Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Why Do Democrats Support Transit?

 Some good excerpts, bold highlights mine:

“What drives Republican opposition to transit?” asks Governing magazine. I’ve often wondered the reverse of this question: Why do Democrats support transit?


It doesn’t seem to occur to Governing that some people may have legitimate reasons to oppose current or increased subsidies to transit, such as that subsidies are way out of proportion to the benefits they provide and that in many cases increased transit subsidies have resulted in decreased transit ridership. Against all experience, for example, Los Angeles insists on building more light rail even though the more it builds the more riders it loses and it only recovered riders when it stopped building rail for ten years.

Democrats claim to care about low-income people. Yet less than 5.5 percent of urban residents who earn under $25,000 a year took transit to work in 2022. Urban workers in this income class were actually more likely to drive alone to work than urbanites who earn more than $75,000 a year. Since the taxes used to support transit tend to be far more regressive than taxes used to support highways, people who care about low-income workers should oppose, for example, dedicating general-purpose street lanes to bus-rapid transit, which is an issue raised in the Governing story.

Democrats also claim to care about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet in 2022 transit emitted more greenhouse gases per passenger-mile than the average SUV, and much more than the average car, in every urban area except New York. Even before the pandemic, driving was greener than transit in all but a handful of urban areas.


So why do so many Democrats continue to support transit? The answer differs from person to person, of course, but for many Democrats the answer includes strong union support. The Amalgamated Transit Union represents more than 200,000 transit workers and the union contributes more than $1.6 million per election cycle to political campaigns, most of which no doubt goes to Democrats.

Support from the unions and environmental groups are really only political cover for many Democrats who get even more contributions from rail transit contractors. Engineering firms such as HDR, railcar manufacturers such as Siemens and Alstom, and construction companies such as Balfour Beatty collectively spend millions of dollars a year on lobbying and campaign contributions.

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