Surface transportation policy has become less rational and more ideological in recent decades. Environmentalists, urban planners, and their allies have succeeded in diverting resources from expanding highway capacity to mass transit, even as road congestion has dramatically increased. Highway user-generated tax revenues are being diverted to fund mass transit, while transportation planners are choking off needed highway infrastructure upgrades by supporting politically favored but economically inefficient programs at the state and local levels.
When the Highway Trust Fund’s Highway Account was depleted in 2008, William W. Millar of the American Public Transportation Association ironically claimed a proposal from the Bush administration to loan the Highway Account funds from the Mass Transit Account was akin to “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He got this backwards. In fact, mass transit subsidies largely rely on robbing Peter the driver to pay for Paul’s train ticket.