NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Mass Transit Is Not All Transportation Report Claims

April 28, 2004

In spite of seemingly convincing data, public transit does not solve congestion problems nor is it cost-effective, according to the Heritage Foundation. Wendell Cox and senior economist Randal O'Toole analyzed the Texas Transportation Institute's 2003 Annual Urban Mobility Report and discovered discrepancies with the data.

  • If a car trip takes 30 minutes without congestion and 40 minutes with congestion, the TTI report counts the extra 10 minutes as the price of eliminating transit, even though the same trip by mass transit would take 60 minutes.
  • The report suggests that mass transit reduces congestion by giving people an alternative to driving; however, 70 percent of drivers already using mass transit do not have cars or driver's licenses.
  • The report indicates that mass transit has increased as a proportion of urban travel over 20 years, but, in fact, it has declined.
  • Public transit productivity fell 30 percent over the past decade -- considering the annual cost of public transit by all governments -- which increased by 28.8 percent over 10 years -- and the decline in the proportion of ridership -- with public transit's share declining 10 percent.

One of the problems with the report, notes O'Toole and Cox, is that the "positive" results of mass transit reported by TTI are skewed to a few major urbanized areas. For example, New York City is weighted heavily (Manhattan residents must have mass transit to get around), but 36 percent of the time savings attributed to mass transit is in New York City, with just five other urban regions comprising an additional 29 percent of travel time saved.

Source: Wendell Cox and Randal O'Toole, "The Contribution of Highways and Transit to Congestion Relief: A Realistic View," Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder no. 1721, January 27, 2004. "2003 Urban Mobility Study," Texas Transportation Institute, Texas A&M.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues