With advocates like that mass transit doesn’t need enemies

A few years ago I was completely baffled by the fact that expensive, inefficient transit projects were sucking up billions of taxpayer dollars while more efficient methods of relieving congestion were constantly denigrated by politicians. As my curiosity led to some research I stumbled upon an entire subculture of people referred to as “transit advocates”.

Author Michael Barone discussed this “transit advocate” phenomenom in his recent piece The folly of fixed rail projects which appeared in the San Francisco Examiner. Mr. Barone concluded:

“as a form of transportation, fixed rail makes little sense in most parts of the United States. The fact that promoters of fixed rail almost inevitably produce hugely optimistic projections of cost and ridership indicate that we are dealing here with people who are less committed to rational argumentation than they are to the promotion of something which for them takes on the importance of a religious faith.”

Over the years I have reviewed numerous materials that “transit advocates” use to support their positions and I usually get a good laugh from them. Almost inevitably the document being cited documents that public transit is not the solution to transportation problems.

For example this morning I ran across this tweet from @Transit_Tripp on Twitter:

Study: “Roads Cause Traffic ”  http://tiny.ly/Rp1p

Yes I know the headline is nonsensical but that is to be expected on Twitter. Saying roads cause traffic is like saying roads cause drunk driving but the headline did get my attention so it was effective. I read the article and suggest you follow the link and do the same. Once you have finished come back and compare notes with what I read. I’ll wait for you here………



Ok, all done? So here is what I read:

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

The Toronto economists were careful to point out that adding transit options has no effect on highway congestion: so long as highway capacity is plentiful and free, there will always be new drivers to take the place of those who switch to transit. This doesn’t mean, though, that more rail routes and frequencies shouldn’t be provided, it just means that more transit won’t reduce congestion
unless it is coupled with policies that make it costlier or harder to drive.

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

So transit advocates tout the news that transit does not relieve congestion? And the transit advocate solution to traffic is to make it “harder and costlier to drive” thus forcing people onto trains that are expensive and inefficient? With advocates like that mass transit doesn’t really need enemies.