Tax Burden and Economic Growth

Contrary to claims that rail transit stimulates economic development, a comparison of transit spending with population growth shows exactly the opposite. A lot of factors affect urban growth, but the chart below shows that urban areas that spent the most on transit capital improvements in the 1990s tended to growth the slowest in the 2000s. Meanwhile, the regions that grew the fastest in the 2000s were among those that spent the least on transit capital improvements in the 1990s. Spending less on transit doesn’t guarantee rapid growth, but spending more on transit practically guarantees slower growth.


The urban areas that spent the most on transit capital improvements in the 1990s were among the slowest-growing ones in the 2000s, while the fastest-growing urban areas in the 2000s were among those that spent the least on transit capital improvements in the 1990s. For information on the sources of data in this chart, see this article.

Not everyone believes in promoting urban growth, but local politicians tend to support growth because growth benefits so many potential campaign contributors. Evidence that rail transit actually reduces growth is likely to sway many against new rail construction.