Yesterday, I wrote that subsidizing transit is a better idea that subsidizing parking for transit users.
As it turns out, it’s hard to understate that case.
The Atlantic Cities reported earlier this week that Germany’s transit subsidies more than paid for themselves when externalities are considered:
Germany recouped its public investment in rail through environmental and public health savings alone. That’s before considering farebox revenue, and without even factoring in the time and money saved from reduced congestion. Simply put, the research underscores the fact that there are many ways to justify the public value of a transit project.
When all things are considered — those revenues, time savings and other things that weren’t factored in — the investment in transit makes even more sense.
That’s great news for those of us along the Wasatch Front, which has a rapidly expanding rail system.
Anyway, the reason reason this works is because driving imposes a whole set of costs on society; it isn’t just the cost of gas and time for the individual, it’s also the environmental costs, the costs of accidents, the inefficiency of traffic on the overall system, etc. After Utah’s particularly polluted winter, this idea should be easy to understand.
In this light, it makes sense to pay for public transit projects.
I’d argue this also means it makes sense to strongly incentivize transit use. So, again, give away free rides, as I called for yesterday and several months ago. Make up revenue in parking fees (at least until demand for parking dries up). And generally, do whatever necessary to move from costly, or less efficient forms of travel like driving, to cheaper, more efficient forms of travel like rail.