Public Bus Systems More Costly, Environmentally Damaging


Study: Public Bus Systems More Costly, Environmentally Damaging

BOZEMAN – A study released today by the Montana Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank based in Bozeman, shows that public transit systems in the state of Montana are both more costly than other means of transportation and more damaging to the environment.

The study, titled Public Transit in Montana specifically looked at the costs and environmental impacts of public transit systems in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula.

While the average cost of driving in Montana is less than 23 cents per passenger mile, the study shows the average cost of public transit in the state totals more than $1 per passenger mile.

Urban buses are also found to use more energy than private vehicles and release on average more than twice the amount of carbon emissions per passenger mile as a light truck.

The study provides alternatives for public transportation, including proposals for vouchers, shared taxis, also known as jitneys, and privatization that have the potential to meet urban transportation needs at lower cost and with less environmental impact.

“We’re not just cursing the darkness with this study. We’ve identified a disconnect between what people are being told about the supposed benefits of city busses and what is actually happening; and we’ve proposed serious, workable alternatives that would save taxpayer dollars, reduce environmental costs, and provide much more choice to those who want or need public transportation.” said MPI President Carl Graham. “Cities and counties in Montana need to decide if they’re in the business of moving people or of running busses,” he added.

The study is authored by Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole. Mr. O’Toole’s analysis of urban land-use and transportation issues, outlined in his 2001 book, The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths, has influenced decisions in cities across the country.


To view the full report or for more information people can go to



The full study compares cost and subsidies per passenger mile for the Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, and Missoula bus and paratransit systems to average driving costs per passenger mile in Montana. It then compares energy consumption and C02 emissions per passenger mile of each city’s bus and paratransit systems to those of an average light car, average light truck, and Toyota Prius.


Mr. O’Toole’s bio can be found at:


True Motivations

As a rule I try not to assign motives to people’s actions, especially when I don’t agree with them. More often than not it results in making worst-case assumptions about what they’re up to and poisons any prospect of agreeing on something in the future.

I’ve also been a strong believer in the maxim “Never be too quick to rule out stupidity.” A lot of people do stupid things because, well, they’re stupid. Or more accurately they’re uninformed on an issue. If I recognize this ignorance as the cause of our disagreement rather than assuming bad intentions it gives me the opportunity to make them more informed and bring them to my side.

And I generally hope they’ll give me the same benefit of the doubt.
But at some point in some cases you do have to rule out ignorance or stupidity and realize that some people mean to do you harm, that they’re hiding their true objectives, and that they’re willing to lie cheat or steal to achieve them.

Which brings us to many environmentalists. The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a tragedy for the local environment and economy and a catastrophe (as it should be) for BP. Now come the calls for banning all offshore drilling, past present and future. But is this reaction meant to save the environment from a rare event, or is something else at play?

If the people calling for shutting down offshore oil development were worried primarily about oil spills then they should instead be calling for more onshore and offshore drilling in the US, not less. Oil tanker spills occur much more often and account for many more times the oil released into the environment than what’s spilled from drilling rigs. Reducing the number of oil tankers out there by tapping our reserves here at home would result in demonstrably fewer (and smaller) spills than having these relatively fragile gas tanks plying the oceans.

The fig leaf they’re using of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and carbon emissions is also belied by their resistance to real measures that address both those issues: increased domestic production, and nuclear and hydro energy. Sure, there are costs involved in these methods, but windmills kill birds and blight the landscape (or seascape if you’re a Kennedy), large solar projects endanger desert wildlife; and all of these alternative “green” production methods enormously increase the cost of power, which will inevitably export production, jobs, and prosperity to countries that don’t share our reverence for Gaia.

The truth is they want to reduce energy production and consumption period, not make it safer or greener or anything like that. It’s not energy they’re against it’s people and prosperity. They see us as a cancer on the earth that must be contained, and the way to do that is to take our lifestyle and standard of living back to a time when we used fewer resources and had less impact on Mother Earth – a time when people died from simple infections, squatted outside, and had a life expectancy of what we call today “middle age.”

And that’s fine. There are even parts of that argument that have real merit. But let’s have a conversation about that rather than dancing around the point and attacking people and industries under a hidden agenda and using dishonest tactics. Let’s look at the costs and the benefits of all these options and challenges, and above all leave space for people to make decisions about how to achieve their own happiness – so long as they’re not harming anyone else – without forcing top down, one size fits all “solutions” down their throats.

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.



For Immediate Release

599 Words


The referenced study can be found at

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


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).


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


Carl Graham


Montana Policy Institute

Phone : (406) 219-0508 Montana Policy Institute

67 W Kagy Blvd Ste. B

Bozeman, MT 59715

Press Releas

New Angle on Ending Our Oil Dependency

This comes from an organization called Secure Our Fuels. I frankly don’t know much about them and am talking about their efforts here on the blog because I don’t have time to dig into their background or independently verify their numbers. They’re also running ads in Montana so they obviously have an agenda. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as what they’re saying is truthful and fair, and we have no indication that it isn’t.

So with that namby pamby introduction, just what’s their point that’s worth talking about here? It’s mainly that Congress is looking at cutting off 90% Montana’s gasoline supply. Well, not cutting it off but making it come from someplace else and making it more expensive. I’m going to selectively cut and paste a little rather than trying to paraphrase or quote. The bold is mine. You can get the full text at their web site.

“New Campaign Seeks to Educate Montanans on Negative Impacts of a Nationwide Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

“In any form, a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would represent a major blow to America’s economic health and strategic position,” said CEA’s Michael Whatley, a leading expert on LCFS proposals. “That’s because the energy we import daily from friends like Canada would essentially be prohibited from crossing our border. If these abundant resources are cut off, our dependence on unstable regions of the world would skyrocket, and so would the price American consumers pay at the pump.

Added Whatley: “More than 90 percent of the oil Montana consumers depend on each day comes from Canada – energy that would be banned from crossing the U.S. border under an LCFS. As such, this campaign seeks to alert everyday Montanans about the serious implications of this policy, and enlist their support in ensuring it does not come to pass.”

So tell me again how we’re supposed to get off foreign oil (I don’t count Canada as foreign. They drink LaBatt’s for crying out loud)? What happens to people who are just getting by when their gas bills skyrocket? Where’s all that compassion for the little guy?
Just one more brick on the double-talk pile from people whose real agenda is to control how we live, what we buy, how we drive, what we pay, what we say, and everything else. They say they want to reduce our energy dependence, but what they really want to do is reduce our energy, no matter what the cost to our economy.

There is no credible evidence that “green” jobs will outnumber jobs lost if energy prices skyrocket, as they inevitably would under proposals like this and its cap and trade bretheren. If there’s a market for this stuff the private sector looking to line its own evil pockets will find and satisfy that market, and satisfly consumers and manage the resources behind it in the process. Anything else is just robbing from Peter to pay Paul, with special interests and Washington insiders deciding who’s Peter and who’s Paul.

They’re just so much smarter than us. If only we’d just sit back and not worry our pretty little heads about anything but paying our taxes life would be good. Well, it’d be good for the insiders and special interests making the rules. The rest of us can eat cake.

Montana Climate Change Data

This is a study conducted by the Science and Public Policy Institute that details Montana’s climate information over the past century or so:

MT Climate Change Data

Here are a couple of snippets:

“…even a complete cessation of all CO2 emissions in Montana will be completely subsumed by global emissions growth in just 2 weeks time! A fortiori, regulations prescribing a reduction far less than a complete cessation of Montana’s CO2 emissions would produce no detectable or scientifically meaningful impact on local, regional, or global climate.”

“Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the economic consequences of greenhouse gas emissions’ legislation…” and it goes on to list those consequences in a quantifiable, i.e. scientific way.
One of the problems we cited in our peer review of the Montana Climate Change Action Plan was that it didn’t even try to quantify the costs or the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. All it did was assume that any decrease in gases was worth any cost of reducing them. That’s just, as Jonah Goldberg often says, silly on stilts.
The whole point of public policy is to measure costs and benefits – tangible and intangible – and to craft policies (or leave policies alone) that result in the good outweighing the bad. I would add that staying out of the way is generally a pretty good option, too, but that’s a different argument.
We’re about to get a nationally planned and coordinated climate control agenda shoved down our collective throats that’s long on rhetoric and alarmism and remarkably short on science and logic. MPI’s got a couple of products in the pipeline addressing this fast moving train, but candidly, with less than a year of operations under our belt, we don’t have nearly the resources yet to, as William F. Buckley said, stand athward history on this one. We’re going to need your help.
We’ll do our best to get real science and real data out there. You need to let your local legislators and media know that you want them to recognize there’s another side to this story and that they should make their decisions and write their stories based on the full set of facts.

MCCAP Press Release

Press Release

Report challenges economics of Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP)

The Montana Policy Institute has published a report challenging MCCAP methodology and conclusions

Bozeman, MT. April 23rd, 2008: The Montana Policy Institute, a new nonpartisan policy research organization in Montana, has just released a study by the Beacon Hill Institute challenging the economic assumptions and methodology employed by Montana’s Climate Change Advisory Group’s recently released Montana Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP). The study does not address the science of climate change or attempt to assign motives to the Advisory Group’s recommendations. It simply examines the economics of the MCCAP plan and the methodology employed to assess the plan’s costs and benefits.

The study concludes that:

• MCCAP costs and benefits are not quantified in a way that allows them to be compared. Estimated costs to reduce greenhouse gases of between $93 million to $691 million are set against metric tons of greenhouse gases reduced, without any attempt to weigh the benefits of reducing those gases against the costs of reducing them;

• When estimating economic impacts, costs are sometimes misinterpreted as benefits;

• Cost estimates leave out important factors, including program expenses, alternative scenarios, demand-based consumer responses, and other factors, resulting in unrealistically low best-case figures.

These shortcomings disqualify the MCCAP as a scientifically sound basis for public policy. The Montana Policy Institute believes that a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis using realistic assumptions and sound economic principles should be conducted before Montana policymakers decide to create new mandates, new bureaucracies, and new open-ended spending commitments. The stakes are too high on both sides of the climate change issue to accept anything less than a full and honest debate.


The complete study can be found at:

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonpartisan, tax exempt policy research organization focusing on Montana solutions to Montana problems. Our mission is to equip Montana citizens and decision makers to better evaluate state public policy options from the perspective of limited government, individual liberty, and individual responsibility.