14.10.09

ROAD SOCIALISM. A few weeks ago, Metro Rider LA recommended Cold Spring Shops to readers as a kind of political crossover for transit advocates, who the Metro Rider perceives as of the left.
If I were to hazard a guess about a broad section of MetroReaders, politically they would trend to the center and leftward from there. (This is not meant as a slight to those who don’t believe to fall into those camps, as there should be no political “purity” test imposed on anyone. Frankly, the less we wage political battles here, the better.)
Now comes Dr. Melissa Clouthier, who invites people of the right to take an interest in infrastructure policy.

Matt Lewis writes a must-read piece about a conservative view on public transportation. I’m not going to get into the details of it, but I urge you to read it.

Here is where conservatives and Republicans need to get with the program: the government does have a role in public life. Infrastructure and defense are the two obvious roles. The problem for conservatives, is that they haven’t given enough thought to the implementation of tax dollars for infrastructure. This void has been filled with leftist fantasies. The results haven’t been effective or pretty. That is, both form and function have stunk.

The Lewis article refers to recent work by William Lind and the late Paul Weyrich that Metro Rider also found commentary on. Here's Lewis.
While "Moving Minds" was recently published, it is actually the collection of eight separate transportation studies conducted and published by conservatives Paul Weyrich and William S. Lind between 1997 and 2009. Weyrich, who passed away in late 2008, was co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, and one of the most significant conservative activists and commentators of modern times. Interestingly, his first foray into politics came as a teenager when he attempted to save the famous North Shore Line through his hometown of Racine, Wisc.
Regular readers of Cold Spring Shops (A Rail Advocate Passes) know this. The Edens Expressway and Interstate 94 in Wisconsin, which induced commuters away from the North Shore and contributed to the end of the 400s and Hiawathas, continue to be congested work zones when they're not congested and clapped out. Government can do better.

For starters, their book seeks to shape conservatives' views on mass transit by pointing out that our current system is anything but the product of free market forces.

Since the invention of the Model T, the U.S. government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the highway system, while mass transit (which historically had been privately owned) received vastly smaller infrastructure benefits -- while being taxed heavily to boot. What's more, the government simultaneously prohibited these mass transit companies from raising fares.

Privately owned mass transit companies simply could not compete when they had to build and maintain infrastructure while their competition was funded by tax dollars. In addition, the authors note that post-World War II building codes in many areas created sprawl – a situation where homeowners cannot walk to work or to shop, and thus, must rely on an automobile. The authors present numerous and convincing arguments in favor of mass transit – especially street cars and electric-powered light rail trolleys – that are applicable to conservative thinking: Unlike automobiles, rail fosters a sense of community; increased use of electric rail would help accomplish national security goals by lessening our dependence on foreign oil; and mass transit policy is also pro-growth – something most conservatives favor.

I'm not sure about some of those public policy goals, and we shall see that there are other inducements to sprawl as we currently understand it. Cold Spring Shops, however, welcomes conversation about transportation policy on the merits of the modes, rather than on the ideology of the advocates.

No comments: