B. Starr McMullen

Oregon State University

232C Ballard Extension Hall
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
s.mcmullen@oregonstate,edu |  Visit Personal Website

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My research is focused on economic efficiency and competition in the transportation sector of the economy. Overall, an efficient transportation system can play an important role in assuring a country's international competitiveness. Recent work here has focused on U.S. air carriers and pricing policies, transit systems, and road pricing. Examination of freight performance measures and multi-modal investment decision-making have also been the topics of recent research projects that were designed to assist policymakers. Assessment of the feasibility of private/public partnerships is an area that is receiving increased consideration in an era of shrinking public resources. Finally, research in progress involves assessment of the socio-economic impacts of policies aimed at providing a sustainable transportation network, including various congestion pricing scenarios and the proper pricing of greenhouse gas emissions.

Zhang, Lei, B. Starr McMullen, Divya Valluri and Kyle Nakahara. 2009. “The Short- and Long-Run Impacts of Vehicle Mileage Fee on Income and Spatial Equity.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board (pp.110-118).
Abstract: Concerned about the declining purchasing power of gas tax revenue due to inflation, public opposition to tax increases, and improved fuel efficiency of new vehicles, the 2001 Oregon Legislature created the Road User Fee Task Force (RUFTF) to make recommendations regardingrna potential replacement for the gasoline tax. This paper estimates the distributional impact of the statewide vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) fee policy proposed by the RUFTF on individuals with different incomes and residential locations. The methodology employs both vehicle ownership and type choice models and regression-based vehicle use models. This allows us to examine both short- and long-run responses from the impacted households. The measures of the distributional impact of the proposed VMT fee include changes in consumers? surplus, fee-collection agency revenue totals and overall welfare changes by income and location groups. The results show that the distributional effects of a 1.2 cents/mile flat VMT fee are not significant in either short or long run, suggesting that distributional concerns should not be a hindering factor in the future implementation of the proposed VMT fees.
Russell, Scott, B. Starr McMullen, Santosh Mishra, and Andrew Stivers. 2010. "Pricing in Retail Gasoline Markets." Journal of the Transportation Research Forum 49 (2): 65-76.
Abstract: Although fuel costs represent over half of the per mile cost of driving an automobile, vehicle miles traveled are relatively inelastic with respect to changes in gasoline prices. Thus, when there are large increases in gasoline prices as there have been on occasion over the past few years, there have been concerns raised regarding the possibility of anti-competitive behavior on the part of gasoline retailers. The purpose of this paper is to examine price-cost margins for retail gasoline stations in local markets and to determine whether movements in these margins indicate the presence of such behavior. rnThis study uses a unique proprietary data set from an extensive pricing survey that was collected twice weekly for 25 local markets in Oregon. Using a VAR specification, evidence of tacit collusion is tested for and found as indicated by downward price stickiness. Price leadership is observed in several markets, but this behavior is not found to have a significant impact on price-cost margins when compared to markets in which price leadership is not observed. This result supports the hypothesis that price leadership serves to signal price changes in the face of volatile costs in very competitive retail gasoline markets. Other factors such as whether the firm was a known low-price firm, located in an isolated area, whether the firm was selling unbranded or branded gasoline, and whether the firm was located on an interstate exit, are found to be important and significant determinants of price-cost margins for retail gasoline stations.
McMullen, B. Starr, Lei Zhang, and Kyle Nakahara. 2010. "Distributional Impacts of Changing from a Gasoline Tax to a Vehicle-Mile Tax for Light Vehicles:A Case Study of Oregon." Transport Policy 17 (6): 359-366.
Abstract: A vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) tax is frequently mentioned as viable alternative to a fuel tax for collecting highway users fees from light vehicles. Both a static model and a regression based model are used here to assess the distributional impacts of a switch from a fuel tax to a VMT tax for the state of Oregon. The VMT tax is found to be slightly more regressive than the fuel tax and rural households are found to actually benefit relative to urban households under a VMT tax. Two alternative VMT structures that might increase incentives to use more fuel efficient vehicles are provided, but both are found to be even more regressive than a flat VMT tax.

Substantive Focus:
Economic Policy
Science and Technology Policy
Urban Public Policy

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Analysis and Evaluation