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.
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
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.
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.