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Are roads more affordable than rail?

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All too often I hear about how light rail or trains run at a loss and require regular government subsidies. Yet little is said about the extensive government subsidies to roads and highways. In fact, governments typically pour enormous amounts of money into building and maintaining roads…and then individuals are expected to spend large sums to buy and operate a car; bus and truck companies must also provide vehicles. Thus government expenditure is followed by massive private expenditure. Yet when governments provide light rail and trains, the train is part of the infrastructure, so private expenditure for moving people and freight is vastly less. Indirect costs in terms of air pollution, injuries and deaths from crashes, land use, and congestion are also vastly less for rail than roads; trains last far longer than trucks or buses, have more efficient engines, and require less maintenance (think steel wheels on steel tracks). It is time we stop talking about government subsidies for rail and accept that it is government subsidies of roads that are too often unaffordable, for governments, for the public, and for all their negative effects on health and the environment. Less spending on roads and more on rail, less focus on the car and more on bicycles and walking, would lead to better cities and stronger economies.