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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Cost of Public Transit

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days. I've felt a tad sick and have been trying recover. My usual stay up until 1AM and get up at 6AM has gone on hiatus the past few days. As one of my best friends used to say, "Sleeping is for mortals".

So this morning I wake up and read P.J. O'Rourke's piece on mass transit in the Wall Street Journal. While I think that P.J. gets some things right, he most certainly ignores some other things.
"Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price."
This begs a similar question about our road and freeway system in the US. Are the costs of building and maintaining roads and freeways in this country covered by the gasoline tax, and therefore, by the people who use them? The answer is a resounding NO. I have heard this argument on numerous occasions by Wendall Cox and Randall O'Toole and I find it to be a very dishonest question that ignores the costs that all of us incur, including those who don't drive.

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