White House: Transit Inflation Outstripping Private Transportation
The White House’s annual economic report, in addition to its endorsement of inter-city rail and transit spending, also sheds more light on transit inflation, which is often reported anecdotally in the many cities struggling with fare hikes but rarely put in statistical terms by economists.
In the appendices of its report, the president’s Council on Economic Advisers estimated the overall U.S. consumer price index (CPI) at 214.537 in 2009, with the period of 1982-1984 signifying the 100 level. In general, then, prices for major goods have more than doubled over the past two-and-a-half decades.
The changes in price for what Americans pay for food (218.249 in 2009) and housing, including utilities (217.057), have kept pace with the overall CPI, according to the White House. But in the specific category of transportation, the difference was notable — private transportation, a category that includes new or used vehicles and motor fuel, had a CPI of 174.762 in 2009, while transit’s CPI hit 236.348 last year.
To be sure, transit costs were not the most out-off-control expense singled out by the White House. Inflation for medical care reached 375.613 in 2009, and the cost of shelter, not including utilities, was 249.354 last year.
Still, the palpable disparity between the costs of private and public modes of transportation is a trend that should be catching the attention of policymakers on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.