And transit, especially transit aimed at getting people out of their cars, costs a lot more than driving. Americans spend about 25 cents a passenger mile on driving, including all subsidies to highways. Transit typically costs four times that much, and those costs only rise when cities start
running empty transit vehicles to suburbs where people have three cars in every driveway.
Worse, the costs of regional transit are so high that most cities with regional transit systems have had to cut bus services to those who lack cars and need transit the most. Atlanta, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area are just some of the regions where transit riders have suffered in order to build a regional transit system.
This doesn’t mean IndyGo can’t be improved. Contracting out bus routes to private operators can save up to 50 percent of the costs, allowing IndyGo to provide more service without higher taxes. Suburban cities that want to send buses into downtown Indianapolis should be allowed to do so.
Increasing taxes to create a regional transit system, however, will provide no significant transportation benefits while actually hurting Indianapolis’ competitiveness.
Randal O’Toole is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and a regular contributor on transportation issues for the Indiana Policy Review.