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PennDot Sec: Rural Roads Subsidized More Than Mass Transit

By Tony Romeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Responding to a complaint that mass transit in Pennsylvania’s urban areas is too heavily supported with state dollars, the state transportation secretary says motorists in those urban areas also subsidize roads in rural areas – and at a higher rate.

State lawmakers in 2007 passed a two-pronged plan to raise new funds for transportation. One of those two prongs – tolling Interstate 80 – was shot down by the feds. Rural Republican John Gordner, during Senate budget hearings last week, had this complaint.

“There’s more money going to mass transit out of what’s left of Act 44 than roads and bridges,” said Gordner.

But during the hearing, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch turned the chronic complaint that the state disproportionately subsidizes mass transit on its head.

“We actually subsidize rural roads at a much higher rate than we subsidize mass transit. If you think about a two lane road – if it doesn’t carry at least 10,000 vehicles a day, it’s being subsidized.”

Schoch says most rural roads carry fewer than 2-thousand vehicles. And he says most of Penn Dot’s revenue comes from vehicle fees and gas taxes; the lion’s share of which is paid by residents in Pennsylvania’s urban areas.

  • Onlooker

    Finally, somebody has pointed out that roads don’t pay for themselves. Roads are not 100% subsidized or paid for. They are partially paid for by gas taxes and tolls. This doesn’t cover the full bill, so most roads run a 1/3 loss. That is, across the entire US, gas taxes and tolls only recover 2/3 of their cost from these measures. The rest is subsidized by the taxpayers.

    This is precisely why mass transit should never have to recover its costs from ticket prices. If roads can’t pay for themselves, why should trains? I find it particularly galling that rural senators are holding mass transit to such a high standard, while suckling at the teat of the Philadelphia metro area’s tax base. They are the true welfare queens, driving around on roads that big cities pay for, while whining about the cost of a train or subway.

  • Mark E

    Duh — by definition a ‘free’ road is 100% subsidized.

    The mass transit projects should be set up to be money makers for the municipality and the state — not subsidized 50%+ as they are today. [Source of that percentage = 2010 Allegheny Co. PAT budget. I’m sure that other systems are similarly subsidized by the majority of taxpayers who never use them]

    Raise the ticket prices for the mass transit boondoggles so that they are self supporting.

  • Lucho

    Essentially what he is saying is that, rural roads aren’t worth the subsidy. They are typically run under-capacity and as such should be left to local municipalities to fund. There is generally an inadequte tax base to support rural roads.

  • Paul Edinger

    If the road is so lightly used, how much does it take to maintain? Schoch needs to reveal more details than a simple vehicle count to prove whether rural roads are being subsidized more than urban mass transit. After all the road tax collected on a mass transit fare is negative when you include the subsidies. PA isn’t paying the gas tax for fill ups in the rural areas.

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