Opinionated @ CFE

How Socialist Is Your Transportation?


One of the loudest screams you’ll hear from so-called “conservatives” (whatever that label means anymore) is that mass transit is a wasteful hole of socialism and should be first on the chopping block. The complaint is that a mass transit trip often requires twice as much money as is collected in fares, effectively a 50% subsidy. That would hold some water, except that here in Utah, highways are receiving a scant 33% of their maintenance and construction costs from user fees. Even the much-maligned Amtrak is managing to collect 46% of its costs in fares. Nationally, highways are mustering 51% of their costs from user fees.

So apparently the difference between the “proper role of government” and “wasteful socialist boondoggle” is, at best, around 5% of costs. Just so you know.

2 Responses to How Socialist Is Your Transportation?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How Socialist Is Your Transportation? @ Opinionated @ CFE -- Topsy.com

  2. This is a seriously flawed and amateurish analysis. Table 34 of the Governor’s Budget Summary shows that of the total maintenance budget for FY2011 ($279 million) $192 million comes from the transportation fund (gas taxes and MV registration fees — see table 4) $49 million comes from federal gas taxes for a total of 86%. If you include the dedicated credits (other fees), the percentage rises to 97%.

    The author’s treatment of bond revenues is a joke for two reasons. First, it’s double counting since the user fees and general revenues in the chart are used to pay off the bonds. No serious budget analyst, including the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, would do this.

    Secondly, to completely exclude bonds from user fees is to assume that NONE of the bonds are paid off with user fees but with general taxes instead. There is no basis for this assumption.

    You also focus just on maintenance when you should include capital as well. FY2011’s transportation capital budget is $578 million (see table 35) which is much larger than the maintenance budget. Again, user fees are the largest source (64%). This percentage would be higher if the federal government did not divert 15% of federal gas taxes to mass transit.

    A similar analysis of UTA’s funding — especially if you include capital cots — will show you how much more subsidized transit is in Utah compared to roads. Are both subsidized? Absolutely, but roads are much less subsidized.

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