How Much Does A Competitive Transportation System Cost?
Recently, NextSTL began reposting “A World Class Transportation System” by Chuck Marohn. While this recommendation may not hold for future installments, the first of the series deftly describes how the “more is better” mentality drives unsustainable transportation policies. It also points out that projections used to justify new transportation infrastructure projects are often at odds with reality, which we confront in case after case.
The post shows that in Minnesota (the original focus), the number of vehicle miles driven has leveled off in recent years. This is true in Missouri as well, but some planners have consistently predicted a return to growth, despite low population growth, struggling economies, and increasing fuel prices. Missourians already clock a daily average of 32 miles; even if robust economic growth returns, it is not certain that they would choose to drive much more. Now that less than 3 percent of Missouri workers are carless, one of the largest drivers of traffic growth over the last few decades (more people with more cars) is almost tapped out.
The “more is better” approach to road building is rampant in Missouri, never more so than today. The state just finished a decade of unprecedented spending on its transportation system. Amendment 3 allowed the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to spend billions improving the state’s highways and bridges, and the federal Stimulus Act pumped money into roads and everywhere else. Transit, too, has seen massive investment, with more than $2 billion in new capital funding from 2000 to 2012. After all this, we are told that Missouri’s infrastructure is crumbling and that we do not spend enough. What’s clear is that more money spent does not equal money well spent, and that the time has come for Missourians to rethink what an economically sound transportation system should look like.