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FW: [Tr2000] Countering the Latest from O'Toole 

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  • Andrew Dawson
    More from the libert-aryans. Later, Andrew
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2006
      More from the libert-aryans. Later, Andrew

      >From: "mike_a_jager" <mjager@...>
      >Reply-To: Tr2000@yahoogroups.com
      >To: Tr2000@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [Tr2000] Countering the Latest from O'Toole�
      >Date: Wed, 08 Feb 2006 23:14:16 -0000
      >Countering the Latest from O'Toole�
      >In January, the libertarian Cato Institute published a report by frequent
      >transportation critic Randal O'Toole entitled "A Desire Named Streetcar:
      >How Federal
      >Subsidies Encourage Wasteful Local Transit Systems." The report calls for
      >federal support for local public transportation.� The report has been
      >profiled in several
      >media outlets and may provide fodder for anti-transit advocates in upcoming
      >measure elections. CFTE has examined the report and prepared information
      >that public
      >transportation supporters can use to effectively respond.�
      >Read "Responding to 'Desire Named Streetcar': 10 Ways He Gets It Wrong"
      >[Mike note: it's below, but you'll have to go to the CFTE's website so that
      >you can click on
      >individual links and get them formatted properly, at:
      >http://www.cfte.org/critics/otoole_streetcar_response.asp ]
      >10 Ways He Gets It Wrong
      >Randal O'Toole's latest report maintains that federal incentives are
      >causing communities
      >to invest in rail transit projects. Public transportation, he suggests,
      >should be focused
      >primarily on bus service and targeted to inner city and "transit dependent"
      >The report ignores a variety of indicators of the value and demand for
      >transportation choices and misrepresents the federal role in transportation
      >Public Transportation Ridership
      >Rail vs. Buses
      >Federal Subsidies
      >Local Support for Public Transportation
      >Public Transportation Subsidies
      >Investment Criteria
      >Transportation Planning
      >Air Quality & Public Transportation
      >Anti-Highway Lobbying
      >Public Transportation Value & Demand
      >Ridership. O'Toole's report argues that transit funding is "wasteful"
      >because transit
      >ridership is in decline when compared to auto use. This argument is
      >undermined by recent data. According to the most recent data, transit
      >ridership increased
      >by 3.3% in the third quarter of 2005 while auto use, measured by vehicle
      >miles traveled,
      >declined over the same period by .2%. In fact, transit ridership has been
      >consistently in recent years. Since1991, transit has hit a twenty year high
      >and is on the
      >rise. For example, 9.6 billion trips were taken on U.S. local public
      >transportation systems
      >in 2004, an increase of 2.11% over the previous year. This growth rate was
      >faster than
      >highway vehicle travel, which grew by 1.14%. Since 1995, public
      >transportation use has
      >grown by nearly 22%, faster than any other mode of travel. These increases
      >are even more
      >striking when one considers that Americans have far more access to an
      >automobile than
      >they do transit. The U.S. has over 8.2 million lane miles of roads. Only
      >4.3% of those roads
      >are served by transit.
      >Recent spikes in gas prices have led to some dramatic increases in transit
      >use, and early
      >data suggests that these travel habit changes appear to be lasting. A
      >survey of transit
      >agencies found that a third of all agencies experienced a double-digit
      >percentage increase
      >in transit ridership from November 2004 to November 2005. Communities
      >significant growth include Montgomery, AL (20.3%), Tulsa, OK (22%), Salt
      >Lake City, UT
      >(17.7%), and Kansas City, MO (13%). Eighty-eight percent of the surveyed
      >reported that ridership continued at higher rates than a year earlier,
      >despite the fact that
      >gas prices went down in November.
      >Back to Top
      >Ridership: Light Rail vs. Buses. O'Toole attempts to downplay overall
      >transit ridership
      >growth by suggesting that growth in light rail and commuter rail use comes
      >at the
      >expense of bus ridership. Again, the ridership data runs counter to his
      >claim. Transit
      >ridership data for 2004 found growth in all transit categories. This trend
      >has continued in
      >2005. For example, the most updated information for 2005 saw light rail use
      >up by 8.8%,
      >commuter rail up 4.6%, subways up 4.3% and buses up 2.5%. While it is true
      >that light rail
      >use has been expanding faster than bus ridership, this is largely due to
      >expanded service.
      >In spite of the growth and popularity of light rail systems, bus usage has
      >not suffered. Bus
      >ridership has increased every year for the past decade. Bus service is also
      >continuing to
      >expand into new communities.
      >Back to Top
      >Federal Subsidies. O'Toole points out the increase in federal funding for
      >transit since the
      >passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in 1991.
      >For O'Toole, this
      >growth in funding not only comes at the expense of highways but also
      >exceeds growth in
      >public transportation ridership. However, he ignores the fact that while
      >federal public
      >transportation funding has increased since ISTEA in total dollars, funding
      >has remained
      >essentially flat when measured as a component of total federal
      >transportation spending.
      >For every dollar in federal money spent on surface transportation, transit
      >receives less than twenty cents. The proportion of federal spending between
      >highways and
      >public transportation has remained roughly unchanged since 1991.
      >Back to Top
      >Local Support for Public Transportation Funding. O'Toole's report claims
      >that new
      >investment in public transportation is driven by federal financial
      >incentives. His solution is
      >to "devolve" transit funding entirely to state and local governments. As
      >noted above,
      >federal investment in public transportation relative to overall
      >transportation spending has
      >been static for more than a decade. In addition, the ever greater
      >competition for federal
      >transportation funding for public transportation projects has led to a
      >gradual decline in
      >the percentage of federal support for individual transit projects. While
      >federal law requires
      >local communities to self-fund at least 20% of public transportation
      >projects, most
      >communities now promise to cover at least half of the funding in order to
      >be competitive
      >for federal investment. Highway spending is not subject similar
      >O'Toole's suggestion that the demand for expanded transportation choices
      >and new
      >public transportation options is driven by federal funding is further
      >undermined when one
      >considers the fact that most communities put the issue of raising local tax
      >revenue for
      >public transportation to the voters. These ballot measures have passed with
      >frequency. Last year 84% of all such measures were approved by voters. In
      >2004, taxpayers
      >approved nearly 80% of proposed measures, generating nearly $55 billion in
      >local public
      >transportation investment. That amount is more than the entire federal
      >commitment to public transportation through 2009 in the newly enacted
      >Back to Top
      >Public Transportation Subsidies. O'Toole portrays public transportation as
      >subsidized when compared to highways. By his calculations, transit receives
      >more than
      >double the public subsidy for highways. His numbers, however, are
      >misleading and do not
      >include the true extent of highway costs and spending. Eighty percent of
      >transportation funding goes to highways. Further, fares and local taxes
      >account for the
      >largest share of public transportation funding. In 2003, roughly half
      >(47.4%) of all public
      >transportation capital costs were covered by users through fares and
      >voter-approved local
      >taxes. The same is true of operating expenses where more than half of the
      >total (50.7%) is
      >provided by users and local citizens.
      >Back to Top
      >Investment Criteria. O'Toole suggests that the decision to invest in public
      >transportation is
      >largely irrational and unsupported by objective analysis. Ironically, only
      >transit projects
      >must demonstrate value and validity prior to securing federal dollars. The
      >Federal Transit
      >Administration evaluates every new request for rail transit projects in
      >five categories:
      >mobility improvements, environmental benefits, operating efficiencies, cost
      >supportive land use, and local financial commitment. Highway spending is
      >not subject to
      >similar scrutiny.
      >Back to Top
      >Transportation Planning. According to O'Toole, the transportation planning
      >required under federal law leads to unwarranted transit projects. He
      >acknowledges that
      >the law requires public participation but claims that only "professional
      >lobbyists" are truly
      >involved. The reality is that planning offers citizens a rare opportunity
      >to truly have a voice
      >in local transportation decisions. Planners, by law, must involved a wide
      >array of groups in
      >the process. New provisions in federal law require the use of
      >visualization, internet, and
      >scenario planning technologies that further help citizens understand their
      >options and
      >choose a future that fulfills their vision and supports their values. It is
      >also important to
      >note that these plans must demonstrate that proposed projects are fiscally
      >Back to Top
      >Air Quality and Public Transportation. Among the programs O'Toole singles
      >out for
      >criticism is the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ). He
      >argues that the
      >program should not be used to fund transit projects. He also asserts that
      >it is unwise to
      >link transportation funding and air quality. However, there is considerable
      >evidence that
      >public transportation provides tangible environmental benefits. A 2002
      >study found that
      >public transportation produces 95% less carbon monoxide, 92% fewer volatile
      >compounds and nearly half as much cardon dioxide for every passenger mile
      >traveled as
      >compared to private vehicle travel.
      >The value of the CMAQ program in reducing air pollution was recently
      >documented in a
      >National Academy of Sciences report. O'Toole also vastly mischaracterizes
      >CMAQ funding.
      >The program is only a very small part of total transportation funding,
      >accounting for less
      >than 1% of the total. Additionally, on average more than a third of all
      >CMAQ resources
      >have gone toward the traffic flow improvement projects he touts. He claims
      >the air quality
      >programs are a "faulty centralized process." Yet, CMAQ funds are flexible,
      >resources with few mandates that states and localities have used to improve
      >regional air
      >Back to Top
      >Anti-Highway Lobbying. Another program O'Toole criticizes as "promoting
      >extravagant spending" on public transportation is the federal
      >Transportation and
      >Community System Preservation program (TCSP). He claims that TCSP dollars
      >lobbying campaigns by organizations hostile to highway construction. The
      >claim does
      >square with the facts of the program. TCSP is a small program that funds
      >plans, research
      >and projects that address, according to the Federal Highway Administration,
      >relationships between transportation, community, and system preservation
      >and to identify
      >private sector-based initiatives." Projects must be sponsored by states,
      >local governments
      >or public agencies. While non-profit groups can be partners, they cannot
      >use the funding
      >for lobbying. An examination of the 39 projects funded in FY2005 shows that
      >include pedestrian safety initiatives; several highway access, interchange
      >and improvement
      >projects; bike and trail plans; and, downtown transportation studies. It is
      >also important to
      >note that in FY2005 TCSP provided $21.2 million. The total federal
      >commitment to
      >highways in the same fiscal year was just short of $35 billion.
      >Back to Top
      >Transit Value & Demand. A key argument in "A Desire Named Streetcar" is the
      >notion that
      >rail transit undermines bus service. O'Toole suggests that funding should
      >be focused on
      >"transit dependent people" and not directed to suburban, exurban or rural
      >service. The
      >posits a choice between "high cost rail or flexible bus systems." Of
      >course, this is a false
      >choice and limiting public transportation only to inner cities is a
      >dangerous prescription
      >that would result in overwhelming congestion, declining quality of life,
      >and worsening
      >isolation for many citizens. As noted above, there is no evidence to
      >suggest that rail
      >investment is negatively affecting bus service as growth in bus ridership,
      >investment, and
      >new system starts continues.
      >In fact, citizens want transportation options and demand a comprehensive
      >solution that
      >includes multiple choices and enhanced mobility. In a recent survey,
      >two-thirds of
      >Americans cited improving public transportation as vital to solving
      >congestion. Exit polls
      >and analysis of election results from public transportation ballot measures
      >demonstrated that support for rail and other transit investments is broad
      >and not limited
      >to downtown areas. Another national poll found an astonishing 81% of those
      >believe that public transportation strengthens the economy, reduces
      >congestion and
      >improves the environment.
      >Limiting public transportation investments and options threatens to
      >undermine regional
      >economic competitiveness and ignores population and demographic trends. On
      >economic front, transit access increases property values and family
      >incomes. A study in
      >Dallas found that property values with transit access grew at nearly a
      >2-to-1 rate
      >compared to properties without access. Companies understand the importance
      >of a well-
      >connected transportation system. Internet giant Google has made public
      >access part of its site selection criteria. And, our aging population (by
      >2025 one-fifth of
      >the US population will be over 65) will require an interconnected public
      >transportation to
      >maintain health and mobility.
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