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Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation. Poole, an MIT-trained engineer, has advised the Ronald Reagan, the George H.W. Bush, the Clinton, and the George W. Bush administrations.
In the field of surface transportation, Poole has advised the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the White House Office of Policy Development, National Economic Council, Government Accountability Office, and state DOTs in numerous states.
Poole's 1988 policy paper proposing privately financed toll lanes to relieve congestion directly inspired California's landmark private tollway law (AB 680), which authorized four pilot toll projects including the successful 91 Express Lanes in Orange County. More than 20 other states and the federal government have since enacted similar public-private partnership legislation. In 1993, Poole oversaw a study that coined the term HOT (high-occupancy toll) Lanes, a term which has become widely accepted since.
California Gov. Pete Wilson appointed Poole to the California's Commission on Transportation Investment and he also served on the Caltrans Privatization Advisory Steering Committee, where he helped oversee the implementation of AB 680.
From 2003 to 2005, he was a member of the Transportation Research Board's special committee on the long-term viability of the fuel tax for highway finance. In 2008 he served as a member of the Texas Study Committee on Private Participation in Toll Roads, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. In 2009, he was a member of an Expert Review Panel for Washington State DOT, advising on a $1.5 billion toll mega-project. In 2010, he was a member of the transportation transition team for Florida's Governor-elect Rick Scott. He is a member of two TRB standing committees: Congestion Pricing and Managed Lanes.
Poole is a member of the Government Accountability Office's National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel and he has testified before the House and Senate's aviation subcommittees on numerous occasions. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Poole consulted the White House Domestic Policy Council and the leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
He has also advised the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Secretary of Transportation, White House Office of Policy Development, National Performance Review, National Economic Council, and the National Civil Aviation Review Commission on aviation issues. Poole is a member of the Critical Infrastructure Council of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation and of the Air Traffic Control Association.
Poole was among the first to propose the commercialization of the U.S. air traffic control system, and his work in this field has helped shape proposals for a U.S. air traffic control corporation. A version of his corporation concept was implemented in Canada in 1996 and was more recently endorsed by several former top FAA administrators.
Poole's studies also launched a national debate on airport privatization in the United States. He advised both the FAA and local officials during the 1989-90 controversy over the proposed privatization of Albany (NY) Airport. His policy research on this issue helped inspire Congress' 1996 enactment of the Airport Privatization Pilot Program and the privatization of Indianapolis' airport management under Mayor Steve Goldsmith.
Robert Poole co-founded the Reason Foundation with Manny Klausner and Tibor Machan in 1978, and served as its president and CEO from then until the end of 2000. He was a member of the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000. Over the years, he has advised the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations on privatization and transportation policy.
Poole is credited as the first person to use the term "privatization" to refer to the contracting-out of public services and is the author of the first-ever book on privatization, Cutting Back City Hall, published by Universe Books in 1980. He is also editor of the books Instead of Regulation: Alternatives to Federal Regulatory Agencies (Lexington Books, 1981), Defending a Free Society (Lexington Books, 1984), and Unnatural Monopolies (Lexington Books, 1985). He also co-edited the book Free Minds & Free Markets: 25 Years of Reason (Pacific Research Institute, 1993).
Poole has written hundreds of articles, papers, and policy studies on privatization and transportation issues. His popular writings have appeared in national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He has also been a guest on network television programs such as Good Morning America, NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News Tonight, and the CBS Evening News. Poole writes a monthly column on transportation issues for Public Works Financing.
Poole earned his B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and did graduate work in operations research at New York University.
AllStudiesBlog PostsAviation Op-EdsTransport Op-Eds
- The Emerging Threat to Toll Revenues
Tolls shouldn't become the new cash cow for surface transportation
February 1, 2006
- Surface Transportation Innovations #29
Topics include: TRB committee concludes tolls should replace fuel taxes; getting serious about traffic congestion; the future of ITS; electronic toll collection for rental cars; urban sprawl myths; and other news.
February 1, 2006
- How to Make Bay Area Bus Transit More Competitive with Driving
Virtual exclusive busways are a win-win concept
January 13, 2006
- Getting Serious About Congestion
Reason project seeks dramatic rethinking of urban congestion policy
January 1, 2006
- Surface Transportation Innovations #28
Topics include: Reason's new Mobility Project; occupancy detection for HOV/HOT lanes; more HOV lane concerns; truck-only toll lanes moving forward; and other news.
January 1, 2006
- Atlanta's Public-Private Plan Spells Traffic Relief
Toll lanes are promising start
December 27, 2005
- An Interstate Highway System for the 21st Century
Tolling, public-private partnerships in the equation
December 1, 2005
- The Concession Model for Funding Roads, Continued
Finding the best ways to own, operate and magage highways
November 1, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #27
Topics include: telecommuting's cost-effectiveness; congestion and regional economies; PPPs for transport infrastructure; guidelines for state PPP legislation; and other news.
November 1, 2005
- Got the HOTs?
HOT lanes have been a big hit with drivers
October 20, 2005
- Virtual Exclusive Busways
Improving Urban Transit While Relieving Congestion
Robert Poole and Ted Balaker
September 1, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #26
Topics include: Reason's new Virtual Exclusive Busways study; Hudson's disappointing surface transportation report; design-build success stories; truck congestion pricing in L.A.; and other news.
September 1, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #25
Topics include: Atlanta's look at innovative truck toll lanes; paying for better commutes; financial community bullishness on tolling; and transportation network vulnerability.
August 1, 2005
- Equity Investors: A New Dawn for Toll Roads in America
Companies make large investments, take on huge risks to operate toll facilities
July 30, 2005
- Is it Time to Scrap Toll Booths and Toll Plazas?
Technology makes it possible to go fully cashless
June 21, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #24
Topics include: HOV/HOT lanes safety; affordable transponders; S&P's report on public-private partnerships; public support for toll lanes; and traffic signal timing.
June 1, 2005
- HOT Lane Conundrums
HOT Lane feasibility studies yielding confusing results
May 23, 2005
- What If Private Activity Bonds Don't Pass?
To begin shifting highways into the marketplace, PABs are an important step
May 1, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #23
Topics include: paying for new lane construction out of toll revenue; the continued decline of car-pooling; tolling existing free lanes; incident-related congestion; and inaccuracies in rail and road traffic forecasting.
May 1, 2005
- Leasing 73 Toll Road Could Be Smart Move
Officials should abandon status quo likely to lead to road's bankruptcy
April 18, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #22
Topics include: how congestion harms urban economies; trucking re-regulation in Congress; HOV enforcement; and other breaking news stories.
April 1, 2005
- The Orange County Toll Roads
March 1, 2005
- Orange County's 91 Express Lanes
A Transportation and Financial Success, Despite Political Problems
March 1, 2005
- Rescuing California From Gridlock
How the state can add capacity
February 15, 2005
- Sell New York's Bridges and Tunnels
The path of lease resistance
Robert Poole and Peter Samuel
February 14, 2005
- Baltimore City School District Has Come a Long Way since 2007, but There's Still Work to Be Done (12/11)
- Mileage Based User Fees or Road Usage Charges—Some Thoughtful Commentary (12/9)
- Human Rights Watch Exposes Injustice of Plea Bargains and Mandatory Minimums (12/6)
- Southwest Struggles As Legacy Airlines Establish Solid Business Models (12/6)
- Texas Families Show Strong Demand for More School Choice (12/5)
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