Nellthorp J, Chintakayala P, Wardman M. Valuation of townscape improvements using a two-level stated preference and priority ranking approach. Presented at the International Choice Modelling Conference; July 4, 2011. Leeds, UK.

The value of streets as public spaces and places to do business is increasingly recognised (e.g. Manual for Streets, DfT, 2007 / CIHT, 2010). Projects to improve the pedestrian environment range from full pedestrianisation to ‘shared space’ schemes, and more modest incremental changes. This paper reports on research using a two-level stated choice (SC) and priority ranking (PR) technique to establish how much citizens are willing to pay for such improvements. Particular attention was paid to having a credible payment vehicle, and realistic presentation of options: respondents were recruited on the street concerned and the survey carried out using a hall test nearby, with computer visualisations for alternative policy options. The decision to use a two-level experiment combining PR and SC questions was made following a literature review and assessment of approaches, which found that this technique, developed by Wardman and Bristow (2008) in the context of aircraft noise, has important advantages in this context too, i.e.:

  • it introduces respondents to the trade-offs gradually, providing them with an opportunity to become familiar with the idea of townscape improvements before they encounter the more detailed SC questions;

  • the priority ranking question sets townscape and pedestrianisation in the wider context of local quality of life – there is evidence from previous studies that these aspects of PR are useful in controlling embedding effects and obtaining plausible values for environmental quality.

The survey was conducted in four locations: a suburban high street in Leeds; a historic street within York city walls; a radial street near to Norwich city centre; and a main street in a West Yorkshire town of 14,000 inhabitants. All were judged by the study team to have the potential for pedestrian improvements.

758 usable responses were obtained, at a rate of approximately 100 per day. Compensation of £5 was given for participation.

The PR and SC data were analysed using multinomial logit models. WTP for townscape improvements and pedestrianisation were inferred, including confidence intervals. Despite the fieldwork being carried out during a period of financial austerity in UK towns and cities, significant positive WTP was found. Changes in street design and the use of space attracted the greatest WTP; there was also substantial WTP for high quality surfacing material in pedestrian areas, e.g. natural stone. Detailed changes in street furniture were insignificant in this wider context, although this could of course be due to deficiencies in the survey presentation rather than a fundamental lack of WTP for small changes.

The PR analysis found marginal values that were approximately one third of the values from the SC exercise at the sample mean, suggesting there may be substantial embedding effects in pure stated choice experiments. Interestingly, when willingness-to-accept and willingness-to-pay were separated in the SC data, the SC willingness-to-pay values and the PR values were found to be comparable. The values also appear consistent with previous studies (e.g. Sheldon et al, 2007) after accounting for methodological differences and the likely effect of regional income differences on WTP.

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