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Old 01-30-2014, 10:05 AM
Location: Maryland not Murlin
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Originally Posted by markovian process View Post
I noticed, in most of the US there is an association of transit-friendliness with certain views on the political spectrum.

For example, in the US, the left-wing cities tend to be more public transit friendly, obviously with examples of NYC, San Francisco being the archetypes etc. plus the stereotypically liberal college towns. Rural areas or conservative towns and cities have less public transit. Often this is associated with "big government", since public transit is seen as something requiring a lot of tax money and car ownership associated with more individualism and economic independence. Whatever the causality or whatever the direction of correlation, this seems to be the case within the country.

It seems to hold across countries too (at least at the country level). European countries seem more liberal than the United States and have more public transit. Canadian and Australian public transit is said to be in between the US and Europe and indeed those countries are also intermediate politically on the spectrum: more liberal than the US but less liberal than Europe.

Are there exceptions? Is public transit usually associated with left wing places everywhere?

One exception that seems to stand out is Japan. I don't know that much about its politics but it seems not particularly left-wing, yet has big, dense cities with ample public transit.

Also, does anyone know if this is always, or generally the case that left-wing views and public transit go hand in hand, or is it likely just my impression (based on US worldview assumptions, with only a little knowledge of Europe)?
My experience with public transportation in college towns is that it is usually not an elaborate system, and in many cases, leaves much to be desired.

Rural towns generally have less public transportation simply because they tend to be small localities with less people to serve.

European countries may seem more "Liberal" than the U.S., but do not be fooled. Conservatism runs deep in all European countries, but I suppose when you have had two major wars and many, many, smaller ones fought in your living room, front yard, back yard, etc., you might view the world a little differently, too.

New York City is huge, and driving, letting alone owning a vehicle, is a pain. It has nothing to do with politics, but more so with the economics of too many people living in a city with nowhere to park. Same for SF and Boston. Both cities have a small footprint, but tons of people. Besides, would you want to pay $400/month to park in Boston? It is not a political decision.

Aside from living in Boston (and Nor Cal), I also lived in Minneapolis. MPLS has always been a progressive city, yet, at one point in time public transportation was privately owned. In fact, I believe that public transport was privately owned in most locations at one point in time.

The perception of public transportation varies by location. In Sacramento, where I am from, public transportation is largely seen as something that "poor people" use. Same in Minneapolis, for the most part. However, in The Bay, Boston, and NYC, it is also something that is used by many professionals...including Conservatives.
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Old 01-31-2014, 12:02 PM
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
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Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
That's a very simplistic explanation. Trains have long received subsidies. And except for toll roads, roads have ALWAYS been subsidized.
Almost all forms of transportation (pipelines are the only exception I can think of) requires public-sector participation in one way or another.

The root of the controversy (in Constitutional terms) goes back to 1817, when outgoing President Madison vetoed an "internal improvements" bill authorizing a "pork barrel" collection of various canals and turnpikes; the first railraods were still a decade away.The clear signal of no Federal help led New York State to finance the Erie Canal, which did not require the participaton of other states, and was a huge success. Pennsylvania and Virginia tried to follow suit, but the much more formidable mountain barriers in those states doomed the effort.

For the next sixty years, such projects, mostly railroads, were built with a crazy quilt of financing usually involving local municipalities. Land grants were introduced, first at the state level and later at the Federal, but most people forget that there was a catch; the railroads were required to move government freight at lower rates -- a provision not rescinded at the Federal level for decades.

The railroads were developed for freight and long-distance passenger travel, but hauling commuters from nearby communities into the major cities developed early on, Streetcar lines were often interconnnected with electric power projects -- the Chicagoland empire of the famous (or notorious -- take your pick) Samuel Insull bing the best-remembered.

Antagonsim toward the transit operators was documented in as early a work as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and local politicians made every effort to hold fares down. That wasn't too much of a hardship until highway competition for both passengers and freight emerged after 1920. The less congested and more "horizontal" (as in Los Angeles and Detroit) rather then "vertical" (as in Boston and Chicago) a city, the sooner the transit system fell apart. Eventually, even the equipment of the more congested and viable cities wore out, and the responsibility had to be assumed by the public sector;

There's little doubt in this writer's mind that the new realities of energy prices, which are especially hard on "discretionary driving". will continue to inveigh in favor of public transit, but there remains a point where the economics shift in favor of individual vehicles, which will continue to get more economical, thereby smaller and less crashworthy, and have no choice but to shere the road with the 18-wheel mastodons which deliver our goods. (And a return to "retail railroading" is infeasible due to economies of scale -- you'll never see a rail spur into a shopping mall.)

I myself live in rural Eastern Pennsylvania, and have known since my teens that I can save money on a trip into New York or Philadelphia by driving only as far as the suburbs and taking a coomuter train from there. But the word doesn't always get around so easily.

Last edited by 2nd trick op; 01-31-2014 at 12:12 PM..
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Old 01-31-2014, 12:48 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by 2nd trick op View Post

I myself live in rural Eastern Pennsylvania, and have known since my teens that I can save money on a trip into New York or Philadelphia by driving only as far as the suburbs and taking a coomuter train from there. But the word doesn't always get around so easily.
I would have assumed rural locals would do so as they might be wary of driving in the big city.
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