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Time to Fight

» With a House like this, what advances can American transportation policy make?

Actions by members of the U.S. House over the past week suggest that Republican opposition to the funding of alternative transportation has developed into an all-out ideological battle. Though their efforts are unlikely to advance much past the doors of their chamber, the policy recklessness they have displayed speaks truly poorly of the future of the nation’s mobility systems.

By Friday last week, the following measures were brought to the attention of the GOP-led body:

  • The Ways and Means Committee acted to eliminate the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, destroying public transportation’s source of steady federal financing for capital projects, first established in the 1980s. The members of the committee determined that to remedy the fact that gas taxes have not been increased since 1993,* the most appropriate course was not to raise the tax (as would make sense considering inflation, more efficient vehicles, and the negative environmental and congestion-related effects of gas consumption) but rather to transfer all of its revenues to the construction of highways. Public transit, on the other hand, would have to fight for an appropriation from the general fund, losing its traditional guarantee of funding and forcing any spending on it to be offset by reductions in other government programs.** This as the GOP has made evident its intention to reduce funding for that same general fund through a continued push for income tax reductions, even for the highest earners.
  • The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a transportation reauthorization bill on partisan lines (with the exception of one Republican who voted against it, Tom Petri of Wisconsin) that would do nothing to increase funding for transportation infrastructure in the United States over the next five years despite the fact that there is considerable demand for a large improvement in the nation’s road, rail, and transit networks just to keep them in a state of good repair, let alone expand them to meet the needs of a growing population.
  • The committee voted to eliminate all federal requirements that states and localities spend 10% of their highway funding on alternative transportation projects (CMAQ), such as Safe Routes to School, sidewalks, or cycling infrastructure, despite the fact the those mandated investments are often the only ones of their sort that are actually made by many states.
  • The committee eliminated the Obama Administration’s trademark TIGER program, which has funded dozens of medium-scale projects throughout the country with a innovative merit-based approach. Instead, virtually all decisions on project funding would be made by state DOTs, which not unjustly have acquired a reputation as only interested in highways. Meanwhile, members couldn’t resist suggesting that only “true” high-speed rail projects (over 150 mph top speed) be financed by the government — even as they conveniently defunded the only such scheme in the country, the California High-Speed Rail program.
  • The same committee added provisions to federal law that would provide special incentives for privatization of new transportation projects — despite the fact that there is no overwhelming evidence that such mechanisms save the public any money at all. And under the committee’s legislation, the government would provide extra money to localities that contract out their transit services to private operators, simply as a reward for being profit-motivated.
  • Meanwhile, House leadership recommended funding any gaps in highway spending not covered by the Trust Fund through a massive expansion in domestic energy production that would destroy thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, do little for decreasing the American reliance on foreign oil, and reaffirm the nation’s addiction to carbon-heavy energy sources and ecological devastation. New energy production of this sort is highly speculative in nature and would produce very few revenues in the first years of implementation. As a special treat, the same leadership proposed overruling President Obama’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline by bundling an approval for it into the transportation bill.

This litany of disastrous policies were endorsed by the large majority of Republicans on each committee, with the exception of two GOP members in House Ways and Means*** and one in the Transportation Committee who voted against the bill, though the vote was entirely along party lines for an amendment attempting to reverse course on the elimination of the Mass Transit Account.

Fortunately, these ideas are unlikely to make it into the code thanks to the Senate, whose members, both Democratic and Republican, have different ideas about what makes an acceptable transportation bill. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

The House’s effort to move forward on a new multiyear federal transportation bill — eagerly awaited by policy wonks for three years — follows intense and repeated Republican obstructions of the Obama Administration’s most pioneering efforts to alter the nation’s transportation policy in favor of investments that improve daily life for inhabitants of American metropolitan areas. As part of that process, federally funded high-speed rail, streetcar, and transit center projects have been shot down by local politicians as a waste of money, even as road construction has continued apace.

The Tea Party’s zany obsession with the supposed U.N. plot to take over American land use decisions through Agenda 21 seems to have infected GOP House members and even presidential contenders. Michele Bachmann’s claim in 2008 that Democrats are attempting to force people onto light rail lines to travel between their housing “tenements” and government jobs may have made it into the mind of Newt Gingrich, who recently made the claim that the “elite” in New York City who ride the subway and live in high-rise condos don’t understand “normal” Americans. What kind of language is this?

In the Senate, there is clear evidence that the hard-core proposals of the House will not become law. The upper body’s Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously endorsed a different type of transportation reauthorization, one that would last only two years but that would reform and simplify the grants provided by the Department of Transportation so that they are more based on merit in such matters as ecological sensitivity and the creation of livable communities.

Similarly, in the Senate Banking Committee, the transit portion of the proposed bill (approved unanimously) would maintain funding guarantees and allow transit agencies to use federal dollars for operations spending during periods of high unemployment, which would be an excellent policy if pushed into law. How the Senate will be able to compromise with the House in time for the March 31st deadline set by the current legislation is up in the air.

The strange and laudable part of the Senate side of the story — at least as compared to the House — is the bipartisan nature of decision-making there. Why are Republicans in the Senate promoting a transportation bill that explicitly would promote multimodalism as a goal, in a contrast to the highway focus of their peers in the House? Why are they accepting environmental criteria as appropriate measures of quality in transportation policy? Perhaps the Democratic Party’s control of the Senate makes fighting such ideas a waste of time. Or perhaps longer Senate terms in office allow clearer, more reasonable thinking.

Whatever the reason, in the long-term, it is hard to envision reversing the continued growth of the GOP’s strident opposition to sustainable transportation investments in the House. As I have documented, density of population correlates strongly and positively with the Democratic Party vote share in Congressional elections; the result has been that the House Republicans have few electoral reasons to articulate policies that benefit cities. Those who believe in the importance of a sane transportation policy need to make more of an effort to advance a sane transportation politics to residents of suburban and rural areas, who also benefit from efforts to improve environmental quality, mobility alternatives, and congestion relief, but perhaps are not yet convinced of that fact. Doing so would encourage politicians hoping for votes outside of the city core — Democratic or Republican — to promote alternatives to the all-highways meme that currently rules the GOP in the House.

In the face of such actions, it becomes imperative in the short term not only to ramp up citizen opposition to the defunding of transit and associated programs, but also to full-throatily endorse those leaders who will stand up to fight. Not working for their election in the fall risks policies like those being advanced in the House being passed by an acquiescent Senate and signed by a future president. Such actions would put in question the potential improvement of existing programs and turn back on the policy strides that must be made to contest the vision some have of an all-automobile America.

* The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that based on current tax receipts, the government will run out of funding for new highways next year and for new transit in 2014.

** I have in the past frequently cited the failings of the current user-fee based transportation funding system. By taxing people based on their automobile use and using some of the funds for transit, we are of course attempting to counteract the negative externalities produced by pollution and congestion. But in the process, we are charging drivers — even in places with no alternatives — a regressive tax that limits the mobility of the poor. Thus we are directly tying funding for transit to revenues from automobiles, a perverse relationship. Yet the alternative to the user fee is guaranteed funding from the general fund, not arbitrary annual appropriations to transit that House Republicans seem to be promoting.

*** Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Vern Buchanan of Florida, both of whom represent districts just outside city centers.

66 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Part of what is driving the House’s actions may be local Politicians and Transit Agencies seeking funds for expensive, inefficient, and pie-in-the-sky type Projects.

    Here in Chicago, while CTA is ALWAYS begging for money (both Capital and Operating) – somewhere City Hall and the CTA recently found THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS to throw down a hole in Downtown Chicago (to support an “AirPort Express” proposal that EVERYBODY knew could NE V E R work – sort of like that “Emperor’s New Clothes” Fairy-Tale):

    https://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS344&q=Block+37+waste&oq=Block+37+waste&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=12&gs_upl=829l17667l0l20089l10l10l0l2l0l0l1540l3507l2-4.1.0.1.8-1l7l0#pq=block+37+waste&hl=en&sugexp=crf&tok=n4oP_4JK12M0AQxOEbSMUg&cp=13&gs_id=3p&xhr=t&q=Block+37+%24300+million+wasted&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS344&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=Block+37+%24300+million+wasted&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.,cf.osb&fp=21ae9f9a745b336d&biw=1280&bih=685

    Now they want (at last quote) $1.4 Billion to construct a
    6 mile 4 station Red Line ‘L’ Extension South of 95th St.; when a new 40 Station 25 mile CTA ‘L’ System could be created on Chicago’s South Side utilizing EXISTING Infrastruture for One-Seventh the Total Capital Cost:

    http://www.taxpayersunitedofamerica.org/commentary/itef/cta-to-waste-12-billion-in-red-line-boondoggle

    I’m sure these types of things happen all over the country, and I think the House is maybe going to seek to fund Projects that are Cost Efficent and Beneficial;
    rather than whatever Sen. So-and-So demands for His Home District.

    • Dave

      Political axe to grind much? I don’t think the “taxpayers united of america” are an independent think tank. Regardless, Metra isn’t really keen on CTA operating on their lines… and I don’t know that CTA equipment would fit on Metra’s tracks. So why don’t the Grey Line’s rabid fanbase simply petition Metra to beef up their Metra Electric service to operate every 5-10 minutes?

      • FG

        Dave – that would be too rational….

      • david vartanoff

        The point is to run frequent service which is fare transparent. Current once an hour service at aseparate fare is useless to most city residents. There is NO plan to use CTA L cars or crews. Over the next several years, CTA is going to do major rehab on the Dan Ryan segment of the Red Line; expect service disruptions. BTW the Gray Line ROW has stations at most streets w/ CTA crosstown bus routes.

        • FG

          Yes, but it’s also a suburban commuter line – they grey line doesn’t address that effectively (in fact, not at all). The service disruptions won’t be that severe for the red line – and this part of the city has lost population, so there is even less incentive to change over to an inferior, less pleasant service. And the “one hour” service is at low periods, not peak – you give the impression that it’s a useless service by repeating that over and over.

    • The Tea Party leaders and the Republicans who pander to them do not care about cost-effectiveness in the slightest. The project they were most eager to defund, Florida HSR, had a reasonable budget, would make a profit, and posed no cost escalation risk to the government since the private partners would be on the hook for cost overruns. At the same time, the Reason hacks defend highways no matter the cost, and Bachmann said that earmarks to roads and bridges are not actually earmarks.

      They dislike transit for purely cultural and ideological reasons. In that way they are no different from the Swiss People’s Party, which is unabashedly pro-road and opposes more funding for the main rail initiatives; that the same attitude exists in a country with perhaps the best-run rail in the world (certainly the best-run publicly-run rail in the world) should dispel any notion that costs have anything to do with it.

      What is true is that moderate and center-right voters do care about costs, and more efficient transit would do wonders to gain their support. Romney is part of this group, and so is Mica. But they aren’t the people in charge of the House’s defunding of any and all transit.

      • Adirondacker12800

        They dislike transit for purely cultural and ideological reasons

        It’s not that complex. The dirty farking hippies are for it so they have to be against it. There’s also the off chance that if one takes the bus or the train one might rub shoulders with someone who isn’t a Tea Party member.

      • Ocean Railroader

        Some of the federal and state highway money pits they could easly cut instead could be the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway which right now the state of VA is spending over $116 million dollars to build up a small six mile section of. At the same time if you looked at how many people ride Amtrak between Washington DC and Richmond VA on their main line it would most likely be carrying a lot more people a day than a given section of one of these four lane roads to no where.

    • Prove that all Interstate freeways in the sparsely populated West were “Cost Efficent and Beneficial”, but no one complains about them today because truckers use them. Although its always good to scrutinize each Rapid Transit project for Benefit-Cost, there is no justification to sabotage its funding nationwide.

      Trying to overcome their stigma as a Do Nothing Congress, the GOP is playing Oil politics by proposing a Transportation bill they know Democrats would never approve. Its like asking the Pope for his approval on Abortion.

  • 1st) Dave it is “Gray Line” (Spelled G – R – A – Y); it is written as “Gray Line” in a zillion places – so where did you find the “Grey Line” spelling???

    2nd) NTUI (nor anybody) doesn’t need to be an “independent think tank” to recognize expensive waste when they see it.

    3rd) If you had ever looked at the Website you would know the Gray Line would use the E X I S T I N G Metra Electric Highliners (and new AC Highliner II’s) with CTA decals on their sides, to provide service. N O T CTA equipment.

    4th) Operating Metra Electric trains without COMPLETE integration with CTA’s fare system would result in STILL EMPTY Metra Electric trains running every 5-10 minutes instead of every 1-2 hours.

    • FG

      4th) Operating Metra Electric trains without COMPLETE integration with CTA’s fare system would result in STILL EMPTY Metra Electric trains running every 5-10 minutes instead of every 1-2 hours.

      BS

      And there is only one time period with a gap of more than an hour. Trains every 30 – 20 minutes in the evening would be bustling.

      With this bad news, the red line extension is even further in the future unfortunately.

      The bigger problem is you still haven’t honestly addressed construction costs, infrastructure requirements on the mainline and interface with suburban services and South Shore Line trains.

      I’m not sure the tea party is as powerful as people believe, it’ll be interesting after this round of elections – I have friends who think that Obama will win big. Alon – I’ve always heard that the Swiss are generally anti-road – do I have the wrong perception or is this a Peoples Party platform?

      • FG – Do you (or have you ever) lived on Chicago’s South Side and used the Metra Electric (or the earlier I.C.) for an extended time period?

        The Red Line extension may be examined even more closely with the introduction of Ilinois Senate Bill 2572 – which would develop new ways and criteria for prioritizing and funding Transit Projects in Illinois: http://e-lobbyist.com/gaits/view/358476

        I have been told that one of the reasons for the Bill’s introduction is the continuing bypassing of the Gray Line proposal by the Agencies involved; and I have been invited to testify in Springfield before the Senate once a Hearing date for the Bill is set.

        I will address the specific issues you question (construction, infrastructure,etc..) over the next few weeks.

        • FG

          Yes, I am a lifelong (minus some sojourns elsewhere in the city and world) south sider unlike some and ride ME every day. Do you?

          On a brighter note, Amtrak has announced 110 MPH service approval in Michigan.

          SwissOb… Thanks for the response – perhaps it was a reference to “anti-car” movements (I can’t imagine people in rural areas would be anti-car, for instance) that I’d heard of.

      • SwissObserver

        Hi FG

        Allow me to comment on your remarks regarding Switzerland: Switzerland’s railway network may be very excellent and therefore very famous, but my country also maintains a perfect network of highways/roads – with big expansion plans for both modes of transport. Swiss are generally pro-mobility, might it be public transport or not (except bikes, lots of work on that front…). What is different is the general level of what is accepted also by socalled right-wing parties; so the Swiss Peoples Party would never ban public transport anywhere, or even deny that more money is needed to expand the railway network. But they often resist due to other reasons; for example the transfer of money coming from road or motor vehicle taxes for public transport, because maintenance costs in the road sector are also rapidly growing, and with cars becoming more and more efficient, fuel taxes won’t rise as the used to etc.
        Interesting might be the fact, that one of Switzerland’s most famous entrepreneurs and self-made billionaire, Peter Spuhler, is not only a leading member of the Swiss Peoples Party and deputy in Switzerland’s House of Representives (National Council) since 1999, but that he made his fortune with his railway manufacturing company Stadler Rail (www.stadlerrail.com/en); which for example in the United States delivered rail passenger cars to Capital Metro Austin, New Jersey Transit and Denton County Transportation Authority.

        By the way Yonah, I’m a big fan of your blog! It is always cheering me up, that things over here in Switzerland regarding public transport aren’t so messed up as I sometimes think they are.

  • On the other hand, the House Transportation Committee, despite its bad position on peripheral issues like bike/ped support, did retain the 4-1 split between highways and transit that we’ve had for decades.

    So I think the Ways and Means vote is an aberration- I suspect this is just a ploy to use transit as a bargaining chip on unrelated issues, rather than a serious attack on transit.

  • Cuomo in 2016

    Meanwhile, Andrew Cuomo is pushing through a 1950s-style Tappan Zee Bridge boondoggle. And he’s the future of the Democratic Party?

    • Nathanael

      He is so not the future of the Democratic Party. He’s created great hostility due to his support for water-supply-wrecking hydrofracking.

  • Progressive Capitalist

    This dysfunctional Congress has shown no room for compromise. Time then to take control of their talking points.

    If they want to cut, then let’s really cut– highways included. Or just let the federal gas tax expire.

    Let’s serve their tea piping hot. If something burns you, you will hesitate before you touch it again.

  • The Congressional GOP led by Mica has answered question concerning how they really feel about Rapid Transit and HSR. Their playing lackey to Oil and Highway backers at the expense of the nation couldn’t be more plain.

    Fortunately the Senate Demos will make this rubbish DOA faster than you can blink. Otherwise, President Obama would do us all a favor by crumbling the reauthorization bill into a nice paper ball to shoot at his Oval Office basket.

    Vote the bums out in 2012!

  • AlanF

    Welcome to the Crazy Years.

    I think much of we are seeing is a backlash combined with fear and denial about the reality and consequences of rapid population growth, changing demographics of the American population, high oil prices and the coming post peak oil age, and global warming. Rather than accept change, there is a large segment of the American populace that is doubling down on cars, SUVs, pick-up trucks, and endless sprawl. The next 10-15 years are going to be bumpy.

    The 2012 election is going to be interesting and perhaps the most important election in many decades.

    • Nathanael

      We’ve been in the Crazy Years for a while. The debate is over whether it started when the Supreme Court stole the Presidential election in 2000, or whether it started when Reagan started using “magic asterisks” instead of a real budget in the 1980s.

      The crazy is accelerating. We have not reached Peak Wingnut yet, however; you’ll know we’re almost there when Republican Congressman start firing guns on the floor of the House.

      • Nathanael

        (Yes, I expect things to get worse before they get better.)

        • Could you supply a graph showing when Peak Wingnut is likely to be reached? Here where I live, in Germany, we seem to have exhausted our reserves in the 30s. Now we have to outsource for those valuable foreign supplies and clearly, North America is at present one of the standard bearers in wing-nut production.

          • Nathanael

            Hee hee hee.

            I’m not sure when we’ll reach Peak Wingnut in the US, but be assured, there will still be ample supplies left in other “underdeveloped” countries; it is hard to produce wingnuts without first producing a modern technological society for them to be hostile to. The Catholic hierarchy, since it demands a particularly obsolete form of wingnut, is currently harvesting them from Africa.

  • According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 78% of all campaign donations from the oil and gas industry in recent years have gone to Republicans. Unions aside, this is the most polarized of all lobbyist groups, and it’s one of the largest.

    This House “Energy” and Transportation Bill is a two-punch knockout to the American people on behalf of the benefactors of the Republican party. Oil and Gas gets restrictions lifted on increasing their supply, while at the same time making sure that they always have a captive market to sell their product to. Most businessmen can only dream of this kind of access to government power. But this is real.

  • Michael

    This would be a great time to post that graph which shows a modest correlation between population density and where each party wins. It is no wonder the GOP and conservatives want to destroy public transportation

    • Brandi

      Yonah did an article like this a while back. You can search for it on the blog. The motivation behind this bill becomes obvious when you read it.

  • Glen

    The President and the Democrates blew it big time by not moving Oberstars bill simply because they were worried about the gas tax and the midterm votes in 2010…Stupid now look what we have.

    • Glen, you also nailed it.

      Since 1992, both political parties have become more partisan. Hence, we can’t seem to move forward on several major long term issues (Health Care, Restoring Manufacturing, Cleaning up Wall Street, Energy & Transportation Infrastructure, Immigration) at once.

      Doing 21st century political calculus, President Obama and Dems put the majority of their gunpowder after Health Care Reform, saving U.S. Automotive manufacturing and modest Wall Street Reform. Transportation & Energy Infrastructure received peanuts through the America Recovery Act rather than Oberstar’s Bill and more aggressive development of alternative energy. Immigration Reform denigrated to ONLY more miles border fencing and a record # of illegal immigrant deportations.

      NET: Energy & Transportation Infrastructure and Immigration Reform are next up.

      • Nathanael

        If Health Care Reform had actually gotten rid of the insurance company leeches, it might even have been worth it.

        But it didn’t, and that giant drag on the entire economy is still there.

        Not only that, the modest reforms don’t go into effect until 2014.

        That wasn’t worth blowing all the energy on. Medicare for All would have been worth it (and was more popular).

  • Progressive Capitalist

    Time to put up, or shut up. Even the Red State blog calls this House bill wasteful spending. So then, devise a reauthorization with less use of general revenue, less red tape, but more innovative financing than raping our resources.

    However, since the Senate has been low on innovation, we are at this standstill. The House won’t even pass a clean extension. And now the expiration of the gas tax could occur right when the Iranian crisis risks pushing prices to their highest levels. Boy, what timing!

  • Buckeyeman

    I would have to say that it’s the TEAbagger Republicans who don’t understand normal Americans, not those people that Gingrich and others say don’t understand normal Americans.

  • Mr Dave

    Aren’t NY and IL losing middle class people by the tens of thousands every year? It seems to me those are two states not to emulate. Isn’t Chicago and NYC largely populated by the rich, hipsters and the subsidized? Many of the subsidized would LOVE to move out of the cities to the suburbs and become automobile dependent.
    I laugh at the attacks on “Wall Street” Which states benefit from it the most? Solidly Democrat NY, NJ and CT.
    Take it from someone who has lived in a city all his life and uses public transportation more that 97% of the people in the country. The only people who use public transit as their primary means of transportation are people who have no alternative or people choosing to do that as a lifestyle statement(in other words slumming). The transit dependent want nothing more than to get a car especially immigrants. I know of what I speak unlike Al Gore and Obama.In DC the Metro has become undependable and superexpensive. You should see the exasperated look on people who have no alternative. It’s sad. Amtrak to NY? Only if someone else is paying for it. Upscale buses are the way to go. If you doubt me just go to Union Station’s upper level and see the full clean buses leaving every hour all for around $20 compared to upwards of $200 for the Acela.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Then go downstairs and see the Acela leave with 6 busloads of people, followed 5 minutes later by a Regional train carrying 8, 9 10 busloads of people.

    • anon

      Are you fucking retarded? People who use mass transit don’t dream of someday owning a car. I’ve used DC’s metro when travelling and it it totally dependable. I travel to work on the CTA every day and I own a car as well, which I rarely use. You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. People like you are the reason that our country is going down the shitter.

      • FG

        Other than commuting, most “native” Chicagoans wouldn’t be caught dead on public transit if they can afford a car, especially on the south, SW, west and NW sides.

        I just heard a review of a book (will have to look it up) which says one of the big problems in American politics is the myth of “bi-partisanship” and that the democrats need to get more aggressive in countering GOP arguments and create a strong vision of where the country should go – in short, the negativity works.

    • Mr Dave,

      You miss the point that Transit and HSR are viable mobility alternatives. When they don’t exist as options, the experience of driving a car or riding a Megabus on the superhighway or flying a short hop regional plane would be much worse.

      I-95 and many airports in the Northeast are less crowded because Amtrak is a viable option for regional trips. Manhattan, Boston, Philly, and DC could not function without subways and commuter trains. Can you imagine how crowded the streets would be and how expensive the parking would be if subways and commuter trains did not exist in those places.

      If you need more proof look at the difference between commuting in car-crazy LA and transit-friendly SF Bay Area. In the Bay Area I drove across the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge exactly 3 days — I couldn’t take the traffic pressure anymore. Switched to BART and noticed I felt better going to and leaving from work.

      In LA the subway goes from downtown to Mid-Wilshire District and Downtown to North Hollywood. Thats nice. Unfortunately, the Subway and Light Rails won’t go to 80% of the places workers others want to reach on a daily basis for 10-20 years. As a result LA will continue to labor under the worst traffic congestion and smog in the nation.

      And don’t get me started describing the current lack of HSR between SF-LA and Vegas.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Can you imagine how crowded the streets would be and how expensive the parking would be if subways and commuter trains did not exist in those places.

        Those places, not as we know them anyway, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the buses and trains.

    • Nathanael

      No. There is no emigration of middle class people from NY. There is no emigration of middle class people from IL.

      In fact, middle class people are immigrating to both NY and IL.

      The numbers are shadowed by the fact that the middle class is being decimated and driven into poverty nationwide, but if you subtract out that effect, the regional effect becomes clear.

    • Francis

      “The only people who use public transit as their primary means of transportation are people who have no alternative or people choosing to do that as a lifestyle statement(in other words slumming).”

      That’s complete crap.

      I live in the Denver metro area and I commute via bus every day. I have alternative choices, and I don’t do it as a lifestyle statement. I own a car that I love to drive (a Mini Cooper), but it’s simply cheaper and more convenient to ride the bus than to drive. I pay $79/month for a pass, which assuming 20 commuting days per month, comes out to $3.95/day. I would pay just about that per day in gasoline to commute by car. Add in paying for parking in Denver, maintenance on my car, and increased insurance costs (I’m currently insured as a “for-pleasure” driver), and it becomes clear that riding the bus is cheaper than driving. Every time I ride the bus for non-commuting purposes, each ride on the bus becomes even cheaper for the month. Now for convenience: It takes me less than 15 minutes longer to commute by bus than it does by car. I don’t have to make any transfers, and the route runs just yards from both ends of my commute. I don’t have to deal with traffic. I get to be productive on the bus. I can simply decompress. I can zone out. (I guess I could even sleep, but I haven’t ever done that). The extra 25-30 minutes a day I spend on my commute is well worth it for my productivity and mental sanity.

      There are people out there like me who see economic and other values in riding public transportation. We do it for these reasons, not to be seen “slumming.”

  • Time to Fight The Transport Politic – just great!

  • Brandi

    Something I don’t see discussed here is the Democrat’s folly the last two years. They always try to stake out a compromise with the newly tea-partiedified Republicans. Then after the compromise has been reached, they put out and go way right. They then force the compromise to become the Democrats position and drive the whole conversation to the right. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous and unproductive, it does however excite the rapid base. The sad part is that this tactic shows no regard for improving the America that the rest of us live in. I want the Democrats to stand their ground. Obama has learned the hard way that there is no compromising with people who believe blatant fabrications such that Obama is a Kenyan avowed Muslim.

    • Nathanael

      “Obama has learned the hard way that there is no compromising with people who believe blatant fabrications such that Obama is a Kenyan avowed Muslim.”

      Well, I *hope* he’s learned! I think we’d all like Democrats to fight for what is right rather than capitulating to lunatics.

  • Mr Dave

    I live in DC you realize that this is now the highest per capita income area in the country because of the wealth that is transferred here as a result of the Federal Presence.I don’t understand why Dems from around the country want to do that especially since so many Dem dominated states have been in economic and population decline. I don’t think you have the right to force Republican states to enrich DC against their will.

    • Most of those Dem dominated states pay more in federal taxes than they get back in federal spending (and within those states, big metropolitan areas pay more while rural areas get more). Of the states that McCain won in 2008, the only one that’s a net tax donor is Texas.

      Also, look at the BEA numbers before pronouncing blue states economically declining. Per capita income numbers don’t tell the same story as population growth numbers. Dallas and Atlanta have lower incomes today than they did in 2000, while the rusty second-tier Northeastern cities – Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Providence, etc. – posted twice the national growth rate.

    • “I don’t think you have the right to force Republican states to enrich DC against their will.”

      Also remember that DC residents are taxed without voting representation in Congress. A fact that Republican Congresspersons, who block voting representation, are quire happy about.

  • Karl

    On the HSR side of things, this is a great way to show your support and help the project break ground in California:

    http://standupfortrains.org/

    Please spread the word!

  • David V,

    If fare integration between CTA and Metra is straightforward, then why didn’t Metra and CTA execs made it happen when the Millennium Station upgrade completed?

    If fare integration and Metra pricing tweaks were done, the most sensible compromise would be to extend the Red Line a couple stations, then send the balance to the “fare integrated & tweaked” Grey or Gray Line.”

    BTW, I don’t live in Chicago, but have examined both sides of the argument.

    • “CTA” is not a real thing – it is an extension of, and under direct control of City Hall

      “Metra” is an extension of the Suburban Municipal Administrations that appoint it’s Board Members.

      City Hall and the Suburban Administrations are like Sunnis and Shiites, Lions and Christians, Soccer Fans, Cowboys and Indians, Nazis and Jews, KKK’s and Blacks, UK Catholics and Protestants, etc., etc….

      They would N E V E R even consider working together for their mutual benefit – they would rather watch their
      own children slow-roasted alive.

      I am hoping SB 2572 will give the Illinois Senate the power to deny Capital Matching and Operating
      Funds to Agencies who do not follow recommended criteria and guidelines – NO such power exists anywhere today.

      Some of those Funds come from Downstate Illinois – I’m sure those folks don’t like funding Chicago Area Projects
      anyway, and the idea of Illinois have to contribute $560 Million for a 6 mile route extension – instead of an $80 Million Illinois contribution to a 25 mile System, might be looked at more critically when I testify about it
      before the Illinois Senate.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Some of those Funds come from Downstate Illinois – I’m sure those folks don’t like funding Chicago Area Projects

        There’s 8 million people in Chicago and it’s suburbs, in Illinois. There’s 12 million people in Illinois. In other words two thirds of Illinois’ residents live in Chicago or it’s suburbs. The people downstate don’t want the flow of tax money examined too closely. It flows from Chicago and it’s suburbs to Springfield and out to places not Chicago or it’s suburbs.

    • david vartanoff

      Metra Electric had a turnstile/”swipe” fare control system since the late 60s. During CTA’s migration from cash/paper transfers to mag stripe farecards, adding ME to the system would have been a relatively cheap add on. Instead, Metra Electric regressed to 1950’s tickets/passes w/ cash fares on trains at unstaffed stastions.

      As to why CTA and Metra don’t collaborate, this is the endemic white suburban v diverse urban shtick.

      • I have a secret weapon in my struggle to gain Public support: I have seen at many Meetings and Hearings how the bright colors of these fliers attract much attention and interest; and people read them very thoroughly.

        I now have the resources to publish and distribute 4,000 to 5,000 copies of these per month – throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 – on Chicago’s South Side.

        So “Say hello to my little friend”:

        http://grayline.20m.com/cgi-bin/i/images/color_flier_front.jpg

        http://grayline.20m.com/cgi-bin/i/images/color_flier_rear.jpg

      • FG

        They got rid of the turnstiles because they were a massive problem. They were always broken and with unstaffed (yes, they were unstaffed from then on) stations that was a major maintenance problem. And then there is the other system on a different ticketing system using the same infrastructure, The South Shore Line. You had to call up to get the faregates opened and even then it didn’t always work so you had to jump them, which for many people is physically impossible which led to missed trains. AND they checked tickets on trains ANYWAYS because of rampant fare evasion (this started by 1980 at the latest).

        They would have to replace the faregates to make them compatible with the CTA and add space for station attendants (I can’t think of any unstaffed CTA stations), etc and that leads right back to surburban services and the South Shore, which aren’t compatible with both CTA style service and suburban service (which the majority of of ME’s service is).

        • david vartanoff

          Gosh, in the 21st Century we can’t solve this sort of standardization/compatibility issue? BTW, South Shore trains service only 2 stations south of downtown and when the new track alignment is done Kensington will be eliminated, so that issue is essentially null.

  • DBX

    Big picture, the Republicans are now so dominated by rural and outer suburban interests that there’s no longer a transit constituency in the Republican Party, whereas the GOP used to dominate the pro-transit ranks.

    As to what to do about it . . . . I’m not sure that further institutionalizing the power of rural politicians over urban transit systems is going to help. That’s you, Gray Line. What we do need is better citizen organization to hold the politicians and bureaucrats more accountable. Few cities outside New York have a straphangers organization worthy of the name (Chicago, I’m looking at you) and when you lack citizen organization, institutional laziness takes hold. That’s why we’re looking at $1.4 billion for a Red Line extension to an area that could be served much more effectively and inexpensively by restoring Metra Electric service to its pre 1950s frequency and merging trips on ME seamlessly with the CTA. But Metra would rather stay within their hourly service comfort zone and not expand, and the CTA and Metra would rather stay with their current ticketing arrangements and not cooperate with each other . . . all because it takes less effort to press the “easy” button than undertake major organizational reform to change the way we get around.

    The striking problem with many cities and in particular Chicago is that public expectations are too low. It’s remarkable how often people praise their own transit system (or for that matter their own school system or whatever) while complaining about the state of things in general. Anecdotal comments indicate it, opinion polling proves it. People need to be educated on how far we’re falling behind, and then they will do something about it. All of us involved with transit or any other public service should be thinking about how we do that.

  • Progressive Capitalist

    MAP-21 fails for kicking the can two years down the road. Any new reauthorization must have 1) innovative financing (not just drilling fees or gas tax levies), 2) drastically reduced red tape (not just streamlined processes, but eliminated steps), and 3) flexible spending (not just for states, but for large metros).

    But if the debt-ceiling crisis should have taught Dems anything last year, it should be that you have to hold the cards. And right now, that ace of spades is the expiration of the gas tax. In order to call the bluff of the rural populists saying they are for less spending (on others besides themselves), then a complete elimination of the Highway Trust Fund has to be on the table.

    • Chris

      Indeed. One mystifying thing is that highway supporters and transit supporters – at least the ones who are relevant politically – appear only to disagree on the size of transit funding. Even though highways and transit are generally speaking in direct competition for a fairly fixed pool of intracity trips. This is especially odd since transit is at base the more efficient technology and would dominate an unsubsidized market or one with equal subsidies. Indeed if you want transit modeshare to be as high as possible in 2040 or 2050, you almost certainly want all federal funding for transportation eliminated.

      The current strategy of demanding ample cash for all modes is the feeding trough mentality of civil servants looking to keep their jobs, rather than the competitive mentality of someone who wants to expand modeshare.

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