Increasing Commuting by Transit and Ridesharing:

Many Factors Should Be Considered

CED-81-13: Published: Nov 14, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1980.

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In the name of energy efficiency and conservation, the Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a program to expand mass transit capacity and transit commuting. In addition, DOT proposed a new funding source for ridesharing as part of DOT efforts to double the number of commuters who carpool and vanpool. The proposals would be financed by revenues from the oil windfall profits tax.

DOT is advocating a combined federal and local 10-year capital investment in mass transit of about $53 billion to increase transit capacity and ridership by 50 percent by 1990. Transit capacity expansion can provide benefits in terms of less congestion and pollution, employment opportunities, and urban revitalization. However, GAO is concerned that the decision to support transit expansion is being unduly influenced by the energy situation and the availability of windfall profits tax revenues and that not enough consideration has been given to potential adverse impacts of transit expansion on transit operating costs, deficits, and subsidies. Although the federal government has advocated greater use of ridesharing, progress has been slow in getting drive-alone commuters to switch to ridesharing.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider the full cost impact of a large transit capacity expansion along with the types and magnitude of benefits that are likely to be realized in deciding what level of support, if any, to provide for such expansion.

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should consider separate federal funding of ridesharing activities because: (1) separate federal funding should help overcome state and local government reluctance to fund ridesharing activities since they would not be competing for federal funds with the more conventional highway and transit projects that have strong local constituencies; (2) ridesharing is the only practical alternative to driving alone for most commuters; (3) if serious gasoline shortages occur, ridesharing would have to become the predominant commuting mode; and (4) doubling ridesharing would save at least three times as much energy as a 50-percent increase in transit commuting. It would also remove about nine million automobiles daily from commuter traffic, avoid the exhaust emissions that nine million daily round trips would produce, and make use of available space in automobiles already on the road.


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