There was a brief skirmish in the Seattle Subway comments about whether the Eastside subsidizes Seattle’s transit service or the reverse. And this is normally a case where we’d bring some facts and settle this. And in fact John worked this out years ago. But I have to say I don’t care.
There seems to be a deep human need to convince oneself that one’s group is paying for everyone else and everyone else is a leech. The problem is how you draw the lines of your survey makes all the difference.
First of all, Eastsiders commonly use Seattle’s infrastructure, and the reverse is certainly true as well.
Secondly, if we expand the boundary from transit to transportation, clearly there’s more need for transit in the urban core and roads elsewhere. It’s entirely natural that in each case the transfers would move in opposite directions.
Moreover, why stop with transportation? Why just local spending? Throw in other budget items, state and federal funding, and more indirect influences like tax subsidies and regulatory preferences, and you have a hopeless tangle of cross-flows. It’s because we’re a single metropolis with an integrated economy and this provincialism gets us nowhere. More after the jump.
Of one thing I’m sure: rich people — and rich regions — subsidize poor ones. That’s not to say that the rich haven’t benefited from public services to become rich, or that there aren’t individual outrages of tax avoidance. But the math is inescapable. The problem is, “why does my rich town have to subsidize your poor one” doesn’t carry quite the same outrage.
Recognizing that this is a silly policy argument is separate from dismissing that voters seem to care. Subarea equity or 40/40/20 may make sense for institutions that have to go the ballot to do anything. But let’s not confuse political expediency with a value that ought to be “exposed” when it’s violated.