In recent decades, Congress has increasingly departed from user-pay systems, and instead requires users of some forms of transportation-primarily auto drivers-to pay for other forms of transportation-primarily public transit. In addition to being unjust, this policy has led to excessive construction costs and the selection of transportation projects whose costs far outweigh their benefits. One symptom of this misallocation of funds is the growing congestion in America’s urban areas.

Proponents of urban transit and intercity high-speed rail are using concerns about energy and global warming to promote the diversion of even more highway user fees to their favored forms of transportation. Yet these alternative forms of transportation are unlikely to save energy or significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More on Urban Growth and Transportation


Cato Studies

Principles for the 2020 Surface Transportation Reauthorization

By Randal O’Toole. Policy Analysis No. 870. June 4, 2019.

Charting Public Transit’s Decline

By Randal O’Toole. Policy Analysis No. 853. November 8, 2018.

The Effect of Zoning on Housing Prices

By Ross Kendall and Peter Tulip. Research Briefs in Economic Policy No. 124. August 1, 2018.


Financing Urban Revitalization: A Pro-Growth Template

Steve H. Hanke. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance. Vol. 30. No. 3. 2018.

How the Met Council Misplans the Twin Cities

Randal O'Toole. Thinking MN. No. 7. Spring 2017.

The Streetcar Scam

Randal O'Toole. MI Report. May 31, 2012.

Public Filings

Caquelin v. United States

By Mark F. (Thor) Hearne II, Stephen S. Davis, Ilya Shapiro, & Trevor Burrus. Legal Briefs. July 30, 2019.

Kerpen v. Metro. Washington Airports Authority

By Ilya Shapiro and Patrick Moran. Legal Briefs. April 24, 2019.

Association of American Railroads v. Department of Transportation

By Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, William Yeatman, C. Frederick Beckner, III, & Tobias S. Loss-Eaton. Legal Briefs. February 27, 2019.

Cato Reviews & Journals

Rethinking America’s Highways

George C. Leef. Regulation. Spring 2019.

Should Automakers Be Responsible for Accidents?

Kyle D. Logue. Regulation. Spring 2019.

A Fine Romance?

Policy Report. September/October 2018.


Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need

Featuring Randal O'Toole, Art Guzzetti, Jim Mathews, Marc Scribner, & Jason Kuznicki. October 10, 2018. Book Forum.

The Future of Public Transit

Featuring Randal O'Toole, Jarrett Walker, and Matt Weibel. October 2, 2018. Policy Forum.

The Federal Role in Public Transit

Featuring Randal O'Toole and Jarrett Walker. October 1, 2018. Capitol Hill Briefing.


Why Government Planning Always Fails

By Randal O’Toole. September 29, 2007.

Downsizing the Federal Government

Federal Highway Policies

By Chris Edwards and Gabriel Roth. August 2017.

Public Housing and Rental Subsidies

By Howard Husock. February 2017.

Privatizing Amtrak

By Chris Edwards. October 2016.