This week, the Indiana legislature reaches its first major deadline for committee hearings. There are several bills and amendments we are still watching and following that I will mention in future weekly emails.
The Price Taxpayers Pay for Poor Economic Theories
This is not an AFA-IN issue. However, it may be interesting for those who believe in limited government and fiscal responsibility.
In the last decade political leaders in Indianapolis have often seemed to flail around grasping for a golden goose that will revitalize the city or boost it economically, making it more attractive to business investment. Former Mayor Greg Ballard thought bike paths and liberal LGBT social policies were his silver bullet. Recently, our capitol city revamped public transit to create a new $96 million system known as the Red Line, a rapid transit electric bus line. Several existing lanes of road were allocated to the Red Line, new busses were purchased, and new platform stations were built.
The Red Line opened in the fall with great celebration and media attention. Fares were even free for several weeks to celebrate its opening. However, new numbers from IndyGo reveal that the Red Line was far more popular with politicians than it has been with customers.
In the four months since the Red Line opened, ridership has fallen 50%! When one considers that one patron enters and exits, there were only 123,185 riders in September, when it was a free fare. Each month thereafter, the ridership numbers have dropped. For December the ridership was only 65,008.
In spite of federal transportation funding increasingly being diverted from roads to non-highway projects, mass transit expenditures have doubled to more than $15 billion annually since 1982. One would think that transit ridership might have doubled in that same time. It hasn’t even come close. Today, annual miles of travel by transit are only 25 percent higher than they were 40 years ago.
In fact, in spite these taxpayer subsidies, mass transit ridership has declined in all of the nation’s 38 largest urban areas according to a recent article by the Foundation for Economic Education.
Mass transit performs well in Washington, DC, where large portions of people use that system for work. Yet, as the Heritage Foundation notes: “The problem with transit is that, on average, 90 percent of jobs are not located in downtown areas. Those 90 percent of employees are spread over an area more than 500 times as large as the downtown areas. No transit system can serve this type of demand at a speed that is competitive with the automobile. Transit advocates routinely oversell the potential of transit spending to reduce road congestion, pretending that it can make a difference outside core areas.”
Skeptics of the economics of mass transit are often accused of being backwards, anti-progress, or anti-environmental. Yet, there is a lot of evidence that many types of mass transit are a huge boondoggle for taxpayers.
I am not against city buses. They can be more economical than rail or other types of mass transit. However, I once asked an Indianapolis City Council member if mass transit ever made any money. He suggested I look inside the IndyGo busses as they pass by and take note of how few people are using them. It was an eye-opening exercise.
School Survey Finds Some Interesting Results
The 2019 Schooling in America Survey conducted by the Braun Research polling firm interviewed 1,810 adults in a nationwide sample. They also surveyed 601 educators who are currently teaching in a public school. The two surveys were sponsored by EdChoice one of the nation’s largest school choice advocacy organizations.
Here are some of those poll results:
Among four options, public, private, charter and home, parents who have their children in private schools expressed the highest level of satisfaction (79%) with their school.
Teachers still do not have much trust in parents. Only 37% said they trust their students’ parents.
The number of Americans who say K-12 education is headed in the right direction is at an all-time high this year, however, that is a mere 37%. A majority (56%) still think it is on the wrong track.
A majority of Americans support their own public-school district going on strike for a 10% pay increase. However, when they are told the national average public-school teacher’s salary is $60,483, support for a strike drops by 8 points to 55% support.
Likewise, while the average amount spent on each public-school student is $12,200 per year, the median public respondent’s estimate of this was only $5,000. Public school teachers’ median response estimate of per pupil funding was only $4,000, less than a third of actual spending.
More than half of public-school teachers (52%) said that their students spent three weeks or more preparing for and taking standardized tests.
When given information on how school vouchers work, the public support of vouchers was measured at 63%.
A particularly revealing part of this survey concerned children’s use of technology. It found that public school teachers worry about their students use of modern technology more than their parents.
• 77 percent of teachers worry about their students spending too much time in front of screens, compared to 57% of parents who express the same concern.
• 73 percent of teachers worry often about their students sharing too much about their personal life online, compared to about half of parents (51%).
• 63 percent of teachers are concerned about their students being harassed or bullied online, compared to less than half of parents (44%).
• 62 percent of teachers worry about students’ use of technology impairing their ability to properly communicate with people, compared to less than half (44%) of parents.
In Their Own Words:
“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” – Ronald Reagan