Transit Myths and Realities

Myth: Transit is subsidized. Highways are paid by user fees.

Reality:   Both are subsidized. Gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees cover only a part of the cost of building, maintaining and operating Virginia’s highways. Such funding sources for highways as general fund revenues, general sales taxes and recordation taxes are clearly not user fees.

Myth: Only transit riders benefit from transit subsidies.

Reality:   For every dollar that taxpayers spend on supporting public transit systems, the economic return on that investment is at least three to one. Public transit systems add capacity to existing roadways, which reduces congestion and benefits motorists and the Commonwealth in general.

Myth: In spite of the state’s investments, transit ridership is declining.

Reality:   National transit ridership is up at record highs. The largest increases happened in areas where services were increased. The largest decreases occurred in areas where fares were increased and/or services were decreased or eliminated.

Myth: Transit only works in metropolitan areas.

Reality:   Even more than in urban areas, the lack of reliable public transportation in small cities, towns and rural areas can be a barrier to getting a job and getting off public assistance. A ridership survey conducted by the Danville Transit System showed a 14 percent increase in passengers due to welfare reform initiatives.Mountain Empire Older Citizens Transit in southwestern Virginia, District Three Governmental Cooperative in the Marion area and Jefferson Area United Transportation (JAUNT) in the Charlottesville area help Virginia’s elderly and disabled citizens commute to work and remain independent.

Myth: Public transit and highways receive comparable consideration for funding.

Reality:   Federal and state funds pay for more than 95 percent of Virginia’s highway construction and more than 90 percent of highway maintenance, yet less than 75 percent of public transit costs and under 25 percent of operating costs. Transit deserves stronger support.