Monday, November 19, 2012

Let's Make a Deal: Give Poor Households Cars So Rich Households Can Take Transit

The Republican candidates for president this past cycle were widely criticized for taking the stance during the primary debates that no tax increase was acceptable. They all demurred at the offer of a $1 increase in taxes for a $10 decrease in spending. So I want to propose a similar idea to transit advocates. Is a small increase in driving by certain groups worth a large decrease in driving for other groups? Specifically, what if we subsidized car ownership and usage for low income people so that public transit would no longer have any social welfare component? I know this is provocative and I do not advocate for it, but am curious if maximizing the environmental benefits of transit are worth eliminating or dramatically reducing the social welfare benefits of transit. If poor people without cars get cars, based on current land uses, they will be better off in most cases. If we can then focus new transit investment on likely or potential riders who currently drive a lot, we may be able to reduce overall auto usage and reduce transport emissions.

Who will make this deal?
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