Transport Policy in the Age of Coronavirus


“The coronavirus pandemic is going to leave behind major changes in America’s transportation system, and those changes, in turn, call for changes in transportation policies today,” I stated in a paper I authored that Reason Foundation published on September 22. “While the exact numbers are uncertain, the direction of trends is fairly certain, and these trends demand changes in existing transportation policies.”

Click image to download a PDF of the report. Click the link in the previous paragraph to go to an introduction to the report.

For example, “states and cities that are planning mega-transportation projects should at least pause and most likely cancel those projects, especially if they depend on assumptions that people will continue to live in dense cities and ride mass transportation instead of driving. Even projects that are in early construction stages should be reconsidered, as it isn’t worth throwing good money after bad if the project is going to fail to accomplish its goals.” The Maryland Purple Line, whose future is uncertain as the contractor quit in a dispute over cost overruns, is an example of a project that should be permanently halted.

The pandemic caused transit ridership to drop much more than driving and driving has bounced back faster than transit.

Also yesterday the Department of Transportation published July 2020 driving data showing that Americans drove 89 percent as much as they did in July 2019. This allows for an update of a figure in the Reason Foundation report, which only goes through June.

Randal O'Toole ( is a Cato Institute Senior Fellow working on urban growth, public land, and transportation issues. He is the author of numerous Cato papers and has also written for numerous other national journals and newspapers.