As budget battles roar, transportation has come into the spotlight in state and federal chambers, and modes of transportation have become needlessly politicized. A prime example of this is provided by our own State Representative Mike Beard (R-Shakopee), who chairs the House transportation committee.
Here’s his opinion, according to the TC Daily Planet: “I think our first goal should be mobility. But at the end of the day, individual people with their own set of wheels going about their own lives seems to be the most American thing we can do.” An argument for prioritizing driving-not for any fiscal, environmental, or factual reasoning, but because it is somehow more American.
Well thank goodness. Now we can keep our guard up against the un-Americans among us. I shudder to think of the Twin Cities, with its 78 million rides on transit in 2010. And I dare not go near the Hiawatha light rail, which netted over 10.5 million of those rides. All of these people, getting around on somebody’s else’s schedule? And carpooling is just as bad, with more social interaction and less schedule freedom than the American drive-alone way. At least we have Scott County to which we can retreat. But wait-if you add carpoolers and transit riders together, they make up 10% of Scott County residents, according to American Community Survey data.
Yes, it’s ridiculous. But this is a state policymaker chairing an important committee, trying to advance his short-sighted policies-which include $130 million in cuts to public transit in Minnesota. These cuts would harm the economic competitiveness of the Twin Cities, and also damage the mobility of employees and residents. That’s why the business community opposes the bill. Decreased transit service will mean increased congestion on the state’s weakening roads too. That means trouble for Beard’s Scott County, where over 65% of the residents work outside of the county, again according to the American Community Survey five-year data.
Ezra Klein of the Washington Post said it best: “Can’t I just be pro-transportation?” Klein was responding to Newsweek’s George Will, who made the claim that high-speed rail’s true purpose is to destroy individualism. Klein’s response was simple: transportation is not an either-or situation. Inter-city rail, public transit, and cars all have benefits and they work well together. Driving is no more American than anything else. America’s founding fathers did not have cars, and numerous generations of Americans relied on trains, boats, and even walking (whatever that is) to get around. Let’s get back to focusing on the facts and investing in transportation, period.