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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
- Q&A: Why Per-Mile Tolling is Better Than Fuel Taxes
Orlando Sentinel interview with Robert Poole
July 25, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #129
The elephant in the room in reauthorization
July 8, 2014
- What We’ve Learned From 25 Years of Highway Public-Private Partnerships
In our political climate, public-private partnerships are much more feasible than private toll roads
July 7, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #128
Fresh thinking on urban transit
June 16, 2014
- Getting to Yes on Interstate Tolling
If common sense prevails and support builds among highway users for a customer-friendly program to modernize the Interstates with toll finance, we may actually get a workable program
June 4, 2014
- Conservatives Shouldn't Be Bothered By HOT Lanes
Why is the Weekly Standard defending the government's failed status quo model for U.S. highways?
May 28, 2014
- Frequently Asked Questions on Toll-Financed Interstate Reconstruction
May 19, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #127
Tolling and P3s boosted in Obama transportation bill, Colorado dust-up over toll concessions, Progress and questions on autonomous vehicles
May 5, 2014
- Keys to Financing Managed Lane Networks
The greatest challenge in implementing such networks is not political acceptance; far more difficult will be paying for them
May 5, 2014
- Taking Seriously Highway Users’ Concerns Over Tolling
April 2, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #126
Value-Added Tolling: getting to "yes" on Interstate modernization, How to mislead with transit data, New developments in arterial underpasses
March 31, 2014
- Value-Added Tolling
A Better Deal for America's Highway Users
March 27, 2014
- Privatization of Toll Roads, Managed Lanes, Highways, Bridges
Surface Transportation Chapter of Annual Privatization Report 2014
March 19, 2014
- Developments in Transportation Finance and Infrastructure Investment
Transportation Finance Chapter of Annual Privatization Report 2014
March 19, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #125
The make-believe transportation budget proposal, Good news on highways and bridges, More elevated express lanes in Tampa area
March 7, 2014
- Express lanes Benefit All South Florida Drivers
A regional network of express lanes will mean every commuter on an expressway will have the option of faster and more reliable travel when it really counts
February 19, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #124
Per-mile tolling vs. per-gallon fuel taxes, Strategic thinking on managed lanes networks, New Starts transit funding under pressure
February 13, 2014
- Ten Reasons Why Per-Mile Tolling Is a Better Highway User Fee than Fuel Taxes
Mileage-based user fees are a sustainable, fair and efficient alternative to the gas tax
February 13, 2014
- Do We Need a House Public-Private Partnership Panel?
Congress announced the creation of a special panel to advise the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on public-private partnerships
February 6, 2014
- Surface Transportation News #123
US congestion less than in Europe. Managed lane networks taking shape. Competing bills on infrastructure financd.
January 9, 2014
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #122
US congestion less than in Europe and Australia, Managed lane networks taking shape, Competing bills on infrastructure finance
December 11, 2013
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #121
Tolls are not taxes, says Virginia Supreme Court, Debut of new version of Commuting in America, Searching for a national freight policy
November 21, 2013
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #120
Priced managed lanes are proliferating, Making sense out of autonomous vehicle claims, Should fuel taxes be replaced by sales taxes
October 14, 2013
- Tolling California’s Interstates
User fees can fund the improvements and rehabilitation needed on the state's highways
October 8, 2013
- Interstate 2.0: A New Era for U.S. Toll Concessions
Congress should allow states to reconstruct interstates using toll finance
October 8, 2013
- Union Negotiations in West Coast Ports Threaten the National Economy (7/25)
- Streetcars are the Wrong Way to go on Columbia Pike (7/24)
- Poll Shows Voters Support State-based Sage Grouse Conservation (7/24)
- Lucy Burns Institute Launches Policypedia (7/22)
- How to Structure a Good Defined Contribution Plan (7/22)
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