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Why Federal Transit Hasn’t Lived Up to Its Promises
Posted By Emily Goff On February 11, 2013 @ 10:29 am In Ongoing Priorities | No Comments
Next City, the nonprofit organization that produced this recent Super Bowl commercial  parody, and other transit advocates claim that trains, buses, and even trolleys provide practical ways for people to travel between home and work, and places like church and the store. They say transit is affordable and helps the environment by eliminating the need for cars. The facts show otherwise.
As Heritage Foundation visiting fellow Wendell Cox reports, the federal transit program has failed  to deliver on its promised objectives, despite having received generous federal gas tax subsidies for the past three decades. Namely, it has been unable to:
Supporters chalk up transit’s substantial costs to necessary “investments .” Yet Cox points out that between 1983 and 2010 “each 1 percent increase in ridership has been associated with a 9 percent increase in expenditures.” Highways and roads have been shortchanged in the process, because billions of federal gas tax dollars, originally intended to fund expansions and maintenance of the nation’s roads and bridges, were instead diverted to transit. In 2010 alone (the most recent data available), transit received $6 billion, or 17 percent of federal gas taxes—a disproportionate share, given that transit accounts for a mere 1 percent of the nation’s surface travel.
Transit is not a national program, because its use is highly concentrated in just six “transit legacy cities ,” driven by dense downtown areas called central business districts. These districts have the best paying jobs, and commuters to these areas have higher salaries. Of these commuters who do use transit, many have no other option, because they do not own cars.
Motorists and truckers pay the federal gas taxes that fund transportation. Because of the sizable diversion of this money to transit, funding for roads and bridges has been stretched razor thin—a reality that states are currently grappling with. Because of transit’s poor performance and concentrated use in a few cities, it should not be a federal spending priority.
Congress should phase out the federal transit program and its subsidy over a five-year period. During this time, states and localities can decide what transit services they want to provide and identify potential cost-saving measures  to implement.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2013/02/11/why-federal-transit-hasnt-lived-up-to-its-promises/
URLs in this post:
 Super Bowl commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6neVqNfmW7U&feature=youtu.be
 federal transit program has failed: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/01/transit-policy-in-an-era-of-the-shrinking-federal-dollar
 investments: http://blog.heritage.org../2013/01/22/obama-inauguration-speech-more-transportation-investment/
 transit legacy cities: http://www.heritage.org/multimedia/infographic/2013/02/most-transit-commuting-occurs-in-legacy-cities
 potential cost-saving measures: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/06/toward-creating-sustainable-transit
 Image: http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/transportation-chart_130211.jpg
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