Montana’s Bus Systems Harmful to Taxpayers and Environment

Montana’s Bus Systems Harmful to Taxpayers and Environment

By: Carl Graham, President, Montana Policy Institute

 

We’re often told that public buses are the most cost effective and energy efficient means of transportation available. But a recent MPI study found that this perception doesn’t hold true in rural states like Montana. When compared to driving private automobiles, public transit in Montana costs more and takes a greater toll on the environment per passenger mile than does driving that same mile in a private vehicle.

In addition, high subsidies on public transit systems siphon away nearly half of Montana’s gas taxes that would otherwise be available to build, improve or maintain our public roads. These subsidies support a system that Montanans use to fulfill far less than 10 percent of our travel needs, despite the fact that it’s cheap or even “free” to the rider.

The cost per passenger mile of driving in Montana is substantially lower than that of public transit, and is mostly borne by the person doing the driving. Contrary to popular belief, there are few federal or state subsidies to highways. To the extent that subsidies do exist, local governments are the primary source.

The average cost of driving in Montana—including subsidies —is a little under 23 cents per passenger mile, or about a penny above the national average. The average cost of public transit in Montana, meanwhile, is about $1.76 per passenger mile, with more than 90 percent of that cost subsidized by non-transit users.

Using a different measure, Montana transit riders pay an average of less than 40 cents each time they board a bus, while taxpayers kick in an average of more than $5 to support each of those trips.

Public transit also takes a heavy toll on the environment. Montana’s urban buses use on average twice the energy and release more than twice the carbon emissions into the atmosphere per passenger mile as a light truck. A Toyota Prius would be nearly 6 times more efficient.

The major problem is that urban buses in Montana run mostly empty, filling just one-sixth of their seats. Bus systems in larger cities nationally are much more efficient per passenger mile for the obvious reason that they carry more passengers per mile. As a high mileage, low population state, we have to decide if want to spend and pollute more by promoting an ill-suited policy “solution,” or if maybe we should look at other options.

It’s quite clear that Montanans who are concerned about either public expenditures or climate change and air pollution should be looking for alternatives to traditional urban transit models that rely on buses and scheduled routes to move people around. The question is whether we impose a solution by forcing more people to ride buses, or whether we seek choices that take into account local conditions while still meeting the needs of those who want or need public transportation.

There are many options available to help decrease the costs and environmental impacts of public transit in Montana. Removing state and federal government bias toward high cost, high emissions vehicles that run scheduled routes regardless of demand and allowing communities to tailor their transit programs to local conditions should be one of the first steps toward creating more cost effective and environmentally friendly systems. Other options include smaller vehicles or shared on-demand taxis, privatization, and vouchers for those who need assistance. These types of systems would take people where they want to go when they want to get there at much less cost and with a much lower environmental impact. In short, cities need to decide if they’re in the business of moving people or of running buses.

 

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For Immediate Release

599 Words

 

The referenced study can be found at www.montanapolicy.org.

Carl Graham is president of the Montana Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and education center based in Bozeman, MT.

He can be reached at:

67 W. Kagy Blvd., Ste. B

Bozeman, MT 59715

(406) 219-0508

cgraham@montanapolicy.org

 

Cap-and-Trade Would Cut Thousands of Montana Jobs

Bozeman, Mont. — If pending federal climate change legislation is enacted, Montana would stand to lose between 4,964 and 6,761 jobs by 2030, according to a study released today by the Montana Policy Institute (MPI) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF).

The primary cause of job losses is lower industrial output due to higher energy prices, the high cost of complying with emissions cuts required by the legislation, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers. Among the hardest hit would be manufacturing jobs.

“As Congress considers far-reaching energy legislation that would impose an aggressive ‘cap-and-trade’ system, it’s important for us to examine what this means for Montana families and businesses,” said Carl Graham, president of the MPI. “It’s clear from these findings that the impact would be devastating for our economy – slashing jobs and reversing all the progress we’ve made, especially in the development of our state’s natural resources.”

The economic impact of this legislation on Montana is not isolated to jobs.

• By 2030, the average Montana family can expect the price of electricity to increase by up to 61 percent, gasoline 27 percent and natural gas 78 percent. Low income families and the elderly, who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy, will be especially hurt. Disposable income in Montana would fall by $414 to $764 in 2030.

• Under this legislation, Montana would experience a sharp decrease in manufacturing output, especially in nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing and primary metal manufacturing, important sectors for the Montana economy. The higher energy prices, fewer jobs and loss of industrial output under this legislation are estimated to reduce Montana’s gross state product (GSP) by as much as $900 million to $1.2 billion in 2030.

• State tax revenues would be reduced by as much as $65 million by 2030, forcing Montana policymakers to make hard choices about how to fund basic services, such as law enforcement, hospitals and schools.

Despite the current recession, recent employment figures demonstrate a promising trend. In the past ten years, employment in the Montana mining industry has grown 68.4 percent. In 2008, while the U.S. unemployment rate rose, Montana’s employment grew at a rate of 1.7 percent, and our state’s economy grew at a rate of 1.8 percent. If pending energy legislation were enacted, this continued growth would be impossible.

“Previous research about the impacts of this legislation on the national level found significant loss to gross domestic product. Montana, a state whose economy is tied to manufacturing and energy development, is particularly vulnerable to adverse impacts from this federal energy legislation,” said Margo Thorning, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief economist of the ACCF, who recently testified on Capitol Hill. “If pending federal energy legislation is enacted, the Montana economy will significantly decline and thousands of jobs will be lost.”

About the Study

The ACCF and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recently conducted a macroeconomic study examining the impacts of this legislation on the U.S. economy. This study is a deeper examination of those initial findings specific to Montana. This analysis was undertaken using a version of the National Energy Modeling System (NEMS), the same tool used by the United States Energy Information Administration for its energy forecasting and policy analysis.

The study authors also explored both high- and low-cost scenarios to account for a wide range of assumptions regarding the likely cost and availability of new technologies, energy efficiency and renewable electricity standards, and domestic and international offsets.

This research examines the impact of H.R. 2454, known as Waxman-Markey, on Montana’s economy. Because the Senate version, (S. 1733) known as Kerry-Boxer, requires further emissions reductions, the economic impacts addressed in this research would be higher if that legislation were enacted.

This study is a joint project of the Montana Policy Institute (MPI) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF).

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ACCF is a Washington, D.C.-based group which provides sound research to U.S. and international policymakers, the media and public. ACCF advocates for economic, regulatory and environmental policies that promote capital formation, economic growth and a higher standard of living for all.

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonpartisan policy research organization that equips Montana citizens and decision makers to better evaluate state public policy options from the perspective of free markets, limited government, individual rights and individual responsibility. To find out more visit us on the web at www.mtpolicy.org.

Contact:

Carl Graham

President

Montana Policy Institute

Phone : (406) 219-0508 Montana Policy Institute

67 W Kagy Blvd Ste. B

Bozeman, MT 59715

info@montanapolicy.org

Press Releas

Montanans Are the Losers Under Cap-and-Trade

We’re hearing a lot about jobs lately and how important it is to “save or create” them. That’s all well and good, but many of those who on one hand wax eloquent about ways to reward businesses for hiring people are on the other hand feverishly pressing for programs that will make hiring more difficult and expensive. The “cap-and-trade” measures currently rattling around in Washington are great cases in point.

Congress is now debating far-reaching energy legislation that would impose an aggressive cap-and-trade system on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and mandate high levels of energy efficiency and renewable energy production. You might be hearing that this legislation is dead in the Senate, but nothing could be further from the truth. Big banks, big business, and other special interests have too much riding on this new financial scheme for it to go quietly into the night. And as usual, the rest of us would foot the bill.

As an example, a study released on February 11th by the Montana Policy Institute (MPI) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) shows that Montana would stand to lose between 4,964 and 6,761 jobs by 2030 under cap-and-trade. And that’s just the start.

Most jobs would be lost due to lower industrial output because of higher energy prices, the high cost of complying with emissions cuts required by the legislation, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers without the same pressures. Among the hardest hit would be manufacturing jobs—the heart of our state’s economy – and those at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

As Congress debates our energy future, we need to understand what Washington special interests are trying to do to our economy, our jobs and our future. It’s clear from these findings that Montana has nothing to gain—in fact, too much to lose—from cap-and-trade legislation, and that the economic impact of this legislation on Montana is enormous and not isolated to lost jobs.

• By 2030, the average Montana family can expect the price of electricity to increase by up to 61 percent, gasoline 27 percent and natural gas 78 percent. Low income families and the elderly, who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy, will be especially hurt.

• Montana would experience a sharp decrease in manufacturing output. The higher energy prices, fewer jobs and loss of industrial output under this legislation are estimated to reduce Montana’s gross state product (GSP) by between $900 million and $1.2 billion in 2030. Coal production alone could decrease by 96 percent. The impacts of artificially higher fuel, feed, and chemical prices on our farming families will force hard choices for them as well.

• State tax revenues would be reduced by as much as $65 million by 2030, forcing Montana policymakers to make hard choices about how to fund basic services, such as law enforcement, hospitals and schools, even as their costs increase with higher energy prices.

Despite the current recession, recent employment figures demonstrate a promising trend. In 2008, while the U.S. unemployment rate rose, Montana’s employment actually grew at a rate of 1.7 percent, and our state’s economy grew at a rate of 1.8 percent.

But much of this growth is tied to mining and the development of our natural resources, areas hard hit by cap-and-trade legislation. In the past ten years, employment in the Montana mining industry has grown 68.4 percent and is now responsible for 16,220 Montana jobs. A recent study by Pricewaterhouse Coopers credited the oil and natural gas industry for 34,210 jobs and a $3.3 billion contribution to the state’s economy. If cap-and-trade legislation is enacted, this growth would be reversed as jobs and production move overseas.

We all want a clean environment. Most of us live in Montana because we love our Big Sky and the beautiful land beneath it. But those shrill voices demanding that we trade our economic well being for a clean environment are trying to drive us into a false choice. Exporting our jobs to cheap overseas labor and our energy production to dirty overseas power plants will not help the environment or reduce greenhouse gases. There are alternatives to cap-and-trade, and a politician’s willingness to look at them can be a litmus test indicating whose interests he or she is really serving.

 

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Carl Graham is president of the Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization that equips Montana citizens and decision makers to better evaluate state public policy options from the perspective of free markets, limited government, individual rights and individual responsibility.