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NC Public Transit: Blowing Money with No Benefits

The John Locke Foundation has released a new report on public transit in North Carolina.  To sum up their findings: if you drive a car, you’re paying for yourself and everybody else.  Further, despite the pro-mass transit mantra of the environmentalist wackos, driving a car is more efficient and produces less carbon output than nearly every form of mass transit currently available. As the report states, “the only truly energy-efficient transit system in North Carolina is vanpools, which is the closest thing public transit offers to actual cars.”

Even worse, the subsidies to mass transit are far greater than even I had imagined.  As the report states, “Contrary to popular belief, there are no federal subsidies to highways and few state subsidies. …. Recent appropriations of general funds to the highway trust fund were needed only because Congress diverted more gas taxes to transit than were being collected.”  Among the worst offenders in the per-trip subsidy department: Charlotte’s light rail.  Passengers on the light rail pay just 3.5% of the cost of their ride.  On the light rail, transit subsidies funded by non-transit users account for $20.14 of the trip’s $20.86 price tag.

Buses are better, but only slightly.  Bus riders pay an average of about 14% of the cost for their ride.  For every dollar spent on a bus fare, the taxpayer is on the hook for another $6.14.  But at least you’re saving the environment, right?  Wrong.  The average CO2 output for mass transit is .80 pounds per passenger mile (Coincidentally, Charlotte buses match this average).  The average output for light trucks, i.e. pickups and SUVs, is only .69 pounds per passenger mile.  The average output for cars, .55 pounds per passenger mile.

It’s clear we can’t afford inefficient mass transit systems.  They’re a drain on our budget and our economy.  Even with massive subsidies, they’re still unpopular. “The average North Carolina transit bus has 35 seats and room for 17 people standing, yet carries an average of just 7 people.”  That hardly sounds like an efficient use of space. We’d all be much better off if the government would step back, and let the market provide for our transit needs.