Photo by Dawn Easterday
Whenever some conservatives tire of bashing public transit subsidies for boosting the mobility of low-income folks, they mock light rail as nothing more than a plaything for affluent professionals’ joyrides to sports events and other entertainment. As usual, actual scientific research has proved the righties wrong on that count. Furthermore, they may be shooting themselves in the foot with their own constituencies.
A new study from the University of Minnesota found that “major low-wage employment accessibility gains occurred both along the Hiawatha LRT corridor and other high-frequency bus corridors.” The authors added that while low-wage jobs in the Twin Cities tend to be far from neighborhoods where the working poor live – spacial mismatch, in academese – effective transit, including high-frequency bus routes feeding light rail lines, is a “means of promoting social equity in the region.”
While the working poor’s employment accessibility gains from light rail are large and significant, gains are even greater for high-wage jobs, which are concentrated at the Hiawatha’s northern terminus in downtown Minneapolis, the researchers said.
And that calls into question the far right’s constant criticism of rail transit. As William Lind and the late Paul Weyrich of the conservative Free Congress Foundation noted in their book, “Moving Minds,” many upper-income conservatives ride transit, especially what the authors call “high-quality” rail lines. Besides, they say, transit serves many conservative goals, including economic development, efficient mobility and community cohesion.
Some progressives may cheer the libertarian right’s self-defeating opposition to 21st century transit improvements. But we’d all be better off if conservatives quit their obstructionism and took Lind’s advice: “Don’t miss the train.”