Two Views on Public Transit

The Next Conservatism, a new blog about conservatism in general and the writings of Paul Weyrich in particular, links to a Nov. 14 article by Mr. Weyrich, in which he urges conservatives to support public mass transit initiatives. Mr. Weyrich supports this argument with data suggesting that most such projects (especially light rail and streetcars) are successful insofar as they exceed their projected ridership. He also notes that in the last election, voters “approved almost every significant referendum for transit.”

Meanwhile, Instapundit just flagged a newly released book about commuting and congestion: The Road More Traveled, by Sam Staley and Ted Balaker.

They argue that traffic congestion does much more harm than is generally appreciated, and that municipalities’ programs aimed at making traffic worse in order to encourage people to use mass transit are deeply mistaken. They also argue that fixing traffic problems is easier and cheaper than is popularly thought.

I haven’t yet gotten a copy of the book, but it will be interesting to compare with Mr. Weyrich’s previous publications on the topic.

UPDATE 11/21: Kevin Meyer at Evolving Excellence has thoughts on “continuous flow” traffic (an ideal in lean manufacturing).

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2 Responses to “Two Views on Public Transit”

  1. The Conservative Conservationist Says:

    Thanks for the link and the alternative point of view. I agree with the blurb summary of The Road More Traveled in that traffic congestion does much more harm than generally recognized. Here where I live, a huge 4-year overpass construction project kept traffic backed up for hours every day during about 3 years. I estimated that every day, people lost at least 1 hour due to the traffic. If you multiply the number of people (tens of thousands), the number of days (600-700), and the average salary (say, $30 per hour), you get an astronomical figure of up to a billion dollars in lost time. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily translate to a billion dollars lost to the local economy, because people will get up earlier to get to work… but it does constitute at least a few hundred million dollars’ worth, plus a loss of more hundreds of millions in people’s personal time.

    Which brings me to where I disagree with the blurb about The Road More Traveled: traffic congestion is not easy to resolve, especially rush hour traffic!

  2. Timothy Says:

    Not to mention lost energy efficiency (idling and start-stop driving) and air polution.
    I agree that congestion isn’t easy to solve, but in fairness to Instapundit, he says that they argue it’s easier than “popularly thought,” which still might be pretty difficult.
    Continued in a comment over on your site.

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