Getting Our Transportation Priorities Straight

This morning on the Streetsblog Network, Cap’n Transit
is talking about setting budget priorities in lean times. Maintaining
efficient, low-cost transit, he argues, should take precedence over
keeping bridges toll-free — especially if there’s no political will to
raise taxes:

3065141497_41b28b50fc.jpgIn tough times, transit should come first. (Photo: Kevin H. via Flickr)

If your personal income drops by half, do you just spend half as
much at the supermarket and half as much at fancy restaurants? No,
because feeding yourself is a higher priority than feeling pampered,
and groceries are a more efficient way of feeding yourself. If instead
you cut the grocery budget by a quarter and the restaurant budget by
three-quarters, you can be just as well-nourished.

It’s the same
with transit. Government funding for transit doesn’t just stimulate the
economy by moving people around. It furthers social justice through
access for all. It helps make our world safer, healthier and more
sustainable by getting people out of their cars. These should be the
priorities of government, whether the economy is good or bad, and no
matter how much the government has to spend.

The government should spend more on
transit, but it’s not willing to raise more in taxes. The money should
come from other things, like roads. Spending priorities should reflect
overall priorities, and paying billions for free highways and bridges for cars should be a low priority.

It’s
as simple as that: free bridges for drivers=low priority. Low-cost
transit=high priority. Time to get our priorities in order. 

More from around the network: Bike Omaha posts on the huge economic benefit cycling provides to the state of Wisconsin. WalkBikeJersey on a New Jersey statute that prohibits new highway off-ramps near schools. And BicycleLaw.com on the negligent driver’s stock defense: "I didn’t see him."

  • Investing in transit may very well also stimulate the economy directly rather than by just expediting peoples’ movements about. In analyzing outcomes of the 2009 stimulus package, Smart Growth America found that “In the 10 months since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed, investing in public transportation produced twice as many jobs per dollar as investing in roads.” To wit, a billion dollars dumped into maintaining our highway system, which enshrines the oil-guzzling car as our chief mode of getting around, generated 8,781 job-months. That same billion dollars used to build out mass transit created 16,419 job-months.

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