Benefits of transit construction outweigh highway construction

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Comments from Susan De Voss, Madison Area Bus Advocates, on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's assertion that road building stimulates economic development, while DOT makes no mention of the economic development value of transit construction:

. . . transit can provide more good long-term jobs than highway construction. . . . There are two other more recent studies that make a similar point. One is a US DOT study made in 2004. There is a lot of good material at

The other is a 2006 Wis DOT study for those who are most interested in the Wisconsin situation -- and

The first is a summary of the research project and says, among other things, "A 2002 Wisconsin DOT study of the socioeconomic benefits of transit learned that public transit use saves the stateʼs riders and taxpayers an estimated $730.2 million annually, contributes to the overall quality of life in communities, and mitigates traffic congestion and pollution levels.

And then from the more recent study: "Investigators summarized the results of their cost-benefit analysis under three state funding scenarios: no annual increase in state funding over the next 20 years, a 2.5% annual increase, and a 2.5% annual decrease. . . . Under all three scenarios, transit benefits outweigh transit costs in Wisconsin: the net present value (benefits minus costs) of transit is always positive. A 2.5% annual increase in state funding would produce a net present value of $8.2 billion by 2024, for a return of $3.61 on each dollar spent on transit. A 0% change in funding would produce a net present value of $6.9 billion and a return of $3.44 per dollar invested. A 2.5% annual decrease in funding would produce a $6 billion net present value and a $3.32 return."

The latter gives a more detailed report of everything. Wis DOT keeps moving the location of this report around, so if the current address does not work, search the data base. The title of the study is called "The Socio-Economic Benefits of Transit in Wisconsin" and the author is Robert Russell.

This suggests that WisDOT could be actively promoting economic development by funding transit better. The idea of simply relying on the existence of Regional Transportation Authorities to collect extra tax for that purpose, if my reading of the 2030 Plan is correct, is wrong.