Summary: The federal government sends money to the states to subsidize mass transit from the Federal Transit Administration ($12 billion/year) and the Highway Trust Fund ($8 billion/year). Both of these are a waste of money because mass transit is not an economical way to move Americans in this century, and because federal funding distorts decision-making at the local level. Highways are where Americans move and it should be prioritized in funding.
Released: Filed Under: Stoa Policy
About "Mass Transit Subsidies (AFF)"
The federal government sends money to the states to subsidize mass transit from the Federal Transit Administration ($12 billion/year) and the Highway Trust Fund ($8 billion/year). Both of these are a waste of money because mass transit is not an economical way to move Americans in this century, and because federal funding distorts decision-making at the local level. Highways are where Americans move and it should be prioritized in funding.
Mass transit fails for several reasons. First, nobody rides. Sure, maybe a lot of people in Manhattan do, but in most places, most of the time, only a tiny percentage of the travel Americans do every day is on mass transit. Subsidies represent the many paying a lot of money so that a few can ride around in mostly empty buses and trains.
Second, when the federal government funds things, they appear “free,” and states tend to build them without proper accounting for their actual costs or potential ridership. A lot of useless projects get built that would have never been done if the local citizens had been taxed to pay for their own project. Abolishing federal subsidies and devolving responsibility back to the states and cities would make them more accountable and responsible, since they would be spending their own money and accountable to their own voters. They would build transit projects people would actually use, or spend the money on highways that people actually use, rather than trains almost no one uses.
Negatives will argue that most of the Affirmative’s analysis is incorrect, and that even if its dollars and cents calculations were right, there are still ample social justifications for transit. First, transit is an economic benefit to communities that build it. It generates jobs and economic activity that would not have otherwise occurred. Second, increased highway construction as the solution to congestion is a mirage. Every time you build a highway, within a short time it fills up with cars and the congestion is just as bad as it was before. The only way to get those cars off the road is to offer them an alternative to driving, which is mass transit. Finally, even if mass transit didn’t pay for itself with economic growth, it would still be worth doing because of the social benefits it provides to the poor and disadvantaged. Those who can’t afford cars or who cannot drive due to disabilities need a way to get to their jobs so they can be productive members of society. Mass transit fills that key social need.
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