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Newsletter VU Spatial Economics


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Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam





Newsletter VU Spatial Economics NO. 3, 2014



The department in 2013

This newsletter highlights some of the main research achievements of the department of Spatial Economics at VU University Amsterdam in 2013. Besides being proud of the different achievements of the department in 2013, published in this newsletter, we were deeply saddened by the loss of Piet Rietveld, Professor in Transport Economics and Head of our Department. Piet passed away, after a short period of illness, on November 1, 2013. Piet was dearly beloved by everyone who has had the privilege to work with him, for his wisdom, his warm personality, his gentleness, and his sense of humour. He is deeply missed.

Erik Verhoef, Acting Head of the Department

In Memoriam Piet Rietveld

Piet has been Head of the Department of Spatial Economics since 2002. Under his unique and inspiring leadership, the Department has flourished, and has gained and maintained its unique position worldwide in the fields of Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics. As a researcher, Piet has made ground-breaking contributions to these fields, on a wide variety of themes including transport and regional development, valuation, transport pricing, public transport, transport and environment, land-use modelling, and policy assessment. A good impression of his impressive scientific legacy, can be obtained from the overview of his work on Google Scholar. Click here to read the in memoriam

Research Funding: New Projects

Regional Dimensions in Indonesia's Social and Economic Development

Henri de Groot and Peter Mulder have received funding for the project ‘Regional Dimensions in Indonesia’s Social and Economic Development: A Governance Approach’. This is part of the Scientific Programme Indonesia – Netherlands (SPIN) from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), aimed at scientific cooperation with Indonesia. Two PhD-students will be working on this project.

Home Equity and the Demand for and Cost of Long Term Care

Jan Rouwendal received funding from NETSPAR for the project Home equity and the demand for and cost of long term care’. Lexmy van den Boogaard, PhD student, will be working on the project for 3 years. The project aims at a better understanding of the various mutual relationships between wealth and the demand for long run term care and of the possibilities for combining home equity and long term care.

Funding for PhD position in collaborative programme with China

Vincent van den Berg and Erik Verhoef have received funding for a PhD position in the collaborative programme between the Dutch NWO and the Chinese NSFC on “The Application of Operations Research in Urban Transport”. The project on “Private roads in mixed private-public networks” will be conducted in cooperation with Tongji University in Shanghai, China. The researcher is Xinying Fu. The project will consider the performance of monopolistic but also competing private roads in congested networks; and of various regulatory policies in this context, including different types of auctions for concessions for private road supply.

Transport Infrastructure Investment and its economic impacts

Henri de Groot has received funding for the FP7 project I-C-EU. VU University is one of the partners in this project which clarifies the relationship between transport infrastructure investment and its wider economic impacts, namely competitiveness and economic growth, by exploring the state-of-the-art of the theoretical methodology of the assessment tools, analysing current and future situation of Europe, taking into account European strategy on growth and competitiveness. I-C-EU will provide recommendations to the EC on making political intervention in order to enhance competitiveness of Europe.


Christiaan Behrens wins the European Aviation Economics and Management Prize

Christiaan Behrens wins the 2013 European Aviation Economics and Management Prize, announced at the GARS Research Workshop, just prior to the Second European Aviation Conference, last November. The award was co-sponsored by the GARS (The German Aviation Research Society) and Ashgate. Christiaan Behrens won the PhD Category with his paper entitled: ‘Loyalty programs and consumer behaviour: The impact of FFPs on consumer surplus’ and received a prize of Ashgate books and 200 Euros.

Martijn Smit wins European poster competition

Martijn Smit is the winner of the poster competition of the Open Days Master Class organised by the Regional Studies Association. His poster focused on cluster policy. Martijn received the award from Regional Policy commisioner Johannes Hahn.

Hans Koster, Paul Koster and Gerard van der Meijden joined Tinbergen Institute as Junior and Candidate Fellow

Hans Koster (25) is an assistant professor at the Department. He will join TI as a Junior Fellow and become a member of TI's Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics (STEE) Research Group. In 2013, Hans defended his PhD dissertation on the internal structure of cities: the economics of agglomeration, amenities and accessibility. His research emphasizes the economic analysis of cities, regions and the environment. He is interested in questions as why people flock to cities, how people and firms choose their location and how we can explain the current crisis in the housing market. His research is mainly empirical, and relies heavily on large datasets containing house prices, employment registers and productivity information. For more information please visit his page on the TI website or visit Hans Koster's personal page: Urban Economics.

Paul Koster (30) is a post-doc researcher at the Department of Spatial Economics, VU University Amsterdam and will join TI as a candidate fellow and become a member of TI's Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics (STEE) Research Group. In 2012 he successfully defended his PhD dissertation on ‘The cost of travel time variability for air and car travellers’. Paul’s research focuses on the economic valuation of non-market goods and services such as travel time and travel time reliability using advanced econometric techniques. In his post-doc research Paul studies market structures and industrial organisation. For more information please visit his page on the TI website and to find the answer to the question how costly it is to miss a flight, please visit his personal page.

Gerard van der Meijden (29) is a post-doctoral researcher at our department. He will join TI as a Candidate Fellow and become member of TI’s Spatial, Transport, and Environmental Economics (STEE) Research Group. In May 2013 he successfully defended his PhD dissertation titled ‘The Macroeconomic Dynamics of Trade Liberalization, Resource Exploitation, and Backstop Technologies’ at Tilburg University. Gerard is interested in resource economics, the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, technological progress, and economic growth. His post-doctoral research focuses on the economics of climate change. For more information, please visit his page on the TI website.

Jacques Poot Economist of the Year in New Zealand

Jacques Poot, professor of population economics at Waikato University and guest professor at our department, is this year's recipient of the NZIER Economics Award. At the department, he has been co-principal investigator of an international project on migrant diversity and regional disparity over the last 4 years. Jacques Poot is correspondent of the Royal Academy of Science and has recently been appointed as a member of the Academia Europaea.

Mark Kagan University Research Fellow

Mark Kagan has been selected for the University Research Fellowship (URF) of VU University.

Hans Koster and Piet Rietveld were nominated for VU Societal Impact Awards

The Societal Impact Awards spotlight research being carried out at VU University Amsterdam that has an impact on society. The Junior Societal Impact Award is for a PhD candidate who has completed a PhD dissertation at VU University Amsterdam within the last year which could have a potentially significant impact on society. The Senior Societal Impact Award is presented to a researcher at VU University Amsterdam who has had a longer career and spent several years working on research with a significant societal impact. Although neither Hans nor Piet eventually won the award, the nomination itself is of course already an important sign of recognition of the social impact of the work.

Hans Koster did research on the location choices of firms and households within cities, which has important implications for urban planning policies.

Piet Rietveld's work is on a range of transport themes (safety, road congestion, unreliability of transport systems, cycling) with direct relevance for transport policies.


Top five REPEC ranking

The Department of Spatial Economics at VU University Amsterdam is a world player in the domains of Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics. REPEC ranks the Faculty in the top 5% of the world in the following domains in which the department is active: Transport Economics, Tourism Economics, Economic Geography, Environmental Economics, Energy Economics, and Urban and Real Estate economics. For the Transport Economics field it even achieves position 3 worldwide.

No less than 8 professors from the Department are ranked by REPEC in the top 5% of Economics authors of the world, namely Peter Nijkamp, Richard Tol, Rick van der Ploeg, Piet Rietveld, Henri de Groot, Cees Withagen, Erik Verhoef,  and Raymond Florax.

Six spatial economists in the 2013 ESB Top 40 of Dutch economists

The department of Spatial Economics, VU University, is well represented in the 2013 ESB Top 40 of Dutch economists. Six department members appear on this list: Richard Tol (1st position), Peter Nijkamp (6), Piet Rietveld (9), Rick van der Ploeg (10), Erik Verhoef (12) and Jos van Ommeren (20). The list is based on journal publications in the years 2008 – 2012, weighted by a bibliometric quality indicator

Jan Rouwendal appointed professor of Economic Valuation of Cultural Heritage

Jan Rouwendal was already affiliated to the Department of Spatial Economics and with this position he will participate in the Research and Education Network ‘Heritage and Space’. Rouwendal and 3 other professors will boost knowledge development where the domains of Cultural Heritage, Spatial Design and Spatial Planning meet. More information on the network can be found on www.netwerkerfgoedenruimte.nl

CLUE: highest scores in international research visitation

The department of Spatial Economics is actively involved in CLUE, which is a research institute for the heritage and history of the Cultural Landscape and Urban Environment.

 “World leading”, “at the forefront of their field internationally”, “clear leadership” and “excellent productivity”. These are some of the high qualifications for CLUE´s research that resulted from the research visitation in December 2012 (see 'Appendices' in Annual Report 2012). The committtee published its report in March 2013 and judged CLUE research on scientific quality, productivity, societal relevance and viability the label ´excellent´, a label that is quite rare in international evaluations of Dutch research.

Meer informatie:Website CLUE

New Editorships

Cees Withagen has been appointed associate editor of the European Economic Review from 1 January 2013.

In 2013, Raymond Florax became member of the International Editorial Board of the new journal "Regional Studies, Regional Science", published by Routledge/Taylor&Francis.


C.Behrens, ‘Product differentiation in aviation passenger markets: The impact of demand heterogeneity on competition’, April 9, 2013.

M. Gerritse, ‘Policy Competition and the Spatial Economy ’, Jan 20, 2014

S. Groot, ‘Agglomeration, Globalization and Regional Labour Markets, Micro evidence for the Netherlands’, March 12, 2013.

H. Koster, ‘The Internal Structure of Cities: The Economics of Agglomeration, Amenities and Accessibility’, March 21, 2013.

J. Möhlmann, ‘Globalization and Productivity, Micro-Evidence on Heterogeneous Firms, Workers and Products’, March 12, 2013.

C. Ozgen, ‘Impacts of Immigration and Cultural Diversity on Innovation and Economic Growth’. Sept 25, 2013.

S. Peer, ‘The economics of trip scheduling: travel time variability and traffic information’, April 22, 2013.

J. Steenbruggen, ‘Road Traffic Incident Management and Situational Awareness, Oct 7, 2013.


Good evaluations of our teaching activities

The department is strongly involved in several Bachelor and Master programs and also the Tinbergen Institute. We are particularly proud of the MSc in Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics (STREEM). In the most recent quality assessment of Dutch Master programs (the 'Keuzegids' which was published in February 2014), both the MSc STREEM and the MSc Economics at the VU University Amsterdam were well evaluated, based on scores given by students as well as experts. Out of the 18 one-year MSc programs, STREEM was ranked third. Particularly positive evaluations were given for the quality of the teaching staff and the academic character of the program.

The master in Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics has developed in most favourable direction. The number of students increased from 9 in 2007 to around 30 in recent years, with a share of about 50% of international students.

Policy oriented RESEARCH

NORFACE - Migrant Diversity and Regional Disparity in Europe (MIDI-REDIE)

From 2010 to 2013, prof. Peter Nijjkamp and prof. Jacques Poot were the principal investigators of a large European project called MIDI-REDIE, on migrant diversity and regional disparity. Both Ph.D. students and researchers have been active in this project. Summarizing their results, it seems that, especially in larger cities, there is a positive effect of cultural diversity on amenities (the ”restaurant effect”). This effect however is much smaller than the negative effect of the presence of immigrants on, most notable, housing prices. This latter effect is mainly associated with cultural diversity within the own local neighborhood and not so much on the city level. On the other hand, there seems to be a positive effect of cultural diversity on wages, which points to positive productivity effects of cultural diversity and not so much to positive utility effects.

However, our research also clearly indicates that different kind of people derive different benefits and dis-benefits from living and working in culturaly diverse environments. This heterogeneity is something that does not have drawn a lot of attention in the literature. This specific heterogeneity of preferences, and the local effect of cultural diversity (on very low spatial levels like neighborhoods) could be interesting future research topics. Especially if cultural diversity is differently appreciated (both from a productivity and a utility point of view), then a generic policy regarding cultural diversity might actually be harmful to certain groups in society, and beneficial to others. From a distribution point of view this might have severe consequences.


Spitsmijden in de Trein is a research project studying the use of rewards to influence train travel behaviour. For this experiment, we cooperated with various railway companies, consultants, other researchers, and the Ministry of I&M (Infrastructure and Environment). More than 500 regular train travellers participated to the experiment, where they could receive a daily reward between 3 and 9 euro to avoid travelling during the rush hours.
Travel behaviour during the experiment was registered using a customised smartphone app, as well as travel diaries and surveys. A reduction of 22% in the share of rush hour trips was observed during the reward period.
In the study we use discrete choice analysis to identify detailled behavioural models, from which we can derive monetary valuations of a series of trip characteristics, including comfort, punctuality, travel time and schedule delay. These values are a measure for the trade-offs that train travellers make in choosing between different train connections for their commute.
The results of the research project potentially have a wide range of policy applications, both in social cost benefit analysis of congestion relief measures, as well as in prediction of behavioural impact of tariff differentiation across time of day.

A Dutch summary of the project's main results can be found here.

Completion of NICIS projects

The Department has been involved in various research projects that were carried out as part of a huge project under the heading of the Netherlands Institute for City Innovation Studies (NICIS), ranging from valuation of cultural heritage to the impact of globalization on urban labor markets and the role of policy competition between local governments.

In the concluding phase of these projects, this not only resulted in a series of successful PhD defenses (see the list of PhD theses in this newsletter), but also several workshops aimed at dissemination of research results to policy makers and practitioners.

In June 2013, we organized a workshop on spatial sorting. The trend of high-skilled and high-income people to cluster in space is a well-established stylized fact. But what are the consequences for society? Is gentrification and segregation a source of concern or can we argue that the Dutch have gone too far in its ambition to spread people across space? What are the consequences for housing market policies in, for example, a city like Amsterdam with a huge amount of social housing? And what are the consequences for more peripheral regions if clustering is accepted as an unavoidable outcome of people that vote with their feet? The publication ‘Soort zoekt Soort’ (Sorting Matters: the Clustering of Like-Minded) resulting from this workshop is freely available (in Dutch).

In January 2014, we organized a symposium on ‘Regional and Spatial Policy in Transition: New Perspectives on the Role of Regions, Place Based Policies, Policy Competition and Decentralization’. The central theme was the change in view over the past few years on sound national as well as European policies. These changes reflect an increasingly important role of regions at sub-national level in a world that globalizes at high pace. The result is a clear trend towards decentralization of policies. There has been a fierce debate on the need for place based policies in the European context. And views on the beneficial role of competition between jurisdictions for social welfare have been questioned. Four scholars reflected on the current, complex transition from national to increasingly local policy making. A short impression of the symposium and the powerpoints of the presentations are available here.

Economic Outlook Metropolitan Area Amsterdam

A final outgrowth of the completed NICIS projects mentioned above is the Department’s involvement in the publication of the Economic Outlook for the Metropolitan Area of Amsterdam. The most recent version of this Outlook was presented on February 7, 2014, and is available.

AESUS - a research project of the Urban Regions in the Delta programme (NWO)

The Analysing and Exploring Sustainable Urban Strategies (AESUS) project aims to develop a new generation of models that integrate societal developments, urban processes and changes in accessibility with sustainability issues. Such models can be used to better understand the complexity of reality, help shed light on potential future developments and evaluate possible impacts of alternative development strategies.

In the Netherlands several models are available that describe part of the complex relationship between urban dynamics and sustainability. Currently, however, these are not equipped to deal with contemporary spatial development issues and recent changes in the policy context (e.g. deregulation, decentralisation) in which these developments unfold. Nor are these models used in combination to offer an integrated view on the sustainability issues related to urban development. Within this project we aim to improve existing models and apply them in an integrated way to better understand increasing regional differences in urban development and propose and evaluate different urbanisation strategies. This is done in the context of expected developments along the hinterland-corridor surrounding the A2 motorway that connects Amsterdam with Belgium.

The project focuses on the following research themes:

  1. analysing regional differences in growth (and shrinkage) of population and employment;
  2. developing new planning and design concepts to deal with contemporary urban development processes and current changes in the policy context;
  3. develop and integrate spatial decision support tools that can be used in national and regional spatial planning and development processes (in particular the Land Use Scanner model and Urban Strategy framework

The figure is taken from an upcoming chapter in a book on Spatial Analysis and Location Modeling in Urban and Regional Systems: Regional variation in urban intensification share was analysed as part of the AESUS project.

For more information, see the project website: http://aesus.verdus.nl.

scientific PUBLICATIONS; a selection

Anthoff, D. & Tol, R.S.J. (2013). The uncertainty about the social cost of carbon: A decomposition analysis using fund. Climatic Change, 117(3), 515-530.

Bernasco, W., Block, R. & Ruiter, S. (2013). Go Where the Money is: Modeling Street Robbers’ Location Choices. Journal of Economic Geography, 13(1), 119-143.

Bremer, T.S. van den & Ploeg, F. van der (2013). Managing and Harnessing Volatile Oil Windfalls. IMF Economic Review, 61(1), 130-167.

Brown, Jason P., Dayton M. Lambert, Raymond Florax (2013), The Birth, Death and Persistence of Firms: Creative Destruction and the Spatial Distribution of U.S, Manufacturing Establishments, 2000–2006, Economic Geography, 89(3), 2013, 203–26

Chen Susan E., Raymond Florax and Samantha D. Snyder Obesity and Fast Food in Urban Markets: A New Approach Using Geo-referenced Micro Data, Health Economics, 22(7), 2013, 835–56.

Groot, S.P.T., de Groot, H.L.F. & Smit, M.J. (in press): Regional Wage Differences in the Netherlands: Micro Evidence on Agglomeration Externalities, Journal of Regional Science.

Heilbich, M., Brunauer, W., Vaz, E & Nijkamp, P. (2014). Spatial Heterogeneity in Hedonic House Price Models: The Case of Austria. Urban Studies, 51(2), 390-411.

Koster, H.R.A., Van Ommeren, J.N., Rietveld, P. (2013). Is the Sky the Limit? High-Rise Buildings and Office Rents. Forthcoming in Journal of Economic Geography.

Mitra, T., G. Asheim, W. Buchholz, C. Withagen, 'Characterizing the sustainability problem in an exhaustible resource model", Journal of Economic Theory  148, 2164-2182, 2013.

Mulalic, I, J.N. van Ommeren and N. Pilegaard (2013), Wages and commuting: quasi-natural experiments' evidence from firms that relocate, The Economic Journal (forthcoming).

Peer, S., Knockaert, J., Koster, P.R., Tseng, Y. & Verhoef, E.T. (2013). Door-to-door travel times in RP departure time choice models: An approximation method using GPS data. Transportation Research Part B, 58, 134-150.

Ploeg, F. van der & Venables, A.J. (2013). Absorbing a windfall of foreign exchange: Dutch disease dynamics. Journal of Development Economics, 103, 229-243.

Poelhekke, S. and F. van der Ploeg, (2013). "Do natural resources attract non-resource FDI?", The Review of Economics and Statistics, 95(3), 1047-1065.

Sabir, M., Ommeren, J.N. van & Rietveld, P. (2013). Weather to travel to the beach. Transportation Research A, 58, 79-86.

Rouwendal, Mark van Duijn,Cultural heritage and the location choice of Dutch households in a residential sorting model. Journal of Economic Geography, 13 (2013), 473-500. 

Silva Montalva, H.E., Verhoef, E.T. & Berg, V.A.C. van den (2014). Airlines' strategic interactions and airport pricing in a dynamic bottleneck model of congestion. Journal of Urban Economics, 80, 13-27.

Tol, R.S.J. (2013). The economic impact of climate change in the 20th and 21st centuries. Climatic Change, 117(4), 795-808.

Tranos, E. & Nijkamp, P. (2013). The Death of Distance Revisited: Cyberplace, Physical and Relational Proximities. Journal of Regional Science, 53(5), 855-873.

Weijde, A.H. van der, Verhoef, E.T. & Berg, V.A.C. van den (2013). Competition in multi-modal transport networks: A dynamic approach. Transportation Research Part B, 53, 31-44.

Withagen, C.A.A.M. & Ploeg, F. van der (in press). Growth, renewables and the optimal carbon tax. International Economic Review.

Policy Oriented Publications; a Selection

Bakens, J., H.L.F. de Groot, C.J. Pen en P. Mulder (eds.) (2014), Soort zoekt soort, Clustering en sociaal-economische scheidslijnen in Nederland, Platform 31 en Vrije Universiteit.

Economische Zaken Amsterdam and Kamer van Koophandel Amsterdam (2014): Economische Verkenningen Metropoolregio Amsterdam 2014 [Economic Outlook Metropolitan Area Amsterdam 2014], Economische Zaken Amsterdam / Kamer van Koophandel Amsterdam.

Geurs, K., Koster, H.R.A., De Visser, G. (2013). Kantorenleegstand en OV-knooppuntontwikkeling in de Zuidelijke Randstad. VerDus Beleidsnotitie.

Husby, T.G., Groot, H.L.F. de, Hofkes, M.W. & Dröes, M.I. (in press). Do floods have permanent effects? Evidence from the Netherlands. Journal of Regional Science.

Jacobs-Crisioni, C.G.W., Rietveld, P. & Koomen, E. (2014). The impact of spatial aggregation on urban development analyses. Applied Geography, 47, 46-56.

Koopmans, C.C., Groot, W., Warffemius, P., Annema, J.A. & Hoogendoorn-Lanser, S. (2013). Measuring Generalised Transport Costs as an Indicator of Accessibility Changes over Time. Transport Policy, 29(September), 154-159.

Mulder, P. & de Groot, H.L.F. (2013) Dutch Sectoral Energy Intensity Developments in International Perspective, 1987–2005, Energy Policy, 52, pp. 501–512.

Pfeiffer, B. and P. Mulder (2013), Explaining the Diffusion of Renewable Energy Technology in Developing CountriesEnergy Economics 40, pp. 285–296.

Steenbruggen, J.G.M., Borzacchiello, M.T., Nijkamp, P. & Scholten, H.J. (2013). Data from Telecommunication Networks for Incident Management: An Exploratory Review on Transport Safety and Security. Transport Policy, 28(July), 86-102.

Tan, W., Koster, H.R.A, Van Hoogerbrugge, M. (eds.) (2013). Knooppuntontwikkeling in Nederland. (Hoe) moeten we TOD implementeren? ‘s-Gravenhage: Platform 31, uitgegeven op 14-september-2013.

Wee, B. van & Rietveld, P. (2013). Using value of statistical life for the ex ante evaluation of transport policy options: a discussion based on ethical theory. Transportation, 40(2), 295-314.


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