The New Jersey-New York-Philadelphia Amtrak mess that left commuters stranded this week just goes to show you that widespread passenger rails will never be a viable competitor to America’s highway system. Transit just isn’t as reliable. People prefer to drive.

Except not. Roadways didn’t automatically sprout up everywhere. Driving isn’t more convenient by nature. We chose to make it that way, thanks in no small part to the automobile and sprawl lobbies. When you look at federal capital investment in highways versus transit over the last half century, the difference is staggering:

transit vs highway spendingA Better Way To Go” report from U.S. PIRG

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Cumulative spending (everything since 1956, when the Federal-Aid Highway Act was passed) is even more nutso:

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transit vs highway spendingGovernments at all levels have invested nine times more capital funds in highways than in transit since 1956, according to a report from the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups (U.S. PIRG).

Imagine how much better our rail system could be if we started evening out that funding. That’s what Ray LaHood‘s Transportation Department is, gradually, doing.