NCPA Economic Policy Forum & Author Series
Billion-dollar plans to build high-speed railways and revamp other forms of mass transit have been touted as "the answer" to our transportation woes in this country. But what if the best solution, which most increases personal mobility, was right under our noses? In his new book "Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What To Do About It," transportation expert Randal O'Toole makes the case for simpler, less expensive, and - most importantly - more effective solutions to get you where you want to be as quickly as possible.
Traffic congestion today is five times worse than it was 25 years ago, yet many transportation planners believe it's their job to make congestion worse in order to encourage people to use mass transit. In his new book, author Randal O'Toole makes the case for reducing congestion by improving methods of transportation that will increase everyone's mobility and pay for themselves, whether it's cars, buses, planes, or trains.
O'Toole explains that our nation is currently at a crossroads, writing: "We can spend tens or hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on transportation projects that sound good but really serve only a small elite. Or we can restore a user-fee-driven system that will continue to improve personal mobility and reduce transportation costs for generations to come."
As one of the nation's most outspoken critics of rail transit projects, O'Toole writes extensively about why rail is often a bad idea. He compares Europe and Japan's rail systems those of the U.S., resulting in a list of "Six Reasons Cities Should Not Build Rail."
Noting that President Obama has stated that he wants to rebuild America, "Gridlock" examines his options. O'Toole writes that the options are a "user-fee-funded highways...used by most Americans almost every day" or a "high-speed rail...regularly used by only a small fraction of Americans, but the cost would be borne by everyone." To O'Toole, the choice is obvious.
The recent economic crisis provides new arguments for both sides. Advocates for rail projects say that increased spending on rail "will provide an economic stimulus to help the nation recover." Those opposed say that "the nation needs to invest its limited resources wisely to improve productivity and minimize waste."
"Gridlock" presents a wide range of ideas and policy recommendations on how to move forward into the transportation system of the future. In order to take the politics out of transportation, O'Toole recommends that "the best thing Congress can do is to turn over all surface transportation funding and decision making to the states."
Copies of Mr. O'Toole book "Gridlock: Why We're Stuck in Traffic and What To Do About It" will be available for purchase at the luncheon. Mr. O'Toole will sign copies after the luncheon.
Randal O'Toole is a Cato Institute senior fellow who has written three books and numerous papers on transportation, urban growth, and public land issues, including "The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future." He resides in Oregon.