Robert Poole is director of transportation policy and Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow at Reason Foundation.
Poole, an MIT-trained engineer, advised the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations on infrastructure issues.
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.
Tolling value proposition for trucking and state departments of transportation
The question addressed in this paper is whether toll-financed interstate highway modernization could overcome the long-standing objections of the trucking industry, as well as concerns of state DOTs about the coming decline in fuel tax revenues.
Replacing Michigan’s gas tax with mileage-based user fees
A transition from per-gallon fuel taxes to a mileage-based user fee system should be considered as a strategy to ensure adequate road funding for Michigan’s future.
Fuel tax rebates for newly tolled Interstates: A quantitative assessment
The purpose of this policy study is to assess the feasibility of providing fuel tax rebates for miles driven on reconstructed Interstates financed by toll revenues.
Frequently asked questions about long-term airport leases
Why would taxpayers and passengers support the long-term lease of an airport?
Study: Leasing 31 U.S. airports would generate $131 billion to fund other infrastructure and pay debt
This study estimates the market value of 31 large and medium U.S. airports as $131 billion in total, including Los Angeles International ($17.8 billion), San Francisco International ($11.9 billion), and Dallas/Ft. Worth International ($11.9 billion).
Rethinking Interstate Rest Areas
This policy brief suggests that a 21st-century Interstate system should have state-of-the-art service plazas in addition to new pavement, improved bridges, and redesigned and rebuilt interchanges in many urban areas.
Transportation and COVID-19: A State Guide to Policy and Priorities
What states can do amidst today's uncertainty, with a policy focus on mitigating risks to public-sector transportation operations and infrastructure investments.
Why Governments Should Lease Their Toll Roads
The nine states studied here would have significant net proceeds from leasing their toll road systems via long-term public-private partnerships—even after paying off outstanding tax-exempt toll road bonds.