Michael Ennis, of the right-wing Washington Policy Center, has a post extolling the virtues of vanpooling. Although there are plenty of distortions in the piece, I actually agree with one of its points, which is that vanpools are a cost-effective solution to moving people on work trips.
Aside from that, though, his argument seems to be the following:
- People driving by themselves is awesome, since people choose it over other options.
- Vanpools are a cheap way to move people to and from work.
- Therefore, other spending on transit is wasted.
More after the jump…
Ennis knows that driving is subsidized, so I’m not sure why he thinks that the choice to drive in this policy environment proves anything, even if one ignores externalities or that the entire point of rail advocates is that current transit options are inadequate.
More importantly, while vanpools are low-hanging fruit, they serve only a fraction of the market: trips to or from relatively non-dense places for jobs with rigid schedules. For anything else, they’re not so great.
I’m not suggesting that we’ve necessarily reached the satruation point for vanpools, and I don’t have a problem with some more investment in this area. And if Mr. Ennis and the WPC were interested in joining with us in working to increase funding for all transit modes, or create more HOV lanes to further improve the appeal of vanpools and transit, I think we could get some traction.
Of course, that won’t happen, because that would involve reducing incentives for single-occupancy driving, which Ennis thinks is awesome. This article is all about reducing the amount people have to pay for their transit system, regardless of quality, not replacing the current transit system with a better one.
Not related to the main point, but I couldn’t let this pass:
Yet, despite decades of restrictive government land-use policies to increase density in urban centers, residents continue a steady movement into the suburbs.
I just have to point out that if I want to build a 12-story apartment building across the street from the Columbia City light rail station, that is illegal. If I own a piece of property along an arterial in Ballard, and would like to build an apartment building of any size with little or no dedicated parking, that is illegal as well. He’s right that this is “restrictive government land-use policy”, but I’m not sure how he thinks this increases density.