Urban Planning sounds like an incredibly boring topic. A couple of years ago I saw a program on television that had urban planners debating the benefits of various urban planning topics. You would think that this would be incredibly boring. But apparently I am an incredibly boring person because I loved this program. These guys and gals were talking about zoning laws, and public transportation and all sorts of stuff you don't think twice about as you commute to work. Unfortunately, I did not bother to write down the program's name so I have no link or reference to pass on.
One of the interesting things I learned from the program was that there has never
been a profitable public mass transit system. Since we are talking public (ie, spending your money with abandon) sector I should not have been surprised. But I was, never is a long time. Rachel DiCarlo jogged my memory with an article in the Weekly Standard
about mass transit. But you can also look at the NJ Transit budget to see what a loser mass transit is.
In 2001 NJ Transit (pdf
) took in $484,771,441 in fares. It paid out in wages and benefits $632,319,588. Thats a loss of $150 million dollars before you have to pay for gas, parts for the vehicles, and other expenses of running a transportation business. All operating expenses totaled $991,076,879, almost a billion USD. That is an operating loss of ~$500,000,000. That is a huge loss, and we are not talking about rocket science, this is all about driving a bus, for god's sake! Operating expenses does not include capital investment, ie investment in infrastructure, like new buses, new rail links, new bus shelters, etc. Capital investment totaled $760,367,212. Jackpot. But we can't say that's a loss of $1,000,000,000 because capital spending is an investment and will yield a return in the future. I can't believe I said that with a straight face.
Maybe 2001 was unusual. Lets look at 2000 (pdf
). Received $450,981,975 in fares. Paid out in wages and benefits $611,683,125. All operating expenses totaled $953,754,517. Capital investment totaled $500,328,055.
In 1999 (pdf
). Received $441,258,685 in fares. Paid out in wages and benefits $576,903,043. All operating expenses $847,992,305. Capital investment totaled $412,504,682.
In 1998 (pdf
). Received $410,230,335 in fares. Paid out in wages and benefits $532,620,633. All operating expenses $802,524,693. Capital investment totaled $415,757,000.
In 1997 (pdf
). Received $377,028,878 in fares. Paid out in wages and benefits $526,122,927. All operating expenses $794,733,394. Capital investment totaled $519,001,656.
I'm starting to see a pattern here. Where is the billion USD a year that are not collected in fares coming from? Taxes baby. Yours and mine. Is all this spending relieving traffic? Anecdotal evidence says no, and so do traffic studies. You can also take a look at The Reason Foundation's Public Policy Institute, they have some useful info about mass transit