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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
- 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
- Surface Transportation Innovations #21
Topics include: the need for tolls and public-private partnerships in California; tolling/pricing provisions in the federal transportation bill; building electronic toll collection into vehicles; new data on federal subsidies by transportation mode; and o
February 1, 2005
- The Road Most Traveled
California should let investors roll out toll lanes
January 25, 2005
- More Managed Lanes for San Diego
Seamless network of fast-moving lanes possible
January 25, 2005
- Time for a National Focus on Freeway Congestion
Convert HOV lanes to HOT lanes
January 15, 2005
- Easing California's Transportation Crisis with Tolls and Public-Private Partnerships
Robert Poole and Peter Samuel
January 1, 2005
- Surface Transportation Innovations #20
Topics include: DOT's recent report on public-private partnerships in transportation; getting the Feds out of transportation funding; second thoughts on shadow tolling; fixing California
January 1, 2005
- It's Time for a Goods-Movement Interstate System
Trucking lifeblood needs less congestion
December 15, 2004
- Surface Transportation Innovations #19
Topics include: rethinking federal highway spending; making cost-effective highway improvements; congestion tolls vs. urban growth boundaries; "sustainable mobility," and other topics.
November 1, 2004
- Overcoming the "Tolls Equal Taxes" Problem
Massive highway funding problem can be solved
October 13, 2004
- Surface Transportation Innovations #18
Topics include: Longer Combination Vehicles (LCVs), electronic toll tag technology, adaptive cruise control to help reduce traffic congestion, and other breaking news stories.
August 1, 2004
- Pro-Market Compromise on Highway Reauthorization
Tolling expansion needed
July 13, 2004
- Surface Transportation Innovations #17
Topics include: the reauthorization's tolling provisions, academic support for tolled express lanes, Reason's latest transit study, and other breaking news stories.
July 1, 2004
- How Will 21st Century Roads be Financed?
Battle over toll roads stalls transportation bill
June 27, 2004
- If You Hate Congestion, Then You Gotta Love HOT Lanes
Love affair with carpool lanes is over
June 16, 2004
- Addressing the "Big Dig Syndrome"
Transportation projects have credibility problem
May 14, 2004
- What the Traffic Will Bear
Want the fast lane? Pay for it
May 10, 2004
- Surface Transportation Innovations #16
Topics include: the reauthorization bills, PPPs, managed lanes, and other breaking news stories.
May 1, 2004
- Hybrids in Carpool Lanes: A Nonstarter
Several drawbacks to plan
April 14, 2004
- Surface Transportation Innovations #15
Special Focus on Federal reauthorization bills
April 1, 2004
- California 2014 High Speed Rail Business Plan Is Off Track (3/6)
- The Intentionally Unrealistic FY2015 Budget (3/4)
- Shallal's Top-Down Plan for D.C. Schools Hurts Parent Choice (3/3)
- Richmond CARES? (3/2)
- Government Could Improve the Development of Vehicle to Vehicle Communication by Getting Out of the Way (2/27)
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