Mass Transit Boondoggles Create Pollution and Traffic Congestion

Fee via SouthernWatch:

What good is a transportation project that actually increases traffic congestion (and thus pollution), even as it drives up transportation costs? Increasingly, transportation spending is being used on projects such as light rail systems that carry very few riders, take up space needed for buses and cars, and consume enormous capital and operating costs.

Many recent transportation bond measures have been deceptively pitched to voters as being about road construction, but they actually divert much of the money to transportation alternatives that are white elephants. Mass transit spending goes to terribly inefficient and expensive light rail systems that few people can use rather than to buses that could actually carry many people to work.

Wasted Resources

The R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut writes about wasted transportation spending in California, which is spending $100 billion on a new rail system that few people will ever ride because it “will have ticket prices higher than airfares and will take nearly twice as long as flying to get from the Bay Area to Southern California.” As Greenhut notes:

It has been around 15 years since Orange County tried to build a $1 billion light-rail system that would have gone from one suburban parking lot to another. It would have moved around half of 1 percent of the county’s commuters. What I remember most about that incredibly shrinking Centerline was that while it was supposed to reduce congestion overall, it would actually have increased congestion along main thoroughfares.

That was my first up-close encounter with the Cult of Transit. There is nothing wrong with expanding bus service and building new rail lines—provided they actually enable people to get where they are going. However, urban planners’ fixation on transit stems more from social engineering than transportation engineering.

Despite $50 billion in annual subsidies for mass transit, transportation planners are failing to get people out of their cars:

Ridership declined in all of the nation’s 38 largest urban areas. Transit systems in Austin, Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Tampa-St. Petersburg all suffered double-digit declines, with Austin losing 19.5 percent and Charlotte 15.4 percent despite being two of the fastest growing urban areas in the nation.

People fly rather than go by train because it is usually cheaper and easier. For example, in California:

They take Southwest Airlines, which offers low-cost, quick flights serving the major airports. Yet former Gov. Jerry Brown had focused his attention on building a $100-billion high-speed rail system that, if it ever is completed, will have ticket prices higher than airfares and will take nearly twice as long as flying to get from the Bay Area to Southern California. What is the point? […]

I think of my attempts to take transit to go from my exurb to downtown Sacramento. It would involve driving to a station 20 minutes away, paying for parking, buying a ticket and waiting for a train. It would take longer and cost almost as much as just driving downtown directly and parking. That train might make sense in the urban core, but not in the outlying areas, yet officials love to lecture us about our supposedly unsustainable reliance on driving.

Mass transit carries fewer than 3 percent of all commuters to work, even in the nation’s 50 largest urban areas, a percentage that continues to fall despite rising spending on mass transit.

Additional Case Studies

So-called bullet trains generally turn out to be white elephants. South Korea is abolishing its celebrated high-speed rail line from its capital, Seoul, to a nearby major city because it can’t cover even the marginal costs of keeping the trains running. Most people who ride trains don’t need the maximum possible speed, and most of those who do will still take the plane to reach distant destinations.

Despite Japan’s much-vaunted bullet trains, most Japanese don’t take the bullet train, either; they take buses because the bullet train is too expensive.

Despite Japan’s much-vaunted bullet trains, most Japanese don’t take the bullet train, either; they take buses because the bullet train is too expensive. Bullet trains do interfere with freight lines, so Japanese freight lines carry much less cargo than in the United States, where railroads—rather than trucks—carry most freight, thereby reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

California’s so-called bullet train—which may not actually end up being a truly “high-speed” system—is vastly behind schedule and over budget, and it will likely never come close to covering its operating costs once it is built. As Reason magazine noted, transportation officials have warned that it is a disaster in the making. California drastically understated its costs, which are now projected at around $100 billion. And the project is already at least 11 years behind schedule.

This article was reprinted from Liberty Unyielding.

Jonathan Mayhew: America’s First Revolutionary Preacher-Patriot

FEE.ORG via SouthernWatch:

Ministers, “watchmen on…the wall of liberty,” according to Franklin Cole, editor of They Preached Liberty, were among America’s greatest revolutionary influences. The most influential was Boston Congregationalist minister Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766).

Declaration of Independence signer Robert Treat Paine called Mayhew America’s “Father of Civil and Religious Liberty.” Especially important was his January 30, 1750, address, which was widely printed and read. Given for the centennial of Charles I’s execution, Mayhew argued that obedience is not the due of oppressive governments because such tyranny violates the divinely-instituted purpose of government to benefit the people. And if rebellion against Charles for eviscerating British liberty was justifiable, the same arguments applied to Americans’ loss of liberty under George III.

As we commemorate Mayhew, reconsider his argument for our liberty, which is safe only when we recognize its fundamental importance—an argument so important John Adams called it “the spark that ignited the American Revolution.”

“Such as really performed the duty of magistrates would be enemies only to the evil actions of men…But how is this an argument that we must honor and submit to…such as are not a common blessing, but a common curse, to society…If magistrates are unrighteous…the main end of civil government will be frustrated. And what reason is there for submitting to that government, which does by no means answer the design of government?”

“[We have] the duty of a cheerful and conscientious submission to civil government, from the nature and end of magistracy…to punish evildoers…But… what can be more absurd than an argument thus framed? ‘Rulers are, by their office, bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society: therefore you are bound to…submit to them, even when they destroy the public welfare…in direct contradiction to the nature and end of their office.'”

“Tyrants and public oppressors are not entitled to obedience.”

“The end of all civil government [is] the good of society…a contrary end…is a plain and positive reason against submission…nothing [is] more directly contrary to common sense, than…that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man; so that their estates, and every thing that is valuable in life…shall be absolutely at his disposal.”

“No government is to be submitted to, at the expense of that which is the sole end of all government—the common good and safety of society…The only reason of the institution of civil government; and the only rational ground of submission to it, is the common safety and utility. If therefore, in any case, the common safety and utility would not be promoted by submission to government, but the contrary, there is no ground or motive for obedience and submission.”

“Authority [is] a trust committed by the people…all besides is mere lawless force and usurpation; neither God nor nature, having given any man a right of dominion over any society, independently of that society’s…consent.”

“Resistance…[is] a most righteous and glorious stand, made in defense of the natural and legal rights of the people, against the unnatural and illegal encroachments of arbitrary power.. to exercise a wanton licentious sovereignty over the properties, consciences and lives of all the people.”

“The prerogative and rights of the [ruler] are stated, defined and limited by law… he cannot, while he confines himself within those just limits…injure and oppress … as soon as the prince sets himself up above law…he has no more right to be obeyed.”

Franklin Cole considered Jonathan Mayhew “the first of the Revolutionary preacher-patriots.” Aware that “Wise and brave and virtuous men are always friends to liberty,” Mayhew recognized that freedom was an incomparable blessing. And what was true then with regard to a king remains true of government leadership now. Today, we need to reawaken to that knowledge and rekindle our commitment to it, for freedom remains under fire.