Sunday, January 04, 2009

Asking a lot

California's roads are awful. Driving on many of them is painful and/or dangerous. It is not that there are not enough funds, but that the funds that are available have been wasted on public transit. The cliches (transit is "starved", autos and highways are favored) are way off.

A recent report from the Public Policy Institute of California includes a chapter on transportation by Jon Sonstelie that is must reading. "California stands out ... in the way it allocates total transportation expenditures between highways and mass transit. In 2002, highway spending per capita was lower in California than in the rest of the country. ... At the same time, spending per capita on mass transit was higher in California than in the rest of the country" (p. 128).

Starving highways to get people into transit was the acknowledged policy and it was never promising. Industrial policy is that way. And we are now in the situation where one reads and hears nothing but how politicians are about to "create jobs" by making wise investments in infrastructure, "green" this and that, and all sorts of other silliness.

Asking the believers to connect the dots may be asking a lot. They really ought to drive around California's roads and also check where and how the money has been spent. Do these first and spout about policy directions later.