But they never use that same standard for the roadways. They simply expect subsidy of the automobile industry.
Before the collapse of public transportation systems in the 1950s (when the automobile industry got its biggest subsidy ever - called the Interstate Highway System - and it was MUCH larger than the bailouts), it was efficient and profitable. Many cities had private/public partnerships and both the private industries and municipalities made good money off of it.
I guarantee you that there are at least 40 people in my neighborhood who work in downtown Nashville. What is more cost efficient and energy efficient? All 40 of them driving separately or all 40 of them taking a bus or a train car at the same time?
Further, cities with good public transportation systems have much lower DUI rates than cities without, so it's also a public safety issue.
Further, many studies say good public transportation is better for job accessibility and can help ease unemployment.