The audio is now available for the MPR Daily Circuit Friday Roundtable:
LISTEN Story audio
The Green Line is up and running, but building a rail line and maintaining it are separate battles. How will we pay for the existing mass transit choices, create new options and not go broke? Our three Roundtablers offer their proposals for funding transportation.
I absolute agree with David and Chuck that the system we have in place has created a car-based, sprawl mess due to screwed-up incentives (and I agree with the two of them on most things for that matter). I agree we need something new.
I’m a little wary of their solution. To some degree people need to pay costs directly or they make nonsensical decisions — that’s what’s happened. But my inner liberal likes public investment, things we share without constantly paying out. I hope that David and Chuck don’t advocate charging an entrance fee to parks so people appreciate them more and they can be more productive, or privatizing education. It’s nice to know that some things are simply public in the general sense.
They have done such a great job of describing a more viable system, it makes me wonder why we don’t just put people like them in charge of the infrastructure and build it right, using the funding we have now. I’m not sure it’s any less politically feasible than gutting the whole system.
Additionally, they seem to favor a per-mile tax over a gas tax. I’m not sure that’s all that different; the only difference is that a gas tax changes people more who use more carbon, as it well should. That’s exactly the incentive that we need (and in fact it could be argued it drives the entire problem). If we collect less revenue by increasingly efficient cars, then just keep raising the tax to make up the difference.
I don’t want to speak for either of them, but I know that Chuck has talked many times about how we used to build public amenities – things in the commons like grand parks, libraries, and public schools – because they radiated wealth. Look at a school or park that was built a century ago versus one built now and there’s no comparison. I don’t think we need to change that model – we thrive because we build great public things.
Transportation is different, however. When we subsidize transportation and place it all in the commons, our liberal tendencies lead to regressive outcomes. When it comes to urbanism, transportation, and land use, we can actually get more progressive outcomes by using some market reforms. That’s the paradox that makes many liberals flinch, but we have to realize at some point that our outcomes have sucked miserably for the last sixty years.