Randal O’Toole: Taking Liberties With the Facts

The Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole gets under
the skin of many of those interested in building a more rational and
green metropolitan geography, but in many ways he’s an ideal opponent.
It would be difficult to concoct more transparently foolish arguments
than his. The man is an engine of self-parody.

spaghetti_bowl.jpgIs this spaghetti bowl turning a profit? Photo: Infrastructurist

A recent post at Cato’s @ Liberty blog provides
a nice example. In it, he quotes George Will’s description of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as “Secretary of Behavior Modification” en
route to calling LaHood a “central planner in waiting.” This is
one thing I’ve never understood about the libertarian love affair
with highways; they seem utterly blind to the fact that it has required
and continues to require massive government action to build and maintain
the road network. The interstate highway system is perhaps the single
largest government intervention in the economy in the 20th century. Reading O’Toole you’d think it was a wonder of the free
market.

The source of his blindness
on the issue seems to be due to his belief that roads pay for themselves,
and that congestion exists only because governments shift gas tax revenue
to pay for transit and other smart growth projects. Nothing could be
farther from the truth.

In the first place, gas tax
revenue comes nowhere near paying for roads. Federal gasoline tax revenues
cover barely half of the annual budget of the Federal Highway Administration.
Add in diesel tax revenues and you’re still short. And that’s just
the federal budget picture.

Taking into account all gas
tax revenues and road spending generates an even starker picture. The
Texas Department of Transportation recently developed an asset value
index, intended to gauge the cost-effectiveness of a road over the whole
of its life cycle. They discovered that most roads don’t come close
to paying for themselves. In one typical road analysis, it was determined
that a real gas tax rate of $2.22 per gallon would be necessary, simply
to break even. No stretch of road in the whole of the state covered
its costs.

But that’s not all we should
consider. On top of the cost of the actual road, drivers impose costs on other motorists, pedestrians, and
society as a whole. Carbon emissions from driving impose an annual cost
of about $20 billion on society. Costs from congestion total nearly
$80 billion per year in lost time and wasted fuel. And the annual cost
of automobile crashes (which claim nearly 40,000 lives per year) is
around $220 billion. In the absence of driving alternatives, all of
those numbers would be higher still.

But of course, O’Toole thinks
that the reason we suffer from so much congestion is because we are
diverting money to transit rather than building more roads. This is
completely incorrect, and a basic failure to grasp economic analysis.
Road space is scarce — that is, not unlimited. It therefore has a
positive value, which should be reflected in a market price. If it isn’t — if prices are fixed at zero (as is the case with most roads) —
then a shortage will result. This is well understood; if the president
attempted to fix the price of any other good at a below market rate,
libertarians would cry foul and immediately argue that shortages would
result. Yet when free roads produce congestion, they conclude that the
best solution is to spend taxpayer money on more roads.

O’Toole makes a great show
of the fact that transit ridership is low, but the implication of this
factoid is not what O’Toole would have you believe. For decades, roads
have received massive government subsidies, and drivers have not been
forced to pay the true cost of their driving. In the meantime, backdoor
subsidies to driving have been rampant. An example — most communities
have rules establishing minimum parking requirements for new construction.
Cheap and plentiful parking is a significant subsidy to driving, and
such parking requirements make it difficult or impossible to build more
compact and walkable streetscapes.

Transit use has lately been
on the rise as congestion and fuel costs have exploded. Cities with
transit systems have benefited enormously from the availability of a
substitute to driving, and those without have suffered from their inelastic
dependence on cars in an environment of increasing costs. The simple
truth is that government has intervened heavily to create the road network
so beloved by libertarians, and the country continues to bear heavy
costs as a result. Any clear-eyed examination of costs and benefits
will indicate that the time to rebalance investments away from highways
and toward transit is long overdue.

  • Libertarians seem particularly incensed by imminent domain, so I wonder how many people have been displaced by highway construction compared to rail lines. I’m guessing it wouldn’t even be close.

    But maybe that doesn’t count? Got to build a bypass, after all.

  • I came upon a post “Libertarians Against Sprawl” recently: http://c4ss.org/content/597 — so I guess there are *some* Libertarians that aren’t blind to road subsidies.

  • Oh, and a whole site on this stuff: http://marketurbanism.com/

  • If you scratch a libertarian long enough you’ll get them to admit that roads are greatly subsidized, but then they’ll claim that “that’s what everyone wants”. The intellectually honest ones will advocate a system where all forms of transportation pay for themselves. As for the rest, when you question whether the government should be in the business of throwing money at every single thing that “everyone wants”, or when you point out that highway funding is an enormous transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, you get shouted down. Cries of “elitism” and “liberals hate freedom!” are sure to follow.

  • @Ian

    Interesting links. I’ve been looking for a rational libertarian POV on urban issues.

  • Greg

    Glad to see a well reasoned takedown of O’Toole, who is so intellectually dishonest that it is disgraceful that he gets quoted in the mainstream media as often as he does.

  • Brooklyn

    Libertarian opposition to transit/rail is ironic, since rail is the only national transport network to be actually built under private auspices, largely at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Except for the oddball Vanderbilt — thinking of the now (even more ironically) bike-path converted Long Island Motor Parkway, there are no roads out there now built by the free market.

  • rex

    What O’Toole is doing for Libertarianism is the same thing that Sid Vicious did for anarchism.

  • If Mr. O’Toole really believes transportation belongs in the private sector, he’ll have no objection to the privatizing of all highways, roads, streets, and bridges. The new owners, in all their free market wisdom, would then decide what to charge drivers for the use of every foot of asphalt in the United States.

  • Omri

    Simple exegesis from Libertarian Scripture would show that interstate highways are an abomination before the Lord.

    But Reason is an underfunded magazine, and compromises have to be made sometimes.

  • It is funny, particularly considering how much of highway planning is specifically about behavior modification. Anyone who lived in Eastern Iowa in the early 90s will remember the controversy over rename I-280 through the quad cities as “I-80 South” for the purpose of channeling more commerce into the Illinois side of the river by tricking some drivers into a non-optimum route. I don’t particularly like paternalism, but you’re right, it’s all too typical to point out one example in defense of another.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You want liberty ride a bicycle. You are free from government transit, corporate vehicles and foreign oil.

    Got to watch out for bad drivers however. The evildoers hate our freedom.

  • As scary as Mr. O’Toole’s use of the facts is, I find even scarier the fact that the author of ‘Effective Cycling’ is one of his pals, and is even on the ‘Speakers Bureau’ of the American Dream Coalition. (http://americandreamcoalition.org/speakers.html) Yes, that John Forester, advocate and author of the use of a bicycle for basic transportation rallies about with the likes of O’Toole and an organization which lists the following as something that requires their defending: (http://americandreamcoalition.org/adc/why.html)

    * Mobility — Automobiles give Americans access to better and higher paying jobs, lower-cost consumer goods, rapid-response emergency services, distant friends and relatives, and all sorts of recreation opportunities.

    And plenty of pages on rail ‘disasters’, smart growth planning critiques, and even a special report on how Portland’s planning has been dysfunctional and has created another Los Angeles.

    I wouldn’t put much stock in Mr. O’Toole. And his buddy the effective cyclist effectively lost my interest with his positions on automobility and sprawl – along with his generally bad attitude towards critique and respect (search out some of his commentary on the Advocacy pages of Bikeforums…).

  • clever-title

    Real libertarians object to the government subsidies to motoring and support the privatization of roads so the users would pay the real costs, rather than relying on taxpayers to foot the bill. See Walter Block’s book at the von Mises Institute.
    http://mises.org/books/roads_web.pdf

    Cato is just another group of lobbyists with financial backers to represent.

  • For any libertarian worth his or her salt, Randall O’Toole is just another statist, or if they’re in the mood to be politically divisive, a useful idiot. Remember that it’s a think tank with somewhat varied opinions, not just a talking point mill like The Heritage Foundation.

    Some Cato fellows have written anti-subsidy position papers, including this one: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-231.html It gets from 0-60 in ideology in a mere two paragraphs, writing the amazing line, “The communist economic model has been discredited and abandoned in most places, but not on America’s highways.”

    Hooo-eeee. I cannot wait until pay-as-you-go sidewalks.

  • clever-title

    I doubt you’ll ever see pay as you go sidewalks. You might have a pedestrian toll for facilities with limited access points like bridges, but business owners in town would want to provide free sidewalks to encourage pedestrian traffic in & out of their buildings (sidewalks are maintained by the owners of the buildings they adjoin in many towns now). Sidewalks built by road owners elsewhere are unlikely to charge tolls because the traffic is so hard to control, the cost of collecting the tolls would exceed any revenue generated.

  • I want to see everyone pay their “fair share”, however that works out, but stuff like pedestrian tolls or privatizing local streets goes too far off the deep end, IMHO. Common sense tells me that transit use is more cost effective than personal motoring, yet the auto lobby has been remarkably successful at convincing the public of the opposite. This would seem to indicate that the motoring public hasn’t been paying its fair share for a long time–if ever.

  • bb

    http://americandreamcoalition.org/

    He allows his name to be on this web site, so they can promote him.

  • clever-title

    Rhywun, you are likely correct that mass transit is more cost-effective than driving. But as long as we have tax-subsidized roads competing with tax-subsidized public transit, insurance laws that lead to minimal users of cars to pay as much as a person who drived hundreds of miles per day, and fuel subsidized by the taxes people fund into the miltary; no one can really compare the costs.

  • I am a frequent contributer to marketurbanism.com, I believe in your cause, and I generally think that O’Toole is misguided. But, be careful when arguing with O’Toole – he’s a lot more intellectually honest than you’re giving him credit for, and I can promise you that he’s done a more thorough calculation of accounting subsidies than you have. You can find his work on the subject here.

    That having been said, there are “subsidies” that neither you nor O’Toole have mentioned. The biggest one is probably the fact that the government seeks only to recoup its accounting costs, but not its opportunity cost. But more simply: just because 5th Avenue recoups its maintenance costs doesn’t mean it’s the free market outcome – for that to be true, tolling the road would need to be the MOST profitable use of the land – more profitable than putting up high rise condos and expensive commercial street-level retail. So, even if a road recoups 100% of its costs, this still doesn’t maen that it’s what the market would have provided. (For a better-worded version of this, see the fifth paragraph of one of my posts at marketurbanism.com.)

    Furthermore, another implicit subsidy is the fact that most roads are already in place, and the land – however it was acquired – does not need to be paid for again. A lot of these roads (especially those build more than a couple of decades ago – i.e., most of them) were built before the government sought to recoup its costs, and thus were subsidized to an extent that today’s roads aren’t.

  • …by the way, I’d like to add one more thing: your argument that currently roads are subsidized in an accounting sense is further flawed based on the fact that you’re not factoring in a HUGE user fee that people pay 100% of: the car itself and the gasoline it takes to drive it. So, if 80% of the cost of roads is paid through user fees rather than general revenues, but road building is only half the cost of driving (the other half being the car/gasoline), then that means that user fees in fact pay for 90%.

    Again, I’d like to reiterate that I am on your side. However, I think that being truthful is much more important than a united public front…I wouldn’t want us true libertarians to be dismissed because of mistakes like this.

  • So, in summation, there are four main government interventions favoring the automobile over mass transit:

    1. Minimum parking requirements
    2. Mandatory low-density zoning rules
    3. The accumulation of roads and rights-of-way that the gov’t didn’t pay for through user fees
    4. The fact that the gov’t looks to recoup accounting costs, whereas the market looks to recoup opportunity costs

    I don’t know much about it, but VA housing subsidies in the ’50s probably also had a lot to do with it (as I understand, they were mainly available to whites seeking to by single-family detached houses).

    Unfortunately, a flat-out overall subsidy to the car/road system is probably nto one of them (anymore!).

    And, if you wanna go farther back in history – to the 1920’s, which was when the car really started to overtake the streetcar – you’re going to find a lot of interventions against the streetcar (labor regulations affecting streetcars but not buses, gov’t subsidies to the roads but not in the rails, etc.).

  • Seems to me that Mr. O’Toole’s emphasis is on preserving American sprawl and the higher standard of living, e.g. larger lawns, more bedrooms, more motor vehicles, that sprawl enables Americans to enjoy. Quite naturally, he doesn’t want government interference in that, or in the necessary automobile access to that standard of living.

    Now, you or I might think that good access to public spaces, a shorter commute, and plenty of small-business retail might make for a better standard of living, but those aren’t O’Toole’s standards (or the government’s).

  • rex

    Hey Stephen, what is the opportunity cost of a million road deaths a year? (You just can’t use the 42,000 US deaths/year since the value of the wage slaves killed in other countries is lost to the US economy.) Of course, you have add in the public opportunity cost of increased obesity, asthma, cancer, heart disease, climate change, and wars fought for oil.

    Oh, then there is the moral cost of of not giving a rip about your fellow human. Accounting does not begin to describe it.

  • THANK YOU! I just started reading his book The Best-Laid Plans, not knowing anything about O’Toole, and thought to myself “hmmmm…LIBERTARIAN!?” He kept writing about planners wanting transit everywhere as if it were a bad thing.

    He also kept making rash claims about planners making rash claims. Yes, all urban planners are liars, telling everyone that suburbs cause obesity and yes, that is the only reason to not build suburbs. Yes, O’Toole.

    But he represents a large group of people that we transit-lovers and suburb-haters are up against.

  • rex: Those are externalities, not costs, and that’s not really relevant to our discussion…bringing externalities into it makes the whole thing more complicated, and if you can prove that the car/auto complex receives favorable government policy without trying to estimate the externalities (“wage slaves”??), your argument is a lot stronger. This is what Ryan Avent is trying to do, as am I. All I’m saying is that he’s wrong that there is an account subsidy – the intervention is much more subtle, and indeed insidious, than just a pure monetary transfer.

  • *accounting subsidy, not account subsidy

  • I \v/ NY

    great post.

    another libertarian fetish claim about mass transit is that it is social engineering, again more blindness that all transportation is social engineering. with transportation, if you build it they will come. build an extensive network of roads and highways like the US and surprise everyone uses it. build an extensive subway system like NYC and surprise everyone uses it. build an extensive bike network like copenhagen and surprise everyone uses it.

    yeah nevermind our private transit, railroad and ferry companies provided privately run transportation service, paid taxes and then were all put out of business by government built roads, bridges and airports. you’d think libertarians would be up in arms over this but instead they give you some half baked american dream bullsh*t.

    libertarians love the government when it comes to their car.

  • Some libertarians are up in arms over this.

  • Florida Planner

    I’ve tangled with Mr. Forester online before over bicycle facilities planning issues, and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. Discovering that he’s pals with O’Toole is not surprising. These people use logic and facts like a carpenter using a hammer to cut wood, and when that doesn’t work, they resort to name-calling. In the real world, that would get you thrown out of meetings, banished from committees, and escorted out of the offices of elected officials. Online, however, they have no repercussions for their silly arguments (and no way to discover or confirm their motivations and incentives). I tend to ignore O’Toole, and I think that Forester’s arguments are not holding up well over time. Ultimately they are foolish tools serving their own masters, and their arguments will be eventually ignored in the face of change and the cold, hard facts of economics and public opinion.

  • A free-market follow-up at Market Urbanism:

    ‘Thus, under any accounting comparison, all transportation is clearly subsidized at an amount that is absolutely unsustainable by private (“unfettered by government” interventions) means. For the intellectually corrupt “anti”planner to consider highway subsidies “tiny” is a completely absurd disregard for the rational examination of reality.’

    http://marketurbanism.com/2009/06/04/otoole-under-more-fire/

  • Peter Smith

    Those are externalities, not costs

    best. line. ever.

    this pretty much describes the US libertarian life philosophy — if you can’t force them to pay for it, they won’t, and so therefore, it is not a ‘cost’.

    those dudes — and they are all dudes — are awesome. 🙂

  • rex

    Stephen, calling those costs, and the associated opportunity costs externalities is semantics. There is a very real cost to people that are killed, maimed, or sickened by driving and somebody has to pay it. If the owner of that resource is unwilling to accept the responsibility of paying those costs, then payment pay falls to someone else. Which is very non-libertarian ideal, since you are abridging my right not to pay for your driving.

    In O’Toole’s analysis he absolutely has to include the “externalities” in his calculation of public cost of driving to have a credible argument. Like most libertarian thought that fails to regard economics as a social science, his argument has metaphysical blindness that is frankly inhuman.

  • Florida Planner

    If the people who think that highways are cheap compared to mass transit, sidewalks, bicycles, mixed use, and other antidotes to our car culture (which is not healthy) are willing to pay the full share of what it costs to drive, then let them pay. In fact, let’s place ALL the costs on the table, and no parsing selected costs as “externalities.” Those are costs, too, the difference simply being who pays for them.

    My money is on mass transit and bicycles being the cheapest, especially over the long run. We can build virtually an entire urban network of bikeways and high-quality shared use paths for what a mile or two of an urban arterial road would cost. The savings alone from ceasing the massacre of thousands for the “freedom” of the automobile would pay for this many times over.

    O’Toole is an absolute fraud, and it’s time the media recognizes this.

  • Walt Brewer

    Non-Libertarians especially should believe government statistics? Go to http://www.bts.gov/programs/federal_subsidies_to_passenger_transportation US Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows about $135 per passenger mile to mass transit, rail or bus, and slighly less than zero for highways.
    And when highway land is compared to transit land for THE SAME NUMBER OF PASSENGER-MILES there is no important difference. Do you really think there would be less congestion and energy waste without the Interstate Highway System promoted by moderate liberal (really) Eisenhower? Sorry,ideology can’t replace facts.

  • This is a fantastic article chock full of citations. Thank you very much!

  • Here’s a great informational article from the Victoria Transport Institute talking about the real costs and economic stimulation associated with transit building versus highway building. It’s amazing how many more jobs and revenue come from transit spending rather than highway spending. Great article.

    http://www.vtpi.org/econ_stim.pdf

  • Here is my profile in case anyone is interested in the same things I am. Stay in touch.

  • Non-Libertarians especially should believe government statistics?

    Um, no? Especially not from the Bush/Mineta administration. If you’re representative, Walt, then Libertarians have weird ideas about what the rest of the world believes.

  • anonymous

    Walt Brewer: First off, it’s $135 per THOUSAND passenger miles, or 13.5 cents per passenger mile. Second, that chart shows only federal funding, while much of the actual maintenance of roads (as well as other costs like law enforcement and accident cleanup) is done by states and localities, and still other costs are externalized. Third, the fact that something gets more subsidies than something else doesn’t mean it’s actually more expensive than that something else.

    “Do you really think there would be less congestion and energy waste without the Interstate Highway System promoted by moderate liberal (really) Eisenhower?”

    Yes, that’s exactly what we think. If he had built a national high-speed rail network instead of a highway network, we would have less congestion (or the same congestion and less land use, if you like), faster speeds (100mph was doable as early as the ’30s) and less energy waste (trains at full capacity are more efficient than cars at full capacity, and much more efficient than cars with their prevailing occupancy of just over one passenger per vehicle).

  • F.K. Plous

    Amen! Tremendous essay, long overdue. O’Toole is a tick that needs to be plucked from the nation’s skin ASAP.

    One question: How was the figure of $220 billion as the annual cost of U.S. auto fatalities arrived at? May we assume that it includes the calculations that personal-injury attorneys and insurance companies use when they sue the guilty party attorney in a fatal accident, i.e., the remaining lifetime potential earnings of the fatally injured victim?

    A friend of mine and I were discussing the issue of the “operating costs” of a highway system. He pointed out that since a highway is “self-operated,” i.e., the individual motorist stands in for the bus driver, subway or streetcar motorman, or train engineer, the real operating costs of the highways reappear under an assumed name as accident-insurance premiums. I find that claim intriguing. Perhaps some of the metaphysicians who follow this blog can evaluate its legitimacy.

  • Steve

    Stephen,

    “you’re not factoring in a HUGE user fee that people pay 100% of: the car itself and the gasoline it takes to drive it.”

    Isn’t that an externality itself? If the roads weren’t there, people wouldn’t be buying the cars and the gasoline. So how can you include that as part of the “user fee” for the cost of roads?

  • Pursuant

    The O’Toole’s and their ilk are a bunch of small minded men who entreat people with appeals to fairness and fiscal restraint all the while hiding their joy at stopping the wheels of progress.

    To engage in argument with one is to argue with a fool who crowns himself king because he pays taxes no greater or less than you or I and is blinded by a desire only to dismantle those things which do not please him.

  • “Isn’t that an externality itself? If the roads weren’t there, people wouldn’t be buying the cars and the gasoline. So how can you include that as part of the “user fee” for the cost of roads?”

    It’s not like people there and think, “Oh, 80% subsidized roads…sweet!” and then go out and buy a car without thinking about the cost. No, they think, “How much is it gonna cost me to drive to work as opposed to taking the train?” And then they think, “Okay, it’ll cost X for the car, Y for the gas, and Z for the insurance.” Included within the price of gas is the gasoline tax, which funds the vast majority of NEW road improvements (though not old ones). How this could NOT be counted as a user fee is beyond me…it’s a cost, borne ENTIRELY by the user…isn’t that the definition of a use fee??

    Like I said, I’m on your side, and I think that there are huge interventions in favor of the automobile. However, it’s intellectually dishonest to claim that there are huge accounting subsidies. There are not. The system is largely self-sufficient. Which does not make it any sort of approximation of the free market (for all the reasons I listed above – chief among them being mandatory low density zoning/parking regulations and the accumulated lost opportunity cost of all the land on which the roads – already paid for and controlled by the state – forgo), but rather than lie about facts to get people to be on our side, we should accept the fact that the argument is a difficult and nuanced one and it might take a while to convince people. There’s a reason the “market urbanism” opinion isn’t widespread, even though it’s right.

  • Ray Valone

    Anyone who gives any creed to O’Toole also believes (with forgiveness of those under 5) in the Easter Bunny. I knew of him during his Portland days with his outrageous claims and pseudo-economist declarations. The man was a joke here. He cleaned up, made claims for a national audience and has become a person who is referenced in urban planning literature. So, it is not surprising to hear his ‘analysis’ of highways and transit getting mixed up with his personal value biases.

  • Ronald Skidmore

    Years ago at a public meeting, Randall O’toole stated that a planning professor had made him angry in his college years so his motivation in life was to prove that planning was a flawed and unecessary vocation.

    Anytime anyone is driven by anger the results will not be objective or scientific. As the saying goes “Anger blows out the lamp of the mind.” It’s sad to see such high levels of energy directed at being destructive rather than constructive. The highest achievers build things, it’s easier to be a critic and a grenade thrower like Randall, but it really doesn’t make the world a better place, just a bitter place.

  • The Great One

    Randall O’Toole is not a libertarian he is a socialist. No true libertarian would advance a policy that increases taxes on average people to pay for the seizing of huge amounts of private property to build roads that are then made available free for all to use is capitalism. Such a policy is called socialism and just like the Centrally Planned Socialism of the Soviet Union it is doomed to fail. Gee I wonder how Randall would like it if we bulldozed his house to build a new freeway. Oh well at least Randall is a lot dumber than his predecessor Wendell Cox who is currently operating under the radar given the current political climate. Just remember Randall O’Toole is a socialist, his vision for America is corporate welfare for the auto, highway building and oil industries that pay his bill. Note Randall never advances an alternative beyond some fuzzy rhetoric about “smart roads” I wonder how many of our taxdollars will be wasted on that nonsense.

  • Stephen Smith “rex: Those are externalities, not costs

    Externalities fall into two categories: external costs and external benefits. Since the externalities he is talking about are clearly not external benefits, that means they are external costs.

    “Externalities” simply means the cost or benefit is not born by the people deciding on the transaction, that they are third party costs or benefits.

    “Externalities implies NOT COSTS” is either ignorance or a deliberate lie.

  • RoadWarrior

    I’ve read a number of O’Toole’s books, and as a Land Surveyor and Geomaticist working in civil construction (mostly Heavy/Highway transportation), I find that O’Toole has some extremely good thoughts on transportation, and some really bad ones. Good – ending subsisies for transportation: sending subsidies to build interstates or rail lines, public or private is a bad idea. The transportation funding system needs to be overhauled, and not controlled by politicians, rather the free market. Remember, the ultimate reason the interstate system is funded by the government, is for military preparedness. It is probably going to take a war on American soil for Americans to see the value of private roads; the second there are military operation in the US, the interstates and all public roads will be closed to military or government only travel. It’s the Eisenhower system, and can turn the US into a totalitarian, unfree-to-move state, at the drop of the proverbial hat.
    Which givesw another of O’Toole’s valid points: freedom of mobility. Trains channel people into small corridors and paths that do not allow them to freely move. Trains are moreover, inaccessible to the majority or people. This is largely why such a small amount of people ride trains; because after one gets off the train, he is basically stranded. The automobile provided the cure for this, which is why trains eventually disappeared, with the help of overregulation.
    All being said, I have worked for, and consulted for a number of the major highway construction contractors in the country. They make millions of dollars profit on each letted project, accounting for billions in net profits per year – all taxpayer money.
    Let private companies maintain roads, and end the corruption. The interstate system will still be there, but with continuing highway subsidies private enterprise will not be able to compete.

  • RoadWarrior: “Trains channel people into small corridors and paths that do not allow them to freely move. Trains are moreover, inaccessible to the majority or people. This is largely why such a small amount of people ride trains; because after one gets off the train, he is basically stranded.”

    I just got back from Amsterdam. How strange that whenever I emerged from Centraal Station, I never felt “basically stranded.” I felt awestruck by the beautiful canal houses and comforted by the cobbles beneath my feet. If my short-stay apartment hadn’t been a 10-minute walk from the station, no doubt I’d have hopped onto a streetcar — though judging by the loads of bikes parked by the station, many others no doubt made a different choice.

    Only in a fatally car-damaged country would anyone describe the end of a rail journey as being stranded. That says more about car dependency than it does about any supposed limits of rail. I do like your idea of ending subsidies to roads, though.

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