All transportation subsidies are NOT the same

Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters Leave a Comment



A common argument for High Speed Rail (indeed ALL passenger rail) taxpayer subsidies is the childish excuse that “everybody’s doing it.” All transit is subsidized, so why not rail?

There are two glaring problems with this lame reasoning:

1. All transportation is NOT necessarily subsidized. User fees more than cover the federal cost of roads.

2. The DEGREE of the subsidy varies dramatically by mode of transportation.

Properly measured per passenger mile, one finds the
the subsidies vary dramatically by mode of transportation.

Check out the study from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

This table details the “Federal Subsidies Per 1,000 Passenger Miles” by mode of transportation (that’s taxpayer subsidies over and above user fees and transportation taxes paid by the travelers).

The last complete statistics are for 2001 (in constant 2000 dollars):

Highway — MINUS $1.20
Auto, van and pickups — MINUS $1.30
Buses — $4.00
Air — $5.80
** Commercial Air — $3.00
** General Aviation — $89.70
Transit (light rail) — $141.00
Passenger trains — $105.90

There are incomplete 2002 stats, but the two that jump out are:
Passenger trains — $199.30
Light rail — $151.40

The peak year’s passenger train taxpayer subsidy in the 1990-2002 study time frame was 1998 — (in inflation adjusted 2000 dollars) — $406.60.

When viewed in this manner, we can see the insanity of all passenger rail subsidies (and private plane subsidies as well).

We need to kill this CA HSR ASAP.


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