Subsidies, Traffic Congestion, and Giving Back
So it appears that with the release of the latest TSPLOST list is beginning to bring out the anti-transit campaign. Not that they weren’t there before, now they just feel they have something tangible to argue with. Take this fine piece of journalism, or maybe this one. Both of these OpEd writers are opposed to TSPLOST, and especially the Cobb County rail line. I particularly enjoy how both of them criticize the funding, percent of the population that would use it, and the narrow-minded short-sighted vision that they both possess regarding their county.
It seems that both of these “authors” are not pleased with the cost of mass transit and how much subsidy it has to receive. Now I am by no means an expert on funding, but it does not take a genius to know that Coca-Cola or UPS didn’t step forward and say “Hey, we will pay for I-285!” So if a private company didn’t pay for that road, or 99% of all other roads built within the metro, and the gas tax only covers a portion (similar to how fares cover a portion in mass transit), how were those roads paid for? That’s right, subsidies. How are those roads maintained, improved, widened, protected, patrolled, and cleaned? You guessed it, subsidies. In fact most groups have found that the gas tax is lucky to pay for 50% of road maintenance and construction, and that the gap between income (gas tax) and cost is at an astounding $600 billion (billion, with a “b”). So if I may offer you a little advice Ms. Armstrong, and Ms. Dodd, if you want to preach fiscal responsibility regarding transportation, I suggest you find a way to make roads independently sustainable.
The first article also tried to make the claim that the reason why Georgia sits in so much traffic is that there are not enough roads to handle the volume. It has been proven time and time and time and time……well you get it, again that the more roads that are added, the more cars that end up on them. Every major transportation study has proven it. If the 14 lanes of the Downtown Connector can’t handle what is there now, making it 20 lanes will not change the situation and that applies to all the roads. In fact it even has its own term induced traffic. Induced traffic is the reason why the Embarcadero Freeway was dismantled, Los Angeles abandoned double decker interstates, and why Robert Moses was eventually brought down by Jane Jacobs.
In the second OpEd the author claims that less than 5% of Cobb County would use this rail line, and that does not warrant the entire county having to pay the sales tax. Well that could be understandable, if we were allowed to pick and choose where each of us sent a tax dollar, via sales, or gasoline. But if this logic were to stand true then why should a Marietta resident have their gas tax money appropriated to fund a rural road that they would never use? Why should some of my tax money be appropriated for a park on the other side of town that I may never visit? Why should my gas tax money go to fund interstates that I will probably never drive on? You don’t want to fund 5% of the population using mass transit, but you are willing to fund roads, of which you are lucky to ever use 5% of them in your lifetime, just in Cobb County.
I think the thing that kills me the most, is that in both articles, their selfishness is unbelievably apparent. They both keep referencing back to their county, or essentially any county that Atlanta is not in. How this affects Cobb County, and even saying some of the counties will be “donor counties,” implying that they will give up the money but will see no benefit. Ohh, this topic could be its own post. First I must remind those in suburban counties and cities, that you would not exist if it wasn’t for the city. It is a simple truth. Without the initial development of the city, its businesses, inventions, products, notoriety, transportation and so much more the suburbs would have never existed. Rather than exhausting the topic, take a look at The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs, as she can break it down to the most simple of levels that even the staunchest of suburbanites cannot refute.
Secondly, we come back to subsidies. Given the articles, it is clear that they do not want to “subsidize” mass transit for the urban dwellers. News flash! We, the urban dwellers, have been subsidizing suburban living for years, decades if you will. We have been doing so through increased utility costs, the result of having to stretch more power and water lines to your rural and low density developments. We have been subsidizing fire, police, and medical care as the resources have been stretched more and more thin as they have to stretch their area of coverage further out to accommodate for low density living. Additional unnecessary schools, illustrated by the nationwide attempt to begin consolidating them, were built and funded so that people could spread further out. And we have sacrificed our cities, by allowing the car dominated suburbanites to come into the city from the hours of 8 to 5, dump all over it. They spew their pollution into the city air, clog the roads, and use up government and city provided resources all the while, driving back to their bedroom communities, many times in other counties, not contributing a single tax dollar to the city, minus the occasional $10 dollar lunch. So if it is subsidies that you, Ms. Dodd and Ms. Armstrong, are so concerned about, look at your own county’s citizens and the other counties you are so desperately “sticking up” for. The city has been subsidizing your “quality of life” for decades; maybe it’s time you gave a little bit back, or at least attempt to lessen the burden on the city’s infrastructure by finding something besides another 14 lane interstate to move on.