September 28 2011

Mass Transit and Infrastructure Funding in America: Automobile Dependency

There is no arguing the fact that America has become dependent upon the automobile. Several other GRID bloggers have already discussed the repercussions of this dependency, including an article I wrote a couple of months ago exploring alternatives to the automobile. However, I wanted to take some time to discuss the whys” of America’s dependency upon the automobile, and therefore, the lack of significant mass transit development throughout the country.

The largest contributor the “Mass Transit Headache” is the lack of government funding. The vast majority of government funds for transportation goes towards road and airport development. In fact, the ratio of government dollars spent on highways and airports to mass transit systems is nearly 6:1!

The following is a breakdown of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2010 budget:

  • Highways: $41.8 billion (57%)
  • Aviation/airport: $16 billion (22%)
  • Mass Transit: $10.3 billion (14%)

Clearly, mass transit is not on the top of the government’s priority list. While highway transportation works well for the time being, it is an unsustainable and expensive form of transportation that urban planners and engineers need to phase out, as the future of transportation turns to more sustainable techniques.

Unfortunately, allocating fewer funds to highway improvement and more to mass transit improvement is obviously not going to get the job done. The mass transit situation in most cities, save for an elite few such as New York, Boston, and Chicago, is an inefficient nightmare. For each individual commuter, this begs the question Why ride?” when commuting via automobile is much more convenient and time efficient.

The bottom line is that unless government funding is more fairly allocated among multiple types of transport, the automobile will continue to reign supreme and American will continue digging itself deeper into dependency until there is no feasible way out.

What is your opinion regarding the state of mass transit in America? Feel free to comment below or on any of Global Site PlansFacebook page!

Daniel Sheehan

Dan Sheehan studied City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Urban Design at the Ohio State University. Dan has lived in several cities throughout the Midwest and is dedicated to exploring urban and environmental design issues as they relate to Midwestern cities of the United States. His passion for urban design and urban planning began during his studies in Columbus at the Ohio State University, and continues to pursue those passions in the realm of urban planning. Dan blogged for The Grid until October 2011.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 at 7:28 am and is filed under Infrastructure, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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