The Rail Transit Lobby

Baptists and Bootleggers is a term coined by economist Bruce Yandle to describe the curious coalitions that support many big government regulations and projects. Yandle noted that laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol in many southern counties were supported by Baptists, who thought alcohol was immoral, and bootleggers, who didn’t want legal competition to their illegal activities.

In the case of rail transit, the role of bootleggers is played by the many engineering, consulting, contracting, and manufacturing firms that make money from rail construction. Considering that rail transit costs many times as much as highway construction, these groups have a powerful incentive to promote such projects. Meanwhile, the role of Baptists is played by environmental groups who have persuaded many members of the public to believe that automobiles are evil and polluting while transit is clean and green.

The most important members of the rail transit lobby are: