For every dollar collected in fares from transit riders, the average transit system in America requires more than $2 from taxpayers for operating subsidies plus more than $1 for capital improvements and maintenance.
In 2008, the federal government collected about $1.11 billion in user fees from North Carolina highway users but returned only $656 million to the state for highways.
Adding the federal, state, and local numbers together, North Carolina highways users paid about $203 million more user fees than was spent on roads in 2007.
North Carolina highway users are subsidizing other programs at the rate of slightly more than a penny per passenger mile. The total cost of driving in North Carolina is no more than 22 cents per passenger mile.
By comparison, the state average cost of public transit is $1.15 per passenger mile, nearly $1 of which is subsidized by non-transit users.
Annual capital costs and depreciation add another $71 million to the cost of running North Carolina transit. Taxpayers lose $249 million per year on transit systems in a dozen NC cities.
Bus transit costs taxpayers an average of 85 cents a passenger mile. Subsidies to the Charlotte light rail are several times greater. North Carolina transit riders pay an average of 72 cents every time they board a bus, while taxpayers pay an average of more than $3 to support that trip.
Driving is more energy efficient and produces less carbon emissions than almost any transit system in North Carolina.
Currently transit agencies have incentives from Congress to choose high-cost forms of transit. Changing those will make it easier for agencies to allow such reforms as smaller vehicles, contracting out, jitneys, privatization, and vouchers.