This paper provides a short description of the current condition and utilization of US highways, public transit buses, and urban rail cars. It surveys what we know about how highway and transit usage responds to changes in infrastructure capacity or condition, and it describes what is known about how investments in highways and public transportation affect the organization, location, and level of economic activity in our urban and rural areas, and in particular, how these investments affect employment opportunities for the poor.
Finally, it discusses transit policy reform options that are rooted in this analysis. The highway and bus transit systems are a particular focus, with congestion fees being one important mechanism for improving the performance of those systems. While there may be partisan disagreement over whether US transportation policy should favor rural automobiles or urban rails, there should be no disagreement over the desirability of infrastructure that people actually use and that reduces the cost of mobility. With this in mind, the evidence described here suggests the following conclusions about transportation policy.