Transportation Policy

Now Playing at ReasonTV: Robert Poole on Obama's Transportation Policy

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Reason Foundation Director of Transporation Studies Robert Poole talks about the massive problems facing America's trucking and traffic infrastructure. As the Obama administration gets set to spend billions of dollars on "shovel-ready programs," green technologies, and more, how should it make the best decisions for travelers and truckers?

Use market forces, counsels Poole, not political pressure and environmentalist ideology, to get America moving again.

Approximately six minutes. Shot and edited by Dan Hayes; interview conducted by Nick Gillespie.

Go here for audio podcast.

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  1. Use market forces, counsels Poole, not political pressure and environmentalist ideology, to get America moving again.

    Nothing short of privatizing roads will do, in order to be able to say that market forces shaped the transportation industry. Otherwise, information is still distorted.

  2. He looks like a pedophile.

  3. Speaking of Robert Poole, how can I stop getting his annoying Surface Transportation Innovations newsletter (which I never signed up for). There’s never an unsubscribe link or procedure listed in it…

  4. Market forces? Okay, no infrastructure repairs for the flyover states, rural areas, etc.

    That’ll work dandy. Nobody cares if a bridge collapses under a bus if it happens out in Nowhere, Idaho.

  5. It’s worth noting that the New York City subway system, the most successful mass transit system in the country, was built by three private companies.

  6. It’s nice to see the Grand Old Padron here at H&R.

    That would be the beloved founder of this here enchilada.

    Just something for those of you who need a score card to tell the diff between Chester the Molester and the man who laid the groundwork that evolved into many things, including this forum, where you can leave your inane comments for free.

  7. Yes, that is true, He is GOP.

  8. How on Earth does one expect “market forces” to correctly provide roads.

    There is only one road outside my home. If someone private organization owned it, they could charge monopoly-level prices for an essential good. In otherwords, I would be @#$#@@#$ed. So would you, as soon as someone bought the road outside your property.

    While private roads work in some niche circumstances, in most cases, they are the epitome of natural monopolies and cannot provide service at a fair price without significant government intervention.

    Oh, and we should be building trains and mass transit like our lives depended on it. Best stuff ever.

  9. jtuf | January 22, 2009, 5:39pm | #

    It’s worth noting that the New York City subway system, the most successful mass transit system in the country, was built by three private companies.

    The Japanese rail system, the best on earth, is also almost entirely privately owned and run. However, train systems require all sorts of government intervention to get up and running.

    Also, there is an issue of scaling. The first train line is almost worthless, as it only connects a few places. But the second train line allows connections to build quickly, and the third even faster. If you follow the math, you realize the number of possible trips from “A to B” increases as the number of stations squared. This effect causes transit systems to be hard to get started, because they are worth very little when they are small. But as they grow, their value grows much faster than the actual system does. As happened in Japan, once the government builds a strong enough core system, new lines could easily be justified by private companies. More and more lines were built, each making the old ones more valuable. The system became self-sustaining and the core national lines were then privatized.

  10. There is only one road outside my home. If someone private organization owned it, they could charge monopoly-level prices for an essential good. In otherwords, I would be @#$#@@#$ed. So would you, as soon as someone bought the road outside your property.

    If you had bought a home without securing affordable means of accessing it, you’d deserve to be @#$#@@#$ed.

  11. I spend a lot less time driving now than I did 10 or 20 years ago. I thank the advances in communications and the Internet for that.

    Aside from stuff I want to touch and feel, like groceries, furniture, and clothes, I don’t need to drive to a store anymore.

    As each year passes I find that more of my work can be done without driving anywhere.

    My guess is that the demand for transportation infrastructure has already peaked. What we have needs to be maintained, but it’s the Fedex and UPS trucks that deserve to drive the high speed road lanes, not HOVs.

  12. There is only one road outside my home. If someone private organization owned it, they could charge monopoly-level prices for an essential good.

    I am not a lawyer, but I do know that there is a well established procedure for any property owner to get an easement on the boundaries of another property owner.

  13. There is only one road outside my home. If someone private organization owned it, they could charge monopoly-level prices for an essential good.

    So can the government – and the government does. Sit down and add up what it costs you to drive per year sometime. Many of those costs are mandated by government. You have to buy insurance. You have to pay for a license and inspection sticker and car tags. You have to pay gasoline taxes and sales taxes on your car. And still – still the government might decide to turn the damned road into a tollway and charge you to drive on it. And if you think the toll is too high, what do you think you can do about it?

  14. I think those are cogent observations. The ironic thing is that Mr. Poole’s comments about the automobile being the most flexible form of transportation apply in large measure to private aircraft as well, but I respectfully submit there seems to be some inconsistency his positions with regard to various forms of transportation.

  15. The Wine Commonsewer:

    I have to second your comments there at 7:01 pm. Only an ignorant bastard insults his host while dining at the table he has prepared.

  16. sasob | January 23, 2009, 1:32am | #

    There is only one road outside my home. If someone private organization owned it, they could charge monopoly-level prices for an essential good.

    So can the government – and the government does.

    Uhh, the government doesn’t charge us ENOUGH for using roads. They are heavily subsidized by general tax revenue. Additionally, there are many other hidden subsidies for driving such as free rights to pollute and make noise.

  17. jk | January 22, 2009, 11:12pm | #

    I am not a lawyer, but I do know that there is a well established procedure for any property owner to get an easement on the boundaries of another property owner.

    So I am supposed to get an easement through my neighbors back yard, so that I can avoid Street A and instead go out to Street B, which is probably owned by the same monopolist? Am I supposed to get a chain of easements all the way to work and the store? The whole world would be an easement!

  18. Uhh, the government doesn’t charge us ENOUGH for using roads. They are heavily subsidized by general tax revenue. Additionally, there are many other hidden subsidies for driving such as free rights to pollute and make noise.

    We can’t know for sure (there’s no market), but I think it’s possible that the government charges some of us too much and some of us not enough… for example, trucks damage a road much more and they make more noise than your typical car.

  19. I was watching the Cavuto show last night on the Fox Business channel and he had some guy on there who was drinking the Keynesian Kool Aid big time.

    He was pushing the notion of immediately repealing the Bush tax cuts for the top income earners because that would provide more revenue for infrastructure spending right away.

    The twit claimed infrastructure spending is a more effectively stimulating to the economy than tax cuts.

    Just another one of those clowns who thinks government is a more efficient allocator of capital than the private sector is.

    He isn’t the least bit capable of proving one bit of it.

  20. Nothing short of privatizing roads will do, in order to be able to say that market forces shaped the transportation industry. Otherwise, information is still distorted.

    We can start with making trucks pay the true cost of their use of the roads. In damage alone, one trip by a truck does something like the equivalent of 5-10K car trips. Therefore, just for maintenance, a truck should be paying 5000-10000 times what a car pays per mile. I always laugh at these bumper stickers “This truck paid $1500 in taxes last year”, my reaction is “Well, I paid probably $200, so you have about a hundred thousand to go, at least”. We subsidize trucking by providing roads, railroads aren’t so lucky even if provided ROW. If we charged trucking, the system would go to a spoke/wheel system with rail as the spoke and truck as the wheel, as it’s much more efficient.

  21. “We can start with making trucks pay the true cost of their use of the roads. In damage alone, one trip by a truck does something like the equivalent of 5-10K car trips. Therefore, just for maintenance, a truck should be paying 5000-10000 times what a car pays per mile.”

    If that were to happen, you would still wind up paying for it anyway because those increased shipping costs would just get passed through to everyone who purchased goods delivered by truck.

  22. In damage alone, one trip by a truck does something like the equivalent of 5-10K car trips.

    That’s the kind of factual assertion that just cries out for a credible link.

  23. I am not a lawyer, but I do know that there is a well established procedure for any property owner to get an easement on the boundaries of another property owner.

    There is. Its called buying an easement, by offering the other property owner what he wants for it.

    The only exception that I recall is if your property is totally landlocked with no other access.

  24. They talk about market forces, but it always comes down to spending tax dollars to build more big roads.

  25. lukas | January 23, 2009, 7:57am | #

    We can’t know for sure (there’s no market), but I think it’s possible that the government charges some of us too much and some of us not enough… for example, trucks damage a road much more and they make more noise than your typical car.

    Time and weather do far more damage to roads than either. How do we fairly divide that up?

  26. Time and weather do far more damage to roads than either. How do we fairly divide that up?

    Just like any other business does, ideally. Markets have a way of solving that problem.

  27. luka

    Just like any other business does, ideally. Markets have a way of solving that problem.

    You are not answering my question. Let’s say I drive 10k miles and do one unit of damage to the road. You drive 20k and do two units of damage. A trucker drives 100k and does 2000 unites of damage. The weather and natural aging do 97997 units of damage, for a total of 100k. It costs $10,000 to maintain the roads. Who pays how much and why?

  28. Chad,

    You’re asking the wrong question. How much should an airline ticket from New York to San Francisco cost? How much should an egg cost? No one can know until there is someone who will try and make a living selling these items.

  29. robert poole…are u the same person that married last month in las vegas than put your wife in a mental hospital ..congrats from all of us

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