In Fact, Just Say "Hell No"

Jeff Jacoby takes on the choo-choo fantasies: Just say no to more mass transit.

FOR MOST urban planners, it is an article of faith that mass transit is not only good but essential — and that more mass transit should be a priority. Total funding on public transit in 2022 (the most recent data available) soared past $84 billion nationwide, an increase of nearly $5.5 billion since 2019. Under the Biden administration, the Federal Transit Administration last year approved $21 billion in new federal subsidies to agencies around the country, touting it as a "record investment in American transit."

JJ speaks truly about this being an "article of faith", in the sense that Ambrose Bierce limned: "belief without evidence". JJ notes that Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy recently proposed doubling the amount the state currently drops on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). He argues convincingly that transit cheerleaders are delusional, quoting transportation analyst Wendell Cox:

Boston's experience is typical. According to Cox, the most recent census statistics show that 108,000 fewer people work in the city now than before the pandemic, 31,000 fewer workers are driving into Boston for work, and 115,000 fewer workers are commuting by T. In the broader metropolitan area outside the borders of Boston, by contrast, the number of people working is up by 56,000. Yet so entrenched has working from home become that close to half a million more people no longer commute — between 2019 and 2022, car rides to the job dropped by 423,000 and public transit commutes by 39,000.

Randal O'Toole has long alleged that the pandemic seems to have put a permanent dent in transit use nationwide, and provides a telling graph:

In words: although driving, air travel, and (even) Amtrak seem to have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, the use of transit seems stuck with a 20% drop in ridership.

But Massachusetts has a broader problem, not only about a lack of commuters, but about residents in general moving out. Boston University recently looked at that issue and produced the Massachusetts Outmigration Study. From the summary:

Annual net outmigration from Massachusetts has soared by a stunning 1,100 percent to 39,000 people since 2013, according to a new Boston University study. If the trend continues, the researchers found, the state’s net outmigration could reach 96,000 by 2030.

Outmigration cost Massachusetts $4.3 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) and $213.7 million in tax revenue during the 2020-21 tax year. The majority of that money went to Florida ($1.77 billion), New Hampshire ($1.1 billion), and Maine ($393 million.) Those numbers could rise to $19.2 billion in AGI and $961 million in tax revenue by 2030.

Here at Pun Salad, we've viewed the news out of Massachusetts with mixed feelings. We don't wish ill on the citizenry, but (hey) they voted for this stuff. And it provides a great example to us here in New Hampshire about What Not To Do. At least to those of us willing to pay attention.

Which brings me to another point: the proposal to extend MBTA commuter rail up to New Hampshire. Democrat Joyce Craig is running for Governor, and back in 2023 she was a huge cheerleader for this dreadful idea: Craig vows to bring MBTA commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester.

But (near as I can tell) she has gone silent on that. Her campaign website doesn't seem to say anything about it. In fact, under her "Policies" menu, there are only two entries: "Reproductive Rights" (i.e., pro-abortion) and "Gun Violence Prevention" (i.e., gun-grabbing).

Her opponent in the upcoming primary is Cinde Warmington; her campaign site is also silent on commuter rail. Her "Values" page runs down a whole bunch of issues, but… nope, no choo-choo promises.

Neither Joyce nor Cinde seem to have much to say about tax policy either.