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Austin drivers don't come close to paying their own way

Quick hit, found from Jeff's excellent "City Transit Advocates" aggregator:

This recently released national study confirms that even in states with more progressive transportation policies than we have in Texas, motorists do not pay the full cost of providing them with roads and ancillary services. Not even close. (I've seen the New Jersey study before and have used it many times; but nobody bothered to go to that level of detail for the nation as a whole).

And in Texas, it's a lot worse - we don't allow state gas taxes to be spent on major roadways outside the state highway system (which screws cities like Austin in favor of suburbs like Round Rock); and we even require 'donations' from city and county general funds to get state and federal 'free'ways built. If the subsidy recovery would be 20-70 cents/gallon nationally, it'd easily be over a buck here.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Driving in Austin , Funding of Transportation , I Told You So , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Republicans Hate The Environment , Subsidies to Suburban Sprawl , Texas Republicans Hate Cities , Transportation


I agree with you on the gas tax. But nothing screws Austin worse than their own politicians and voters.

Cap Metro riders don't pay for the full cost of providing that service, either.

It's true, CM riders only pay a small fraction of the cost of their ride - although on mainline routes, it's nowhere near as low as you think (their overall FRR is so low because they have so many disability rides which cost 60 cents for the rider and 40 bucks for Cap Metro, among other things).

But a driver driving on Lamar Blvd pays exactly zero dollars to the city for that privilege. Their FRR, as I've indicated before, is dead-flat zero. (They do pay gas taxes, but none of them ever go to the entity which must build and maintain that road).

The overall subsidy to transit (country-wide) is much smaller than the subsidy to drivers - and we've had five decades to adjust to this state of affairs so that it seems normal. Doesn't mean it IS normal, or the most efficient way to pay for roads.

M1EK, do you know if CapMetro posts its ridership data somewhere?

They have and do post their aggregate numbers, but that's not particularly useful. I've never been able to find anything specific (like the number of boardings on the #3, for instance).

For instance, at


they claim 140,000 one-way trips per day. It's moderately difficult to turn this into an accurate count of riders, but of course, we don't do that for driving trips either (we count 'one-way trips' there too).

If you're after an accounting of subsidies here, don't forget that CM has been paying a good chunk of change back to the city (and a few other jurisdictions) for a long time now to rebuild arterials and build new sidewalks.

No, I'm not after subsidies. I'm just curious about average passenger loads on different routes. Based on my admittedly small sample, #3 averages about 19 riders at any given time, at least on the downtown-through-South Lamar route. This includes some off-peak trips (including a Sunday morning trip). 1L and 1M also seem to be packed south of downtown. The more suburban #16 (Bouldin Creek) and #29 (Barton Hills) seem to carry much lighter averageloads, which I guess is not surprising.

That matches my experience as well (urban routes very full - see "Empty Buses" topic) - and is why I have mentioned once or twice that the subsidy per-rider is a lot lower on certain routes. As far as I've been able to determine, you can't get individual route ridership publically - but I dimly remember being told "off the top of [his] head" by their CR guy in a UTC meeting once -- so maybe if you were to email and ask nicely?

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