In the 2012 budget, the DOT will spend about $59.4 billion on highways and $30.2 billion on transit and rail (source). Highways are getting a smaller and smaller portion of what we think of as the Federal highway budget, with transit and rail spending almost 50% the size of highway spending. For what results?
Despite huge efforts to get people out of single-occupancy vehicles, nearly 8 million more people drove alone to work in 2010 than in 2000, according to data released by the Census Bureau. Wendell Cox’s review of the data show that the other big gainer was “worked at home,” which grew by nearly 2 million over the decade.
Transit gained less than a million, but transit numbers were so small in 2000 that its share grew from 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent of total workers. While drive alone grew from 75.6 percent to 76.5 percent, the big loser was carpooling, which declined by more than 2 million workers. As a result, driving’s share as a whole declined from 87.9 percent to 86.2 percent.
Though they get less money in absolute dollars, transit and rail have for years gotten wildly disproportionate amounts of money compared to their ridership. This is not an accident of timing -- rail and mass transit costs per passenger mile are simply way higher than for cars in all but a few very specific high-density urban areas.
Much of this Federal spending is a huge waste of money, made worse by the fact that local authorities who get this money have little incentive to use it wisely. Its time for the Feds to get out of the transit funding business. If LA wants more subways, let them pay for it.