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Aidan Wakely-Mulroney Photo – “The Washington State Capitol; Olympia, Washington”

Voters tonight decided to keep a divided State Legislature for a multitude of reasons. But those reasons aren’t the purview of Seattle Transit Blog/STB.

The problem for us at STB is now we need to make the case to Republicans why Republicans’ self-interest is in supporting transit.  So here goes from the STB Republican-in-Chief:

Argument For 1: Republicans should realize transit is fiscally conservative versus building more highways that encourage sprawl that will require more of the following:

  • First Responders
  • Public utlilities – water, sewer, the like.
  • Public schools
  • Even more roads
  • More support staff

All of this will require more government which will require more taxes. Transit instead works to create density to protect scarce taxes – all of which confiscated from hard-working taxpayers for public services.

Argument For 2: Transit enables the disabled who cannot drive a place in our society. Instead of having disabled folks dependent on relatives or welfare, transit is an important means to a J-O-B, to community and to life.

After all, do you want an Aspergian with 1.5 good eyes and PTSD behind the wheel and running somebody over? If so, you’re certainly NOT pro-life. Transit is therefore vital to folks like I.

Argument For 3: Transit is good for the economy. Transit allows tourists to not have to rent a car or hail a cab to visit a community. Transit also pivots spending away from the automobile towards other forms of spending such as food, lodging, clothing and the like.

Argument For 4: Transit also can provide congestion relief when done correctly. Transit allows families to own only one or no car instead of two – therefore providing congestion relief. Transit allows folks to take up much less space on a road going to work than a Single Occupancy Vehicle/SOV. Transit also when serving areas of high residential density, high commercial density (malls, museums, etc) plus job creators (Paine Field, downtowns) does excellent congestion relief by taking many cars off of the road.

Argument For 5: Transit support will translate into votes with more Millennials using transit. According to a Rockefeller Foundation study, “Almost two-thirds of Millennials (64%) say that the expense of owning a car is a major reason they want be less reliant on one, including 77% of Millennials who earn less than $30,000 a year.” Furthermore from the same source, “Almost all Millennials (91%) also believe that investing in quality public transportation systems creates more jobs and improves the economy.” – no progressive website – recently wrote,

Cars are a hassle. In 2008, only 31 percent of 16-year-olds and 77 percent of 19-year-olds had a driver’s license — numbers dramatically lower than the 1978 numbers of 50 percent and 92 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Even as millennials age, they’re driving less than prior generations. In 1995, 20.8 percent of autos were driven by 21-30-year-olds, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s 2010 Household Travel Survey. By 2009, that number had dropped to 13.7 percent.

“For baby boomers, owning a car was a coming-of-age, life-stage thing,” explains Rebecca Ryan, founder of Next Generation Consulting in Madison, Wis. “The coming-of-age toy for the next generation is the smart phone.”

Several factors contribute to millennials’ negative perceptions of cars. “One is the expense,” says Ryan. “Millennials are the most unemployed generation, and their college debt compared to that of their baby boomer counterparts is exponentially higher. Millennials also believe cars are ecobombs — that they’re inheriting a planet that’s totally messed up, and they don’t want to contribute to it. The final kiss of death for cars? You can’t text and drive. All these things together create a perfect storm against cars.”

I can keep citing sources from Google or Yahoo or Bing upon request – that transit is an important part of winning the millennial demographic just now doing this thing called voting. Not sign-waving, not Tea Partying, not public comment sorties; but actual voting that wins elections. So unless Republicans find joy only pontificiating in the minority instead of governing in the majority; it’s time Republicans started supporting enthusiastically transit.

Argument For 6: Transit is a means of letting suburbs and cities exercise local control over transportation options. We just saw tonight Seattle vote to tax itself more to fund transit – that’s only proper, with the regressive tax code we have in this state it’s only right to have a public vote on taxes and support transit. It’s also only right for those of us who are conservative to champion local control and let local people decide what’s right for them through local governance. Republicans aren’t supposed to be the party of big mandates but the exact opposite – and as such unless we have some reforms we on the Right would be able to impose to make Sound Transit more awesome, then let the voters decide on ST3 for local control’s sake.

It’s also worth noting ST3 is necessary in the eyes of the City of Everett, Snohomish County, and the Puget Sound Regional Council for starters with more to come. All those local government folks have hit “a critical level of frustration” – and if we Republicans are truly pro-local control as we distrust Big Government, then it’s time to support the local government folks in the trenches.

That said the way Scott Dudley representing the largest city on Whidbey Island has stepped up and taken the fight to save Island Transit on is how Republicans could tackle transit. We show that we’re the ones who will be fiscally responsible, use transit as an economic growth tool and grow transit in a fiscally sustainable way. We’ve seen the progressive alternative with Island Transit – and its incompetence.

Ultimately, I’d rather see a Republican positive plan to reform transit than the obstructionist approach we’ve seen in recent state legislative sessions. If not, this whiff of power Republicans have gotten in recent years is going to slip away…

20 Replies to “North by Northwest View 02: Why Should Washington State Legislative Republicans Back Transit”

  1. Two things.

    First, you missed a big one — building transit is a big-time job creator. Heavy construction is a reliable way of boosting employment. This, for the political right, ought to be a no-brainer and should be relied upon when making a case to the political right.

    Second, I’m not sure your point #3 holds: the usual response would be that eliminating cab fares and rental cars is bad — that’s the flow of capital between private citizens and businesses, rather than citizens and government (via transit authority). You make the opportunity cost argument — food and retail instead of spending of travel, which is a position that does have merit, but I think the GOP ideology of public versus private is too strong and overwhelms that argument.

    1. Adam,

      As I was throwing this together, good point.

      Perhaps I should frame point 3 more around supporting small businesses and not big corporations… a serious fracture in the Republican party.

  2. First of all I reject the premise that Republican positions derive from clear ideological principles rather than coalition and identity politics. As a rural and exurban party, there is no basis to care about transit.

    Second, I see no evidence that Republicans respond to the idea that public spending should alleviate the situation of disabled people, or indeed anyone, with financial limitations (Point #2).

    That’s not to say these points aren’t good, I just don’t think it’s going to flip any Republicans.

    1. Skepticism duly noted. I do think there are some Republicans – me included – who just want taxes spent appropriately. We’re not all Tea Party folks who oppose everything.

      I do think Republicans need to realize we need to win in the suburbs to get a majority and the Governor’s Mansion. That means moderation and cooperation – you should see the anger I’m getting from friends for supporting 594 as they think opposition was the only way. Well that doesn’t work if you actually want to govern.

    2. The ideology is most often used to justify the coalition and identity politics. It can help to explain a vote after the fact, but it isn’t going to change the vote on its own.

      As a strategy, peeling off suburban republicans on the basis of what their constituents want is likely more productive.

  3. The “Millennials don’t want cars” argument is kind of true, but kind of not. I think we (I am one) are comfortable getting around without cars, in part because we have smartphones to make transit much easier to use (OBA, Google Maps, GPS directions, etc.). However, I happen to know a lot of Millennials with good-paying jobs. Every single one owns a car. Once we see Millennials in stronger financial positions, I think we will see more demand for cars from them.

    Also, and this is more psychological, but the marginal cost of Uber/Lyft is punitive vs. driving in most circumstances. A $40 round-trip on Lyft is only $3 + parking using a car. When your dinner with friends is $70 instead of $35, you’re not so inclined to do it. Once you have the car, it makes sense to use it. If I used Lyft for every car trip I’ve taken in the last 30 days, I would have spent over $400, but that is less than one tank of gas for my car.

    1. Alex, a bus would be better than Lyft/Uber.

      Don’t know why you want to refute many sources…

    2. As a Millenial with a good-paying job, I do own a car. It was purchased as soon as I got my job. I’ve put less than 19,000 miles on it in 6.5 years. It’s basically used for shopping and travel (I wouldn’t even be close to 19K if I hadn’t taken up skiing). I always use transit, walking, or biking to get to work, and when I look at traffic around my office, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I go out, I don’t want to worry about parking or DUI risks, so it’s always transit. (My worst enemy is that hour gap in the 40 schedule after 11:15)

      I know many other city-dwelling Millenials in similar financial situations who do without a car, or own one and use it the same way I do. Of course, I do know someone who drives his expensive car 1 mile to work, but he seems like an exception.

      1. Thanks much. I appreciate the perspective, it’s moderating between the two extremes and shows transit matters.

  4. Here’s your problem.
    (1) assumes that elected Republicans are fiscally conservative. They aren’t. The “Borrow and Spend” Republican has been standard since Ronald Reagan.
    (2) assumes that elected Republicans care about the disabled. Many would rather euthanize them.
    (3) assumes that elected Republicans care about the economy. They’ve been sabotaging the economy in order to benefit a small group of rich looters since the 1980s.
    (4) might convince some of them, but it seems too complicated and subtle for most of them; it just flies over their heads.
    (5) assumes that elected Republicans care about Millennial votes. Instead, what they’ve been doing is trying to change the laws to make it difficult or impossible for Millennials to vote; they appear to have active hostility to youth.

    (6) is the only one which seems like it has any real chance of getting traction with the sort of yahoo Republicans who have dominated state and national politics since the 1980s. :-( Good luck with it.

    1. …I do think that the lower down you get in the party, the more chance you have of getting non-yahoo Republicans who will actually take this stuff seriously. But at the upper levels, there’s really a filter forcing all the fiscally conservative folks *out* of the Republican party and into the Democratic party — Sam Brownback of bankrupt Kansas represents the mainstream of national-level Republican fiscal policy now.

    2. When you said, “assumes that elected Republicans care about the disabled. Many would rather euthanize them” you lost me.

      Do you know the Governor who really championed “A Better Bottom Line” this year?


      Scott Walker.


      As such I can’t really respond to the rest of your comment. It’s so far… out there. I just wanted to debunk the most nastiest part that struck the most nerves with me.

      1. [Off-transit-tangent] Today the GOP wants to … knuckleheaded, knee-jerk nonsensical reactions that don’t solve the problems. So, why should we expect that the GOP will suddenly evolve into a modern, new millennium friendly party with bright ideas on mobility? I’m skeptical and not going to hold my breath waiting for the GOP to deliver transportation legislation that is good for urban, suburban, exurban or rural citizens.
        [edited to remove off-topic comments]

      2. Please do not construe anything I say as support for the Democratic Party, by the way. :-( I’m pretty unhappy with the two-party system. (But Duverger’s Law continues to rule us until we get approval voting or proportional representation.)

      3. Thank you Nathanael, this thread has gone partisan and off-transit far enough. Going to nail it down as we speak.

  5. I’m happy we had the dialogue about Republicans & transit, but can we please stay away from the partisan & ad hominem attacks please?

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