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The Public Transportation Scam

Nationally transportation is the second largest household expenditure consuming 16% of family income. Americans spend on average $7,677 annually on transportation related costs (e.g. vehicle purchase/lease, gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc.).

According to the most recent National Household Travel Survey 8.68% of Americans own no vehicle while 22.79% own three or more vehicles. The survey shows that since 1969, “the number of households with no vehicle had been declining while here has been growth in one, two and particularly three vehicle households.”

Americans prefer to own their means of transportation. Most travel occurs from point to point – e.g. home to work, school, grocery store or doctor. Personal transportation provides Americans with a solution that best meets their individual needs.

However, over the past decade government has become more involved in promoting public transportation.

Government collects trillions of dollars in taxes from the sale of petroleum products, cars and related services. Yet, today public transportation has been embraced more and more by governments at every level. Government is seeking to: reduce carbon emissions, save money and reduce traffic congestion. But does it meet any of these goals?

Given the fact that only 8.69% of American do not own a vehicle, the need for public transportation is insignificant.  With 91.31% of Americans owning one or more vehicles public transportation is becoming more and more costly with less impact on government’s stated goals and return on investments.

A comparison of national and Florida trends reveals that the distribution of households by number of adults is very similar. However, the distribution of vehicles differs with Florida having fewer zero-vehicle households but also fewer 3, 4, and 5+ vehicle households.

Florida has a higher share of one vehicle households compared to the nation.

Two-thirds of zero-vehicle households are single adult households nationally and in Florida. Further comparison demonstrates Florida has a higher share of households with equal or fewer cars and fewer share of households with more cars than adults.

Expenditures for vehicle travel, specifically fuel taxes and vehicle registration and license fees, are part of the revenue streams that are collected by local, state and federal governments to pay for transportation infrastructure. The fuel tax in Florida is comprised of components levied by the federal, state and local governments. Florida’s fuel taxes range from $.45 to $.53 per gallon. Florida imports nearly all of its refined petroleum products.

Florida’s public transit strategic plan promotes “transit’s role in enhancing the environment, including air quality, energy and greenhouse gas reduction.”

According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), “The private sector makes significant investments in transportation infrastructure. This is particularly true in Florida where infrastructure investment is often a prerequisite to permission to develop. Private sector contributions are as modest as providing employee and customer parking to as significant as paying for major roadway facility improvements and/or donating right-of-way and infrastructure.” These costs are part of property ownership with development costs borne by property owners.

The transportation issue is especially important for Florida due to our high volume of tourists. Cheap and reliable energy and transportation are necessary to sustain and grow Florida’s economy.

During 2010, Florida’s transit agencies ranged in size from the three-vehicle system in Hernando County to the 1,131-vehicle system operating in Miami-Dade County. In 2010, there were 35 fixed-route public transit systems operating in Florida.

FDOT reported that public transportation costs in 2009 were: Operating Expenses of $1,015,050,830 and Operating Revenue $233,922,989. In 2010 Operating Expenses were $985,647,670 and Operating Revenue was $254,316,041. Florida taxpayers subsidized public transportation in 2009 at $781,127,841 and in 2010 at $731,331,629. In 2010 the cost to transport one public passenger was $2.33 with an average fare being $.85.

During 2009-2010 Florida lost over $1.5 billion supporting public transportation.

Does spending $1.5 billion over two years to service less than 8% of the population worth it? Given the burden is being born by those whose budgets are already being stretched to the limit, many taxpayers are saying go private and let those riding pay to ride.

Dr. Richard Swier

Dr. Rich Swier is Publisher of www.DrRichSwier e-Magazine. Twitter: @drrichswier He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Richard is a 23-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his years of service.

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Must Read, Taxes, Uncategorized

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