Reason Foundation’s Director of Transportation Policy Bob Poole is arguably one of the smartest—and most brutally honest—voices in the transportation policy community. His Surface Transportation Newsletter is always an enjoyable and insightful read and his most recent issue is particularly compelling. Check it out here. And while you’re there, become a subscriber so you can get his wisdom emailed right to you.
I draw your attention to two particularly informative pieces found in this issue.
Poole deftly exposed a prime example of innumeracy in media coverage of the population growth in urban v suburban areas.
In the end, it’s as simple as the difference between numbers and rates. As he explained, “The suburbs began with a much larger population base than the urban cores, so they would have to grow by huge numbers to have a rate of growth equal to or better than their much smaller urban cores.”
While this may seem like a technicality, it has real implications for transportation funding and policy development. And as Poole concluded, “We need to base transportation policies, and all other policies, on what is actually going on, not what some people wish were going on.”
Congress’s Way of “Paying for” MAP-21
In a more dangerous example of numerical sleight of hand, Poole discussed how Congress “concocted” a scheme to pay for the multi-billion-dollar shortfall in the recently enacted MAP-21 by “tweaking” corporate pension rules over the next decade.
After exposing what he calls Congress’ “irresponsible actions,” Poole lays out the brutal truth that Congress has not yet found the will to address:
“I hope this episode illustrates to you the bankruptcy of the current federal transportation funding system. Unless Congress figures out a way to make the program self-supporting next time around (just two years hence), we can look forward to even more shenanigans of this sort. That is no way to create a long-term, sustainable source of highway funding.”
Well said, Bob.