Oran via Flickr
Oran via Flickr

Any attempt to get more taxing authority for transit out of the state legislature is running into the mantra that you can’t raise taxes in a recession.  That’s in spite of the short term economic impact of cutting back service: forcing the poorest, who are least inclined to save, to buy gasoline instead of a product that creates more jobs.

Now here’s Yglesias making the medium-term economic growth case for funding transit adequately right now:

Which means that a global recovery could spark a rise in oil prices that hits America specifically very hard and in effect strangles our recovery in the crib. At that point it becomes an open question as to whether we drag the world down with us, in which case the cycle repeats, or if we just get left behind as continued global growth keeps pushing the price up and pinching American consumers harder-and-harder.

The answer, of course, is to take advantage of this period of “output gap” and low Treasury rates to invest in expanded mass transit capacities. But while the stimulus bill does do some good stuff for transit, it’s not even enough to make up for the rate at which state and local governments are curtailing transit services, much less to really leave Americans in a position to ride the bus to the new jobs we’re hoping to see created in 2010.

4 Replies to “Economic Growth and Transit Cuts”

  1. We should kill the don’t raise taxes in a recession by:
    1) Olympia just medling and we are tiered of not being able to depend on them for infrastructure.
    2) Reminding people that the limit’s aren’t taxes.
    2) Local voters have more standing than the people from other parts of the state and the recession would probably be over before we would choose to raise taxes.

  2. It’s so sad the way transit is treated in our political system. Transit is treated as a cost rather than as an economic investment. There should be a consideration to place gas tax of 5-10 cents (where the proceed are placed in a investment trust designed to support transit related projects) That trust would be invested over time and kick out interest etc to help pay for operations of services. In fact, it’s one way of really reducing our debt and should be a way to fund projects in the future without borrowing more money everytime. A special infrastructure trust for Roads, Rail, Transit… etc is the best way to show we want to get people moving and be fisically resposible. We can do it right and make the long term investment in getting people moving again.

  3. The problem, of course, lies with convincing people that mass transit is worth investment relative to other items. People still really like to drive, since gas prices are relatively low, so they’re not going to accept cuts in highway spending right now.

    1. Also roads have big lobbies supporting them including everyone who benefits from sprawl. Transit doesn’t have that kind of political clout, even in places with heavy transit use.

      The voters are to some extent part of the problem. People see congestion and they want to see new lanes added. People have a hard time finding cheap parking and they want more parking built (or greater parking requirements for new development).

      That is changing to some extent, but it still has a long way to go.

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