If you build mass transit, they will come. That “Field of Dreams” thinking is one of the operating assumptions behind the unprecedented federal and state spending spree on public transportation. The Biden administration is doling out as much as $108 billion on mass transit, while states are planning enormous new projects of all kinds. As a working group established by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently put it, “Public transit is a must have to attract and retain younger residents.”
But it’s simply not true. Mass transit has long been touted as a draw, especially the younger generations that states and cities covet. Yet this belief is just that — not borne out by evidence. While public polling has long indicated that young people support public transportation in the abstract, their behavior reveals otherwise. Young people, like previous generations, use cars a lot more than buses, light rail, or any other mass-transit option.
Mass Transit Isn’t Popular
Here are the facts. Despite decades of government spending on public transportation, costing untold billions of taxpayer dollars, a pathetic 3 percent of Americans use it to commute to work, according to the Census Bureau.