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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
- Sustainable Funding for Roads: Building the Case for 21st-Century Tolling
A transition from fuel-based highway user taxes to mileage-based highway user fees
November 5, 2012
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #108
Coping with Less, Managed Arterials, Autonomous Vehicles, and More
October 16, 2012
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #107
How NOT to rebuild interstates, self-driving cars, 3 private rail projects
September 19, 2012
- Making the Case for Tolling
How a 'managed arterial' approach could cure Atlanta's congested roads
August 10, 2012
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #106
Expanded TIFIA pros and cons, milking cash-cow toll roads
August 9, 2012
- Congress Kicks the Can Down the Road on Sustainable Highway Funding
The future debate over mileage-based user fees
August 6, 2012
- Ten Myths and Facts on Transportation Public-Private Partnerships
Addressing fears, misperceptions surrounding transportation PPPs in Ohio
Leonard Gilroy and Robert Poole
July 26, 2012
- Surface Transportation Newsletter #105
What reauthorization means for tolling and PPPs; Private high-speed rail investment?
July 18, 2012
- Four Principles for Expanded U.S. Tolling
Why future highways should be paid for by mileage-based user fees and other suggestions for highway funding
July 9, 2012
- Surface Transportation Innovations #104
How to increase transit ridership, Inefficiencies with electric cars, Managed lanes projects break new ground
June 14, 2012
- Adapting the Managed Lanes Idea to Urban Roadways
How managed arterials can help reduce congested metro areas
June 11, 2012
- A Better Way to Limit Congestion on Roads
How applying the Managed Lanes concept to arterials could reduce traffic
Chris Swenson and Robert Poole
May 9, 2012
- The Year 2011 in Toll Roads, HOT Lanes, Infrastructure Finance
Surface Transportation Chapter of Annual Privatization Report 2011
May 1, 2012
- Surface Transportation Innovations #102
Urban highway tunnels, Senate puts tolling and PPPs at risk
April 11, 2012
- Gaining Public Support for Congestion Pricing on Highways
Delivering value and offering multiple options for drivers and truckers
April 9, 2012
- Why the House Should Give States Greater Tolling Flexibility
Tolls and road pricing are needed to rebuild, modernize and expand the Interstate system
April 5, 2012
- Time to Defend Transportation Public-Private Partnerships
Why tolling and public-private partnership provisions are a must for the transportation reauthorization bill
April 2, 2012
- Increasing Mobility in Southeast Florida
A new approach based on road pricing and bus rapid transit
Robert Poole, Thomas A. Rubin and Chris Swenson
March 27, 2012
- Frequently Asked Questions About Increasing Mobility in Southeast Florida
Why managed lanes, managed arterials and bus rapid transit can dramatically help the region
March 27, 2012
- Insights on the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts, Small Starts Program
Why the FTA should reassess its newly proposed rules for approving major capital grants
March 20, 2012
- Fate of Highway Tolling and Pricing Pilot Programs in Reauthorization Proposals
Why the House's and Senate's federal surface transportation reauthorization bills should include tolling provisions
March 2, 2012
- Surface Transportation Innovations #100
Preserving the Highway Trust Fund, Progress on bus rapid transit, MTC's response on benefit-cost analysis
February 9, 2012
- Reconstructing the Interstates
Why the best way forward for Interstate reconstruction is to remove the caps on the existing Interstate tolling program while maintaining restrictions on the uses of toll revenues.
February 7, 2012
- Florida Toll Agencies Should Not Be Consolidated
OOCEA and THEA need to become fully independent, self-supporting local toll authorities, like MDX
Daryl Fleming and Robert Poole
January 30, 2012
- Surface Transportation Innovations #99
Proposed federal toll regulation opposed, failed biofuels policy, CBO report on highway PPPs, decline in vehicle miles traveled
January 13, 2012
- 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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