Written by Sean Jeans Gail
The Wall Street
Journal’s editorial board is extraordinarily adept at finding new and
unique ways to be disappointing in their views on transportation.
Let’s look at their Sunday editorial, Why
Your Highway Has Potholes:
What's missing is any new thinking.
Clear evidence of inefficient transportation spending comes from a new Treasury
study estimating that traffic gridlock costs motorists more than $100 billion a
year in delays and wasted gas. In cities like Los Angeles, commuters waste the equivalent
of two extra weeks every year in traffic jams. This congestion could be
alleviated by building more highway lanes where they are most needed and using
market-based pricing—such as tolls—for using roads during peak travel times.
The Wall Street Journal
goes on to place the blame for the failure of the Highway Trust Fund on public
transit (you know an editorial board has veered off track when they start
citing figures from Wendell Cox and the Heritage Foundation).
Let that sink in: the problem with the Highway Trust Fund
isn’t the fact that Congress hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1993, and hasn’t
even pegged it to inflation; it’s that it’s spending a portion of the funds on
public transit. It doesn’t take a lot of
words to disprove this fallacious argument.
In fact, it only takes two pictures (courtesy U.S. PIRG):
That is why the
Highway Trust Fund is in trouble. We’re
driving less per capita, and we’re using more fuel-efficient vehicles to do the
The Wall Street Journal says Transportation Secretary Ray
LaHood wants an America
without cars. But while they’re busy beating
up their straw-man, sensible Americans are dealing with the real transportation
problem: while cars and roads will continue to be the primary mode of
transportation, people are sick of being forced into their car for each and every errand and trip. No
one at the U.S. DOT really wants to abolish highways, but they are working hard
to make sure Americans have options—that communities are connected by more than just highways. And the following counterfactuals provide
ample evidence that Americans are ready for choice:
- Between 1995 and 2010, public transportation ridership by 31
percent—almost double the 17 percent growth in population.
- A recent study done by U.S. PIRG found that from 2001 to
2009, the annual number of vehicle miles traveled by people 16 to 34-years-of-age
dropped from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita—a 23 percent decrease.
- Senior citizens often choose transit because it is their
last link to the outside world. Almost 31
percent of transit trips in rural areas are made by older Americans.
- Transit enriches the lives of senior citizens; 2004 study
found that seniors 65 and older who no longer drive—compared with drivers of
the same age—make 15% fewer trips to the doctor, 59% fewer trips to shop or eat
out, and 65% fewer trips to visit friends and family.
- As the U.S. population continues to get older on average,
this reliance will only increase—Transportation For America estimates that by
2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65-and-older will live in communities
where public transportation is poor or non-existent.
Americans are demanding a balanced approach to
transportation policy, and reverting to a roads-only approach will leave too
many people stuck in traffic when all they want is to pop out to the store and
get a carton of milk.
But even worse, abolishing transit funding will strand millions
of men and women who helped build America into a great country. They deserve better.