Why Conservatives (and Everyone) Should Care About Transit

Big thanks this morning to Streetsblog Network member Trains for America, which links to a fascinating essay
from the Witherspoon Institute on why social conservatives should
support public transit and walkable communities. Here’s a taste of the
Witherspoon piece:

3042652252_5174fbe9ed.jpgLooking for real family values? You’ll find them in walkable communities. Photo by renee @ FIMBY via Flickr.

Sadly,
American conservatives have come to be associated with support for
transportation decisions that promote dependence on automobiles, while
American liberals are more likely to be associated with public
transportation, city life, and pro-pedestrian policies. This
association can be traced to the ’70s, when cities became associated
with social dysfunction and suburbs remained bastions of ‘normalcy.’
This dynamic was fueled by headlines mocking ill-conceived transit
projects that conservatives loved to point out as examples of wasteful
government spending. Of course, just because there is a historic
explanation for why Democrats are “pro-transit” and Republicans are
“pro-car” does not mean that these associations make any sense. Support
for government-subsidized highway projects and contempt for efficient
mass transit does not follow from any of the core principles of social
conservatism.

A common misperception is that the current American state of
auto-dependency is a result of the free market doing its work. In fact,
a variety of government interventions ensure that the transportation
“market” is skewed towards car-ownership.

As Trains for America’s Pat Lynch says,
"Sensible transportation policies are good for families and
communities. Who would have thunk it?"

More from the network: The Overhead Wire reports on how states are still lobbying for disproportionate spending on highways, Kaid Benfield on NRDC Switchboard links to the work of UC Berkeley’s Robert Cervero on transit-oriented development; and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reports on the governor of Delaware’s executive order creating a complete streets policy for that state.

  • Hank Essay

    This presumes, of course, that “social conservatives” care about anything more than telling others how to live their lives and standing for anything more than being “against” those things that liberals/progressives are “for.” I have yet to see the evidence that this is true.

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