The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) argues that a 0.7 percent increase in annual transit ridership in 2013 is proof that Americans want more “investments” in transit–by which the group means more federal funding. However, a close look at the actual data reveals something entirely different.
From the Wall Street Journal, here’s the latest evidence on quality and efficiency in government infrastructure spending
USA Today reported: “The Port Authority, which operates the bridge at the heart of a New Jersey scandal, says a key appointee of Gov. Chris Christie directed the controversial closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge … David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, who were appointed to the Port Authority by Christie, have resigned in the wake of the scandal.”
Robert Poole is one the nation’s top experts on privatization and transportation policy reform. He has a great new Hudson Institute study on problems with our air traffic control (ATC) system and ideas for restructuring it. The nation’s ATC system is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
For more than 40 years, Amtrak has relied on $1 billion or more a year in taxpayer handouts to run slow, and often late, passenger trains. Indeed, the man considered to be the “father” of Amtrak, Anthony Haswell, recently said that he is “personally embarrassed over what I helped to create.”
To join their families for Thanksgiving this week, millions of Americans will face the drudgery of airline travel. Airports are crowded, flights are often delayed, and many travelers will get stuck in long security lines. It may get worse: a new study by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) says that American aviation may be flying into a storm of “chronic congestion, delays, and frustration.”
An article on page 1 of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal describes the financial problems faced by some private infrastructure owners because of reduced demand from the Great Recession. The story features the Foley Beach Express bridge in Alabama built as a toll concession in the early 2000s. The bridge filed for bankruptcy in July after traffic volumes were lower than projections leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions.
A Wall Street Journal story today begins “America’s road to recovery may face a costly detour due to a fraying transportation network. One in nine of the country’s 607,380 bridges are structurally deficient …”
The importance of infrastructure investment for U.S. economic growth is widely appreciated. But policy discussions often get sidetracked by a debate regarding the level of federal spending. To spur growth, it is more important to ensure that investment is as efficient as possible and that investment responsibilities are optimally allocated between the federal government, the states, and the private sector.
The sudden collapse of a 58-year-old bridge across the Skagit River in Washington state has led to renewed calls to spend more money on American infrastructure. But if that spending comes out of tax dollars rather than user fees and is dedicated to replacing bridges, it will be seriously misplaced.