Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Gets Subsidized?

I’m always a bit amazed when I hear people complain that car transportation is subsidized. I always wonder what alternative is less subsidized? Riding a bike or walking is nearly 100% subsidized. Taking a public bus, subway or light train is subsidized around 75%. Today’s car transportation subsidy is mainly caused by inaction on the part of Congress to adjust gas taxes at the same rate CAFE fuel efficiency requirements are increase.

So if you don’t want car transportation subsidized then call your Congressperson and ask them to increase the gas tax to meet current obligations. You may want to also ask them to stop robbing the Highway Account to fund the Mass Transit Account. In the Fiscal Year to day $269,862,066 has been transferred. That’s a –22% decrease from the prior year. Its a bit ironic that gas taxes are used to subsidize mass transit while at the same time the car is getting a bad wrap for being subsidized.

I guess we should also question if the original premise is correct. Are cars subsidized? If we look closer a small portion of car transportation is subsidized. Roads within a subdivision, and sometimes offsite, are built by the developer. Bridge replacement projects are mainly funded through gas taxes, 80% Federal match, and the local funds are often subsidized by STIP funds.

So how about we start appreciating the car as an efficient mode of travel instead of advocating other forms of transportation that are more heavily subsidized then cars.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cars ARE Mass Transit

What is mass transit? If you consider mass transit a public, large scale system that provides a city or metropolitan area a means of transportation; then you have to call the public system of roads and freeways utilized by cars mass transit.

I’ve seen a bunch of newspaper articles, blog posts, etc. claiming that America doesn’t have a great mass transit system. I’d have to disagree, I can get in my car and drive to any city in the continental United States. I can usually get there quicker than bus, train or light rail system.

Now the main reason I’m doing this post is because of straight out lies being put forth by people for the expansion of light rail, high speed rail and bus systems. Now I don’t have a problem people having these opinions, but I do have a problem with outright lies in supporting of their position. I actually read a quote in an article that stated flat out that Caltrans (DOT) wasn’t a transit operation. Caltrans is the largest transit organization in the State of California providing transportation to the masses.

A topic usually glossed over is cost. The problem is we can’t afford a large scale system of light rail and busses that don’t pay their own way. If you take a look at the fare box collection of the new mass transit systems you quickly find they don’t come close to covering the operation costs, let alone the capital costs required to build the system. I’d wager you’d be willing to pay $10 round trip in your car, but would pass up paying $3.00 round trip in a bus. I know I do everyday. The caveat being it takes about 1 hour longer taking the bus, each way. This being what i would consider a great schedule and opportunity to take the system. Now would I pay the actual cost of the trip of $12 taking the bus and take longer? I don’t think so.

If the Untied States really wanted a bus system then Greyhound would be a robust system of travel. Instead Greyhound only provides a relatively paltry 25 million passengers. Now when you were planning your last trip, did you even explore taking Greyhound? If you are for a large light rail/bus system and you didn’t think of taking Greyhound as a means of travel, then would you use a publically operated light rail or bus system? I don’t think so and I don’t really want to spend trillions of dollars for you to prove my point.