Monday, September 8, 2008

Opposition Pundits on Parade

Ron Utt of the Heritage Foundation is worried. So are all the other anti-transit pundits out there. The newly minted interest in transit is encroaching on their road loving ways. A recent AP article on rising transit ridership captures Utt's opinion, proving that balanced transportation and oil independence means nothing to the conservative crowd.
Ron Utt, of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said transit is "inconsequential in terms of reducing congestion or greenhouse gases" and that people who want to use transit should simply pay more. Citing the example of a Washington-area commuter rail, Utt said: "If more people want to use that and more people have to stand, I don't know why that should place a financial burden on people in Iowa."
Sure Ron, that's why almost a million people per day take Metro in DC. I have a really great idea, how about people pay the true cost of gasoline or roads or airlines. Let's also make people pay directly for air traffic controllers and the highway patrol. And why should I pay for a rural road in Iowa? All transportation is subsidized, let's stop the favoritism towards one mode and pretending that cars pay for themselves.

Typewriter Typewriter Typewriter!

Then there is our favorite cipher, Randal O'Toole. His most recent call is to cancel the Denver Fastracks program claiming it's bad for the environment and social engineering. You know, the usual junk.
Environmentally, light rail is a disaster for the region. For every passenger mile carried, light rail consumes four times as much land as Denver-area freeways. It also uses more energy and emits more greenhouse gases, per passenger mile, than the average SUV.
I don't know where he gets this one. But as Mr. Setty at reminds us, transit actually reduces passenger miles overall. Randal's twisted logic lumps in the construction of the line when he never talks about the construction losses of highways and the vehicles that drive on them. What about the construction of all those parking garages?
O'Toole, many academics and other anti-transit activists understandably do not wish to discuss the wider, systematic impacts of transit on transportation patterns and land use. One key study estimates that for every passenger mile on transit, slightly more than two urban vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is suppressed or foregone. This study documents the connection between transit and lower vehicle usage that has also been documented in dozens of other studies. This effect is particularly significant when less than 40% of U.S. residents have easy access to transit at the present time.
But what annoys me the most is that stupid no one rides transit argument. Well no one has the option to take it! New York City has transit, people take it. Washington DC has a rather good subway system, people take it. But when the green argument for him fails, he can always fall back on social engineering. You know, the kind that took place from 1950 to the present when cities built roads only and subsidies were funneled to development related to roads.
The other support for FasTracks comes from those who want to socially engineer Colorado lifestyles. They use light rail as an excuse to build tax-subsidized high-density housing projects on properties taken from their owners by eminent domain near planned rail stations. Yet few Americans aspire to live in such dense housing, and such compact development makes little sense in a state that is 97 percent rural open space.
Hmm. No one in Colorado wants open space, just build on it. I'm sure John Denver wouldn't mind. And no one wants to live in high-density housing projects, that's why TOD commands such a low price premium with buyers. No one ever wanted to live in LoDo right? What about all those road, pipe subsidies.

Cars Cars Cars. Sprawl Sprawl Sprawl. Sounds like Drill Drill Drill.


Anonymous said...

We had a poll recently in Austin where 90% of the Capital Metro customers said they were extremely happy with the service. All the conservative columnists and radio hosts jumped on this as being impossible and obviously a rigged survey. Because how could people enjoy riding public transportation? And how could they even find people to survey because all the buses are empty, right? Of course, when questioned they hadn't ever riden transit.

I think unfortunately, there's a segment of the public that has no interest in riding transit and can't even begin to fathom why someone else would. It's going to be really hard to change those attitudes. I think this is why we see Obama still talking about improving road infrastructure. Biden may ride the train every day, but they obviously still think the voters find that idea distasteful.

Tony said...

Here in Atlanta, we have MARTA, which is used by a large number of people everyday, but is extremely flawed. This is due in large part to many suburban communities voting against the expansion of transit to their areas because they think it will bring a crime wave of unbelievable magnitude (read: more black people).

So for years and years, they always vote "no" when it comes up and the Atlanta area traffic continues to get worse and worse. This isn't the only reason for MARTA's failures, but it is one of them for sure.

Anonymous said...

We here in Phoenix are also battling the anti-public transportation crowd in regards to the nearly completely 35 mile light rail starter line.

They use the same idiotic arguments that roads somehow pay for themselves and that only public transportation is subsidized.

I will be happy when light rail finally is up and running in the 5th largest metro area in the nation.

Anonymous said...

Here in Minneapolis, the light rail train is always crowded when I ride it (rush hour). It's like a sardine can for Twins and Vikings games. It's extremely popular, but I still see letters to the editor written mostly by suburban assclowns who just cannot grasp the benefit. Our illustrious idiot of a governor had to be persuaded to make the bridge that's replacing the collapsed section of 35W rail ready.

Unknown said...

Out her in the SF Bay area public transport ridership is definitely up, and despite our budget woes, some new projects are moving forward.

Ironcially some of the attempts to make SF more bike-friendly are being blocked by a nuisance lawsuit. But overall out here in the midst of a serious public transport need, people are quite responsive.

Unknown said...

"They use light rail as an excuse to build tax-subsidized high-density housing projects on properties taken from their owners by eminent domain near planned rail stations. Yet few Americans aspire to live in such dense housing..."

I always love hearing about how "ownership" trumps anything that could benefit non-owners. That & being told what "few" vs. "many" Americans "aspire" to. I'd like a list of the average American's aspirations, in descending order of priory if possible to measure against my personal list.
I don't see the allure of "owning" a giant tract of nothing in the middle of nowhere, guess i would be part of the above mentioned few.
I would be forced to point out that this view of the population favoring rural over urban living conditions runs counter to the flow of people's movement over the past 2 centuries.

Anonymous said...

Seattle-King County has an extensive surface Metro bus system, both diesel and overhead electric lines, that is actually the most efficient government activity in the area. The sentiment to extend the old limited World's Fair monorail system (which breaks down constantly) to the SeaTac airport has so far gone nowhere, as have pushes for light rail other than the Sounder system, still very limited. As a former New Yorker, I yearn for more public transport unaffected by foul weather. When it snows or there is an ice storm in the winter, everything comes to a halt.

Morgan Wick said...

Actually, Seattle will have light rail between downtown and the airport next year. An extention to the University of Washington will open a couple years later, and there's a measure on the ballot to extend it even further to the north, south, and east.

Anonymous said...

This site has some very good material. Unfortunately, I find white text on a black background extremely difficult to read. I'd say it took me about 4 times longer to read an article here than a similar article in black text on white or light background. So, I doubt I will be back much. I just don't have the time to devote to websites that are difficult to read.

For the record, I'm a 52-year-old male with 20-20 corrected vision. Perhaps you could offer an alternate page with black text on white background?

Also, the "Word Verification" characters do not show up in my Firefox browser. I had to switch to ME.

Thanks very much for devoting your time to this issue. It's extremely important in the effort to fight climate change. I just wish it wasn't so hard to read.

Matt Trask

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 1980's while I was living in the Middle East I was an avid BBC radio listener.

Alas one night an American official was being interviewed who said "In America, anyone riding on public transportation after the age of 30 is a LOSER"

That talking head has evolved into one of the sleaze slingers....of the last 8 years....who ranted about cars being "gay" if they didn't guzzle gas.

Anonymous said...

The thing is that people like TAR, Cox and O'Toole are not conservatives. They are paid lobbyests, whose objective is to cause problems not fix them.

Anonymous said...

Randal O'Toole, as usual, tries to be obtuse and obfuscating with his horseshit doublespeak about alternatives to a society dominated by more of the same. He claims light rail in Denver wastes more land than his beloved freeways, and is "dirtier" than the "average" SUV. I don't know if Mr. O'Toole drives an SUV, and I would like to ask him if a BRT busway uses up more land than rail does. He could probably say rail is worse, when in fact, busways and freeways take up more land.

Mr. O'Toole repeats the same hackneyed argument made by people who want more sprawl like Wendell Cox, which is that 95% or so of land in America is "open space" and is well suited for indefinite expansion of sprawl. The problem is, much of this so-called "open space" includes areas where sprawl would be impossible, including mountains. Can we please stop this crap? I'm sick of it, and of these hacks.

Furthermore, Thomas A. Rubin is, in my view, just an enabler for Cox and O'Toole's vision of the world, which is that electric rail transit has no future, and that the future should be dominated by sprawl and cars, as much as BRT boosters like Bill Vincent and John Bonsall (now a BRT lobbyist who used to head OC Transpo here in Ottawa and suggested the bad Transitway instead of good LRT) are. They believe that the status quo is change. They want to keep places like Cincinnati and Milwaukee permanently rail free. They think anything that isn't part of their disastrous worldview is equal to being "anti-highway".

They help GM and oil companies profit from their worldview, the same companies who destroyed streetcars in North America, compared to when they were preserved in Europe, and are being restored in places across France. I wouldn't be surprised if they were viewed as "objective" by right wing pundits like Falafel O'Reilly, Hannity, and Limbaugh.