I think I recognize one of the major reasons why UDOT leans so heavily on building roads rather than transit. It has to do with perspective:
Why is it that transit funding is a subsidy but highway funding isn’t? Why do some people complain about seeing empty trains or buses in off-peak hours, but they won’t complain about freeways that are empty or nearly empty during the same hours? Why do some people never consider that, by funding highways much more than transit through the years, we are forcing people, even ones of meager means, to buy expensive cars and to fill them with expensive gasoline? Why do we consider Americans to be car-crazy, when they really have few other options? (Deseret News article – Thumbs Up to Funding Mass Transit 7/1/07)
That really makes you take a second look at all the arguments against transit solutions. I still don’t think that government should subsidize fares for mass transit any more than they should send citizens vouchers for gas. However, it may be that building and maintaining a transit rail line should be of equal importance to building and maintaining a road (which government does all the time). Operating costs for a transit system should be covered by fares, but maintenance should be subsidized similar to maintenance on roads. Perhaps a tax on fares that covers the same percentage of line maintenance as is covered for road maintenance by gas taxes.
To conclude from the same article:
Of course we need to keep subsidizing cars through highway construction. But we need to subsidize transit, as well. If one of government’s legitimate functions is to provide the infrastructure to help commerce thrive, this makes sense. It even makes sense from a conservative point of view.