Understanding the Republican Party’s Reluctance to Invest in Transit Infrastructure

» Conservatives in Congress threaten to shut down funding for transit construction projects and investments in intercity rail. One doesn’t have to look far to see why these programs aren’t priorities for them.

Late last week, a group of more than 165 of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, the Republican Study Committee, released a report that detailed an agenda to reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion over ten years. Spurred on by increasing public concern about the mounting national debt, the group argues that the only choice is to make huge, painful cuts in government programs. With the House now in the hands of the Republican Party, these suggestions are likely to be seriously considered.

Transportation policy is prominent on the group’s list, no matter President Obama’s call for investments in the nation’s transportation infrastructure, expected to be put forward in tonight’s state of the union address. Not only would all funding for Amtrak be cut, representing about $1.5 billion a year, but the Obama Administration’s nascent high-speed rail program would be stopped in its tracks. A $150 million commitment to Washington’s Metro system would evaporate. Even more dramatically, the New Starts program, which funds new rail and bus capital projects at a cost of $2 billion a year, would simply disappear. In other words, the Republican group suggests that all national government aid for the construction of new rail or bus lines, intercity and intra-city, be eliminated.

These cuts are extreme, and they’re not likely to make it to the President’s desk, not only because of the Democratic Party’s continued control over the Senate but also because some powerful Republicans in the House remain committed to supporting public transportation and rail programs. But how can we explain the open hostility of so many members of the GOP to any federal spending at all for non-automobile transportation? Why does a transfer of power from the Democratic Party to the Republicans engender such political problems for urban transit?

We can find clues in considering the districts from which members of the House of Representatives of each party are elected.

As shown in the chart above (in Log scale), there was a relatively strong positive correlation between density of congressional districts and the vote share of the Democratic candidate in the 2010 elections. Of densest quartile of districts with a race between a Democrat and a Republican — 105 of them, with a density of 1,935 people per square miles or more — the Democratic candidate won 89. Of the quartile of districts with the lowest densities — 98 people per square mile and below — Democratic candidates only won 23 races. As the chart below demonstrates (in regular scale), this pattern is most obvious in the nation’s big cities, where Democratic Party vote shares are huge when densities are very high.

This pattern is not a coincidence. The Democratic Party holds most of its power in the nation’s cities, whereas the GOP retains greater strength in the exurbs and rural areas. The two parties generally fight it out over the suburbs. In essence, the base of the two parties is becoming increasingly split in spatial terms: The Democrats’ most vocal constituents live in cities, whereas the Republicans’ power brokers would never agree to what some frame as a nightmare of tenements and light rail.

What does this mean? When there is a change in political power in Washington, the differences on transportation policy and other urban issues between the parties reveal themselves as very stark. Republicans in the House of Representatives know that very few of their constituents would benefit directly from increased spending on transit, for instance, so they propose gutting the nation’s commitment to new public transportation lines when they enter office. Starting two years ago, Democrats pushed the opposite agenda, devoting billions to urban-level projects that would have been impossible under the Bush Administration.

Highway funding, on the other hand, has remained relatively stable throughout, and that’s no surprise, either: The middle 50% of congressional districts, representing about half of the American population, features populations that live in neighborhoods of low to moderate densities, fully reliant on cars to get around. It is only in the densest sections of the country that transit (or affordable housing, for instance) is even an issue — which is why it appears to be mostly of concern to the Democratic Party. Republicans in the House for the most part do not have to answer to voters who are interested in improved public transportation.

This situation, of course, should be of significant concern to those who would advocate for better transit. To put matters simply, few House Republicans have any electoral reason to promote such projects, and thus, for the most part they don’t. But that produces a self-reinforcing loop; noting the lack of GOP support for urban needs, city voters push further towards the Democrats. And sensing that the Democratic Party is a collection of urbanites, those from elsewhere push away. It’s hard to know how to reverse this problem.

Many Republicans, of course, represent urban areas at various levels of government. No Democrat, for instance, has won the race for New York’s mayoralty since 1989. And the Senate is a wholly different ballgame, since most states have a variety of habitation types. As Bruce McFarling wrote this week, there are plenty of reasons for Republicans even in places of moderate density to support such investments as intercity rail.

But the peculiar dynamics of U.S. House members’ relatively small constituent groups, in combination with the predilection of state legislatures to produce gerrymandered districts designed specifically to ensure the reelection of incumbents, has resulted in a situation in which there is only one Republican-controlled congressional district with a population density of over 7,000 people per square mile. And that’s in Staten Island, hardly a bastion of urbanism. With such little representation for urban issues in today’s House leadership, real advances on transport issues seem likely to have to wait.

237 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • oinonio

    It seems GOP is on the wrong side of history, as our cities become denser the call for transit will only grow louder. It is a shame, though, that we cannot build out in preparation.

    • If the Repubs want to play hardball with with Rapid Transit and HSR cuts, the Demos will play the same game cutting all rural roadworks, since they control the Senate and Presidency. Boehner and Reid know this is recipe for disaster by both parties.

      Fortunately, President Obama has the bully pulpit and final say. A deal will be cut to give something to urbanites, suburbanites and ruralists.

    • Gordy

      Our cities are not getting denser. Between 1950 and 2000, the average density of America’s central cities declined from 7,500 to 2,700 people per square mile. And the average density of metropolitan areas fell from about 400 to 320 people per square mile. In the past couple of decades, a few cities have become slightly denser because of high rates of immigration. This has also helped sustain transit ridership numbers. But immigration rates have already fallen and are likely to fall further.

      • Drewski

        Gordy, you rely on “city” as defined by a political boundary. What’s the population density of Detroit versus Royal Oak, or Dearborn? Cleveland proper is less dense than at least one suburb (Lakewood) and very possibly another (Cleveland Heights). Midwestern cities have imploded not least because of ossified boundaries (inability to annex), combined with build-out of both cities and counties. Build-out doesn’t necessarily reflect current density (as when you have large empty zones), and lower overall density can be a false result from military sites, or brownfield industrial land, or greenfield commercial property, or parkland, or large transportation uses like railyards and airports.

        Look at the city of Los Angeles. If you exclude railyards, parks, retention basins, the Harbor, the airports, and various tracts of unpopulated but occupied land (anything from warehouses to Warner Center to oilfields), then LA’s real overall population density is easily approaching 10,000/sq mi. For that matter, if you look at Cleveland and exclude the airports, the brownfields in deep legal limbo, and the industrial land in the Cuyahoga Valley, you cut at least seven square miles out of the city, which again yields a higher functional density–and this even in light of Cleveland’s designation (by the Census Bureau) as “fastest shrinking city not struck by a natural disaster.”

        You left out at least one exception that might support your premise. New York City has never recorded a population as high as its current one. The last time Manhattan was as populated as it is now was around the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. It’s not just Manhattan; Brooklyn is also at an all-time high. As far as I know, the Census says the same of San Francisco. NYC and SF are more populous than ever before, and it has a lot to do with being so valuable that very few pieces of land are worth wasting on parking lots, strip malls and tract houses.

        Finally, your assessment of metro area density is misleading. Look at Nashville. Officially speaking, the Nashville metro area is already 13 counties, with a population density (per Wikipedia) of 226/ sq mi. Strangely, there’s not much mention of a Nashville-Clarksville CMSA, despite Clarksville’s proximity (and its location at the southern end of Ft Campbell). Nashville is a very sprawling city and urban region–and it’s also gotten denser. When you add more and more peripheral counties to the MSA, of course it brings down the density. Nashville proper is larger and denser than ever, as is its hinterland, although the density isn’t currently focused directly on the city’s epicenter. The sprawl in Nashville only reinforces the need for regional public transit, just as it does in every other part of the US. What you identify as a decline is more of a distortion. It used to be that a farmer within a 50-mile radius of Cleveland had access to the city (via interurbans) which would be the envy of many suburban areas. That model prospered until highway subsidies and the Depression killed the *private-sector* interurbans. Many people across the US would prefer the old Great Lakes interurban model to having to drive everywhere, even when traffic volume and density both justify other solutions.

        • Gordy

          Gordy, you rely on “city” as defined by a political boundary.

          Well, that is how cities are defined. How do you propose to define cities, if not by a political boundary? I don’t understand your point about suburbs. Suburbs are much lower density than central cities. Hundreds of people per square mile rather than thousands. The suburbs are far less conducive to transit than the central cities, which have themselves become far less conducive to transit because of their dramatic reduction in density over the past 50 years or so.

          Look at the city of Los Angeles. If you exclude railyards, parks, retention basins, the Harbor, the airports, and various tracts of unpopulated but occupied land (anything from warehouses to Warner Center to oilfields), then LA’s real overall population density is easily approaching 10,000/sq mi.

          What is the justification for excluding those things? They are real features occupying real land. Their presence increases the distances between other features and makes it harder to serve LA effectively with transit.

          You left out at least one exception that might support your premise. New York City has never recorded a population as high as its current one. The last time Manhattan was as populated as it is now was around the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. It’s not just Manhattan; Brooklyn is also at an all-time high.

          The total population of NYC is at an all-time high, but it is much less concentrated than it was in the past. It used to be overwhelmingly concentrated in Manhattan. Manhattan is the densest county in the nation today, but it was even denser in the early 20th century. In 1920, Manhattan had a million more people than it has today.

          • Just because a few people on a swath of land decide to draw up a charter and incorporate doesn’t mean that they deserve the title of “city”. Many states call them cities, but I figure that’s just because folks who were living “towns” and “villages” got an inferiority complex at some point and decided to change the legal definitions. “Incorporated place” or “municipality” would be more accurate.

            The English tradition of settlement → hamlet → village → town → city no longer exists in our culture. They represented what humans used to do naturally, but modern zoning and tract development has wiped them away. A standard exurb bears no relation to any of those historical terms.

            Similarly, many municipalities have borders drawn well outside of their developed areas, which completely barfs up all calculations related to density. The Census happily tacks on a new county to major metropolitan areas every decade or so, producing a similar effect.

            There are good reasons to exclude some undeveloped areas. The Census seems to exclude bodies of water from their density calculations, so why don’t they exclude freeways and rail lines? Both of them limit bicycle and pedestrian movements in similar ways.

            • Gordy

              Just because a few people on a swath of land decide to draw up a charter and incorporate doesn’t mean that they deserve the title of “city”.

              I’m not talking about cities as defined by “a few people on a swath of land.” The cities in question are defined as such by the United States Census Bureau. That’s where the data on city densities comes from.

              The Census seems to exclude bodies of water from their density calculations, so why don’t they exclude freeways and rail lines? Both of them limit bicycle and pedestrian movements in similar ways.

              Huh? Why should freeways and rail lines be excluded from density calculations on the grounds that they limit bicycle and pedestrian movements in similar ways (or any other grounds)? Lots of things limit bicycle and pedestrian movements.

              • Adirondacker12800

                The Census doesn’t decide where the boundaries of a city are.

              • Gordy

                I didn’t say it did.

              • The relevant density for walkability is the neighborhood ~ the average density across a city can be identical while the effective density from the perspective of a pedestrian or cyclist is dramatically different.

                Which is why legal mandates that as a side effect of their terms forbid clustered density are part of what specifies the impact of any given average area-wide density.

          • Bob

            “Well, that is how cities are defined.”

            umm, not exactly. There are a panoply of definitions of city. They include urbanized area, metropolitan area and political boundary. Political boundaries are most problematic since each state has its own regulations on incorporation and annexation.

            • Gordy

              I wasn’t referring to urbanized areas or metropolitan areas. That’s why I explicitly distinguished between the changes in central city densities and the changes in metropolitan area densities. Although, as I said, both have declined.

          • Drewski

            You’re wrong. Wrong on every count.

            Municipal boundaries are inaccurate measures of the area functioning as one city. Brussels wraps around Ixelles and Schaerbeek; as it happens, Belgium regards Brussels and the cities around it as a distinct unit in the Belgian federal state. Similarly, each of New York’s boroughs is technically a separate legal entity, since each is a county; New York is the only city in the US to encompass more than one county in entirety. Do you measure the density of the Bronx as it compared to sixty years ago? Or do you measure the overall functioning of the Bronx? Yes, point-specific densities have dropped. It’s been a function of increasing wealth. To hear your argument, the Bronx is empty. Its block-by-block density is less a measure of its functionality than an indicator of crowding. As Jane Jacobs pointed out, the difference between density and crowding is that a house on a one-acre lot is more overcrowded than a 6-story tenement, if the house has more people per room and/or less net square footage per person. Buildings in the Bronx are better maintained than they were 30, 40 or 50 years ago, because–even at their current density–the owners make money by more attention to maintenance.

            Why should large areas be excluded from consideration? Because it’s routine for those areas to not receive standard city services. Security staff may patrol the perimeters of an airport, but it’s hardly the same as beat cops on patrol. It’s not the same at all, and in fact that’s exactly how and why Detroit can propose to cut services to abandoned parts of the city. Here in Cleveland, I can think of many areas (go to Google Earth and look at Susperior Avenue in the East Sixties) where there are one or two occupied lots on a block with over 100 lots. That depopulation drains city resources. Why maintain street lighting, or police patrols, or snow clearance, or fire protection, on streets with nothing but vacant lots? You don’t even bother to examine this issue, because you’re so set on proving a fallacious point. When a city surrounds a national wildlife area, as Jamaica Bay is surrounded by Queens, you find very little need for standard city services. That is reason enough for me to make my argument.

            Gordy, you don’t want to admit the obvious truth. In order for 50-odd US urban regions to have populations over 1 million, the population had to increase to that point in those areas. It doesn’t matter if it’s as concentrated as it was in the Hell’s Kitchen of 1910; it matters that the increase in population has come with an increase in density, since all those suburban tract houses replaced farms, forests, pastures, swamps and desert. There was NOTHING there before. You refuse to concede this phenomenally obvious and unavoidable point.

            Across the West, there are plenty of suburban areas where the lots are no bigger than the 40 x 120 often seen here in Cleveland, in the suburbs which followed the interurban lines. These houses in suburban Salt Lake, Phoenix, San Diego and Oakland offer less private open space than did houses built 70 years ago. Show the vast majority of Americans a like-for-like comparison, and they can confirm that these new houses often feel more crowded than old houses did. There might be 3.5 people per house, instead of 5 or 6 you would’ve seen around WW2, but they all consume far more than their grandparents did. The combination of increased wealth and increased consumption can and does function to compensate for the loss of raw numbers.

            Then there’s the notion that sprawl is the inevitable choice. Sprawl is the choice when there’s no other choice allowed. In New York, Robert Moses saw to it that every borough would be butchered–with public money, thanks–to accommodate a massive freeway network. That network was designed to bleed people from the city, at the city’s direct cost. You mention nothing of farmers on prime land, in places like New Jersey and Long Island, who were forced out of farming because they couldn’t compete with Levittowns. You say nothing about the fact that Los Angeles’ freeway network was originally planned as parkways, and that the city assumed that the interurban network would continue to carry a significant amount of traffic. You ignore the market costs of unchecked development; for example, you have nothing to say about the cost inflicted on the Federal taxpayer for supplying subsidized water to the Western states; if I live in Delaware County, PA, where water rates are high because you can’t pump enough and you have to take care of your watershed to maintain water quality, why should I be compelled to pay for somebody in Phoenix to pay half as much to fill a swimming pool?

            Gordy, in your world, sprawl is an inevitablity which never shakes hands with Adam Smith. There’s no explanation for how sprawl becomes likely (zoning laws and planning policies). There’s no consideration for the consequences of your fantasy world, such as who pays for new roads and water lines when every new house built is an existing house being abandoned (Cleveland, Detroit). There’s no evaluation of how your model leads to greater public costs, because you can’t stop worshipping all your shiny consumer trinkets. You’re mesmerized by your fantasy, and your fantasy is a lie. It’s choking this country to death.

            • Gordy

              I have no idea what point you think you’re making about density. Your comment is full of bizarre digressions and nonsequiturs. Here are the relevant facts: Over the past 50 years, the density of America’s central cities has declined enormously. The density of metropolitan areas has also declined. Yes, when a previously undeveloped and unoccupied area of land is urbanized and becomes a new suburb or exurb, its density obviously increases, but the density of virtually all new urbanized land is far too low for mass transit to be a viable alternative to cars. That’s why new suburbs and exurbs are such an object of hatred among those who seek a return to dense development and mass transit.

              Similarly baffling is your claim that unpopulated areas of land within cities or metropolitan areas should not be counted in density calculations on the grounds that they don’t “receive standard city services.” So what if they don’t receive services? The point is that they consume land and therefore cause travel distances to be greater than they would otherwise be.

              Sprawl was not imposed on the people by unaccountable government overlords. It arose over decades through the political and consumer choices of millions of individuals, all over the country. If people wanted to return to the dense, transit-oriented urban forms of the past their behavior as voters and consumers would reflect that preference. Americans don’t vote for much transit because they don’t want much transit. Americans don’t use transit much because they greatly prefer to get around by car. You need to learn to accept the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans simply do not want to live the way you want them to live. If you can’t learn to accept that you’re going to be permanently frustrated.

              • Brett

                “Sprawl was not imposed on the people by unaccountable government overlords. It arose over decades through the political and consumer choices of millions of individuals, all over the country.”

                This would not have happened if the Feds didn’t get in the business of building free, high-capacity, limited access roadways across the country, including through the middle of cities. Nor would it have happened if the real cost of fuel were passed along to consumers. Automobiles have enabled sprawl and the true societal cost of sprawl to this country has not yet been realized.

                Cities are beginning to grow again after many years of near-stagnation or decline. I love it!

              • Peter

                Gordy, you have remained steadfast in arguing that City populations are shrinking, not increasing, and you have defended that position clearly. So what is your overarching point vis-a-vis the original article – that we do not need transit or other urban programs? That we are reverting to a rural/agrarian society? Just trying to understand the thrust of your objection to the original premise.

  • BLambert

    Good data visualization; I wonder how closely that a chart that adjusts for the average age of residents would hew to this one.

  • laldm

    The problem with this is that Republicans are dooming their constituents for the future. As gas prices rise – due to the urbanization of China and India, peak oil, and the presumed eventual institution of a gas tax, it’s not logical to think that many places can remain completely dependent on cars, especially the desperately poor rural areas that many Republicans represent, areas that are already struggling with the price of gas. So, Republicans, if they were forward-looking, are exactly the ones that should be looking for transit investments, because their constituents will be the completely marooned ones once this happens. On the other hand, most dense democratic districts have some type of transit system to build upon and improve when it becomes a priority to, so people there won’t be marooned, life will just be a little less convenient until money can be found to improve the situation.

    • Tommy Samson

      They likely don’t care that they’re not thinking about their constituents’ future–they’re only thinking ahead as far as the next election cycle. Anyway, to most of them, peak oil is just a “liberal, ivory-tower” academic myth. I know plenty of these people (who claim rising gas prices are due to environmental do-gooders not allowing more deep-sea drilling and believe in the nutty, discredited theory of abiotic oil). They get their talking points from CATO, The Heritage Foundation, Reason, etc. and basically parrot Joel Kotkin and Randall O’Toole, and occasionally wax philosophic about how autos and suburbia both exemplify American freedom and are the most economical living and transportation system.

      We should be investing in non-auto transit now–HSR, metros, light rail, BRT, streetcars, etc.–to able to weather the coming oil price shocks. Instead, we have a major political party dedicated to maintaining the status quo of low-density, greenfield development and complete reliance on the auto/highway paradigm. I’m not sure what it would take to change this situation.

      • Andrew

        The Democrats aren’t too much better either, mainly how many of their leaders (including the president) want to prop up our failed financial institutions and continue these endless wars. Yes, I’m glad that Obama was actually thinking about supporting HSR, but even the Democrats’ plans lack true vision.
        Regarding Peak Oil… I wonder how this will affect the Republican Party as their voting base has either move to the cities, become self-sufficient yet isolated in the country, or face starvation. Fuel will be unavailable to people in the country/suburbs, and people will most likely not be able to drive their cars in the city. This means that city folks would have to rely on public transit, while people out in the boonies won’t be able to affect the voting cycle. Oh, and yes, I do assume there will be voting, mainly to make the public think there’s still some normality left.
        http://www.theoilage.com/usa-overview-of-the-future-t181.html is the thread where I’m basing my scenario off of.

      • Ocean Railroader

        CATO and O Toole get a large amount of their funds that keep their joint open from some of the major oil company lobbists who in turn fear the eletric Cars and public transit.

        • Jesse

          Stupid and baseless.

          It must hurt to know that your way just doesn’t make economic sense no matter how many dozens of riders a year you get on your monorail.

          • Jake

            The trolls are out in force this week! :)

          • Bob

            I think you may be misinformed about the libertarian inc. funding structure:

            http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Reason_Foundation

            Most of their primary funding sources are from thinly veiled oil money.

          • JP

            Actually, roads themselves do not make economic sense either – no matter how many cars are traveling on them. It’s the access, by individual vehicles, to previously inaccessible land that makes it so attractive.

            Properly designed rail, with stations focused as new investment, follow the same structure. The methodology of travel changes also – instead of driving individually, you can walk or bike locally, then travel longer distances collectively, giving you even more options than traveling via car. Capturing this movable public is an untapped resource that easily outpaces suburban drive-thru capture. It would do far more to increase land value than building roads will do. Of course, this all means you need think outside of the box in terms of affecting change, but what good would that do when its just as easy to spew the same dismissive arguments?

  • It will be interesting to see how the roadways do if these kinds of cuts are implemented. Will funding to states for road projects also dry up? If not, there’s a good argument for states to shift local money – money that would normally be eaten up by roads – into transit to make up for the federal lack, while replacing that money with the federal roadway funding. At any rate, it’s a good time for an honest conversation at the state & local levels about the citizens’ priorities and the true costs of roads, parking, and transit.

  • Not only is the GOP abandoning cities, but rural areas as well. Eliminating both Amtrak and the Essential Air Service would leave a huge swath of rural America without anything but cars. For the GOP, the suburbs are king.

    • Andrew

      And even the suburbs will lose out as we face the world of Post-Peak Oil.

    • Drewski

      You just picked up a good corner of the crazy magic carpet. Cleveland isn’t a rural area–yet (give us another 15 years)–but city people still have to respect the rural need for mobility. Trains could do FAR more to connect small cities directly to larger urban areas; trains can also provide access which almost no air subsidy can, since a train can easily stop at multiple locations without gross erosion of overall travel time.

      I’ve been doodling on a map and imagining the impact of a railroad with 100 mph capacity, running north from Santa Rosa CA up to Eureka and Arcata. Right now, they have a couple flights per day. If you had tilting trains running from Eureka/Arcata down to Marin, and then maybe to San Francisco via Oakland, the overall travel time is comparable to a flight into SFO, yet you hit regional centers like Ukiah and Santa Rosa on the way. Maybe you’re in Eureka and you need to get down to Ukiah, or Petaluma, not all the way to SFO; the subsidized flight does no more good on that count than driving does, yet the ability to connect is also the ability to transact. Trains connect places and people, and that’s where trains can do as much for a big city as they can do for a market town surrounded by farms. City people can understand that, since it benefits them/us too.

  • FG

    Fascinating graphs – it looks like most people and votes are in center, generally speaking (am I reading that right?).

    • Well, its equally true that half the districts are above and below 316 persons per square mile, and that half of the districts are between 100 per square mile and roughly 2,000 per square mile …

      … but given the power of the House Majority, the center of power in the House swings from near the center of the bottom half to near the center of the top half and back again with swings in Republican and Democratic majorities. And since the long-serving members often come from the first and fourth quartiles, its very much like the average population density swings from 100 per square mile to 2,000 per square mile and back again.

  • dw

    It’s not just transit programs. The fact is that we’ve been living beyond our means. Something has to be cut to avoid bankruptcy. When cities like Detroit propose cutting essential services to 20% of the city, and whole states like Illinois are on the verge of financial default, what makes it OK to keep spending? I am very pro transit but I’m also a realist. Transit in the United States needs to stand on it’s own two feet. Public transit in Singapore makes a profit, or so I’m told, so why can’t we? I think it’s because of a destructive entitlement mentality, especially and often when it comes to transit. Why not try running a transit system like a business? If we did, there would be revenue, not cuts.

    • Jake

      We’ve tried “running America like a business” for 30 years, and the results have been awful. Public utilities aren’t supposed to make a profit.

      Why not privatize roads and the interstate highways and run those like a business? No one ever proposes that.

      The United States is in hock right now for two main reasons: 1). An unbelievably high defense budget. 2). A low rate of taxation on the highest 5% of earners, who control 65% of the wealth. Increase tax levels to those of Republican Eisenhower in the 1950′s, reign in pointless, wasteful military spending (mostly absorbed by contractors) and we’d be on sure footing again.

      • Ocean Railroader

        I remeber hearing hat these two wars in Oil land and the rock pit are going to coast us over 200 billion dollars this year or the first six mouths now that is something we could sure cut now. That would equal like 200 Amtraks and stuff.

        Vriginia is working out three mega highway projects that are eatch going to cost 2 billion dollars eatch. Project one is the Norfolk Mid town tunnel and that will coast two billion dollars and our state is going to have a two to five dollar toll for that beast. The next one is the two billion dollar hotlanes project which widens the Washingtion beltway to 12 lanes from 8 and it is going to coast three billion dollars it will have a five to $20 dollar toll on it. The last one is the two billion dollar US Route 460 widening project which will build a new expressway from Petersburg to Norfolk and will coast three billion dollars to build it will have a $15 dollar toll on it.

    • dw,
      Jake makes strong points about cutting defense. Though its important to maintain military weapon superiority, we can no longer be the world’s cop, nor can we afford to build obsolete/ineffective weaponry and programs. Secretary Gates spells this out in his Defense Cuts report, see http://thewillandthewallet.org/2011/01/07/highlights-of-secretary-gates-proposed-pentagon-spending-cuts-and-reallocations/. Following Gates recommendations, getting out of Iraq in August 2011 will save us at least $125 billion/year. Toss in the elimination of the 2nd mortgage deduction, oil company tax breaks and rich man tax loopholes will likely next another $25-35 billion/year (my est.), for 150-160 billion total. In 2012, cutting expenditures in Afghanistan will bump that up to at least $200 billion/year in deficit reduction.

      I don’t see tax on the wealthiest returning to Eisenhower or Reagan tax levels. Thats asking for too big a fight with Repubs. Fighting for Clinton tax levels after the November 2012 elections seems doable.

      So what to do about Transportation funding? Currently, Highways get $42B/year, Aviation gets $16B/year, Transit gets $10B/year and Intercity Rail is slated to get $2B/year. That $12B/year for Transit and Intercity Rail is critical to Top 40 Metro Areas who pay the majority of taxes. Based on the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) applications submitted by states, (http://www.dot.gov/recovery/docs/hsiprapplist.pdf), funding should be increased to at least $4B/year — a number previously agreed to Congress. Many of those Blue and Red states submitted HSIPR applications did so to reduce Highway expansion, road congestion and in some cases, to reduce foreign oil consumption. So asking Demos and some big city Repubs to cut Transit and HSIPR funding is a non-starter. (IMO, HSIPR funding should be at least $6B/year for 2011 and scale up to $10B/year by 2015 as more Defense cuts chime in and gas prices rise).

      The kicker is, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, Highway funding shouldn’t go down. Instead, it should be maintenance-focused rather than expansion-focused because we need our highways, bridges and tunnels in a state of good repair to support the transition to Hybrids and Electric Cars, while supporting our Freight Trucking industry. Given Highway funding is the largest stick in Transportation, it should focus point to negotiate Transportation funding.

      The Demos can say, you want to keep $42B Highway funding, then we need $10B for Transit and $4B HSPIR funding. If any cuts are needed from Transportation budget, the USDOT will cut projects serving the fewest people and businesses – RURAL Highways and Airports AND we will cut less from tax donor states.

      Watch how quickly centrist Repubs from Red rural states yield on Transit and HSIPR cuts. They can even use the same angle Obama did … claim the Demos held them hostage, so we had to pass this Transportation Bill containing elements we did not agree to, but saving the Highway and Aviation elements we support.

      My hope is that President Obama and Senator Reid lead the Demos play it that way. Not to be vindictive against people who vote Republican, but to protect all Americans from the oil lobby-suppported Right-wing Tea Party who don’t know how to govern with effective compromise. In this case, effective compromise will keep our country’s transportation infrastructure from falling further behind global competitors and prevent imported oil from surpassing 90% of all oil we consume.

      • Nathanael

        “I don’t see tax on the wealthiest returning to Eisenhower or Reagan tax levels. Thats asking for too big a fight with Repubs.”

        Piece of political advice: *call it* Eisenhower and Reagan tax levels. Make the damn Republicans run *against* Eisenhower and Reagan if they want to back tax cuts for the rich.

        Sure, settle for Clinton tax levels if that’s what it takes to get the Republicans to cry uncle.

    • How can we be living beyond our means when so much of our means, both labor and equipment, lies idle? We are living over $500b within our means as a country. During the depth of the recession, we were living $1,000b under our means.

  • Daniel

    Great charts and analysis. This is a difficult question you raise.

    Dw, try telling Coca-Cola to stand on their own two feet, while heaping buckets of money on Pepsi for decades. Won’t work. You’re right on that we’ve been living beyond our means, which is exactly why we should be transitioning toward more energy-efficient and less costly transportation infrastructure and land use patterns. I estimate that I save my family around 5K per year by biking to work, but sadly many Americans do not currently have this option if things get tight for them.

  • Ultimately, a structural answer is moving away from single-member districts to elect legislatures. Even three-member districts would allow bipartisan representation for almost every part of the nation. It would be healthy for both caucuses to elect urban Republicans and rural red-state Democrats so that each governing majority would represent the entire nation, and not just half of it.

  • archie

    Dw, it’s difficult to run transit like a self sustaining business in this country mainly because it’s forced to compete with car travel, a mode which is heavily (and I’ll add unfairly) subsidized on many levels. I bet you’d see more transit systems flourish if they were provided a more level playing field.

    • Chris

      There’s some truth to this, but it’s more accurate for intercity transit than mass transit in densely built areas. For the MTA, and other subway and bus systems, the fares are primarily constrained by the desire not to price out the less well off. Not constrained by competition from subsidized automobiles.

      Unfortunately, this fact (that mass transit funding acts as an in-kind welfare system) tends to reduce its popularity among middle-class and upper-class Americans.

      • Nathanael

        The expressway subsidies in California and even North Carolina remain at astounding levels. Even New Jersey’s are pretty damn huge, and it has toll roads. The places where the fares are *not* constrained by competition from subsidized automobiles are only for the densest of the expressway-free downtowns, like Manhattan.

        • Chris

          My point is that these subsidies have nothing to do with the reason transit is not run like a self-sustaining business would be. The best evidence is the example of Manhattan/NYC transit, where there’s little competition from subsidized automobiles. Despite this, the MTA makes little effort to set fares that maximize its profitability. MTA leadership instead speaks on the need not to harm the least affluent with fare hikes. Why would a business care about this? That’s a political, not a profit motive.

          There are two views of how public transit should work: (1) the government should organize it because its a natural monopoly and interacts with many land use issues, but otherwise it should be run in a businesslike and professional fashion, always profitable, with completeness of service and maximizing access not significant goals, and (2) part of the purpose of public transit is to provide transportation for the less well-off and unprofitable services should be provided, if needed, so that people in poor neighborhoods can get around.

          The people who manage America’s mass transit usually come from camp #2. That’s why they don’t run it as a business – they see the need for subsidy as natural, even if the playing field were completely level, because they believe public transit ought to be loss-making as part of its service mission.

          • Adirondacker12800

            There’s a third reason to support mass transit. Approximately half the population can’t drive, for whatever reason.

            • Nathanael

              You have specified what constrains the farebox rates in Manhattan.

              Arguably the correct *market-based* solution for this is to raise the general wage level, by reducing unemployment to the point where firms are competing to raise wages to unskilled workers — and to increase disability benefits for those unable to work — so that everyone can afford to buy the market-rate tickets. Mind you, anyone who benefits from transit and doesn’t ride it should also pay a tax (externalities must be internalized!).

              This, however, while a solid, market-based solution which Adam Smith would respect, has proven practically impossible to implement in the US thanks to the business lobby. Adam Smith warned about them too, about the tendency of businessmen to try to get an advantage (by monopoly, cartel, politics, or other means) so that they can stop operating in the free market.

      • Chris wrote,
        “Unfortunately, this fact (that mass transit funding acts as an in-kind welfare system) tends to reduce its popularity among middle-class and upper-class Americans.”

        A few years back I thought the same as you. Then I got current with the facts about subsidies to roads and airports (monies taken from the General Fund). Suddenly, I realized all transportation infrastructure requires “smart” subsidy.

        Equally important, I made it a point to experience the Rapid Transit systems of NYC, Boston, DC, Philly, Chicago, SF Bay Area and Los Angeles myself. During commute hours and special events, all of them teem with middle-class commuters. The majority of voters in those metro areas (not just cities) want their systems expanded for more alternatives to driving.

        These same type of tax-paying citizens voted for multi-billion dollar local tax measures to expand Rapid Transit in LA, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Sacramento, Norfolk, Miami and more, see http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/under-construction/

        Who do you trust more?

        Oil-supported hacks like Cato, Heritage and Reason, who plant stories in the mass media, and rightwing radio attack dogs who make millions by railing against any form of publicly operated transportation. Of course the attack dogs prey on the ill-informed by overlooking the large subsidies paid by taxpayers who do not drive or fly.

        OR

        Do you trust the millions of everyday citizens who ride these systems and increasing their patronage?

    • Gordy

      it’s forced to compete with car travel, a mode which is heavily (and I’ll add unfairly) subsidized on many levels. I bet you’d see more transit systems flourish if they were provided a more level playing field.

      It certainly isn’t level. It’s tilted massively in favor of transit:

      Road subsidies: ~1 cent per passenger-mile.
      Transit subsidies: ~70 cents per passenger-mile.

      • Adirondacker12800

        …nah I’ve decided to not feed Mixner….

      • baycityroller1

        That is a flat-out lie, Gordy. Federal, state and local spending on roads is ten times larger what is spent on mass transit. Just look at all the damned highways, freeways, roads, even parking lots, that are out there. Los Angeles, alone, is 2/3 such infrastructure. And that’s not counting the expense of trillion dollar a year oil wars, environmental cleanup and extending street lighting, sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sewers, fire hydrants, landscaping, sprinklers, police and fire departments into the low density, car-dependent suburbs.

        How you can even possibly reverse the data is beyond me. You obviously have something to gain, not to mention an axe to grind.

        • Gordy

          That is a flat-out lie, Gordy. Federal, state and local spending on roads is ten times larger what is spent on mass transit.

          “Spending” is not the same thing as “subsidies.” Subsidies to mass transit are vastly greater than subsidies to automobiles, both in cents per passenger-mile and as a share of the costs users currently pay. We’ve been over this again and again.

          • alexD

            We’ve been over this again and again, and you’ve been proven wrong again and again.

            • Gordy

              That’s right, Alex. The numbers in the National Transit Database are a lie. Sure.

              • Nathanael

                The numbers do not say what you claim they say. You are lying.

              • Gordy

                The numbers do not say what you claim they say. You are lying.

                No, YOU are lying.

                Here’s the National Transit Profile for 2008. Take the total spending, substract the revenues from fares, and divide the result by the number of passenger-miles. What result do you get, Nathanael? Do you need me to walk you through it?

              • Nathanael

                They say nothing backed by data about the subsidization of private automobile travel at all! You claimed that they did. As such, the numbers do not say what you claim they say.

                Why do you keep lying? Oh, right, you’re a troll.

              • Gordy

                They say nothing backed by data about the subsidization of private automobile travel at all! You claimed that they did.

                No I didn’t. The NTD profile shows that in 2008 transit was subsidized 76 cents per passenger-mile. I’ve posted studies of automobile subsidies before, as you are well aware. Those subsidies are at most a few cents per passenger-mile. If you seriously think you can refute the studies, go ahead.

                Why do you keep lying? Oh, right, you’re a troll.

                Do I need to email Yonah about your continuing personal attacks?

              • Alright, folks. Neither of you is being particularly reasonable to one another. Let’s try to be respectful. One way to do that might be to comment on the actual subject of the article.

              • Nathanael

                Your “studies” of automobile subsidies were debunked, as you well know, Gordy/Mixner.

                One way to be respectful, Yonah, is to ban trolls.

          • Mike K

            Spending is not the same as subsidies? OK, maybe not by definition, but consider this: where does the money spent on roads and the subsidy to mass transit come from?

            You could expand that argument to airports as well. Have you ever met an airline that paid the majority of the cost for an expanded terminal? Didn’t think so.

        • But Gordon will pretend that gas taxes collected on non-FHA subsidized roads that are spent on FHA subsidized roads are not cross subsidies. He will pretend that when a state exempt gasoline from sales tax, the state tax is a pure user fee, and not a partial redirection of funds from the general fund to dedicated roadworks ~ imagine if all sales taxes collected in a mall were treated as a “user fee” to improve public services (including transit) feeding directly into the mall? He will pretend that the mandate to provide parking is not a hidden subsidy, and the public spending to cope with the impact of reliance on automobile, such as the heavy drain on policing resources, is not a subsidy.

          If you exclude enough subsidies and ignore the different value of a mile of transport in downtown Manhattan and on Walton’s Mountain ~ and, of course, ignore economies of scale ~ its straightforward to pretend that the subsidy per passenger mile of driving is really not very much.

          • Gordy

            But Gordon will pretend that gas taxes collected on non-FHA subsidized roads that are spent on FHA subsidized roads are not cross subsidies.

            I’m not “pretending” anything. As I tell you every time you bring up this “cross-subsidy” issue, both roads and transit involve large cross-subsidies. Some roads are much more efficient than others. Some transit services are much more efficient than others. That is completely irrelevant to the fact that total subsidies to transit are vastly higher than total subsidies to roads per passenger-mile of travel.

      • Nathanael

        As usual, Gordy is lying. This is Enron-style accounting: “What, THOSE road costs? We don’t count THOSE road costs, they’re Somebody Else’s Problem!”

      • Drewski

        Gordy, here’s your homework assignment. Analyze traffic volume and destinations on 295 and the Jersey Turnpike. My guess is that you’ll find that the Pike functions as collective express lanes, while 295 carries local traffic. With that said, consider the toll revenue collected at each gate on the Pike southwest of Trenton, to the money spent on maintenance on 295, specifically compared to need as identified by either NJDOT or any counties or MPOs. My guess is that you’ll find that the New Jersey Turnpike is very good at accounting for both operating costs and operating spending–both shorter-term maintenance and longer-term capital categories. Toll roads are very effective at this, but you seem loath to admit it.

        Your numbers are skewed and inaccurate, sir, and I know this because we in northern Ohio have a creature called the Ohio Turnpike. The Turnpike is consistently voted one of the best routes in the country by truckers. There is always traffic bleed-off to parallel routes, like Ohio 2 west of Cleveland, or 76/80 on the way to Pittsburgh. Ohio DOT allows heavy rigs to do this. They can afford the toll, and the Turnpike has been almost completely rebuilt to handle axle loads far higher than the original design level. (You mention nothing about that.) How is it in the interests of Ohio motorists or taxpayers to provide a non-toll, lower-quality roadway to truckers who simply don’t want to pay for movement? If they don’t pay, there are three possible outcomes. One, the taxpayer makes up the difference, the road is maintained to proper standards, and the trucker gets the benefit. Two, the taxpayer doesn’t pay the difference, and the road is hammered to pieces. Three, the taxpayer pays part of the difference, but because the cost mechanism is so thoroughly buried, the road is still hammered to pieces while the taxpayer pays to try to retain some level of appropriate maintenance (which is impossible because axle loads are too high for the roadbed’s design). Option Three is the overwhelmingly-common outcome, and you’ve made a very good effort to ignore it despite all the evidence in every corner of the US.

        • Gordy

          Drewski, you don’t get to assign homework. If you think you have a serious analysis demonstrating that total road subsidies are significantly higher than about 1 cent per passenger-mile, then produce it.

          Not that it would matter to the point whether road subsidies are 1 cents, 2 cents, 5 cents or even 20 cents. All of those number are still vastly smaller than transit’s subsidies of 76 cents per passenger-mile.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Passenger miles don’t vote.

            • Gordy

              True. Passenger miles don’t vote. And your point is…..?

              • Adirondacker12800

                What’s your point about harping on passenger miles? People, who vote and therefore effect changes in the politics that then affects laws etc. don’t do passenger miles. They take trips. In things other than cars.

              • Gordy

                I don’t “harp on” passenger-miles. Passenger-miles is the standard unit of measurement for transportation costs and benefits. So when I’m discussing transportation costs and benefits, I generally describe them using that unit.

              • However, in real analysis, an assumption that benefit per passenger mile is constant would have to be justified, rather than tacitly assumed.

                In this case, the assumption is evidently false: the average value of a passenger mile of transport in downtown Manhattan is greater than the average value of a passenger mile of transport in downtown Des Moines.

              • Adirondacker12800

                No one takes trips in passenger miles. They take trips.

          • Nathanael

            Texas produced one, Wisconsin produced one, look ‘em up.

      • Sean

        Gordy,

        I can certainly go more places, acommplish more economically and personally in one densely built, urbanized passenger mile than you can in scores of low-density sprawl. The comparison is of poor quality. Further, why don’t you actually cite where you get your figures from, what they actually encompass, and why you think they are fully accountable and relevant?

        Better yet, I’ll make a bargain with you. I won’t ask for a dime of public monies for transit if you don’t ask for a dime for automobile transit. In such a situation guess what the market would in fact build? It would build (and charge heavily) for every mode of transportation, and it would build cities (and suburbs) far-denser than we have in United States. The likely result would likely be far-more walking if we simply didn’t subsidize transportation (by automobile or car).

    • Its also wrong to run all transport as for-profit enterprise, since much of the benefit of transport goes to people other than the passengers ~ the emmployers of commuters, the retail stores selling to shoppers, the real estate industry selling to people who are committing to a transport system when they buy a residence or business.

      “User pays” and “beneficiary pays” are either/or in transport: either we subsidize the user to reflect the benefit to other beneficiaries, or else the other beneficiaries are free riders on the back of passengers while the economy is less effective than it could be.

  • Ranger Rick

    This also backs up why they also did not propose any cuts to the totally unnecessary USDA direct payment to Farmers Program.. as a reference for commenting on the rail cuts vs. unnecessary programs not being cut.. see this article on the annual $ 5 billion direct payment to farmer program (up to $ 40,000 per farmer even if they are rich and do not grow anything) which was considered but not even reduced. http://www.ewg.org/news/farmers-budget-hawks-eye-5-billion-subsidy … there will have to spending cuts.. but which programs get cut ? who decides ?

    • Ocean Railroader

      The turning corn into Ethional subsusties have to go in that they are premoting the idea of turning food into fuel and that is unfair while people are starving in Hati and is putting pressure on the middle and lower classes in other parts of the world that need to import their food form interational places.

      • Well, its better to turn the food into fuel than to use it to dump into low income nations, destroying the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers and driving them from the countryside into urban slums to become dependent on more handouts of US “AID”.

        Just as other USDA programs, the “food aid” is mostly welfare for agribusiness corporations in the United States.

  • Gordy

    Neither party is a strong supporter of mass transit. This isn’t terribly surprising, given that Americans drive nearly 100 miles for every 1 mile they travel by transit. The Democrats’ support for transit is mostly rhetorical. They can’t afford to alienate drivers any more than the Republicans can. Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House for the past two years, as well as the legislatures in the most transit-dependent states, the Democrats failed to provide the funding needed to keep transit services operating in the wake of the financial crisis. The result has been deep cuts in services and a substantial loss of ridership. And that was under the most favorable political conditions for transit in a generation.

    • Rick

      Keep on posting the same old GOP/Tea Party anti-transit narrative. It won’t do you any good, the here issue being the facts simply don’t bear it out. Your studies are ludicrously biased. I can’t fault you for trying, though.

      • Jesse

        Yeah, the facts are that Amtrak ridership has been so incredibly high that it can not only stand on its own with no government subsidies, but can turn a tidy profit for its operators!

        Oh wait…

        • alexD

          Yeah, because the U.S. interstate highways are run like a business, you know, they’re privately owned and maintained, you pay tolls to ride on them, and they turn a hefty profit back to their shareholders…oh wait, sorry, no…no they don’t.

        • The Texas Department of Transport Asset Value index found that comparing the gas tax revenue generating by driving on highways to the cost of building and maintaining, some roads has a gross user-fee component of around 50%, but most were lower.

          Meanwhile considering transcontinental Amtrak services, the majority run at an operating ratio, including indirect employment costs, between 40% and 50%. Two, the Cardinal and the Sunset, are well below that level, one, the Auto Train, well above.

  • baycityroller1

    “…noting the lack of GOP support for urban needs, city voters push further towards the Democrats. And sensing that the Democratic Party is a collection of urbanites, those from elsewhere push away. It’s hard to know how to reverse this problem.” – Yonah Freemark

    The answer is simple: appeal to everyone’s basic sense of fairness by pointing out the fact, over and over again and wherever possible, that the conservative half of America that lives in low density, car-dependent suburban areas gobbles up TEN TIMES the amount of PUBLIC DOLLARS than the liberal half of America that lives in high-density, mass transit-rich urban areas.

    Even conservatives, who claim to oppose an over-reliance on public funding, should agree that this imbalance does not serve them, or their political ideology, well, as cities mired in transit woes and poverty ultimately takes a toll on the free market economy so enamored by the Right, not to mention the crime, blight and violence that follows, causing even more concern among conservatives.

    Liberals, meanwhile, who still drive cars in the suburbs or the cities, should agree that it is a fundamental injustice for private motorists to expect public subsidies for an environmentally-destructive, geopolitically-destabilizing, economy-busting, social services-draining transportation system made up of hundreds of millions of cars.

    • Nathanael

      The trouble is that there are few if any intellectually honest conservatives left in positions of power. The people who run for office calling themselves conservatives have as their priorities corporate and big-business giveaways, and oppression of the poor (who they think “deserve it”), and sometimes imposition of a theocratic religious program, or maybe imperialist conquering of foreign countries.

      They routinely vote for large increases in public funding for their buddies, and for tax cuts for their buddies, and *against* anything which requires their business buddies to compete in a “free market”. Small businesses are the key to a free market, and they go on and on about them, but in practice they always work for big businesses which are trying to become monopolies and crush small businesses.

      That’s today’s “conservatives” in politics. They aren’t conservative at all, and they aren’t free market. If they were either, I’d probably actually vote for them. Those who deviate even slightly in favor of free markets end up calling themselves “libertarians”, and even they are generally not really in favor of truly free markets as Adam Smith understood them.

  • MC

    Ultimately we need a metropolitan policy – one that recognizes that suburbs of large cities need their own transit-oriented centers, with rail both to the city center and to other suburbs. Building suburbs of major metro areas as if they were rural (totally car dependent) is a recipe for gridlock. Its increaasingly the needs of metro areas – not cities or suburbs – that will drive quality of life in America.

  • Thanks for the great graph.

    This suggests the need for some consciousness-raising in the journalism world. I’m sure may readers recall the CNN election coverage where they repeatedly showed a map of the country with congressional districts coded by color. We were shown the “before” (about half red, half blue) and then with the sweep of a hand an “after” (“almost all red).”

    Such mapping is all but universal, yet it perpetuates the error of reading map area as though it were population. CNN could just as easily have used the map but commented on the distortion that it implies. By not making those comments, they invited viewers to take on a subconscious message that rural voters simply matter more than urban ones.

    We have enough of that attitude coded permanently into the structure of the Senate, without letting it affect our understanding of the House, too.

    Urban voices need to push back against these presentations of election data wherever they appear. Wherever you’re shown map area and encouraged to see it as population, you’re being encouraged to despise the personhood of urban residents.

  • Gordy

    Building suburbs of major metro areas as if they were rural (totally car dependent) is a recipe for gridlock.

    No it isn’t. Dense urban development is a recipe for gridlock. Sprawl reduces congestion. Density increases congestion. This is especially true for dense concentrations of jobs in city centers, requiring lots of workers to converge on a small geographic area at the same time. Fortunately, jobs are increasingly dispersing from city centers to suburbs, where workers can get to them more easily.

    • Nathanael

      Drug addled. LA has widely distributed jobs…. and gridlock.

      The recipe for reducing gridlock is to keep workers close to their jobs. Putting their jobs in office park suburbs on the opposite side of town from their houses fails catastrophically.

      But you knew that, you just wanted to spout bullshit road-lobby lies.

      • Nathanael

        For a useful comment rather than a mere “response to troll”, I will add that the “company town” located right around the factory is actually a very efficient, convenient model for a city. Obviously the company shouldn’t own all the stores, and the workers should own their own houses, and the factory should be sufficiently non-polluting that it’s comfortable to live next to it.

        The zoning laws which have caused so much trouble for competent urban planning were originally established largely because of the lack of *environmental* laws. Zoning is a poor substitute for pollution controls.

        • Nathanael, I hope you see this – I didn’t notice your comment before. My response to your company town model is that often, the dominant company likes Euclidean zoning – it controls workers better. For example, Nissan demanded that Smyrna, Tennessee zone the area around its factory site for industrial activities only, with no commercial activities that could distract workers.

          A better model for a city is a diverse economy, one that doesn’t need to accede to the demands of one company in order to get employment.

          • Adirondacker12800

            He’s probably referring to pre World War II company towns. Paterson NJ for instance was laid out to support the mills….things work out differently when the employers expect their workers to walk to work or maybe take the trolley.

    • Ocean Railroader

      I find the traffic worse in the suburbs and the rural areas where I live then I do in the downtown part of the city in that you can go around things in the city but you can’t in the suburbs if the only four lane highway gets plugged up.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Dense urban development is a recipe for gridlock.

      Only if you are in a car. Dense urban development allows people to move around freely without cars.

    • Mike K

      Gordy, here’s a great example of why your theory fails: Valley Forge, Pennsylania.

      The area near Valley Forge National Park – and the King of Prussia Mall – is filled with office parks. Plenty of parking, should be easy to drive to, right?

      Well, I’ll challenge you (if you live in the Philadelphia area) to get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike going west any weekday morning. Start at the Neshaminy (formerly Philadelphia) exit, exit No. 351. And see how long it takes you to get to the Valley Forge exit, No. 326. Since the PA Turnpike numbers its exits based on miles, that’s 25 miles. 25 miles at 65 miles per hour should be about 23 minutes.

      Or, if you’d rather not try such a challenge, I’ll ask anyone reading this thread who travels in that direction regularly during morning rush hour to tell me how long it takes them to 25 miles on the PA Turnpike.

      If/when we see answers, let’s continue the debate about how much easier it is for people to get to work in suburbs.

      And one more thing: the above example is on a clear day. Throw in precipitation, some kind of traffic situation (accident, broken-down car, etc.) and let’s revisit this concept again.

  • Dexter

    So Gordy, you prefer “doughnut” cities?

  • Gordy

    Drug addled. LA has widely distributed jobs…. and gridlock.

    Brain addled. LA is the densest urban area in the country. And the densest concentration of jobs in the country is in lower Manhattan. Manhattan is famous for its terrible congestion.

    The recipe for reducing gridlock is to keep workers close to their jobs.

    No, as I said, density increases congestion. More vehicles per lane-mile of road means more congestion.

    • Nathanael

      You’re confusing some mythical density definition in your head with “job density”. You’ve never looked at LA’s job layout, obviously.

      You really have no clue, do you? If workers are closer to their jobs, they *are on the roads less of the time, for fewer miles* and there are *fewer vehicles per lane-mile of road*. In fact, many may be close enough to walk.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Manhattan is famous for its terrible congestion.

      Only if you are stupid enough to be in a car during a weekday. If you aren’t in a car it’s crowded but it’s not very congested.

    • New York’s per driver congestion ranks well below that of most other large US urban areas – including, for example, Houston, Randall O’Toole’s favorite example of how building more freeways reduces congestion.

    • Drewski

      So according to your model, Cleveland and Detroit are booming. Don’t you have to wax your mustache before you go back to your used-car lot?

    • alexD

      Gordy’s premise is based on the idea that transportation systems exist to move cars around, when the actual end goal is moving people around.

      Sprawlburbs often have worse traffic and longer travel times to destinations than do major cities. Fact.

      • Gordy

        Sprawlburbs often have worse traffic and longer travel times to destinations than do major cities. Fact.

        Higher density is associated with more congestion and longer travel times. Lower density is associated with less congestion and shorter travel times. Fact. See, for example, Sprawl and Urban Growth by Ed Glaeser. Quote:

        the decentralization of employment actually reduces the pressure on crowded downtown streets. By moving to lower densities, the traffic problem is actually reduced. Indeed, one of the major appeals of sprawl cities is that they have shorter commutes than dense downtowns. … We find that average commute times rise with population density. The effect of density is actually less on car commuters than on noncar commuters. It is also true that across cities, there is a strong positive relationship between average commute times and the logarithm of population density

  • Gordy

    You’re confusing some mythical density definition in your head with “job density”.

    No, by “job density” I mean job density. The number of jobs per unit area of land. You know, as in lower Manhattan. Are you seriously under the impression that congestion is not a serious problem in lower Manhattan? Have you ever been there at rush hour?

    • Nathanael

      You’ve just erected a strawman by switching from LA to lower Manhattan. We were talking about LA.

      Fail, troll.

      • Nathanael

        In any case, congestion is not a serious problem in Lower Manhattan, except for delivery trucks. I’ve walked across the whole thing, in not very many minutes, and never gotten trampled by an crowd of pedestrians!

        You simply don’t need a car if you live in Lower Manhattan, and your experience of congestion is that it’s nonexistent.

        The arguable problem with Manhattan is that it has more jobs than residents, and this is why it is entirely reasonable to suggest that it needs more residences, fewer commuters. Battery Park City was a good idea.

        This is in contrast to LA, with an insane hodgepodge such that even though jobs are all over and residents are all over, the residents are *still* separated from their jobs by huge distances…. I’m not quite sure how they managed that, but it seems to be the standard pattern in sprawlsvilles.

        • Gordy

          In any case, congestion is not a serious problem in Lower Manhattan, except for delivery trucks.

          Huh? Congestion is a huge problem in lower Manhattan for vehicles of all types – cars, buses, taxis, trucks, and so on.

          You simply don’t need a car if you live in Lower Manhattan,

          Now if you could just persuade people to consume only what they “need,” and nothing more. Good luck.

          • Lots of people who live in lower Manhattan get by without a car, so the luck seems to be with Nathanael.

            That is, this is only a partial accounting of congestion: “Huh? Congestion is a huge problem in lower Manhattan for vehicles of all types – cars, buses, taxis, trucks, and so on.”

            There is no congestion for those who do not require a vehicle for a trip, and a larger number who do not require a vehicle for a trip.

            And of course, if private motor vehicles were banned, each third street given over to streetcar lines and cycleways, the balance to buses, jitneys and taxis, there’d be no congestion, so the congestion is entirely due to the decision to permit private motor vehicles on the island.

            • Gordy

              Lots of people who live in lower Manhattan get by without a car, so the luck seems to be with Nathanael.

              But lots of people who work in lower Manhattan or who have some other reason to travel into, out of, and within lower Manhattan use cars. That’s why it’s so congested. If Nathanael expects people to give up car travel because it isn’t strictly “needed” he’s likely to be disappointed.

              • Yes, they are some of the victims of Auto-Uber-Alles that undermine the viability of transit in the mid-range densities that are the swing electorate in this diary, which those of you in the road building and oil lobbies wish to remain dependent upon the car.

              • Gordy

                Yes, they are some of the victims of Auto-Uber-Alles that undermine the viability of transit in the mid-range densities that are the swing electorate in this diary

                No, if they’re victims of anything, they’re victims of lower Manhattan’s enormously high density. Lower densities mean less congestion. That’s one reason why we’re not building any more places like lower Manhattan.

              • Frank

                Gordy, when you say “we’re not building any more places like lower Manhattan” it’s not as if it’s a place that’s static and dead. It’s population has tripled in the past 15 years. Despite dreaded congestion, lots of people find it attractive.

                The shortest commutes I’ve ever had in my life were in NYC where I lived for 10 years. My favorites were the 5 minute walk and the 17 minute bike ride.

              • Gordy

                It’s population has tripled in the past 15 years. Despite dreaded congestion, lots of people find it attractive.

                According to Wikipedia, the total population of Manhattan increased from 1.5 million to 1.7 million in the 18 years between 1990 and 2008. I agree that for many people, New York — especially Manhattan — is an attractive place to live. But I think that has more to do with the unique status and importance of New York as a city than with its density. Again, we’re not building any more cities like it. Our new cities are radically different in design from Manhattan. Much less dense, much more conducive to car travel, much less conducive to transit and walking.

              • Adirondacker12800

                If New York City was as dense as Fargo it wouldn’t have the same status or importance.

              • Gordy

                How do you know?

              • Again, we’re not building any more cities like it. Our new cities are radically different in design from Manhattan. Much less dense, much more conducive to car travel, much less conducive to transit and walking.

                Yes, we have entrenched policies in place that result in a different design to cities.

                So? That is just a statement of what is. How do you draw an inference from that observation whether that is a warranted urban design pattern or an unwarranted urban design pattern for the 21st Century?

              • Gordy

                Yes, we have entrenched policies in place that result in a different design to cities.

                Our “entrenched policies” were created, and are sustained, by the political process. Again, if you want to change the policies to be more conducive to transit and less conducive to cars, you are free to exercise your political rights to that end. I doubt you will be very successful, though.

              • If your defense that they should be in place is only that they are in place, that means that you have no defense.

                Part of the political process on the policy development side is learning what arguments will be deployed by the defenders of the benefits received by vested interests of the status quo.

                You would therefore be of more use if you would advance stronger arguments than the ones that you advance here.

        • Nathanael,
          To put a finer point on LA, it is a multi-business-district metro area that requires as much transit as Chicago. But its land use sprawl is now increasing job and housing density in many places. Thus, Rapid Transit lines must eventually intersect many places, not just downtown.

          For example, the Purple Line extending from Mid-Wilshire to Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood will carry as many people as those who start/end their trip Downtown. The Green Line eastern endpoint must connect with Metrolink commuter trains in Norwalk/Santa Fe and eventually its western endpoint must turn north past LAX, up the I-405 Freeway corridor to Sylmar OR turn northwest through Westchester, Playa Vista, Marina Del Rey, Venice and Santa Monica.

          LA’s Rapid Transit expansion pattern may become the model for mega-metro areas like Houston, Dallas-FtWorth, Atlanta, and Miami-FtLauderdale who grew up in the Freeway Age. Not an endorsement by me, but it may happen.

  • Gordy

    You’ve just erected a strawman by switching from LA to lower Manhattan. We were talking about LA.

    No, you just referred to “job density.” As I said, the densest concentration of jobs in the country is in lower Manhattan. Manhattan is famous for its terrible congestion. Los Angeles also has very bad congestion, because it is so dense in general. The densest urban area in the country.

    Fail, troll.

    Yonah has previously warned about insults. Does he need to warn you again?

    • Nathanael

      I think he needs to warn you about lying repeatedly. You have just admitted that you switched topics. You claimed that dumping jobs in the suburbs reduced congestion. I pointed out that LA *did* dump jobs in the suburbs, and got worse congestion, and you changed the topic.

      • Nathanael

        By the way, I think most of us here actually agree that having a massive concentration of jobs *with no housing* is a bad idea and a recipe for congestion. But that’s not what you started *out* talking about.

      • Gordy

        You claimed that dumping jobs in the suburbs reduced congestion.

        I didn’t say anything about “dumping jobs.” I said that congestion increases with density and decreases with sprawl, and that dense concentrations of jobs in city centers are a particular cause of congestion.

        • Adirondacker12800

          Only if you are in a car. Except for a few extraordinary people, UPS delivery drivers for instance. almost no one who works in Manhattan, anywhere in Manahattan, needs to drive to work. There’s no congestion in Manhattan until you decide to get into a car.

  • Gordy

    Except for a few extraordinary people, UPS delivery drivers for instance. almost no one who works in Manhattan, anywhere in Manahattan, needs to drive to work.

    There’s that irrelevant “needs” again. People don’t do only what they “need” to do. Behavior is driven by desire, not mere “need.”

    • Adirondacker12800

      Accommodating driver’s desires in many places, Manhattan for instance, results in congestion. That’s unfortunate. Why should anyone be concerned?

      • Gordy

        Congestion is unfortunate. That’s why I don’t think it’s a good idea to build more places like Manhattan. Fortunately, most people seem to agree with me. Most of our new urban development is low density.

        • Adirondacker12800

          Most low density development is mandated by law. People have no other choice when it comes to what they want to build.

          • Gordy

            Most low density development is mandated by law.

            I doubt that. But if you think laws that restrict density should be changed or repealed, you are free to use the political process to that end.

            • Drewski

              Nashville had an ordinance restricting residential development to 8 units per net acre until at least the late 80′s. Ironically, it resulted in tear-downs and denser development in prime suburban areas (Green Hills, Harding Road). Funny thing–the more density went up, the more demand went up, to the point that the city changed its zoning standards. Overall city population rose at its strongest pace in at least fifty years too. You say this didn’t happen anywhere; I witnessed it and you can confirm it with your own research.

              • Gordy

                You say this didn’t happen anywhere

                No I didn’t.

                I will note that the average density of America’s cities and metropolitan areas has declined dramatically over the past half century, transit use per capita has declined dramatically, and that laws restricting increases in density (minimum lot sizes, minimum parking requirements, etc.) are extremely common.

              • Yes, the laws mandating that new growth will occur at lower levels of density than was typical before the laws were enacted will, obviously, result in lower density of new settlement compared to old settlement.

                Laws are, however, not physical constraints ~ change them, and their impact changes.

                The fact that a certain pattern of settlement is the status quo is no argument either for or against it, nor basis for a prediction that it will be maintained indefinitely ~ after all, the current status quo replaced a different one from the late 1800′s, which replaced a different one from the 1700′s, so the historical evidence directly contradicts the assumption that today’s status quo will necessarily continue indefinitely.

            • Nathanael

              The pro-sprawl, anti-mixed use zoning ordinances are being fought nationwide, but it’s tedious because it must be done separately in every single municipality.

              Most of which copied their current zoning laws from a standard “cookbook” of “model” zoning laws in the 1950s, usually with little thought.

        • But there is excess demand for housing in areas like Manhattan and surplus housing in outer suburban areas.

          And it is not as if the layout of jobs and residences in suburban areas is primarily determined by people’s preferences ~ first they are determined by zoning standards, and only within the constraints of what is allowed by zoning standard do individual preferences come into play.

          • Gordy

            All consumer choices are made within a framework of laws. We don’t limit the supply of housing in Manhattan or anywhere else by market forces alone. There’s probably a market for housing in Central Park, but New Yorkers have decided not to allow it. If you think zoning laws are too restrictive, you can use the political process to try and change or repeal them.

            • You are playing a shell game: you propose an argument that does not defend your argument that the settlement choices that people are evidence of their unconstrained preferences.

              The fact that businesses move from places where redevelopment pays more than its cost of utility hookup without direct subsidies provided for that redevelopment into places that pay less than their cost of utility hookup with direct subsidies provided for that greenfield development can not be used as evidence of what their preferences are until first the impact of the subsidy for the choice they made, biased against the choice that they did not make, it taken into account.

              • Gordy

                You are playing a shell game: you propose an argument that does not defend your argument that the settlement choices that people are evidence of their unconstrained preferences.

                I have never claimed that preferences are unconstrained. Yet again, you are falsely attributing to me a statement I have never made.

                The fact that businesses move from places where redevelopment pays more than its cost of utility hookup without direct subsidies provided for that redevelopment into places that pay less than their cost of utility hookup with direct subsidies provided for that greenfield development can not be used as evidence of what their preferences are until first the impact of the subsidy for the choice they made, biased against the choice that they did not make, it taken into account.

                Really? Well, it’s a good thing I never argued that “the fact that businesses…..” can “…..be used as evidence of what their….”, then, isn’t it?

                Instead of responding to what I actually write, you seem intent on responding to imagined statements that no one has actually made.

              • “I have never claimed that preferences are unconstrained. Yet again, you are falsely attributing to me a statement I have never made.”

                I never claimed that you made the claim. I was pointing out that you were assuming unconstrained free choice when you argue:

                Fortunately, most people seem to agree with me. Most of our new urban development is low density.

                If the outcome is the consequence of unconstrained choice, the inference regarding preference may be made. If the outcome is a direct consequence of long standing institutional rules and long established practices of subsidy of sprawl development, then the outcome cannot be used to infer preference.

                Since you infer preference from that outcome, you assume unconstrained choice.

                And yes, I quite agree that you were not forthright in stating the assumption explicitly, but rather were either ignorant of the fact that you were making it or else were attempting to deceive readers by leaving the assumption tacit.

              • Gordy

                I was pointing out that you were assuming unconstrained free choice

                No, I didn’t assume it either.

                If the outcome is a direct consequence of long standing institutional rules and long established practices of subsidy of sprawl development, then the outcome cannot be used to infer preference.

                The outcome is a consumer choice made within a framework of laws. The laws are the outcome of political choices by voters. No one said that consumer choices are unconstrained by laws. That’s a strawman argument that exists only in your head.

              • The inference requires the assumption, so its a tacit assumption the of inference. Whether you realize that its a tacit assumption or not is not relevant to the logic of your statement.

              • Adirondacker12800

                You are expecting Mixner to use logic…..

  • John Dough

    “One doesn’t have to look far to see why these programs aren’t priorities for them.”

    Correct. One only needs to look at return on investment. Billions and billions of dollars, nationally, for less than 0.1 percent of travel, nationally.

    This is how the Democrats are planning to “save the planet from evil”.

    • Tim E

      I give neither sides high marks. As far as Republicans, The status quo of leaving it to the oil companies has pretty much guaranteed that a billion dollars a day of wealth leaves the country for imported oil to support our desires not needs. Yes their is additional oil there and here, but the amounts won’t suffice to come even close to filling the gap. A fact conveniently ignored.

      At a minimum we need to investment in alternatives for the fact that the poplution will approach 350 million by 2050. More people, more cars, more wealth out the door not too mention more sprawl means longer trips which burn more gas. At the moment, current transit funding doesn’t even come close to the amount of wealth leaving this country to support our prevailing transportation choice, the automobile. Arguing that its the least subsidized form transportation misses the point of where the real money is.

      • John Dough

        Hey Tim,

        Think about it this way. What do you suppose it would take to replicate our road network — which reaches into pretty much every nook and cranny where people live and work — with a rail network that would do the same job.

        I cannot imagine that. Can you? If you can, then try to imagine how much it would cost and how it would compare in mobility to what we have now. If you can’t, then try to imagine just a skeleton network of rails. How would they be connected? Roads maybe?

        What would that cost and would the benefits be?

        The bottom line, Tim, is that America simply can’t afford to invest heavily in rail, let alone high speed rail. We can’t afford to replace the car/highway system … and anything short of a full replacement wouldn’t be enough to impact the environment, foreign oil dependency, highway congestion, the economy (except negatively), or any other of the “benefits” commonly ascribed to rail, in any meaningful way.

        We just can’t afford to pay for a redundant transportation system we don’t need.

        • Nathanael

          We had that rail network before it was ripped out starting in the 50s. I can imagine it, because *I have studied history*.

          It would cost less to build it than to *maintain* our overbuilt road network, let alone the oil cost. If we can’t afford to build a decent rail network, we certainly cannot afford to pay to maintain a redundant expressway and boulevard network we don’t need.

      • Gordy

        More people, more cars, more wealth out the door not too mention more sprawl means longer trips which burn more gas.

        Yes, we’ll most likely have more people, more cars and more sprawl by 2050. But I very much doubt we’ll be burning more gasoline. Most cars in the United States in 2050 will probably be electric. To the extent that gasoline cars are still around 40 years from now, they’ll probably be much more efficient than today’s models. There is a lot of potential for increasing the efficiency of even conventional gasoline vehicles.

        At the moment, current transit funding doesn’t even come close to the amount of wealth leaving this country to support our prevailing transportation choice, the automobile.

        So what? Why should it? What a bizarre comparison.

        • Its inescapable that we will not be burning more gasoline in 2050 ~ the US transport sector consumes 1/6 of world production, and as world petroleum production declines, its inescapable that there will not be sufficient petroleum supplies to permit burning of gasoline at this rate.

          As we adjust to consuming less energy per person, we will as part of that process adjust to a less energy wasteful settlement pattern. The question at hand is whether we make that adjustment by removing the subsidies for energy waste or whether we maintain policies pushing us in an economically unsustainable direction until supply crises forces us to change our ways. The latter course will be more painful.

          • Gordy

            Its inescapable that we will not be burning more gasoline in 2050

            No, that is not “inescapable.” I think it’s unlikely that we will be burning more gasoline in 2050, but that’s because we will have better alternatives by then, not because we will have run out of oil. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. It ended because we replaced stones with better materials.

            As we adjust to consuming less energy per person, we will as part of that process adjust to a less energy wasteful settlement pattern.

            If “a less wasteful settlement pattern” is supposed to mean significantly higher urban densities, no, that is very unlikely. We can certainly reduce our per capita energy consumption, but we will do so through better technology, not by changing our basic lifestyle.

            • Jason

              Where is this energy going to come from? Wrong again (as usual), Gordy. Changing our basic lifestyle is a foregone conclusion. Please take your biased claptrap elsewhere.

            • Adirondacker12800

              we will do so through better technology, not by changing our basic lifestyle.

              Many people consider the prototypical trolley suburb to be better technology. What makes living in single family houses centered on one acre lots “better technology”

              • Nathanael

                Trolley suburbs remain the most high-priced neighborhoods in most of those locales which have them; they are definitely very attractive, or the prices wouldn’t be so high.

        • Nathanael

          What’s the range on the best electric cars which can actually be manufactured? 160 miles. (Yes, I’m buying one. I live in a largely rural area.) Charging time is *long*. What does that imply? For long-distance travel, over 80 miles, you will need an alternative.

          I assume you support massive expansion of intercity rail?

          Meanwhile, for in-big-city travel, it’s no better to be stuck in traffic in an electric car than in any other type of car; much better to be bypassing it on a train.

    • “One only needs to look at return on investment. Billions and billions of dollars, nationally, for less than 0.1 percent of travel, nationally.”

      So you want to increase our foreign oil dependency beyond 90%, increase smog, increase greenhouse gases while denying two modes of transportation to a significant percentage of tax paying citizens who can’t or won’t drive or fly?

      • Far more than 0.1% in value terms, of course ~ otherwise, if it was more in mileage terms than in dollar terms, the talking point would be in dollar terms.

        Just the Federal subsidy of roads over and above the Federal gas tax is around $600b in 2005 dollars. Add in the cross subsidy of people driving on unfunded roads and still paying the gas tax, and the cross subsidy of the sales-tax exemption on gasoline in most states, and its easily over $1,000b. And that’s before starting on the hidden subsidies and the property takings on behalf of the road system, like zoning parking mandates.

    • John,

      Rapid Transit is not a Demo vs. Repub issue. Its a population density-job density-travel patterns challenge to be managed by the most appropriate transportation methodology per cost in a way the does the greatest good with taxpayer dollars. Freeways had their day in our largest metro areas outside the Northeast.

      Even the former Repub mayor of LA (Riordan) now supports more transit than freeway expansion for LA county. He and most other Angelenos not hidebound with old ideology, know that more freeway lanes will not solve LA’s congestion problems. You can substitute Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta and Houston for LA since their non-partisan transportation agencies know the greater cost of taking more land for freeways, greater upkeep costs of freeways vs. transit, and more air pollution.

      As we all know, some people will never ride transit. LA has more of them than anyone in America. But many of them in LA, and other metro areas I mentioned, are voting for rapid transit projects to remove what would otherwise be competing vehicles in their lanes. Even selfishness can sometimes serve a greater good.

  • Tim E

    Cities had higher densities in good part because transportation made up much more of their cost of living. Relatively cheap oil and technology changed that equation. This gets turned upside down when global competition for oil raises the price to a much higher level, think a couple billion Chinese and Indians desiring the same lifestyle as Americans. So what future do you plan for?

    • What future I hope for, or what future I plan for? Because these aren’t the same thing. I hope for a global agreement to limit carbon emissions, and regulatory revisions allowing US transit to stop sucking. I expect business as usual in developed countries and maybe also China, protracted resource wars killing millions in very poor countries, and a small sea level rise causing mass displacement of people in rural floodplains.

      • Nathanael

        Don’t forget the droughts and crop failures. Oh, and the ocean acidification causing the collapse of the ocean food chain.

        I also hope for global elimination of carbon emissions. The alternative is literally disastrous, according to the best most recent studies.

  • Donk

    It sickens me how progressive states like CA continue to subsidize sprawl and life in general for the country bumpkins. This is like Germany pouring money into Greece. Except that I honestly don’t care if those sparse red states go bankrupt. Why do we keep throwing good money after bad?

    From Obama’s speech tonight: “Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98% of all Americans. This isn’t just about a faster internet and fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.

    It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world.”

    -Translation: lets make CA and NY spend more of their money to subsidize the country bumpkins in small town America. I hate small town America.

    • Drewski

      I was just talking about this with a friend tonight. What would happen if California’s congressional delegation led a vote for each state to get back at least 95% of what it paid in Federal taxes?

      It’s easy to see what it would mean for California and a few others–New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut specifically come to mind. What if California stopped subsidizing Arizona, Nevada, and festering hellholes like Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama? Right now, California pays in more than it gets. If California weren’t busy supporting certain illiterate corners of the US, then it would be far closer to addressing its fiscal issues. In a good year–let’s say 1999, when I do believe there was a Federal surplus–nearly every state in the Southeast was getting at least 10% more than it paid in, in many cases it was more like 40% more than paid in (AR, AL, MS, TN, KY…). California isn’t a spendthrift state when you look at the TOTAL tax take; cut out the Clampett’s cousins they pay for, and California is much closer to solvency.

      Imagine California and other “have” states invoking states rights. “We keep at least 95% of Federal taxes, or we declare bankruptcy.” What an exquisite form of blackmail…and unless the teabag wingnuts get dialed back soon, it may be that California et al have no other choice. It’s not California (or Jersey) that’s insolvent. It’s all the states in yee-haw-land who live off the Federal transfers from the richer states. In Canada, at least they have a generally transparent process for this.

      • Indeed

        While that’s never going to happen, trying might at least shut up the 1950s crowd for awhile. It might also make them tone down their rhetoric…. I’m always annoyed when someone on the extreme right makes it sound like republicans do all the work and keep the economy going… the usual private sector will make all investments, if you support business owners they create jobs and make the economy grow and everyone is better off stuff.

        That is, after all, why republican states like AR, AL, MS, TN, KY etc have developed into such economic power houses… Sometimes I feel like some of the south hasn’t changed since before the war of northern aggression. They’re stuck in this support the plantation owner is the way to prosperity story – clearly works for a very few, but over a century later it seems safe to say that it doesn’t make the overall economy stronger – almost every blue state has been more prosperous than the red states and the blue states are mostly the donor states (Texas is a pretty big exception to this story obviously). Of course, if us blue states would stop calling the red states stupid and backward, maybe they’d adopt what has been a more prosperous system.

      • Anticipate the tone of TX, GA, NC and AZ Repubs changing about Rapid Transit and HSR as Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Phoenix commuters figure out in 2013-16 what LA and the SF Bay Area commuters learned in 2002-2008. Those California metro areas maxed-out freeway extensions and lane additions, but quickly discovered they don’t reduce traffic congestion.

        Its a Rapid Transit awakening indeed, when Beverly Hills fights over the alignment of a Metrorail line, but strongly supports the need for Metrorail in Beverly Hills. LA and SF Repubs also discovered that voters don’t want more airport runways taking land, nor do they want more air pollution and noise pollution around close-in airports.

        By 2013-2016, more Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Phoenix freeway projects will complete, yet there will be more traffic congestion. And as the economy heals, gasoline prices will take a larger percentage of income. Extrapolating from car-happy California, its easy predict similar tipping points by savvy business-oriented Repub leaders in TX, GA, NC and AZ in support of Rapid Transit and HSR in/between Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Phoenix by 2013-2016. Their Repub colleagues in the battleground states of FL and VA are already softening their anti-HSR stance, but won’t publicly shift before the 2012 Presidential election.

        Once powerful Repubs in TX, GA, AZ, NC, FL and VA calculate the greater weight of constituents complaining about freeway congestion, fuel costs and airport congestion just to drive around the metro area or fly between Houston-Dallas, Phoenix-LA, and Atlanta-Charlotte, Charlotte-DC, they too will push for more Rapid Transit and HSR funding.

        Secretly, the Repubs must be happy that one of their own (Rep. Mica) heads the Transportation Committee and is a knowledgeable advocate of HSR running faster than 135-150 mph Acela in the Northeast Corridor. Mica is an insurance policy to them. The Repubs want another Transportation mode victory to hang above their mantle and HSR is the best candidate. The got a lot of mileage out of Eisenhower kickstarting the comprehensive Interstate Freeway System in 1956 and the commercial jet age starting in 1958. So they will deny Obama HSR funding as much as possible until after the 2012 election. If Obama is reelected, it too late.

        But If a Republican wins the 2012 Presidential Election, don’t be surprised when they try to hijack HSR as their signature accomplishment with a claims similar to, “Obama kick-started obscure California and Florida HSR projects, but mostly funded 90 and 110 mph lines that are not high speed. In contrast, Mica+President ____ did the heavy lifting of completion funding for California and Florida HSR projects and kick-started the comprehensive 185-220 mph Interstate HSR Network.”

  • NC Voter

    Transit should be an issue in many rural areas, though. For one thing, more and more people who live in these areas are having to commute to bigger towns and cities to find work. The traffic jams can attest to that. Alternatively, there are small towns in charming rural areas that more people would like to move to – away from the cities – but are hesitant about the commute. High speed transit connecting rural areas to metro areas would be welcomed by both these sets of people, and probably renew some tax revenue bases in struggling small towns. Eventually, anyway.

    • However, that is not usually classed as transit.

      In the Great Lakes, many small county seats that have had outer suburban developments grow up around them could serve as the nucleus for a local transit system centered around an intercity transport stop, but the intercity transport stop would have to be put in place first to serve as an anchor, since otherwise transit demand is focused on those who cannot drive, rather than those who choose not to.

      That is why the establishment of either Express HSR or Regional HSR corridors that can generate operating surpluses to generate their own state matches for Federal capital grants are threatening to the established status quo ~ opportunities for clustered development in suburban areas threaten to make public transport easier to support in terms of state and local public finance in suburban areas, and as this article shows, that would be an increase in usage in the suburban areas where the political balance of power resides.

  • NC Voter

    To give an example, the North Carolina rural county I live in has a high concentration of people who commute to the Spartanburg, SC area. In response to this, there are plans to widen roads, which in my view, is just a band-aid that will require continuous road maintenance and widening as more and more people commute there over the years.

    • Nathanael

      You get a big improvement from widening from one lane roads to two (one each way). You get a smaller, significant improvement from a third lane (for turning vehicles). Parking lanes can also be useful.

      A four-lane (two each way) road with intersections is not significantly better than a two-lane road with parking lanes, and much more dangerous (they’re the most dangerous type of road).

      A four-lane (two each way) expressway gets you more movement. But extra expressway lanes are nearly worthless; a six-lane expressway has somewhat more capacity, but after that any benefit from more lanes is dominated by weaving movements eating up the benefit.

      So if you have a four-lane expressway, or you have a three-lane road, you get essentially nothing from road widening, and should probably build a public transportation service.

  • JP1985

    I live in a very liberal neighborhood in Boston. Where I live, I’ve found that Democratic voters love to “talk the talk” about transit, but when it cmes right down to it, what they really seem to be about is more Toyota Prius’s, and embracing the concept of “Drivable-Urbanism”. Most of my ultra-liberal neighbors it seems are at best, only fair-weather transit users. Taking the “T” for off peak activities is something most of them would never consider. Boston is home to one of North America’s most popular light rail systems, “the Green Line”. Despite this fact, for the last several years in Boston virtually every proposed rail-transit project has failed to move beyond the addition of clean-fuel buses and painted bike lanes. Republican Dallas and Salt Lake City on the other hand seem to be crazy about light rail, adding new lines every few years.

    • Donk

      Yeah and Utah is one of those places where they had a ridiculously disproportionate share of federal new starts funding to pay for their Salt Lake City area light rail system. Meanwhile LA and San Diego build many of their transit lines without federal dollars or with a low proportion of federal dollars.

      I think this topic was covered once on this website – the only major donor region I recall that had a large relative share of federal funding was NYC with the multiple major projects going on right now.

  • corbel

    Why not just eliminate the federal funding? Have the states that want to build HSR or other forms of transit pay for it themselves. We could reduce the federal gas tax so that federal money is only spent on federal highways, instead of including secondary roads, bike trails, etc. The states could then increase their gas tax rates by the amount eliminated from federal tax. Each state could use the money as they see fit, and we would eliminate a huge federal beauracracy. Projects would be more efficient, and the dollars would go farther. Transit projects should be self sufficient – that is, revenue should be such that it would pay for operation, maintenance, and debt service.

    • As long as your target is that no new transport system is built across wide swathes of the nation, the existing system declines in disrepair and as Peak Oil hits home our ability to have a national economy collapses, that is an excellent proposal.

      • Allen

        The argument that Peak Oil has a chance in hell of ever happening only works if one ignores Peak Demand.

        • Peak oil theory does factor peak demand. The idea is that peak oil will lead to much higher oil prices, spurring alternatives. If you interpret oil to mean conventional oil, it’s already happened – production peaked around 2005, and the ensuing rise in cost made large-scale Tar Sands mining economic.

        • What does “Peak Demand” have to do with Peak Oil happening? We are already producing as much actual oil per year as we ever will again, and production will be lower in a decade than it is today.

          Demand does not create new reserves.

          • Gordy

            We are already producing as much actual oil per year as we ever will again

            You cannot possibly know that to be true. I think it’s very unlikely to be true.

            • Simon Ruyle

              Yep, were going to find LOADS of new oil. We just haven’t being looking hard enough! Blame the environmentalists for not allowing more (completely safe) deep-sea drilling.

              Goshers, maybe we’ll even discover an oil field that contains more oil than we’ve extracted in the past 100 years! Nothing is more likely!!!

            • I am not surprised that you think its unlikely to be true ~ it being true undermines many of your arguments, and so its an inconvenient truth.

              But we saw price of crude oil hit around $2/gallon in the past decade without surpassing the peak production already reached, and we are drilling a mile under water and exploiting tar sands at historically low Energy Rate of Return on Energy Invested, and we are also engaged in hydrofracking to release oil in non-porous rock, again at low EROI.

              The US, producing about 1/10th of world petroleum, has long since passed our domestic production peak ~ and when we tried “drill baby drill” in the 1980′s, we increased production, but were not able to set a new peak, and have been declining ever since.

              There is no evidence to support the belief that half of the oil ever available to be drilled is still underground ~ it is just faith in the persistence of the conditions of the past on your part. And at around the halfway point, annual petroleum production start to decline from their peak.

            • Gordy

              There is no evidence to support the belief that half of the oil ever available to be drilled is still underground

              I didn’t say there was. I don’t know why you keep replying to me as if I made statements I never made.

              The claim of yours I am critizing is: “We are already producing as much actual oil per year as we ever will again.” That statement is about the annual rate of production, not about total reserves. And as I said, you cannot possibly know it to be true. You’re just guessing. Your guess certainly is not consistent with the projections of the Energy Information Administration.

              • Its not “my guess”, and regarding “that statement is about the annual rate of production, not about total reserves,” that’s where the peak of production occurs, when we’ve burned about half the oil. Existing oil field reach their peak of production and start to decline, and new oil fields brought on line are smaller than the oil fields that they replace, since the biggest oil fields tend to be easier to find.

                The International Energy Agency predicts that we have passed Peak Oil. They predict that near-oil substitutes will be discovered and brought online exactly as fast as petroleum production declines to maintain stable production of petroleum and “unconventional” oil.

                That prediction ~ which itself seems optimistic since the basis for the decline in petroleum production is stronger than the basis for the unconventional oil coming online at roughly the rate required to keep total petroleum and unconventional oil production roughly stable ~ combined with increasing oil consumption in oil exporting states, implies declining oil available for importing states. And increased demand from China, India, and other “unconventional buyers” for declining export supplies implies rising real petroleum prices.

                If the hoped for increases in unconventional oil do not show up, that situation only gets worse.

              • Gordy,
                If you have any intellectual honesty, you’ll acknowledge that BruceMcF nailed it of the Peak Oil explanation. If you hope for any credibility on your other arguments, move on (no pun intended).

              • “If you have any intellectual honesty” – and if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a wagon. (And she’d operate without subsidies, too, she’s that awesome.)

                Same flamewar discussion is continuing on The Infrastructurist, with different principals. I’m there; so is Gordy, who uses the handle DillonS and gets pissed whenever people point out the multiple handles. The thread is impossible to miss – look for one on the front page with a three-figure comment count.

              • Adirondacker12800

                If your grandmother had wheels she’d be a Segway. :-)

        • To be more precise: the question of “Peak Demand” bears on whether the shape of global oil production will be the classical Bell curve of the original Peak Oil model, or whether efforts to increase the intensity of exploitation will lead to a slower decline at first until the more rapid exhaustion of reserves leads to a more rapid decline later.

          This is indeed the situation with US domestic oil production, with a second, lower peak in the 1980′s as a result of more expensive oil production brought forward by the high oil prices of the late 70′s and early 80′s, implying of course more rapid exhaustion of our reserves than if oil prices had been more stable.

          If we are able to successfully engineer “Peak Demand” ~ which is to say on a global basis ~ we will be able to moderate the upward swings in price, and especially moderate the severity of the series of oil price shocks coming this decade, and the actual production curve will be closer to the bell curve of the original model. If we are unable to successfully engineer “Peak Demand”, then the series of oil price shocks will result in economic slowdowns as part of the required demand destruction process, and the slowdowns will result in a slowing of production, so the slide down from the production plateau will be a lot bumpier.

        • A couple billion more Indians and Chinese demanding more oil that same time as America is Peak Demand!

    • corbel,

      Thats a reasonable question to ask about HSR and Rapid Transit. But HSR is real High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail, as explained by the US Dept of Transportation. That means HSR must travel between cities and states. No nation has built an effective intercity/interstate/interprovince transportation system without federal planning, “rules of the road” and funding. Indeed, our Interstate Freeway/Tollway System and National Airport Network require all of these things. We do this not because they are profitable in and of themselves. We do this because those transportation networks provide a public good.

      In a similar manner other nations are aggressively building HSR. But on a per capita basis, they are building less freeways and airports. To understand the reasons why, see http://soulofamerica.com/interact/soulofamerica-travel-blog/interstate-acela-network-part-2/

      Though Rapid Transit runs throughout metro area, it often crosses state and county boundaries. These urbanized systems are not profitable in and of themselves. But these systems provide a public good and enable countless businesses to be profitable, just as public roadways enable suburban business parks and malls to be profitable.

      It was right for America to emphasize Super Highways and Airports last century. Today Peak Oil, 90% dependence on foreign oil, Global Warming, air traffic delay, and the higher expense of maintaining additional highway lanes demands that we shift more resources to electric, Rapid Transit and HSR and more natural gas or biodiesel-powered Trucks and Freight trains.

      • Don’t neglect electric freight rail, which can move goods presently hauled by long haul truck for under 10% the energy. Focusing the trucking on short haul trucking both increases the share that can be provided sustainably by green as opposed to brown biofuels, it also makes the strongest impact on reducing the cross subsidy that must be charged to cars to repair the damage done to the Interstates, Federal and State Highway by trucks.

        • Don

          10%? Are you sure? A diesel electric locomotive has about the same thermal efficiency as a power plant and there are far fewer losses delivering the power to the railhead. Freight rail is about 3:1 better than highway freight at the moment. So, I can’t see “less than 10%”.

          But, you are correct that converting freight from highway to rail is the best bet for reducing transportation energy consumption. Electrifying would give good flexibility of fuel choice, but petroleum is still too cheap for private investment in electrification to get started.

          • Don, what I’ve seen about comparative freight efficiency of trucking and class I freight is closer to 10:1 than 3:1.

            I honestly have no idea what savings can be realized from electrification alone, at present fuel prices. For passenger trains such savings are already large, but class I freight is optimized for low diesel use, with respect to speed, train length, acceleration cycles, etc.

      • Adirondacker12800

        No nation has built an effective intercity/interstate/interprovince transportation system without federal planning, “rules of the road” and funding. </em.

        The Midwest and Northeast were well on their way to completing a regional system when the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 was passed.

        • Nathanael

          Well, there are a *few* exceptions; the Northeast Toll Road System did take a very long time to actually get end-to-end connected, though, due to state-centered thinking.

          And the Northeast managed to build the NEC, when it comes to trains, and also the NY Central and Pennsy mainlines to Chicago. But this goes to show that the most slam-dunk routes will *eventually* get built *despite* a lack of coordinated action. The rest of the routes, not so much.

      • gblatham

        ThomasD:

        With all due respect, it was NOT “right for America to emphasize Super Highways and Airports last century.”

        In fact, without a comprehensive transportation policy in place, the U.S. should never have been emphasising ANYTHING!

        It was Washington’s insistence upon creating a drive-or-fly society which placed us in our current untenable position.

        It may be necessary for us to play the hand we’ve been dealt; however, it is NOT necessary for us to try and defend the dealer! Personally, our national obsession with all things auto and aero fills me with disgust.

        Garl B. Latham
        Dallas, Texas

    • Replace the federal gas tax with some fee that’s collected only from people who drive on federal roads, and then we’ll talk.

    • NC Voter

      For the same reasons that we need federal oversight of water resources. Many states depend on other states for their water; how well do you think such dependency would last without federal oversight?

      I really don’t get this aversion to any central planning. Nothing big in national infrastructure has ever been achieved in this country without a certain degree of it.

    • gblatham

      corbel,

      While we’re busy eliminating federal transportation funding, we should eliminate all federal transportation taxes, too.

      No funds for rail-based initiatives? NOT ONE PENNY for roadways, airways and waterways! Let every mode sink or swim on its own. We’ll just see who might survive!

      My guess? It’ll be a fixed guideway system which uses two equally spaced steel rails to…well, you know.

      Garl B. Latham
      Dallas, Texas

  • Chuck

    You people are upset that certain states receive more federal funds than they pay. What should we cut from those states? National Parks (privatize Yellowstone?). Close the interstate highways across those states? Close defense installations in any red state (didn’t blue states benefit from having air bases in North Dakota during the cold war)? Stop paying social security in those states (they tend to have an older populatino)?

    • Loren Petrich

      That in itself would not be especially annoying if many of those states’ inhabitants did not add insult to injury by whining about all the taxes that they have to pay. Thus being Takers who whine that they are Givers, and being like someone who demanded “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!”

    • I can think of two big things: military, and roads. The roads are especially overbuilt in the Interior West – there’s no need for Interstate-grade freeways in North Dakota, and Canada gets away with having a regular road for its transcontinental highway. And a lot of military spending is just pork for various rural states and could be cut – it’s probably not a significant chunk of the military budget, but it’s a significant chunk of the urban-to-rural subsidies.

      Farm programs need to go, too, but they mostly go to places like Iowa, not Montana.

    • Drewski

      Chuck, what upsets me is that I’m compelled to subsidize ethanol–and corn production in general–when I would rather pay for real research into making truly viable use of the Great Plains. I love beef, but cattle don’t have the digestive system to eat corn. They’re forced to eat corn because the USDA is in bed with Cargill, ADM and Monsanto. The USDA is in bed with them because it suits a few wealthy corporate agriculture interests.

      I happen to like bison too. Bison are native to the Great Plains. Bison can easily coexist with native grasses, and those native grasses have commercial value as a source of cellulose ethanol. My desire to eat meat from healthy animals is all but thwarted by the many subsidies to corporate agriculture.

      Closer to home, I am at least lucky enough that Ohio has one of the largest Amish and Mennonite populations in the world, which means I can get Amish beef, pork and chicken at Cleveland’s West Side Market. I can do this for a slightly higher price than I would pay at a supermarket. Why shouldn’t more American farmers be encouraged to be stewards of both the land and the produce of the land, as opposed to treating it like a lower-grade commodity like cold-rolled steel? Why isn’t my Federal government spending money to brand American produce, American cheeses, American beers and wines, American meats? Instead, we still operate on the same commodity model that works well only if you’re dumping soybeans into the hull of a Chinese-bound freighter. Why aren’t my fellow Americans in rural areas being encouraged to show their ingenuity, their creativity, their appreciation and awareness of what our land gives us? I don’t have to live on a farm to think this, feel this or believe this. I’m American. This is my country. We can do better, and yes, it all does tie in to transportation, because our approach to agriculture and livestock is much the same as our approach to urbanism and to transportation. Act in the interests of a few, and disregard the damage to our land, our heritage, our culture and our health.

      • Why should Iowa have such outsized influence on US politics, particularly in its current role as the first presidential nominating contest (a role both parties consider sacred?)

        • Its like the US soldier’s song in WWI, “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here …”. Its position is sacrosanct because of its position. If it was seriously expected that it was going to lose its position, then suddenly Iowa’s outrage at the prospect losing that position would no longer be a compelling concern among ambitious politicians.

        • Nathanael

          The Iowa nonsense is another one of those things which has to change in order to have a functioning political system at the federal level.

  • FLDonaher

    That’s the LAST thing we need to cut back on…and unfortunately the first thing the GOP wants to cut. Not everyone has a car, and even some of us like Yours Truly who do own one want to leave a smaller carbon footprint. Look at the price of gas. Look at traffic and congestion. Each gets worse every day in both small and large communities! We should be more progressive like Europe and Canada. Each of those entities has excellent transportation options. Obama said it best in his State Of The Union speech; you can save weight by taking the engine out of the plane, but you’ll feel the impact sooner than later. It’s obvious that Congress is not being led by the Vulcans. They would at least be logical.

  • Mark

    A funny thing called money doesn’t seem to matter to democrats and liberals. If democrats and liberals think USA can survive any more 1.5 trillion deficit, they are sadly mistaken.

    • alexD

      Amazing how the deficit only became an issue the minute that Obama was elected. Remember the words of conservative republican hero Dick Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter”.

      • Buckeyeman

        Well, I guess that’s been all but forgotten. The thing that really added fuel to the fire was health care reform. Wall Street issues and auto industry issues played a pert there but once health care reform got going, then the Repubs and the Teabaggers were really aroused.Maybe somebody can take that sound bite of Cheney’s remark and put it to good use.

        • Adirondacker12800

          and if things work the way they are planned health care reform will reduce the deficit.

          • Nathanael

            Yep. There may be much to dislike about National Romneycare (force us to buy more stuff from looting corporations!), but it will most certainly reduce the federal budget deficit.

  • WARNING: Another Republican Lost Memory/Patriotic Contradiction Episode.

    “A funny thing called money doesn’t seem to matter to democrats and liberals. If democrats and liberals think USA can survive any more 1.5 trillion deficit, they are sadly mistaken.”

    THE TRUTH

    Republican leadership only complained about the national deficit when President Obama came to power. If pure deficit reduction is really the most important issue for them today, then why are Republicans proposing to:

    • continue spending $42 billion on Highways (including a chunk of new highway lanes)
    • only token invest in Energy projects that reduce foreign oil consumption
    • give multi-billion dollar tax breaks to mega-profitable, multi-national oil companies (including BP)
    • continue wasting over $150 billion each year on obsolete military weaponry & programs

    It is understandable for every Congressperson to bring home Highway maintenance funding that only benefits their constituency. But is it patriotic to waste that scale of taxpayer money and increase foreign oil dependency when you claim deficit reduction and national security as your flagpole issues?

    When considering their 2000-2008 track record in power, it begs the question, “Who pays Republican campaign bills and influences their targets for deficit reduction?”

    Until Republicans are logically, morally and patriotically consistent, they have zero credibility targeting budget cuts for HSR and Rapid Transit projects that serve a greater good for the nation WITHOUT huge campaign contributions.

    • Jeff

      Part of it is, as the article above shows, that Republicans’ constituents (being more rural and exurban) typically have little interest in public transit, part of it is a doctrinaire objection to anything remotely public or “socialist” (highways don’t count, for some reason), and part of it is just contrarianism (“if liberals want it, by God, than we’re against it!).

  • Bart

    Interesting analysis. I would not be optimistic of a change (regardless of your point of view) even if political gerrymandering was reduced or eliminated: “properly” drawn districts would still tend to reflect city, suburb and rural divides.

    It might be interesting to see what happens to the California House delegation after 2012, when, as a result of recent initiatives: (1) Representatives will have been elected from districts drawn without (or at least a minimum of) political gerrymandering; and (2) the general election will be conducted after “general” (i.e., non-party based) primaries. The mix of Democrats and Republicans may or not be different, but what will be more telling is whether the ideological mix on matters such as these is different.

  • Again this expensive boondoggle of California’s High Speed Rail I didn’t vote for. Why did California voted for this monstrosity beyound absurdity. They should use the money and cancel this project and build the extensions of Interstate 40 and 70. Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Visalia and Stockton are cities that are exploding in population. Yet smaller cities of San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria with Paso Robles have been growing so slow in the past 15 years, no one seems to notice.

    CA 46 & 58 should become Interstate 40 from Paso Robles past U.S. 101 to Interstate 5 to Interstate 15. The new Westside Parkway is an example in Bakersfield of a freeway gap closure from I-5 to CA 99.

    Fresno has an freeway system too, with passage of a measure in 1986 and extended just recently (Fresno County) while Tulare County to the south has CA 198 with Kings County to be widened to four lane expressway between Hanford and Visalia, via CA 99. CA 65 was even proposed to be widened in Kern and Tulare County to four lanes. But there is no CA 65 south of Roseville, CA until Caltrans puts the funds down to get that highway built to CA 198 from I-80.

    California is in such a enormous debt that $25 to $28 billion dollars is considered to be in the red. Overspending can kill state and local governments as well as people on credit cards if they can’t handle them. We as a nation don’t live in our means anymore.

    SCP

    • Wad

      Scotty, you’re saying that the state is broke and yet simultaneously you’re advocating the diversion of high-speed rail funds to pour more concrete (a diminishing return)?

      Your value proposition is worse.

  • No it isn’t because this HSR project will not serve the central California coast. Yes California is broke, but if you take in the $9.95 billion dollar bond and recind it, return the money to balance the state budget maybe their will not have to be so many cuts. No my value proposition is not worse, becuase I am not a spendthrift, like so other many people in debt. Plus being a born again Christian with the mindset of Christ at heart, not to own anyone is a good example.

    I am just saying that State Routes 58 needs to be improved, along with State Route 46 to expressway & freeway standardsso that Interstate 40 can run east and west to San Luis Obispo County. Do you know what the proposed Bakersfield Freeway system will look like several years from now?

    CA 46 is considered to be a blood alley, too many accidents including the death of a worker from my newspeper, The Tribune of SLO.

    • Adirondacker12800

      There’s an easy solution to your problem, tolls.

      • Martin

        That’s because the Central Coast (particularly Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties) turned down HSR back in the 90s because they didn’t want to encourage more people to move to the Central Coast. And I’m pretty sure Santa Barbara would still block rail improvements beyond Ventura.
        The real secret to why HSR passed in California is just what I pointed out; that HSR puts Bakersfield in commuting range of LA and Fresno, Modesto and the Central Valley in between in commuting distance of S.F. and San Jose. It’s a little known fact of California history that the rail lines that Collis Huntington built into the farm country east and south of LA to farm towns to keep other railroads out started California’s urban sprawl by putting those farm towns within commuting distance of LA. HSR will continue that tradition by making it possible for Central Valley residents to get to work places that are too far to drive. And HSR will also make Palmdale Airport feasible as the new LAX as well as connecting HSR to Vegas for both LA and SF. Why should the HSR to Vegas dead end at Victorville when it can through train to LA and SF at Mojave?

    • Wad

      Scott, the longer you write, the more clueless you reveal yourself to be. I would very much like to defend the merits of HSR, but I have a sense that by doing so, I am casting pearls before swine.

  • Love Is Fan by ... Scott

    Scott84 is know known by Love Is Fan…by Scott (Kim Casali)
    for her comic strip “Love Is…”

    Spendthrift recsind, return the money.

    Do not own anyone any money.

    Why is USA broke by $110 Trillions dollars?

  • Love Is Fan by ... Scott

    Tolls for more highways, maybe? HOT lanes are coming to Los Angeles, CA. But I wonder how CA 46 & 58 can be used for a tollway? Hmmmmm……

    • Wad

      Just to qualify, HOT lanes are coming in Los Angeles on I-10 between downtown Los Angeles and El Monte, along what is now the El Monte Busway; as well as I-110 between south downtown Los Angeles and Gardena, along what is now the Harbor Transitway.

      The mixed-flow lanes will still be free. HOT lane users will be required to get a transponder; there won’t be any toll booths.

      If you suggest CA-46 and CA-58 be tolled, put toll booths on the roads. If there are no alternative roads, drivers will pay the tolls.

  • Love Is Fan by ... Scott

    Who says anything about being clueless, not me. That is not the proposal for CA 46 & 58 to convert into a tollway. There is right now a plan for CA 46 to be widened to expressway standards. And CA 58 into freeway standards or making it into an Interstate 40 extention.

    Enough of the clueless, there is one sentence I may throughout at you Wad, “Enough is enough.” I am a very intelligent man with autism as in high performance and I do not appreciate the false sense you may have. I was spiritiually gifted from my Jesus as a Christian, with the ability for writing and English skills.

    I speak from the heart and mind for a combination. I am now support HSR for California, hoping the project gets off the first line built between Madera through Fresno, east of Hanford and Bakersfield. However also I support Caltrans, and the Automobile Club of Southern California, and our local planning agencies, San Luis Obispo Council of Governments as well Tulare County version of that too where I came from the city seat of Visalia, CA.

    I support both transportation systems, HSR and Highways.

    LIF SCP

  • Love Is Fan by ... Scott

    Also I am a Old Antique Road and Street Map collector, which I purchase old gasoline maps from http://www.20centurymaps.com online, been doing that since 2004.

    As well as a Sim City 4 Rush Hour/ (Simtropolis, Sim City 4 fan link) user for the simulation put out by Maxis/EA. Your idea Wad has merit for CA 46 & 58, but how in the world would tollways be solver for Central California coast and the Central Valley (San Joaquin Valley) when there is not enough money in California to do that with a $25 to $28 billion dollar shortfall called DEBT?

    That is what I am trying to figure out, people can spend money if they dont have it. The stay within the budget means has not worked for California at all. Maybe including other states too.

    SCP
    LIF

    • Wad

      Scott, the debt and the deficit are two different things. The $25 billion-$28 billion is the deficit, or the difference between expenditures and revenues. California is spending as much as $28 billion more than it collects.

      The debt, on the other hand, is about three times as large. The Treasurer’s website says $71 billion of bonds have been floated, with another $38 billion authorized but not yet sold.

      Certainly, those are astronomical figures. But remember, bonds are dealing with a horizon of several decades. Older bonds are being retired every month, while the newest bonds have full repayment schedules of as much as 30 years.

      Spreading that out, debt is about $2.5 billion a year.

      The bad news: California cannot shirk this debt.

      The deficit, on the other hand, can be adjusted and by law must be. California by law cannot carry an operating deficit. This is why the state has had to resort to fiscal sleight-of-hand, all to create the illusion of a reconciled balance sheet. Ironically, California violates the spirit of the law in order to comply with the letter of the law.

      The saddest fact of the state budget is that there is really no legal way we can have a sound budget. The state has to spend money in order to cut money.

      No government entity can change a line item to zero without imposing costs to go to zero. When government workers are laid off, they get a severance package (cha-ching). Then they can draw unemployment benefits (cha-ching). There might be a provision to draw down on pension funds for hardships (cha-ching). They would also likely attend a state-funded institution of higher learning to learn new skills at the heavily subsidized residents’ rate (cha-ching).

      And I haven’t even gotten to the force multiplier yet. With government workers adding to unemployment, you have more surplus labor depressing wages for the overall workforce, thereby reducing government tax receipts.

      You’d also have the costs of deactivation. Assets such as public buildings, vehicles and other machines continue to impose costs while idle until they are sold off. The sell-offs only bring in little more money than the costs of the liquidation sale, and that’s a best-case scenario.

    • Wad

      Scott, the debt and the deficit are two different things. The $25 billion-$28 billion is the deficit, or the difference between expenditures and revenues. California is spending as much as $28 billion more than it collects.

      The debt, on the other hand, is about three times as large. The Treasurer’s website says $71 billion of bonds have been floated, with another $38 billion authorized but not yet sold.

      Certainly, those are astronomical figures. But remember, bonds are dealing with a horizon of several decades. Older bonds are being retired every month, while the newest bonds have full repayment schedules of as much as 30 years.

      Spreading that out, debt is about $2.5 billion a year.

      The bad news: California cannot shirk this debt.

      The deficit, on the other hand, can be adjusted and by law must be. California by law cannot carry an operating deficit. This is why the state has had to resort to fiscal sleight-of-hand, all to create the illusion of a reconciled balance sheet. Ironically, California violates the spirit of the law in order to comply with the letter of the law.

      The saddest fact of the state budget is that there is really no legal way we can have a sound budget. The state has to spend money in order to cut money.

      No government entity can change a line item to zero without imposing costs to go to zero. When government workers are laid off, they get a severance package (cha-ching). Then they can draw unemployment benefits (cha-ching). There might be a provision to draw down on pension funds for hardships (cha-ching). They would also likely attend a state-funded institution of higher learning to learn new skills at the heavily subsidized residents’ rate (cha-ching).

      And I haven’t even gotten to the force multiplier yet. With government workers adding to unemployment, you have more surplus labor depressing wages for the overall workforce, thereby reducing government tax receipts.

      You’d also have the costs of deactivation. Assets such as public buildings, vehicles and other machines continue to impose costs while idle until they are sold off. The sell-offs only bring in little more money than the costs of the liquidation sale, and that’s a best-case scenario.

  • Love Is Fan by ... Scott

    And perhaps you dont know the real details for proposed HOT lanes, Interstate 405 from Los Angeles International Airport, LAX (San Diego Freeway) from I-105 to Interstate 5 will become a HOT conversion. Along with Interstate 105, (Century Freeway) to I-605 as HOT. And the Orange County section of I-405 from CA 22/I-605 (Garden Grove Freeway and San Gabriel River Freeway) split to CA 73 Freeway as a HOT conversion. I already know the plans of I-10 & I-110 for 2 or more years.

    SCP LIF

  • Brian

    Republicans oppose public transit because they feel it makes them reliant on the government for the mobility that they would rather provide for themselves. Public transit gives the impression of someone telling you where you can go rather than being able to decide for yourself. If private operators ran transit on public rights of way, this would be less of an issue for Republicans. A public rail line with private operators who can determine schedules and routes based on demand will get more support than a public transit system that has government constructing and running the system. Not saying the latter is better or more efficient on paper, just that it better fits the Republican model. Transit should not be an all or nothing proposition, but it gets treated as one.

  • Love Is By .... Scott

    Then how do you Wad explain this?

    A. The new World Order
    B. A Cashless Society
    C. European Union greater than United States?

    Somehow all of what you have explained will lead to A and B in the near future, this has been anticipated for many years.

    Going to get back to my Local Climatological Data, for my weather station.

    I would think that California and the rest of the United States would never be able to solve their crises in debt, you agree or not?

    LIF SCP

    • Wad

      Scott, you’re going in too many different directions. You’ve mentioned two Central California highways, calling HSR a boondoggle and then supporting it, debt and deficit, and now a cashless society and the European Union. That’s way too much to explain, let alone create a string theory for what you’ve asked.

  • RAILWAYIST

    Automobile dependence + oil addiction + drive-thru fast food = the fattest nation in world history…BLUBBERLAND—GAS-UP/SLURP-UP/PICKUP&DROPOFF—KEEP ON TRUCKIN OPEC PUPPETS…

  • Love Is By .... Scott

    Well the solution to your answer is simple, change the subject, Wad. There is only one complete answer, to my comment: Revelation 13:6 in the bible is what I mean. No one will buy or sell without the Mark of the Beast, a computer chip under the skin. After money has been eliminated. That is where the USA is heading towards.
    This is not a theory here.
    ———-
    My next question is would it be the right idea to have CA 99 become an Interstate 7 or 9 and end in one state, California or go all the way through Oregon and Washington? One State Interstates are dumbfounded.
    Personally I wanted U.S. 99 to be restored to the central Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys as well as restoring the co-signing with Interstate 5 & 10 to CA 86 and turn southward after Indio to the Mexican border.

    *Maybe people should look up the word “Interstate” in the Webster’s Dictionary and see its definations.

    Question #3:
    Will people be able to afford the HSR when it comes to the fare, which approach? (How much will a HSR fare cost once the system is completed in 2020?) Amtrak costs between Fresno and San Luis Obispo in the $40 dollar range, for a train fare.

    SCP LIF HM

  • Love Is By .... Scott

    Who says anything about playing or bandwidth. I am assuming that you may be ignorant, so no more would I discuss anything here to you Wad. Maybe I should ignore any further comments by you, oh well if that is the way it would be…so be it. However I will reply to others who are more sophicated to lend me what they are talking about highways, tollways etc, here. Ignorance + whatever = Dasvidanya. (goodbye in Russian). With more intelligence like I have.

    In other words, be nice seriously. Maybe we could work things out by being gentlemen here.

    Scott

  • Love Is By .... Scott

    I want to stay comfortable with the Comment Rules, Wad is what I am getting at. Remain simple and life will be positive, not negative. I want ideas not some nonsense that doesn’t mention anything about transportation issues.

    (I am a high performance autistic man, and I am using diplomacy to work any problems that seem to be in the way.)

    Scott

  • Use more buses on existing roads. Avoid the capital costs of additional rail track. We have the roads & will need to maintain them for the foreseeable future. We don’t need to be sibsidizing any and all modes of transportation.

    • Wad

      The real facts: The U.S. isn’t Honduras. We don’t need to follow the recipe for the Third World — keep our carrying costs low in order to be integrated into a broader economic network — in order to attain and maintain wealth.

      The real facts: If we actually listened to your advice, the U.S. will become Honduras.

      Oh, wait …

  • Ann

    “between density of congressional districts and the vote share of the Democratic candidate”

    Shouldn’t you be looking at counties or census districts or zip codes? Gerrymandering of congressional districts would strongly bias the chart, I would think.

  • I love this chart. To add to this discussion, take a look at what happens when you put a map of the 2008 presidential election by next to a 2010 map of population density:

    http://pinterest.com/pin/47147127319213966/

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

Comment preview below as you type. You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


three − 1 =

For help if you have trouble posting or your comment is marked as spam, please email:
info (at) thetransportpolitic.com | Comment Rules

The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

Email newsletter

Network

rss feed
comments feed
twitter feed
email update