Heritage: Urban Transportation Policy Requires Factual Foundations

This paper is published by The Heritage Foundation, February 7, 2011

Written by: Wendell Cox

Derailing transit myths: Newer large-rail transit systems have not attracted drivers from their cars for work trips, according to a paper released this week by the Heritage Foundation. Additionally, the paper finds that increases in transit funding tend to produce a considerably smaller corresponding increase in transit ridership; transit’s capital and operating costs are excessive and preclude its potential for expansion; there is little potential for transit to attract drivers from automobiles for the vast majority of urban trips because of transit’s limited competitiveness with the car; and the claimed benefits of transit have been exaggerated, including economic impacts, energy efficiency and savings in congestion, consumer and accident costs.

Abstract: The 2010 Heritage Foundation report “Washington’s War on Cars and the Suburbs” disputed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s claims that public transit produces substantial economic benefits, consumes only onefifth the energy of cars, and saves billions in other costs. The author of the 2004 American Public Transportation Association report, Todd Litman, has taken issue with “Washington’s War.” The following paper is a response to Litman’s recent claims—and finds that new rail transit systems have not attracted drivers from their cars for commutes; transit funding increases are far out of proportion to any increase in ridership; transit attracts few drivers because of its limited competitiveness with the car; and the purported cost benefits have been exaggerated. Wendell Cox explains how outdated numbers and ambiguous definitions form the basis of today’s urban transportation policy.

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