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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
- CBO Study Gets It "Almost" Right on Highway Public-Private Partnerships
Best federal study yet on highway PPPs still gets a few things wrong
January 12, 2012
- Benefits of Revenue-Risk Concessions
Getting more value out of highway infrastructure through the revenue-risk concession model
January 3, 2012
- Surface Transportation Innovations #98
When a toll becomes a tax, TIFIA expansion, transportation and GHGs, NTSB report on "curbside" buses, perspectives on "marine highways"
December 15, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #97
Reauthorization and Interstate tolling, BRT without exclusive lanes, Senate's TIFIA proposal, I-85 HOT lanes succeeding
November 28, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #96
Value-added tolling and Interstates, saving the Highway Trust Fund, HOV lane paradox, urban congestion in the US vs. overseas
October 25, 2011
- Funding Transportation and the Future of the Highway Trust Fund
Getting away from the user pays principle could cause new transportation funding problems
October 5, 2011
- Rebuilding and Modernizing Wisconsin Interstates With Toll Financing
Using tolls to ensure the timely reconstruction of the Interstates and Wisconsin's freeway system
October 3, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #95
Interstate tolling debate heats up, large tunnels moving forward, National Infrastructure Bank's last gasp, feasability of I-90 truck tollway
September 26, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations # 94
Truck-only lanes, buses versus Amtrak, creating rail jobs and CAFÉ standards
August 18, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations # 93
Performance-based transportation program, mileage-based user fees for trucks, privatizing Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, leasing toll roads
July 26, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations # 92
New report shows BRT advantages, managed lanes pricing, ports and waterways in reauthorization, "inter-operable" electronic tolling
June 10, 2011
- Upgrading to High-Speed Rail on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor
What it would take to transform the Northeast Corridor via public-private partnerships
Robert Poole and Carlos Bonilla
May 26, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations # 91
Assessing infrastructure bank proposals, more states opting for PPPs, risk transfer and toll concessions, electric car dreams
May 23, 2011
- Advocates Calling for More Transportation Spending Need to See the Big Budget Picture
The national debt and deficits at all levels of government mean the landscape for infrastructure funding has changed significantly
May 4, 2011
- TIFIA Is a Powerful Tool In Financing Large-Scale Infrastructure Projects
Program helps user-funded public-private partnerships get built
April 26, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #90
Interstate tolling, high-speed rail in the Northeast corridor and highway rest areas
April 7, 2011
- Opposing View: Fast Train to Nowhere
Would truly high-speed rail work in the USA?
March 30, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #89
Federalism and reauthorization, transportation and oil dependence, cutting GHGs via smart growth
March 17, 2011
- Interstate 2.0
Why fiscal conservatives should support rebuilding America’s federal highway system
March 7, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations #88
A dissent on the transportation budget proposal, Pew report on GHG reductions, further thoughts on high-speed rail, do more jobs justify infrastructure investment?
February 22, 2011
- Automating HOT Lanes Enforcement
As high-occupancy toll lanes become larger and more complex, effective enforcement becomes even more difficult
February 16, 2011
- The Year 2010 in Toll Roads, HOT Lanes, Infrastructure Finance
Surface Transportation Chapter of Annual Privatization Report 2010
Robert Poole and Leonard Gilroy
February 11, 2011
- Transportation Mega-Projects and Risk
What we can learn from Boston's Big Dig to improve future major infrastructure projects
Robert Poole and Peter Samuel
February 9, 2011
- Surface Transportation Innovations # 87
Elections impact on federal transportation policy, rethinking ports and waterways funding, emission-reducing highways
January 25, 2011
- The Tampa to Orlando High-Speed Rail Project
A Florida taxpayer risk assessment
Wendell Cox and Robert Poole
January 6, 2011
- How to Avoid Closing Washington State Parks (5/17)
- Give Managed Lane Conversions Time (5/16)
- Why is the CDC Being Anti-Science on State Liquor Privatization? (5/14)
- Louisiana Republicans Introduce Bills to Replicate Massachusetts's Pro-Union, Anti-Privatization “Pacheco Law” (5/9)
- 40th Anniversary of the Rockefeller Drug Laws: Time to Re-think Sentencing Policy (5/8)
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