Cost Estimate:
Conversion of Transit Subsidies to
Auto Subsidies for Low-Income Riders
(Greater Mobility Opportunity Program)

Why Not Just Buy Them Cars
Heartland Institute Op-Ed

Frequently Asked Questions

The following is from Frequently Asked Questions

Our recent Heartland Institute thought piece op-ed "Why Not Just Buy Them Cars" has generated considerable interest.

We theorized that it might be worth thinking about to provide all low-income transit riders with cars than to continue to subsidize public transit in the United States. The principal purpose of such a program would be to expand the economic opportunities available to lower-income citizens, toward the purpose of facilitating early entrance to the economic mainstream.

The starting point is the fact that transit costs per passenger mile are now more than 3.5 times as high as automobile costs per passenger mile. That, alone is justification for thinking about it. But it also happens that the numbers might also work, as is shown below.

Our goal of sparking discussion has been achieved. The extent to which the concept should be implemented will emerge from the continuing discussions. But one thing is clear. We are spending far too much money on transit and getting too little. And, there are ways to spend the money productively, as in this "modest proposal."

  Alternative 1 Alternative 2
  Car Share Cost 5 Year Average Age Program
Cost per Vehicle Mile $0.270 $0.436
Less User Payment (In Lieu of Fare) $0.183 $0.183
Greater Mobility Opportunity Progam Net Cost $0.087 $0.253
ANNUAL (Billions)    
Total Cost $8.5 $13.7
Less User Payments (In Lieu of Fare) $5.8 $5.8
Greater Mobility Opportunity Progam Net Cost $2.7 $7.9
Present Transit Subsidies $25.0 $25.0
Net Unused Subsidy $22.3 $17.1
Paratransit Service Increase that Could be Financed 1505% 1153%
Includes all ownership costs, insurance, fuel and repairs.
User payment equals 2002 average fare per passenger mile (bus)
Car Share Costs    
    From Flex-Car Portland
    300 Miles per month program, accessed June 28, 2004
5 Year Average Age Perogram  
    Program would purchase quality subcompact used cars and maintain an average fleet age of approximately 5 years (The average US car age is approximately 9 years).
    Costs calculated from,
    accessed June 28, 2004

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