How (in)accurate are demand forecasts in public works projects? The case of transportation.

Flyvbjerg, Bent, Skamris Holm, Mette K. and Buhl, Soren L. (2005) How (in)accurate are demand forecasts in public works projects? The case of transportation. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71 (2). pp. 131-146.

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Abstract

This article presents results from the first statistically significant study of traffic forecasts in transportation infrastructure projects. The sample used is the largest of its kind, covering 210 projects in 14 nations worth U.S.$59 billion. The study shows with very high statistical significance that forecasters generally do a poor job of estimating the demand for transportation infrastructure projects. For 9 out of 10 rail projects, passenger forecasts are overestimated; the average overestima-tion is 106%. For half of all road projects, the difference between actual and forecasted traffic is more than ±20%. The result is substantial financial risks, which are typically ignored or downplayed by planners and decision makers to the detriment of social and economic welfare. Our data also show that forecasts have not become more accurate over the 30-year period studied, despite claims to the contrary by forecasters. The causes of inaccuracy in forecasts are different for rail and road projects, with political causes playing a larger role for rail than for road. The cure is transparency, accountability, and new forecasting methods. The challenge is to change the governance structures for forecasting and project development. Our article shows how planners may help achieve this.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Listed as "Most Cited" article on the journal's home page.
Keywords: Transportation; planning; forecasting; civil engineering
Subject(s): Project management
Centre: BT Centre for Major Programme Management
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2011 12:58
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:05
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/730

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