the freight supply chain, or reducing the air pollution and carbon emissions caused by slow-moving traffic in our gridlocked cities.

Over the past 30 years, there’s a strong economic argument to be made that government has not valued human life highly enough; it failed to acknowledge that New Zealanders placed greater value on saving their friends, family and neighbours from injury or death than they did on shaving a few seconds off their morning commute.

Last month, that changed. With no fanfare, no press release, no ministerial statement, the transport agency Waka Kotahi published a document entitled Monetised benefits and costs manual v1.6 April 2023. The 429-page manual is a dense compendium of tables, formulae and, to the layperson, impenetrable economic justifications for obscure policies.

But buried in this manual are two big changes to v1.5, published two years earlier. It raises the value we place on saving time stuck behind a wheel driving to and from work, from $7.80/hr to $19.53 an hour – an increase by a factor of 2½. That figure increases to as much as $36.18/hr if that’s what it costs to avoid being stuck in congestion.

And at the same time, it increased an esoteric number called the VoSL – the Value of a Statistical Life – from $4.88m to a somewhat breathtaking $12.5m. That’s an even bigger increase.

The net effect of these changes is that now, if a road or rail authority wants to decide how to spend its budget, it will measure up the cost of each project against the Value of Travel Time and the Value of a Statistical Life to decide whether sufficient time will be saved, or sufficient pain and grief avoided, to justify paying for the project.

And because those values are so much higher, it will be much easier for an infrastructure project to pass the threshold in the cost-benefit ratio – and so the pressure will go on the Government to fund more projects to make our roads both faster and safer.

As noted in that last sentence, with these values so much higher than before, it’s likely going to have a big impact on the benefit-cost ratios for a lot of projects. Though even with those large increases, I doubt it will be enough for some projects, like Otaki to Levin, to move into positive BCR territory.

There is also an ever so slight increase in the relative Value of a Statistical Life compared to travel time savings. This should at least give a little bit of an advantage to projects with strong safety components. Though, as noted later in the article:

“One of the arguments against adoption of the higher value was it would result in a shift of resources away from investments in travel time savings and decongestion, and toward road safety features.”

However, I find it odd that the travel time savings figure has increased so much – when many people will opt for a longer journey just to avoid paying a few dollars for a toll, or will park further away and walk a few steps rather than pay for a carpark closer to their destination.

We should also probably consider that travel time savings are non-linear. A minute or so saving across a journey is probably within normal trip variation, and so comparatively less valuable than something that delivers a transformational change.

I also find this claim about avoiding pork-barrel decisions quite funny:

But it’s these benefit-cost ratios that help civil servants, councillors and ministers make fair decisions between competing priorities, rather than just awarding roading projects to whichever pork-barrelling constituency MP shouts the loudest.

Pork-barrelling seems to have become much more common in recent decades. Both major parties have made promises and decisions on projects before there’s even been analysis – and/or ignore the analysis completely. For example, remember the 10 bridges National promised to upgrade in the 2015 Northland by-election, and their Roads of National Significance 2.0? Or Labour’s NZ Upgrade Programme, which included projects like Penlink and Otaki to Levin – the latter of which had a benefit cost ratio of 0.2 before the project doubled in cost.

Also fascinating and worrying is some of the history behind the figures.

In 1991 government researchers completed a survey of 700 New Zealanders to find out what value they placed on safety.

They wanted to measure the amount society would pay for the avoidance of one premature statistical death – and they did it by asking individuals the amount they would pay for safety improvements. They came up with a Value of a Statistical Life of $2m.

A new more thorough survey in 1998 doubled the figure to $4 million – but the government of the day refused to adopt it, seemingly dismayed at the cost implications for road, rail and aviation infrastructure.

So it is that the flawed 1991 survey result has been updated in line with wage inflation, every subsequent year. Extraordinarily, that outdated and discredited survey was still used to decide whether or not to build transport and other infrastructure – until now.

“Due to ‘some unresolved policy issues’, the Government did not adopt the revised VoSL estimate, and the VoSL continues to be based on the value established in 1991,” wrote Resource Economics director Dr Tim Denne and his team.

What’s most worrying here is that these values have, for the last 30+ years, shaped the transport system we have today. Would Aotearoa have invested in different projects over that timeframe, had those values been different?

Of course, these two figures weren’t the only issues with business case inputs in the past. Previously, the time of a person using public transport was valued much lower than that of someone driving a car.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy with this change, with some economists showing up to confirm why the profession often makes a bad name for itself.

Header image by Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons (license).

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  1. Comparing the New Zealand Road toll with COVID from the beginning of 2022, when there was only 56 death WITH COVID, until may 1st this year.

    1656 COVID deaths where COVID-19 is officially coded as the underlying cause

    4098 deaths with COVID-19 most of which would have COVID-19 as a significant contributing factor.

    490 Road toll for the same period.

    Sourced from

    Consider the effort, publicity, mandates & police manpower going into reducing the road toll.

    Yet the government won’t mandate mask usage even on public transport or require air quality levels in workplaces & classrooms.

    Where is the public information campaign to promote vaccine use & mask use, along with policed enforcement, to match the seat-belt wearing in vehicles, given preventative COVID actions would save more lives and prevent many more suffering the effects of long COVID?

    “In 2021–24 we’ll be investing $1.24 billion in the Road Safety Partnership Programme to provide road policing activities approved by the minister which will maintain 1,070 dedicated road policing staff and about 20% of non-dedicated police staff time undertaking these activities. These activities are focused on restraints, impairment, distraction and speed (RIDS) and include almost doubling enforcement of speed and drunk driving.

    We’ll be investing about $197 million in national, regional and local road safety promotion and education campaigns supporting Road to Zero programmes. This includes a campaign to raise public awareness of Road to Zero.”

    1. Similar question about the new estimates of 2000 deaths a year from transport pollution (NOx + PM). At $12.5m each that would be worth spending $25 billion a year to avoid.

        1. Good filtration systems are a good idea during a transitional period. However, preventing pollution or treating it at source is most effective. In terms of transport pollution, it can be achieved through modeshift and improved regulations. The LTN’s and Low Emissions Areas in London and the comprehensive sustainable planning in Paris have made an enormous difference. The last Weekly Roundup included a good visualisation about Paris’s air quality : https://twitter.com/duncanmgibb/status/1650237485908213761?cxt=HHwWgoC-6YCQ6eYtAAAA

          Hapinz 3.0 is the source for Robert’s data point about pollution. https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2022/07/07/clearing-the-air-on-vision-zero/

    2. “Yet the government won’t mandate mask usage”

      They can’t now, because of the backlash to mandating in the past. Far too many innocent workers were abused by far too many idiots.

      1. Would you say he same thing about cellphone usage while driving or mandated wearing of seat belts by drivers & passengers in cars?

        In both cases the police copped a lot of backlash by drivers pulled over for choosing to ignore those mandates. Yet mandating wearing masks on public transport during viral outbreaks would save a lot more lives than both of the former combined.

        Consider the case where someone with known COVID-19 symptoms ignores the seven day isolation period and goes out and infects others. Yes – it is illegal in New Zealand!

        Whether by drinking & driving or by infection, what right do you have to actively shorten a persons lifespan or cause them undue long term suffering?

        This is going on day to day yet police, government & media are turning a blind eye to it.

  2. Transport spending in NZ is hopelessly politicised by all governments. You only need to compare the motorway lengths and suburban and regional passenger rail services of two similar sized regions – Canterbury versus Wellington to realise that fair evidence based decision making is not the required metric.

    1. Canterbury actually has a similar length of motorway (40km) compared to Wellington (45km). However Wellington has a lot of 4+ lane expressways.

  3. An important if small move towards re-balancing technical inputs to decision making.

    But we should remember this whole system is cooked. This attempt to monetise values of everything is simply a childish over simplification, it just doesn’t work.

    Taking to its logical conclusion it leads to hard core practitioners arguing, on balance, smoking is good as it kills off expensive pensioners early so saves money. Is also murderous towards other groups, eg women who tend to do much more unpaid work, or earn less (paying less tax) etc etc.

    We should express our collective values as values, ie people shouldn’t have to face death and injury heading to school or the shops at all. Final. This cannot be traded off against ‘seconds of modelled delay’ for some other group, as if they are at all equivalent.

    Very little that really matters, actually, can be adequately converted into ‘monetised benefits’. Or at least not without likelihood of massive distortions. There’s a cruel psychological distancing in turning values into numbers, especially when it consistently leads to ‘efficiency’ somehow always higher value than life itself (Paging Mr Godwin).

    You can tell how hopeless this as in the end it depends on surveys for its inputs: cake or death? Which is nicer.

    Look around. We live in the world this monetising ideology has forced on us; is it as close to as good as we could expect as possible? Yeah nah.

    1. I agree to a certain extent.

      e.g. For new roads we could have a vision zero design standard. Existing roads are more difficult as there are so many issues to address, thus road to zero by 2050.

      The issue though is, as it always is, money.

      We might get to 0 road deaths and serious injuries, but that might still leave 90+ people dying from drowning (assuming we aren’t funding enough lifeguards).

      Then there are bigger trade-offs. How much do we spend on health vs transport vs education.

      The CBA & monetizing approach is messy and ugly at times but is still far better than pork barrel politics.

      1. It’s not better than vision-led planning, which can be expert-led with clearly articulated and evidenced priorities, and which doesn’t have to be pork-barrel in the slightest.

        I would go so far as to say that the NZ business case process is so poor, and the evaluations are so poorly informed by biased nonsense, that even pork-barrel politics could be better.

        1. I dont disagree with vision based planning.

          The issue remains that across all sectors of NZ e,g. health, transport, education, defence etc etc there is never enough money to meet all the visions.

        2. Kind’ve hard to claim it’s not mode shift when you compare using a country with only 40% of trips made by car.

      2. ” but is still far better than pork barrel politics.”

        Our politicians have ignored BCR and monetised benefits all the time. National invented “Wider Economic Benefits” whole cloth as a new factor when their motorways didn’t stack up. And there is NOTHING that prevents out agencies from simply ignoring BCRs. Complying with them is for schmucks (i.e. those people trying to get projects built that do not currently fit what the powers in charge want built).

        Transport is always politicised – and why not, it is a decision society makes, and it SHOULD be political. But we need to be very leery of ascribing “truth” to something just because it has numbers in it. Doing that with traffic modelling has not worked out well for us, so why should it be the case with BCRs?

    2. The problem with your argument is that absolutism doesn’t work either. We always value human life on some sort of measure. Nobody is prepared to spend even dollar the public has on road safety because then there would be no money for the health system. Monetising is necessary to enable the trade offs that are required. The issue is how high we value life saved on the road versus every other claim on taxes.

      1. Yes there will always be trade-offs. But be honest, don’t pretend there is an objective quantitative system that takes human judgement out of making trade-offs.

        It isn’t objective, it just buries moral judgement in mountains of jobbledegook, and because it’s run by the Econo-ratti it is their values that this jobbledegook encodes and then spits out. And they turn out to be largely a group of people with high numeric skills and often poor emotional intelligence (generalising here of course, but checks out).

        The commitment to building a number machine is greater than the commitment to better outcomes. This is a critical failure. A fatal flaw, as they might say in an MCA.

        What i am saying is concealed values led to worse outcomes than openly debated values.

        Furthermore because the outcomes are demonstrably bad (congestion, death and injury, pollution, inefficiency) this then leads, inevitably, to the numeric system being sidelined: The BCR system is routinely ignored now. Not dismantled, but just bypassed. But that leaves us not with a better system but two bad systems running in squabbling parallel.

        Politician whim and econobot generated project selection and optimisation; the worst of both worlds?

        1. Your argument is the system doesn’t work well so rather than fix it do something else that doesn’t work well.

          Openly debating a value is willing to pay at least allows ever project to be dealt with equally. Without that we will spend money on things that make people feel good. An extreme example was Operation Breakthrough where the USA and USSR spent more than $1million each digging a channel for some gray whales that got stuck in the Arctic ice. Whales get stuck. The money was wasted because the story became a talking point and news item.

          My point is we value human life. It doesn’t hurt to figure out how much we value it. Yes some people who lack empathy and even basic humanity are draw to economics like the dude in the tweet above. But that doesn’t invalidate the entire field. It just makes it more important we get the basic values right. If we don’t we end up with a far worse system where those who are important or close to power are looked after and the rest are not.

  4. Tuning a system where you can ignore the rules is pointless.

    Mandate BCR to actually be the main deciding factor, if you have a few options, you have to pick from the first 2/3 top options, you cannot go for the lowest benefit option.

    It is also possible that projects have BCRs of 5 are simply wrong, because our models are not sufficient to calculate those properly. But if we never build them, we’ll never be able to measure the results and tune the model.

    I would also add, that the project needs to be measured post delivery. If your main goal is for time travel savings for a highway, that’s fine. Measure it post delivery, and if they do not add up, or disappear quickly. someone neesd to be held responsible, and model updated.

    Where are the robot overlords that love data?

    1. Only options that the stakeholders agree on and that meet the strategic goals (fit) should be in the option list for assessment.

      There is no requirement to consider all possible options.

      For example, stakeholders may agree that widening an intersection is an option that will not go into the option list for x,y & z reasons.

  5. A statistical life has always been an interesting concept. It is a theoretical life of an average person whom you don’t know. Once a person has a face and a name and a family we are usually willing to pay more (usually but sometimes the opposite). It used to be based on human capital calculations or the value of life time earnings. The value increased once it was based on Willingness to Pay. The human capital approach is deeply flawed and unethical. If you apply a normal discount rate then that approach shows children have negative value due to 20 years of costs before earnings start.

  6. The value of time is interesting.

    It assumes that people place $0/hr on the value of time when they are travelling and $19.53 an hour per occupant (commute time) for the activities at each end of travelling, or at least the delta is that large.

    This potentially ignores the fact that drivers may value the time alone, and are also able to listen to music on the radio etc etc & gain some utility. They are not locked in solitary confinement.

    Also passengers with books to read or mobile devices gain utility as they are not committed to driving the vehicle. Same for someone on the bus or train using their laptop, or people on a road trip being able to socialise.

    It also assumes that the time at each end of travelling is used able to be used to its full value which is not always the case.

      1. The question I’m raising is whether the commute is worth the full $19.53.
        Is the true delta in utility that large.

        1. Depends. An hour I could spend with my son at home is a lot more valuable to me than an hour I could be in theory working in a sub-optimal work environment with little privacy and no desk space.

          I feel like the “you can work on your commute!” risks normalising the kind of mega-commutes we see in other cities and Kiwis already have issues with working long hours.

    1. This helps to explain why historically travel time values for modes like public trpt and cycling were lower than for cars. It’s not that people in cars are “worth more”; rather, when you are driving you can’t do much productive activity, so any time delay is time wasted and a cost to you. Contrast with someone in public trpt who can still do productive things while travelling (work, read, use their phone, etc) so the time isn’t totally wasted. Similarly, while biking you are getting some physical exercise (which the person in the car would have to spend additional time out of their day to do at another time…), so again it’s not wasted time.

  7. This is quite astounding, really. The TERP says, “Remove travel time savings criteria from design standards and business cases” for good reason: including travel times savings criteria skews business cases towards improving long distance car journeys at the expense of liveable streets and healthy short active trips.

    It’s not that we shouldn’t value faster trips, but that including it as a criterion moves us away from achieving a more efficient system. Doing so simply supports car dependent investment – which in turn creates a far less efficient system in which travel times for all modes are longer.

    Also, these travel time calculations are still based on traffic modelling that is inappropriate to the task. The travel times are simply misinforming the business cases.

    Waka Kotahi should know this by now. This is not the change they should have made. Very poor work.

    1. Interestingly one of the subtle changes they made to their evaluation process a few years back was to ignore travel time increases if proposed works were changing the existing speed limit down the new calculated “safe and appropriate speed” (under the new Setting Speeds process) – the reasoning being that the existing road shouldn’t have had the old limit in the first place. So, often a safety project that also slows down traffic may not count any travel time delays if the resulting speed is what is desired anyway.

      There are also a number of smaller “low-cost low-risk” safety projects where travel time effects are not considered at all – if the project meets a basic threshold for safety justification then it gets approved for funding.

  8. “Governments and councils can save lives by improving our road and rail infrastructure but, with limited budgets, they must strike a balance. These must be weighed against other imperatives like providing access and parking for new residential and commercial developments, facilitating quicker commutes, accelerating the freight supply chain, or reducing the air pollution and carbon emissions caused by slow-moving traffic in our gridlocked cities.”

    This paragraph shows how much brainwashing in NZ has succeeded. Apparently it is an imperative to provide parking, but it doesn’t mention anywhere that pedestrians, bicycles or public transport are imperative. So they are nice to have and hence not worth spending money on (unless they are profitable), I guess.

    A link for reading https://slate.com/business/2023/05/parking-spots-cities-paved-paradise-cars.html.

  9. I can add some personal experience to this. Years ago, my wife went through a stop sign. A couple of weeks earlier, it had been a give-way. She was in a roller-skate car and hit broadside by a container truck on its run up to the motorway and she was in bad shape. The police came to talk to her in hospital. Remember, she was still on the brink despite being out of ICU. Wife said there should be traffic lights. Police said if wife had died (or subsequently died) traffic lights would be justified, but they couldn’t reach the benchmark until they got another death. We didn’t know whether we should feel guilty or what. You can’t imagine how it feels to be put on the spot like that. A few months later, after wife fortunately did survive, someone recommended we go back to the scene so we weren’t left with tragic memories. Good idea, except that when we did (just a few months later) there was a set of traffic lights in place and we knew what that meant… Surely, if the likelihood of someone being killed is obvious, that should be enough to justify the works. Most people don’t stop to think (no disrespect) what the current system has on people who’ve been a part of it from the victim point of view.

    1. Wow. Thanks for sharing that, Michael. What a hideous situation. I’m sorry.

      AT prepared a presentation for Local Boards recently which had a slide titled “The facts: A typical Auckland road death or serious injury (DSI).” It had interesting answers to When? Who? Why? And Where? The answer to “Where?” was: “50 km/hr arterial road close to home, with no crash history”

      That “with no crash history” bit is important.

      Vision Zero has been very clear on this: objective assessments of safety are needed because chance plays a big part in whether crashes have occurred.

      You and your wife were victims of a badly planned physical environment as well as victims of an inhumane sector shackled to bad transport ideology. An analysis of the environment should lead to improvements before any injuries or deaths occurred.

      Unfortunately, there are officials, politicians and leaders who’ve grown up with this regressive thinking and who have closed their minds to learning a better way. Your story is a useful one to highlight the problem so if you can share it often without that eating at you, please do.

      1. I’m glad your wife survived, but it sounds like it was a case of poor driving and I question if lights would have changed the outcome.
        You say the intersection was changed from Give Way to Stop, but even if it were still a ‘give way’, your wife should have stopped for the oncoming traffic.
        If people are going to ignore Give Way signs, they will probably also ignore amber lights.
        The event was caused by your wife, not by the traffic rules.
        Again, I am glad she survived.

    2. Police have little say in whether signals get built. Signals take years to plan and build. Those signals would have been planned years prior. It would have been the history of crashes there that drove the decision.

      The problem is that there are 100 dangerous intersections with money to only build 1 set of signals at one intersection. Which one do you choose? The one with the most death/serious injury because crashes are the tip of the iceberg. It’s the only reasonable way other than selecting at random.

      1. What you do is take a more strategic approach. You set your goals of zero DSI and then you make the systems changes to achieve it regardless of the level of funding available. Less funding available requires more regulatory changes and self-funding enforcement.

        Default speed limit changes. Tactical interventions to reallocate road space and intersection diets. Charges, fines, taxes, fares adjusted to encourage massive modeshift away from driving – which is the mode that creates the dangers.

        Not traffic lights. That’s just a bandaid solution on an unsafe system.

        1. Heidi, setting hopes and dreams as a goal isn’t strategic. It is wishful thinking. Changing the speed limits doesn’t stop most drivers from speeding. There is a lack of police to police gangs let alone enforce speed limits. Only desperate people want to be traffic cops or parking wardens.

          A significant proportion of DSI is related to drugs, alcohol, speed and boys. Charges, fines, taxes don’t change that behaviour.

          Unless you are advocating banning cars and suburbs, they (and road deaths they cause) are here to stay. I guess Labour could have done something, but Labour and National are both useless.

          I agree, urban form is partially at fault, but urban crashes only account for 25% of road deaths. You arent ever getting PT in rural areas where 75% of road deaths happen. Unless we build motorways everywhere.

        2. I do agree about Labour and National.

          I didn’t restrict myself to only what a RCA could do; the Police Minister has been MIA – the Police’s negligence and regressive ideology has made an enormous contribution to ongoing and unnecessary death and serious injury of our loved ones. That is not something NZ had to experience; it’s been quite abnormal.

          Of course social problems behind speed and DSI need holistic solutions. One of the key planks that the transport sector can provide is making the healthy choices the easiest and cheapest choices. Then much of the speed, drugs and youthful frustration at maltreatment and inequity can be played out on bikes and scooters, not in cars. “Charges, fines, taxes” have always been a major part of providing those healthy choices and in reducing the access to machines that cause death. Physical restrictions on where cars can drive provide further protection.

          “You arent ever getting PT in rural areas where 75% of road deaths happen.” The more rural 75% of deaths could be significantly slashed through strategic VZ planning – and yes it involves modeshift as well as speed limit changes and road layout changes.

          I’d love to meet you sometime Ari and discuss this deeply. Every single barrier to transformational change that I’ve ever heard from a traffic engineer or transport planner is a circular one, in which the belief in the excuse not to change is what’s preventing other elements of the transformation from being realised. You make a lot of good observations but I feel like the limitations of the people around have squashed your belief in changing the sector.

          It’s hard, but the best future we’ll have is if people like you do raise your ambition about what’s possible.

        3. The problem is not solved with mode shift. You need to escape the notion that cars are evil.
          The problem is Kiwi drivers are not very good. Last week I was in Germany and driving at 250kph on the autobahn. It was mostly only 2 lane’s each direction and yet better driving standards made it perfectly safe.

      2. OK – so I’m not saying you are wrong. However, this is how it was put to us. Lots of signals were needed at lots of intersections. There’s only so much money. The ones with more deaths qualified for the signals, like bidding at a house auction and ‘our’ intersection was, if you like, the next-highest bidder. Just another death and we would beat the competition and earn a set of traffic lights. Heidi, you made me glad to think that common sense is prevailing somewhere, assuming you’re not a chatbot 😉

        1. Not being 100% sure if I am a chatbot, I asked my son. He asked Chatbot GPT, but it said it couldn’t confirm or deny my existence. None of which is particularly conclusive. In short, you might onto something, but I don’t know.

    3. Michael I am sure the Police thought that was true when they told you. But because we know that fatal crashes are small numbers and small numbers cause strange outcomes we treat serious and fatal injuries as a group. Often the difference between the two is luck or a matter of centimetres. We use crash histories to fund projects because the alternative is worse, to not use crash histories would be appalling.

  10. One wonders if the travel time savings have increased in order to maintain the status quo with the revised VOSL. I honestly can’t tell if the transience of travel time improvements before induced demand takes them out is actually acknowledge in our CBAs, but the reality is that because VKT and DSI are positively associated, anything which increases VKT increases DSI. In this sense, travel time savings are traded off with VOSL.

    Strictly speaking (and as noted above), VOSL is only for the value of a life saved. The reason they do it like this is because it would unethical to price human life. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t understand how that works unless they’re assuming that every option that isn’t a “do nothing” saves some lives.

    For example, suppose that they expect 10 people to die over a twenty year period in the “do nothing”. Scenario A then suggests that 8 people would die instead, so that’s 2*VOSL to add as benefits for Scenario A. Scenario B still has ten deaths so no benefits there. Scenario C then has 5 lives saved, so that’s 5*VOSL for its benefits. Obviously if we were to imagine a scenario D that has 12 people die, we can’t use VOSL to evaluate the increase in (expected) deaths… unless we argue that “lives failed to be saved” is a distinct concept to “pricing human life”, which is obvious sophistry.

    It may be distasteful but “lives saved” isn’t a benefit as such when you’re still expecting people to die. It is even more distasteful to observe that if we’re making tradeoffs, what’s conceptually useful is to have a number that expresses the value of lives lost, not the value of lives saved. In this fashion, we can count Scenario A’s 8 dead as actual costs, rather than implicitly recognising them as 2 lives saved. However, I suggest the main advantage is that this framework makes it plain that we trade human lives against other benefits like transient time travel savings… or, rather, the hope that a project we know increases VKT won’t also increase DSI (magical thinking).

    In any case, if you’re going to increase VOSL, then if you want to avoid changing your practices, you must also increase your travel time savings values. Now, sure, if ab = cd, then unless e = f, (ae)b = (cf)d isn’t going to be true. So, in this sense, the change ostensibly improves matters in the sense that we now value saving lives more than saving time (because e = 2.50 and f = 2.56). Alas, the congestion avoidance rate is increasing nearly twice (1.85) as fast (4.64) as the ordinary travel time saving (2.50).

    I guess we’re about to see a lot of investment in urban road projects. Hell, maybe this is a precursor to bringing back Mill Road in its full glory!

  11. Time is a human invention. It creates order, but humans have advanced too fast that time has become the creator of chaos. Time has no value, except to the individual human. Money is also a very human, and a much more recent invention, also without value. As bitcoin etc. proves, nothing is worth anything, really. But TIME is all each of us have, and TIME is all that Mother Earth can give us. If we do not respect her time, then our time is up!!!

    1. The words of David Bowie come to mind, who put it beautifully, about how fickle and changeable are the effects of time… and how futile are our attempts to try and escape time…

      “Time, it flexes like a whore,
      Falls wanking, to the floor,
      It should be time by now!”

  12. its interesting how much the VoSL has increased, HAPINZ 3.0 used a VoSL of $4,527,300 per death based June 2019.

  13. A fairly obvious alteration to the question should be to put a value on saving *your* family member’s life, not just some hypothetical.

    Collateral damage and trading lives for utility seems to be easy to accept when others carry the loss.

  14. Society sets values, Government should respond ethically. This is where decisions about public spending on Health, Education and Transport get made (COVID deaths do sit in this space).
    MoT and WK then work out an NLTP to divide Transport spending into buckets for categories of outcomes – how much on safety, how much on emissions, how much on congestion, how much on freight (road/rail?), how much on maintenance and climate response.
    Then the Manual comes out for Business Cases and it all gets messy.
    The Manual is good for comparing one safety project with another, or one congestion project with another. It’s hopeless at comparing a congestion project with poor safety prediction against a safety project with ‘poor’ travel time result.
    Especially when increased travel time in one place results in less congestion and emissions somewhere else.
    Casualty prediction is much more meaningful than picking from crash history alone – especially where CAS under-reports. And remember that serious injuries are 10 times more likely than deaths and have serious societal impacts.

    1. “MoT and WK then work out an NLTP to divide Transport spending into buckets for categories of outcomes – how much on safety, how much on emissions, how much on congestion, how much on freight (road/rail?), how much on maintenance and climate response.”

      They aren’t really “categories of outcomes”. The buckets are there as a way of ensuring teams have the money to further their work… but the work of all teams needs to be focused on meeting all outcomes. See https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2022/09/12/activity-classes-%e2%89%a0-the-governments-strategic-direction/

  15. So would this mean spending a bit more on a rapid transit project to bring it up to speed could still come out with a better BCR then it’s cheaper slower iteration?

  16. We are being gaslit-washed with an avalanche of hopeful, forward-sounding plans, studies, agreements and policies, that are mostly ignored.
    No one who buys an aircraft-carrier sized twin cab or SUV really gives a flying about what happens to people outside their vehicle, if it comes down to ‘us’ or ‘them’
    And most of those, the ones in decision making positions (abetted by 3-yr cycle politicians), go along with it.

  17. It continues to amaze me that in this country we revamped the health and safety requirements for companies, businesses, volunteer societies etc. making zero deaths the target post Pike River. Sure, that has annoyed many, but working in a reasonably hazardous industry I can say that the situation is many, many times better now and over the last 10 years there has been a real shift to accept it and just get on with achieving it. The thought that businesses would weigh up the cost of implementing staff safety over the potential costs of the accidents now seems abhorrent.

    How on earth have we managed to make private enterprise do that and in the most public realm of the roads we are still calculating the cash value of lives? When using a calculator like this there will be a point where if the time saved vs. cost of lives lost is very close, reducing the time saved by a very small amount across a certain threshold of usage would make the calculator say that yes in fact death is acceptable. Would be very tempting to just take a few seconds off to get projects over the line and thus cementing an acceptable death toll into those projects.

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