I subscribe to the CATO Institute’s Daily Dispatch email. I enjoy ready the daily briefings of current events from a free-market perspective. But, once in a while, my capitalist stomach turns when they mention transit, usually accompanied by a quote from Randal O’Toole. Usually he bashes some transit plan, and gives some statistics about the inferiority of transit. Here’s a quote form the most recent Dispatch:
Cato senior fellow Randal O’Toole writes: “A mile of rail transit line typically costs more to build than a four- to eight-lane freeway and typically carries fewer than half as many people as a single freeway lane mile. Federal funding for rail transit comes out of gasoline taxes and other highway user fees, and in most cases those funds would be more cost effective if spent on other transportation facilities.”
Does this sound particularly “free market” to you? He’s just saying one socialist system is better than the other. On top of that he consistently presents only half the facts. You don’t even have to dig into his sources of data to know he is pulling a trick on the reader. Can you detect the deceptions?
Yep, he discusses construction costs and completely neglects land costs, then focuses on cost/mile (as opposed to the more relevant cost/trip), while falsely inferring that the costs of automobile use is fully paid by fees and gas tax.
Out in the country, land may be cheap and costs can be neglected. But, in urban areas where transit becomes more competitive, land is significantly more expensive. If one neglects land costs, one could justify tearing down several 60 story, $1000/sf office buildings Midtown Manhattan to build a 10 lane highway instead of an underground subway. I have a hard time respecting anyone who willingly neglects real costs (not just opportunity costs) in order to advance their agenda.
Why is this free market think tank so eager to endorse highway socialism? And, if it’s not an endorsement, why not argue against roads too?