Alex Marshall's Delusions About Anti-Transit Bias

Letter to the Editor
Hartford Courant

June 9, 2008

Response To 'Idealism Takes A Wrong Turn'
June 9, 2008

In response to Alex Marshall's June 1 Place article, "Idealism Takes A Wrong Turn," in which he criticized my views on cars and transit:

Marshall deludes himself about a bias toward highways and against mass transit. Indeed, government transit spending per passenger mile is nearly $0.95, while all government spending on roadways is less than $0.04. Some bias. Transit spending is 25 times highway spending. This does not consider the fact that roads carry a large share of the nation's freight. Transit carries none.

Further, government highway spending is principally from gasoline taxes on drivers, not subsidies from non-users. In contrast, more than 75 percent of transit spending comes from non-user subsidies.

Ending the bias would require transit to be funded by taxes on transit fares. This, of course, would be the end of transit.

Despite romantic notions to the contrary, we cannot replace the mobility of the automobile. This is not to deny transit's important roles in serving low-income households in city cores and its principal niche market, the 10 percent of jobs that are in downtown areas.

The unparalleled democratization of prosperity (read, poverty reduction) in Western Europe and the United States since World War II could not have happened without the mobility of the automobile and the new, owner-occupied houses on cheap suburban land.

Wendell Cox

Principal Demographia Metropolitan St. Louis Belleville, Ill.

The writer was a member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Committee, 1977-85.