Raise My Taxes, Please! Financing High Quality Public Transit Service Saves Me Money Overall


So, did the headline scare you?  Todd Litman of Planetizen brings us this story on the economic benefits of funding transit and building transit-oriented development.  Most American transit systems aren’t terribly attractive or effective, and are used by those who have no other options until they can afford to get a car.  Places with good transit systems find that they are used by all classes of people, and that TOD encourages people to use other alternative modes of transportation, thus reducing car usage even more.  Litman argues that a good transit system must have large coverage, fast, frequent service, comfortable waiting areas, attractive, well-integrated stations, low prices, and good walking and cycling conditions.  Less driving and car ownership produce savings in the forms of fewer car maintenance costs, shorter driving distances and more trips made by free modes, easier access for non-drivers, less need for second vehicles, and reduced parking costs.  Other benefits include lower foreclosure rates due to having fewer demands on your cash; reduced congestion, traffic accidents and pollution; and greater mobility for non-drivers and public health, as well as an average annual net savings of $1,575 for an average household.

Part of the reason that more roads is often seen as more important than more transit is because the roads themselves costs less.  This doesn’t take into count, however, the added costs of vehicle ownership, parking, extending infrastructure to sprawling communities, and impeding non-drivers and public health.  When all of these are accounted for, transit becomes a win-win situation, both those who use transit and those who don’t.  Demographic trends indicate that more people will demand quality transit and TOD in the future, and it is up to municipalities to start planning for it.

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One response to “Raise My Taxes, Please! Financing High Quality Public Transit Service Saves Me Money Overall

  1. I don’t think this is a winning tack in terms of marketing. I agree with its content, but “raise our taxes” isn’t a slogan that wins elections.

    I think transit advocates need to keep a laser beam focus on how trains and mass transit make us a faster, slimmer, more nimble country. If ridicule is necessary, let it be of the nagging, shaming mother variety (China has 42 high speed rail projects, what, you can only manage a half dozen? You’re lazy and make lady liberty cry). Packaging sells; ask any evolutionary biologist or climate scientist how well traditional studies fare in garnering public support. Don’t aim for the lowest common denominator but don’t try something so subtle as “raising taxes will save individuals money!”

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