Friday, October 22, 2010

A Conservative Case for Public Transit

Grist Magazine has an article about a book called "Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation". In the article, one of the co-authors William Lind is interviewed. I suggest that you read the whole article, but here is a snip.
The fundamental reason conservatives should support public transportation is because traditionally we've been strong on national security. The country's single greatest national security vulnerability is our dependence on imported oil. For at least half of the American population, that dependence is complete; that is to say only half of the population has any public transit available at all. The first conservative virtue, as Russell Kirk argued, is prudence. It strikes us as wildly imprudent to make our mobility hostage to events in unstable parts of the world.

The second [reason] is that there is a myth that has grown out of the libertarian camp -- libertarians and conservatives are often confused, but in fact they're very different -- that somehow public transportation is subsidized and highways are not. Well, that's nonsense. The latest Federal Highway Administration statistics show that user fees, including the gas tax, only cover 58 percent of the direct costs of highways. That's not even looking at the vast indirect costs. And many rail -- not bus, but rail -- public transit systems are able to cover 50 percent and more of their expenses out of the fare box. Of course they're all built with government money, mostly federal, more federal in the highways than transit. Highways get 80 percent federal; normally transit only gets 50 percent. So the picture that many conservatives have that it's a matter of free enterprise versus subsidy couldn't be more wrong.

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