Monday, December 14, 2009

Mass transit popular despite clueless opposition

While the clueless Post-Star yet again editorializes against mass transit, the Times-Union reports that the northeastern routes on Amtrak had a record-breaking Thanksgiving period.

The Post-Star's hostility to public transportation manages the neat trick of being both small-minded and elitist at the same time.

Gas taxes only cover something like 60 percent of the cost of construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. That means the other 40 percent comes out of the general fund. That means that I, as a non-driver, am subsidizing roads for the cars of the Post-Star's editorial board members. I am subsidizing their choice to rely on a car so they can exercise their "right" to drive two blocks to get a six-pack of beer but they have the audacity to deny me the choice of reliable, relevant public transportation?

Wise public policy is should use public money to subsidize the MOST efficient option. In the Post-Star's bizarroworld, money is hemorrhaged to subsidize the LEAST efficient option. Sadly, this bizarroworld pretty much describes the America of the last 60 years.


semi234 said...

Its clear, concise, & under 300 words.

Send it in!

PlanetAlbany said...

While I don't agree with the Post-Star editorial and support public transportation, I also dispute the implication that you as a nondriver do not benefit from public spending on roads. Since our entire upstate economy, like it or not, is dependent on automobile traffic, you along with most people would be impoverished to the point of starvation without functioning roads.

Brian said...

Buses of the sort I advocate and ride (and mocked by the Post-Star) use the roads. As a bicyclist, I use the roads. As someone who walks in the pedestrian-hostile town of Queensbury, I use the roads. So I think it's more a question of you inferring an attack on roads than me actually implying it.

But while I benefit from and inflict wear and tear on the roads with my 1500-2000 biked miles a year, it's miniscule compared to the much greater mileage and wear and tear inflicted by cars. I don't object to my taxes helping others have reliable transportation. I just expect it to work both ways. Doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

PlanetAlbany said...

But you also contribute to the wear and tear inflicted by automobiles, by, for example, eating food that was trucked into a supermarket. Not that you have any alternative. But then neither does anyone else. (Although come to think of it, Price Chopper gets a lot of its produce from a rail line going in to Rotterdam.)

Brian said...

Yes but the fact remains that I inflict significantly less wear and tear on the roads than those who drive private cars. Still I'm not sure why you're belaboring this point, which has nothing to do with the pros and cons of public transportation.

Glenn said...

Hi, Brian:

First, as an aside, the news item links just under this editorial caught my eye - "Woman Faces Felony DWI Charge", "Salem Man Dies in Truck Crash", and the very matter-of-fact, "Car Crashes, Person Dead." It would be enough to make one suspect the webmaster was engaging in some creative protest against his or her editors if we didn't know how sadly common such stories truly are.

My question - what about those who are physically incapable of driving? This group is led in (continually increasing) numbers by the elderly. I have known plenty of people in rural, and some not so rural, areas of the US that have encountered serious hardship when they could no longer drive. And who has not heard of seniors driving past the age where they should give it up, putting themselves and everyone else at risk. The current hostility toward public transport seems to encourage this. The editors are thinking only of people like themselves.

I have lived the past seven years in Tokyo, which I recently read has the world's lowest car ownership per capita. I don't own a car, and boy do I not miss it one bit. Of course, in Japan the rural areas have much more car ownership but even there bus and train services are extensive and only the remotest areas can't be reached by a combination of these plus perhaps a short taxi ride (still cheaper than owning a car).

One thing I agree with in the editorial is the statement that, "First you have to change the culture." It would seem so, alas.


Brian said...

"One thing I agree with in the editorial is the statement that, "First you have to change the culture." It would seem so, alas."

Perhaps, but that seems to me putting the cart before the horse. In order to change people's behavior, there has to be opportunity. They won't give up their cars to get to work if the other forms of transportation are erratic or, as the Post-Star would have it, non-existent.

That's the bigger problem. The design of the infrastructure in most of our nation removes the choice from individuals who may be so inclined.