Most now are familiar with life cycle costs. Infrastructure agencies build detailed and complex models for these costs and, given replacement costs and useful life of components, detailed prediction software is now available. But benefits are a different matter. We have yet to develop a software program for that.
Looking now to current infrastructure proposals, how much attention is paid to the life cycle of benefits? For example, what are the long-term benefits of a new road? Often justification is based on time savings, but how long do these time savings last? Those who remember the early days of the ring route in Melbourne will know that it cut about 30 minutes off the peak travel time from the airport to the city – but only for about 2-3 months – and then it was back to pre ring route time of 60 minutes. Was this ‘benefit decay’ factored in?
Manufacturers and retailers pay a great deal of attention to ‘product’ or ‘service’ life cycles. They seek to anticipate the decline or change in demand for what they are producing so as to be ready to produce a new product or service as the old one hits its peak and starts to decline. They don’t assume that they are ‘building capacity for the future’, for they realise that the future will be very different, and require different products. They seek to maximise the present.
We have been brought up on notions of infrastructure longevity and service stability, but could it now be time to re-think and incorporate more benefit analysis into infrastructure planning?