I really like public transportation. I prefer to commute with my head buried in a book or magazine, and let someone else do the driving. But like most Americans, I still find myself climbing into my car on weekends and after-hours because buses are just too slow and infrequent.
For public transit to truly work, it needs to run reliably, frequently and EVERYWHERE. But transit alone won't solve all of our transportation problems. Building new roads, and expanding existing ones, is important too.
We've been underfunding both for too long.
This is a problem in nearly every state. It's particularly acute in Virginia, where transportation has become a big issue in this year's race for governor. Virginia's last major infusion of new transportation funds came in 1987 when it raised the gas tax, state sales tax and a tax on motor vehicle sales. Since 2002 more than 200 projects have been dropped from the state's six-year transportation plan due to the lack of funding. With some exceptions, Virginia has been in maintenance mode for the past 15 years.
Northern Virginia, for example, sees the third worse traffic-congestion in the nation. Commuters spend an average of 69 hours a year in traffic jams, at a cost of $577 per person, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.
If you could put that $577 per commuter alone into widening Interstate 66, building roads and expanding mass transit, the improvement in commute time would be immediate. More mass transit options will take lots of cars off the road. And bigger highways will ease congestion considerably.