A new study by Wendell Cox for the Heritage Foundation found that “The federal transit program and the transit systems that it subsidizes are among the most wasteful enterprises in the American economy, and reforming them should be among Congress’s top priorities.”
How much taxpayer money is wasted on mass transit? The numbers are shocking:
“We estimate the annual capital and operating cost per new annual weekday round trip passenger at more than $40,000... enough to pay the lease on a Rolls Royce Ghost (though not the more expensive Phantom),” Cox says.
Cox also quotes Brookings Institution economist Clifford Winston’s book, “Last Exit: Privatization and Deregulation of the U.S. Transportation System,” in which Winston finds that “transit service is so underutilized that load factors (occupancy rates) were at 18 percent for rail and 14 percent for buses in the 1990s before the Federal Transit Administration stopped requiring transit agencies to report that information. A car carrying a single driver has as high a load factor as the average American transit system.”
Dulles Rail is cited by Winston as a perfect example of a non-cost-effective transit project. As he points out, except for San Francisco’s BART system, government subsidies exceed the economic benefits on all commuter rail systems in the U.S., making them perpetual sinkholes for tax dollars.
However, both Cox and Winston agree that mass transit could be economical, but not when it’s run by public entities that have little or no concern for the bottom line.