Public transit systems in North Carolina have become
less about helping citizens move around their communities
in the way they desire and more about planners
gaining enough political power to impose their transportation
preferences and land use fads on those citizens. And it's
not just in North Carolina. U.S. Secretary of Transportation
Ray LaHood recently admitted that his Livability Initiative
is "a way to coerce people out of their cars."
"We always saw transit [Charlotte's light rail system]
as a means, not an end," Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning
director Debra Campbell told Governing magazine. She
later added, "The real impetus for transit was how it could
help us grow in a way that was smart. This really isn't even
about building a transit system. It's about place making. It's
about building a community."
Those terms — smart, place making, and building a
community — are all euphemisms for anti-car, anti-suburb,
pro-public transit, pro-high density living in the center
city. In the words of urbanologist Joel Kotkin, planning bureaucrats
at all levels are implementing "cramming" policies
that will produce a "forced march to the cities."
When the vast majority of Americans want a home
with a yard, transit planners must use government regulation
to force them into high-density housing and use of
- Approximately 80 percent of Americans want to live
in a single-family detached home with a yard, and
most people want to take advantage of the mobility
offered by the personal automobile.
- Nevertheless, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, the
U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and
the Environmental Protection Agency have combined
their authority and federal funding to coerce states
and cities to adopt policies that force people to live in
high-density housing and travel using mass transit.
- The massive public-transit effort over the last 30 years
has resulted in a decrease in the proportion of people
using public transit in major metro areas from roughly
8 percent to 5 percent.
- Of the 22 largest urban rail transit systems in the
country, only six carry more than one percent of the
share of total passenger travel, and only one of those
(New York City's) carries more than 3 percent (see the
- In Charlotte, public transit (bus and rail) carries
only 2.6 percent of the commuting passengers, but it
received 57.5 percent of the transportation funds (see
Figure 5, "Highways and Interstates," in next section).
This funding imbalance has contributed to the
traffic congestion problem in Charlotte.
- Charlotte's light rail (LYNX) passengers pay only
3.4 percent of the total cost (operating and capital)
of the trip. Taxpayers pay $20.14 for every trip, or
$40.28 for every commuter to travel to and from work
(Randal O’Toole, "Defining Success: The Case Against
Rail Transit," Cato Institute Policy Analysis, No. 663,
March 24, 2010, p. 4).
- According to Joel Kotkin, "Over 90 percent of all
jobs in American metropolitan regions are located
outside the central business districts, which tend to be
the only places well suited for mass transit" ("Forced
March to the Cities," Forbes, March 16, 2010).
Analyst: Dr. Michael Sanera
- End state funding of rail transit projects.
- Repeal the local-option sales tax authorization for
rail transit projects.
Director of Research and Local Government Studies
919-828-3876 • [email protected]