Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Option of Urbanism: Subsidizing the Rich

Here is another view of it from the Option of Urbanism. We've been taking quotes for the last week from the book.
According to Myron Orfield's Metropolitics, the affluent outer-ring suburbs in the favored quarter "dominate regional economic growth and garner a disproportionate share of the region's new roads and other development infrastructure." Orfield also pointed out that much of the funding for this infrastructure is raised from the region as a whole. For example, all car-driving residents in the region pay gas taxes to partially support the building of highways, and taxpayers of the region as a whole pay the rest of the money through their income, property, and sales taxes.
So this happens for roads, but people yell and scream bloody murder when they are taxed for transit and "it doesn't help me directly". The worst part about this as well is that cities are slowly signing on to their own declines.
The unlikely consequence of this pattern of infrastructure development is that the whole region pays for infrastructure that tends to be placed in the favored quarter; the poor pay for the infrastructure of the rich. According to Orfield, the central cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, for example, pay $6 million a year to help move their middle class households and businesses to the edge of the region.
Part of the problem is the regional competition for jobs. Minneapolis has a tax base sharing program that might alleviate this a little, but most regions are not so lucky. And there is still exporting going on to places like Bloomington and Eden Prairie.

M1ek has discussed this before and James Rowen covered a similar issue for Milwaukee in talking about how much they give to the regional planning commission, and how little they get out of it. Perhaps this is something that needs to be put in mayor's and city council members faces. DC, for all its flaws has the right idea of trying to take care of its citizens instead of the folks who take advantage of their services during the day, but drive back out at night.

1 comment:

Loren said...

I've seen a lot of transit opponents bring up this class thing -- on both sides.

I've seen some people claim that rail transit is a subsidy for the upper middle class, notably the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union and someone online whom I shall not name.

And on the other side, I've seen public transit in general called a subsidy for losers who are unable or unwilling to drive everywhere.