Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Myth: Rail is More Economical

This study, Federal Subsidies to Passenger Transportation produced by the USDOT and the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 2004, lays out the figures directly. All the positive numbers in the bar chart are how much of your tax money it takes to provide 1000 miles of passenger transportation. The lone negative subsidy is how much more you pay to drive 1000 miles than it actually costs. That's right; you get charged extra for your drive to work to offset some free-loader's ride to work.

"Progressers" hate automobiles and want everybody to ride trains. But as you can see, the only way that's going to happen is to soak taxpayers for at least a nickel a mile.

This study was updated by the Heritage Foundation using the exact same data from Table 3 in the study for 2002. Their review, Federal Transportation Programs Shortchange Motorists found that the federal transportation program actually made a "profit" from motorists because they paid more in user fees and taxes (mostly the 18.3 cent per gallon federal fuel tax/user fee) than they received in subsidies for roads. Approximately 20 percent of fees and taxes paid into the highway trust fund by motorists were diverted to the Transit Account within the Highway Trust Fund to subsidize transit.

Passenger rail is the most heavily subsidized form of transportation there is. The feds may pickup a portion of the initial cost, but federal funds are strictly prohibited from being used for operating expenses. That means Cincinnatians will get stuck for the rest of the bills forever.

City leaders promise to implement passenger rail whether you like it or not. Issue 9 will give you a chance to vote yes or no on it. Vote YES ON ISSUE 9.


  1. This is a really interesting study, and it does raise some good questions, but I had some about the study. In the end, this study only deals with federal subsidies, not a complete picture of spending.

    1) Since it only deals with federal expenditures, how much does Ohio have to spend on roads?

    2) Since this study does not consider the average commuter's costs, the prices of gas and parking are not included, not to mention upkeep of a vehicle.

    3) I'm no crazy liberal who thinks President Bush invaded Iraq for oil, but our car addiction is the only reason we care about the Middle East. The cost of caring about oil is awfully high.

    4) The study admits it does not account for externalities, so the study basically is just good for comparing subsidies, not overall costs, particularly to the average commuter.

    Transit policies focused on roads only are bad for small businesses, bad for families, and bad for Cincinnati. That is what COAST wants, and stop them by voting no on Issue 9.

  2. 1) Ohio does spend money on roads, but that money comes fromt the gasoline tax. So essentially, the users of the roads are the ones who are paying for them. Rail, and streetcars are paid for by everyone, regardless of whether or not they utilize the service.
    2) The average commuter can make that decision for themself. If they want to spend money on gas, that's their choice. If it's not economical to drive a car, then they can take a bus. If they do want to pay for gas and parking, then they can keep their car.
    3) I agreee to an extent, but we can help break our dependancy on foreign oil by developing alternative fuels, hybrids, etc. We can also take advantage of our untapped domestic oil. None of these require a huge additional government subsidy for rail travel.

  3. This is a study only on federal subsidies and does not include a study on state subsidies specifically Ohio where passenger rail is currently almost non existent. Transit riders do not pay fees to the government, rather a local transit operating agency so while there may appear to be a subsidy, the money is being paid to a separate agency, not the federal government.

    Automobile certainly have advantages and their place especially in a culture/region like America where our cities and locations are far more spread out than other nations, but passenger rail can be an excellent complement to our existing transit options.

    Not to mention time spent traveling on the train can be productive time and the fatality rate of rail transit compared to automobiles is remarkably low. Nearly 39k Americans die in automobile accidents a year, that's roughly about as many soldiers lost during the Korean War.

    Also, rail is cheaper to operate per passenger mile and doesn't always require large subsidies for parking costs.




  4. CAAST -
    Remember when you lied about not saying that COAST was backed by big money? Liar.
    I want my ice cream sundae.

  5. Bris, you never specified where you wanted your sundae from. So I'd like to get you one, but I wouldn't know where from, what counts as a sundae, what size, no specifics to it. We'll probably have to get lawyers involved over the broad language of this bet, just like we'll have to get lawyers involved over the broad language of Issue 9 if it passes.

  6. Bris, if you really do want to meet up though some time after the election and put a name to the face behind your pseudonym, shoot me an email. It's on the CAAST site.

  7. "If it's not economical to drive a car, then they can take a bus. If they do want to pay for gas and parking, then they can keep their car."

    Yes, that's a fair comparison. Let's give people few options for public transit by cutting routes and frequency, and then ask what they want to do for work. This argument you keep repeating is disingenuous anyway; would COAST support better bus service if it meant any increase in taxes?

    COAST and its supporters are not conservative: they are corporatists. There is a difference. I'll refer to
    this article just one more time. Roads benefit big builders and Home Depot, not small businesses or families. I know we're never going to eliminate roads, but dense, walkable communities are only possible with rail transit as an option. Issue 9 would block that. Vote No on Issue 9.

  8. Since I remembered how to do HTML linking, Bris, your focus on ridiculous things like sundaes and calling it a downtown choo choo plus your juvenile screenname reminded me of this.

    Note: I am a Republican, and I generally do not dislike corporations. I like them a lot, and the ability to incorporate to protect investors is part of what makes America great. But big giveaways to corporations are just as much welfare as giving money to the poor, and COAST's policies are giveaways to the Home Depots of the world.

  9. No Chris,
    Streetcars benefit big business and builders. All you need to do is look at the Cincinnatians for Progress campaign finance report. It is full of big-time corporate money, including cash from builders. The largest contributor is Parsons-Brinkerhoff, who will make tons of the streetcar construction.

  10. Oh no, Chris doesn't like me! If there was high speed rail in Cincinnati I'd tie myself to the tracks. Life isn't worth living if some loser from the internet that I've never met and never will meet is unhappy about the anonymous nature of internet blog posters.

  11. Somebody benefits from every project, but on a society-wide level, a society built on more roads, wider roads, and bigger lots (commercial and residential) will benefit the Wal-Marts of the world a lot more than the Beck's Hardwares and Queen City Comicses of the world.

    I'd also point to another way a focus on roads grows the government: eminent domain. Which do you think will take more private lands: building streetcars or light rail on existing roads or rail right-of-ways, or widening 75 one or two or three more times?

  12. Bris, I am indifferent to you, but your juvenile name and focus on idiotic issues is an embarrassment to reasonable proponents of Issue 9 such as Mr. Miller. You are the same as the guy who starts calling someone Hitler: you ruin the discussion and ruin any chance of reasonable discourse.

    I do not know you, but everything I have said on the internet is something I would say to your face. You are hiding behind a ridiculous name and saying ridiculous things. You're probably an accountant or a businessman of some sort, and probably a decent guy off of the internet. That is why that link is appropriate.

    Vote No on 9 to make Bris Chortz cry (joking! and yes, I would say that joke to you in person.)

  13. Actually Chris, it has been the streetcar proponants that have called COASTers Nazis. They've also literally proposed that streetcar opponents be "rounded up and gassed."

    Everything I've said on here I'd say to your face as well. The idea that anyone on here is afraid of you, or any other progressor is ridiculous. I mean, have you seen pictures of CAAST, Travis, Randy, or David Ben? They couldn't intimidate a 3rd grade girl. Furthermore, I wouldn't know you from Adam even though you do post your name, and I could care less what you think of my posts, anonymous or not. By the way, Did you ever stop to think for a moment that maybe people stay anonymous because their employers wouldn't appreciate their blog posts?

    Vote YES on 9. Stop the streetcar and make Chris wish he still lived on Dayton (joking, and yes I would say that to you in person).

  14. Rather than facing the issues head on, COAST sympathizers were left to making fun of the physical appearance of their opponents:

    " I mean, have you seen pictures of CAAST, Travis, Randy, or David Ben? They couldn't intimidate a 3rd grade girl. "

  15. You're right CAAST, that's much worse than pro-streetcar Chris who called Bris a F*ckwad. Rather than face the issues head on progressors resorted to profane insults. You stay classy progressors.

  16. Really Ron? Because I've read all the comments here and it seems Chris never said anything like that. Nice try though.

  17. "Actually Chris, it has been the streetcar proponants that have called COASTers Nazis."

    Well, then they are stupid. Just like Mike Miller's arguments shouldn't be judged by you, I can't account for every jerk who believes rail transportation is good. I'm sure there are communists and fascists (or something approximating them) on both sides of the argument.

    "You're right CAAST, that's much worse than pro-streetcar Chris who called Bris a F*ckwad. Rather than face the issues head on progressors resorted to profane insults."

    Another idiot hiding behind an anonymous name. Is your employer watching out for rail transit comments too? You're right, I did link Bris to the Greater Internet F***wad Theory, which is somewhat rude. I usually feel like it is pretty clearly a joke, and were I to describe it to a random person in front of them, I'd use a different word. I'm sorry Bris, I won't link you to it anymore.

  18. Well CAAST,
    Maybe you should check his post at 5:01 PM on October 27th. F*ckwad.

  19. Ron:

    I've apologized to Bris, and let's get back to the actual issues. The "Greater Internet F***wad Theory" comic is (to me) a humorous example of what social scientists have shown comes from the anonymity of the internet. People feel free to be as rude as possible because they're anonymous, so their baser instincts come out. Such as with you right now. For the record, I'm sure Bris is not an F***wad, but I do feel anonymity allows people to be ruder than they normally would. If people just want to toss extreme insults for fun, that's fine for them, but I like to discuss issues like I would over coffee with my counterparts on the other side.

    Back to the issues, which I really think I did discuss.

    1)I believe roads are more expensive in the long-run because of the many outside costs that are not accounted for by this federal study. One I didn't even think of until later was the value of a parking lot versus a building. A focus on only roads means that more parking lots are needed, and more parking lots means less room for actual development (the giant parking lots by the courthouse). How much money are we leaving on the table in increased revenue from property taxes, income taxes, and spending by using valuable real estate as a parking lot? We can't limit parking lots and road construction without some passenger rail.

    2) Nobody has answered my statement that small businesses suffer under the sprawl-creating road-addiction that we have in the United States. As I stated before, building roads and interstates lets people build further out on bigger lots, which will just require more roads (such as we've seen on I-75). Those people can't walk anywhere, so they have to drive everywhere. Why would they drive to 5 little stores when they can hit Wal-Mart all at once? The customer service will bring in some people, but most will just go to Wal-Mart. Basically, our focus on roads helps Home Depot and hurts Beck's Hardware. This isn't the market dictating which is better; this is government policy helping large corporations crush small businesses.

    3) I've said highways and roads are bad for families, and that is because, once again, roads beget roads. This will just push people further and further out into the once-useful farm lands, and make it so people have to commute 30-45 minutes. That is less time for families, especially when you have to drive kids to every single event 15-20 minutes away. The dense neighborhoods created by rail transit options allow far more time to be spent at home and far less on the road.

    I call myself a conservative, and mean it. I feel the government has benefited suburban builders, suburban jurisdictions, and giant big-box stores for too long at the expense of small, local communities. I am voting no on Issue 9 because I care about Cincinnati, and I care about small businesses, and I care about families. Yes on 9 means taking away the best way to build dense communities, which I feel are better communities.

  20. Issue 9 is going to fail miserably. Cincinnati is smarter than COAST and its supporters think. We won't sit by and let some radical, extremist anti-everything except cars and suburbs and white people, hypocrits run our city.
    Stay in the white washed suburbs and watch the world go by from there.
    Meanwhile, Issue 9 is going to fail.

  21. Cincinnatians do get a say. We vote for our elected officials. If you don't like the plan, vote Mallory out. Its really that simple. Much easier than breaking the city charter with badly written amendments.

  22. Chris: According to COAST, all those people are "free loaders" (even the ones who pay fares, according to Bris' first comment) and should "dang well be happy they git anythang".

  23. Coleman, go back to the Young Democrats Club that you are a board member of. Laketa and the rest of the free-spenders on Council need your campaign help. Your hero Mayor Mallory needs you to go door to door to push his boondoggle choo choo.

  24. Ummmm..... I can't believe how boldly COAST is trying to lie with statistics with this one. The amount spent on rail vs. Roads and Aviation is less than 1%. And if you really believe that 20 cars carrying their own engines and weight and all the oil changes, tire changes, and expense of road repair is cheaper than rail, I have some property in Westwood I want to sell you.

  25. Support the Coal-Powered streetcar! We need more coal-powered mass transit! Down with Metro's clean hyrbid buses!


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