Misleading STPP stats on transportation costs
The Surface Transportation Policy Project
recently released their new report
along with a press release
supposedly showing that sprawl and weak transit drive up transportation costs, and they rank Houston as the worst:
"Families in the Houston (TX) metropolitan area have the highest overall transportation expenditures at 20.9 percent." [of household income]
This abuse of statistics drives me nuts for two main reasons.
- It hides the costs of transit. They include all the car-related taxes in the cost of driving, which are built-in to registration fees and the cost of gas. Those taxes support roads, of course. But transit costs are paid out of federal, state, and local income and sales taxes, and are not included in their cost of transit for the end user. So, of course, transit looks like a bargain.
- They confuse voluntary spending with involuntary costs. Since Houston has such a low overall cost of living, especially housing, we have extra money left over to spend on more and nicer cars. That extra spending is a voluntary amenity -- not a "cost of basic transportation." The average Houston household chooses to spend $9,891/year on transportation, but they could also choose to spend a whole lot less if they drove around in used Honda Civics instead of shiny new full-size pickups and SUVs.
Mark Twain said it best: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.