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Old Posted Oct 4, 2018, 8:54 PM
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American Politicians Rarely Make Public Transportation A Core Issue of Their Election

Why Do Candidates Ignore Mass Transit?


OCT 3, 2018

By AARON GORDON

Read More: https://www.citylab.com/transportati...idates/572059/

Quote:
In March, Cynthia Nixon debuted her gubernatorial campaign with a dramatic ad spot focusing on New York’s inequality, the worst in the country. As part of her message, she keyed in on three issues: improving health care, ending mass incarceration, and fixing the subway.

- Focusing on mass transit didn’t work: Nixon lost the primary to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is seeking his third term, by a roughly two-to-one margin. Though Cuomo oversaw the transit system during its decline, the message didn’t resonate with New Yorkers; Nixon didn’t win a single downstate county, nor did she carry any of the boroughs. Still, Nixon’s primary challenge was a significant example of something that one rarely sees in postwar American politics: She ran on transit. — It’s hard to find a contemporary example of a candidate for state office running as explicitly on public transportation as Nixon did. This strategy may not have paid dividends at the polls, but hammering on Cuomo’s responsibility over the MTA arguably did serve a valuable purpose, by making voters aware of who controls the convoluted public authority. It’s uncommon to see even big-city mayors base their campaigns on improving aging and often struggling urban rail systems.

- That matters: If no candidate is running on making mass transit better, voters have few opportunities to improve their systems, outside of special referenda. — What’s happening in the current Florida governor race is far more common, where candidates pay lip service to slow, frustrating commutes along highways, of course and offer vague platitudes about improving it. “Shortening commute times, however, rarely comes up in candidates’ stump speeches, even though transportation is the third-largest portion of the state budget,” the Orlando Sentinel recently observed. All the candidates agree traffic is bad and something must be done, but most of the discussion surrounds highway expansion. Few of the candidates in Florida Andrew Gillum being the notable exception meaningfully separate mass transit like trains and buses from highways and roads, or even airports and seaports. It’s all lumped into a conversation about infrastructure.

- There are many reasons why candidates loathe to campaign on mass transit, including voter demographics. Those who rely on mass transit are less likely to vote. According to a 2016 Pew study, 34 percent of black and 27 percent of Hispanic urban residents report taking public transit daily or weekly, compared with only 14 percent of whites. Yet eligible white voters are more likely to go to the polls on election day than blacks or Hispanics. Further, 38 percent of foreign-born urban residents who are more likely not able to vote rely on mass transit, as opposed to only 18 percent of U.S.-born urban dwellers. — But there are also structural reasons why American politicians at all levels rarely make mass transportation a core issue. For one, it’s rarely clear who is actually responsible for mass transit in any given metro area. Often, it’s not the mayor or governor, at least not directly. Of the ten most-used transit systems in America, only Boston’s MBTA, which is under the state’s department of transportation.

- The rest are under the auspices of independent authorities with convoluted governance structures and varying degrees of influence by local officials, mayors, and governors. Typically, these authorities are regional, with the vast majority of influence from the counties the transit system serves. In theory, this brings all the stakeholders to the table. But that’s another way of saying it dilutes control across several different electoral entities. In cases like Chicago’s CTA or New York’s MTA, the mayor and governor essentially control the authorities, respectively, by appointing a majority of executive positions or board members. But others, like Philadelphia’s SEPTA, DC’s WMATA, San Francisco’s BART, and Los Angeles’s LACMTA, are overseen by amalgams of regional influencers. When I recently asked some transit experts if they can recall public transit being such a big issue in city or state elections, they struggled to think of cases like Nixon’s, where candidates campaigned to make an existing service better.

- But they did bring up many races defined by a proposal for something new rather than fixing something old. Big local transit proposals can be quite contentious. That’s why these projects are often put to the people via ballot measures, which cut through the dispersed authority structure. Candidates and officeholders often align with one side of the ballot. — Even in modern times, running explicitly against transit on a platform with racial undertones can prove popular. For example, in the 2014 Maryland governor’s race, GOP candidate Larry Hogan campaigned heavily against the Red Line, an east-west rail line through Baltimore that would serve several predominantly black neighborhoods, a project backed by his predecessor, Martin O’Malley. Hogan won, killed the project, and has enjoyed nation-leading approval ratings since.

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Old Posted Oct 5, 2018, 11:38 PM
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In Canada, the only people who use public transit are poor people and recent immigrants. The USA must be the same, hence the lack of political attention given to transit.
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Old Posted Oct 6, 2018, 5:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doady View Post
In Canada, the only people who use public transit are poor people and recent immigrants.
That is so obviously false. But you already know that, you're just trying to say something incendiary. Why?
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Old Posted Oct 6, 2018, 3:41 PM
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Another stigma is suburbanites not wanting riff raff having easy access to their neighbourhoods.
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Old Posted Oct 6, 2018, 9:50 PM
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The US has some of the most inept politicians in the developed world, why are we surprised?
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Old Posted Oct 6, 2018, 10:32 PM
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The vast majority of Americans don't use public transportation so obviously politicians aren't going to spend a whole lot of time talking about the need to spend more money on it.
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Old Posted Oct 7, 2018, 1:17 AM
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The main reason why America’s local, state, and federal politicians rarely discuss public transit is because most major transit are owned and operated by independent agencies, whose boards and directors are appointed.

Politicians of the various governments have very limited power over these independent boards. Funding of most transit agencies are already set in place, refendrums are used to increase funding or increase debt to make new projects or expansions possible. So it is rarely something a politician can do anything about directly.
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Old Posted Oct 7, 2018, 1:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
That is so obviously false. But you already know that, you're just trying to say something incendiary. Why?
Why not? He was being attacked with nonsense in other threads on transit. I fully support sarcasm.
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Old Posted Oct 7, 2018, 3:13 PM
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You're convinced he's being sarcastic?
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Old Posted Oct 7, 2018, 9:18 PM
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He is being sarcastic.
See threads: "How America Killed Transit" (Transport subforum), "Is Induced Demand a bad thing?" (Also Transport subforum)
also possibly "Everybody Fits In': Inside The Canadian Cities Where Minorities Are The Majority"
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Old Posted Oct 7, 2018, 10:10 PM
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It's no secret that America has had a bigger love affair with the automobile than any other country on earth and has had for a long time and given that only about 10% of the country regularly use transit (and more importantly a fairly quiet 10%), why would any politician make it a priority?
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