The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Moving Minds: 12 anti-transit myths

(Above) Lind delivers the conservative case for transit at the June Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable. Along with 12 anti-transit myths, Lind outlines 3 common conservative misconceptions about transit.

During his presentation to metro Atlanta transit advocates earlier in the year, conservative transit advocate Bill Lind predicted the “anti-transit troubadours” would come and lend a voice to the political forces determined to see the transportation tax referendum fail.

Now that the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable executive committee has released the draft project list, the anti-transit whispers have become more strident, according to Atlanta-Journal columnist Jay Bookman.

Lind, and his former colleague and Republican political strategist Paul Weyrich,wrote Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation  with the idea that the transit movement could use some conservative voices. In fact, as Lind asserts in his book and in speeches, transit is fundamentally a conservative issue.

“All we [conservative transit advocates] want is what we once had,” Lind said at the June Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable. “We had it all and threw it away.

What our society once had was a great deal better than what it’s got now. And, one of those things was our wonderful streetcar system.”

The Livable Communities Coalition invited Lind to Atlanta to help transit advocates make the conservative case for transit as the region prepares to vote on the transportation sales in a referendum scheduled for next summer.

The Livable Communities Coalition launched the Fair Share for Transit initiative in March to develop broad support for enhancing and expanding transit in Atlanta through the proposed 10-year sales tax. The draft project list proposes reserving 55 percent of the $6.1 billion the tax is expected to raise over its lifetime for transit projects.

“This is transit’s best shot at significant new funding, according to Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman says. “We can’t afford to miss this opportunity.

Polls, surveys, focus groups and town hall meetings have all shown our region’s appetite for more transit.  Tired commuters know that we can’t change traffic congestion in metro Atlanta if we don’t change what we’re doing to address it.  We have to do something fresh and different if we hope to make a difference.  The time to expand rail transit is now.”

The Transportation Investment Act requires the full 21-member roundtable to deliver a final project list by Oct. 15. There will be 12 public meetings, allowing roundtable members to get additonal public input. The first will be held in Douglas County on Sep. 7.

Twelve anti-transit myths, excerpted from Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation

  1. Light rail has been a failure everywhere. The estimated costs always prove too low and the ridership projections are too high.
  2. Transit is a declining industry. Despite massive increases in transit funding since 1980, transit ridership has declined. Rail transit has a very high subsidy per passenger, and transit use has declined as much in cities that have built light rail as in those that haven’t.
  3. Commuting by rail is slower than commuting by car or express bus.
  4. Transit does not relieve congestion. Congestion has actually increased in cities that have built light rail, and building more highways will relieve congestion better than building rail systems. A rail line has less capacity than a single lane of freeway or even a major arterial.
  5. Where transit is needed, buses are better than rail. Buses cost less and provide the same or better service.
  6. Most new jobs are in the suburbs, but rail transit can only serve urban cores.
  7. Rail transit does not spur economic development.
  8. Transit brings crime into a community.
  9. Most light rail riders are former bus riders.
  10. Transit is a blight on the economy, while highways are a net public benefit.
  11. On average, most of the seats on a bus or train are empty.
  12. It would be cheaper to buy or lease a new car for every rider thant to build a new light rail system.

Over the next two weeks, the Livable Communities Coalition will post Lind’s deconstruction of these myths.

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