There is no arguing the fact that America has become dependent upon the automobile. Several other GRID bloggers have already discussed the repercussions of this dependency, including an article I wrote a couple of months ago exploring alternatives to the automobile. However, I wanted to take some time to discuss the “whys” of America's dependency upon the automobile, and therefore, the lack of significant mass transit development throughout the country.
The largest contributor the "Mass Transit Headache" is the lack of government funding. The vast majority of government funds for transportation goes towards road and airport development. In fact, the ratio of government dollars spent on highways and airports to mass transit systems is nearly 6:1!
The following is a breakdown of the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2010 budget:
- Highways: $41.8 billion (57%)
- Aviation/airport: $16 billion (22%)
- Mass Transit: $10.3 billion (14%)
Clearly, mass transit is not on the top of the government's priority list. While highway transportation works well for the time being, it is an unsustainable and expensive form of transportation that urban planners and engineers need to phase out, as the future of transportation turns to more sustainable techniques.
Unfortunately, allocating fewer funds to highway improvement and more to mass transit improvement is obviously not going to get the job done. The mass transit situation in most cities, save for an elite few such as New York, Boston, and Chicago, is an inefficient nightmare. For each individual commuter, this begs the question “Why ride?” when commuting via automobile is much more convenient and time efficient.
The bottom line is that unless government funding is more fairly allocated among multiple types of transport, the automobile will continue to reign supreme and American will continue digging itself deeper into dependency until there is no feasible way out.