Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tories, Tax Breaks, and Public Transit

I just finished reading the post story on the Conservatives plan for providing help for public transit - the gist of it being making bus passes tax deductible.
This whole policy is a sham. The best piece I can think of which summarizes the folly of public transit is from P.J. O'Rourke, who wrote:
There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell. Only 4% of Americans take public transportation to work. Even in cities they don't do it. Less than 25% of commuters in the New York metropolitan area use public transportation. Elsewhere it's far less--9.5% in San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, 1.8% in Dallas-Fort Worth. As for total travel in urban parts of America--all the comings and goings for work, school, shopping, etc.--1.7 % of those trips are made on mass transit.
Then there is the cost, which is--obviously--$52 billion. Less obviously, there's all the money spent locally keeping local mass transit systems operating. The Heritage Foundation says, "There isn't a single light rail transit system in America in
which fares paid by the passengers cover the cost of their own rides." Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.
It is the same scam here. Shovelling funds - whether it be direct or indirect into mass tranist doesn't solve the problem of congestion - only more roads and more liberal land use laws will fix. Nobody likes taking public transit to work, and throwing money at the TTC and GO train, notwithstanding the folly of doing so, won't change that. Canada has crumbling and congested roads, which have a real economic cost (and don't get me started on how Comrade Bill Davis has ruined Toronto's economic future with cancelling the Spadina expressway back in the 70's).
Harper should know better than to make stupid promises like this. Potential conservative voters do not consider public transit a priority - roads though, that's another story. Cut their income taxes and build roads, lots of nice 8 lane expressways all over the GTA - now you got a recipie for success, considering how everyone complains about how congested the 401 is (which these days is 24-7).


Les Mackenzie said...

The looney left is beating the smog drum so any pro-road campaign will kill the potential urban vote quick.

There is no one answer to congestion.

Mitch said...

The smog drum is a non-issue for a lot of suburban voters - especially when you explain that a lot of the smog is not coming from Toronto per se. Besides, I think it would make better sense to go pro-road and win the 905 belt, who have to deal with the commute every day. Downtown Toronto isn't going to vote for you anyhow, and they are becoming increasingly irrelevant over the long term as the exodus to the suburbs continue thanks to Comrade Miller's agenda.

Babbling Brooks said...

I dunno. The GO Train crowd will like this, and they're the voters the CPC needs.

As far as the value of public transit, well, we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

"There are just two problems with mass transit. Nobody uses it, and it costs like hell..."

Would someone care to compare the cost of public transit with the true public cost of private transportation (roads, health, socio-economic pressures on the whole population, auto-workers union writing our recent federal budget, ...)? I'm afraid the opinions expressed here are very much one-sided and led by the North America's love affair with the internal combustion engine and feeling of entitlement to drive up everywhere one pleases.

Mitch said...

It is true that the consumer doesn't directly pay for the 'costs' of private transit. Thus the reason for many libertarian arguments for the privitization of roads so that the actual costs of car use are paid for by the consumers.

I would be all in favour of a system that the costs of public transit versus private use are more readily comparible for the consumer. Alas, this is another item whereby the consumer cannot truly make an informed decision because all the costs are sunk or nondisclosed.