Friday, August 08, 2008

Mass Transit

Just to have a link to someone else talking about the rise in the use of rail transport, check out this post by Kevin Drum. Ridership is up, fuel consumption is down. This is good.

As someone who has switched to public transport here in Baltimore for the past few months, after years as a car commuter, I'm a bit familiar with both modes of transport. I'd like to make clear one point that should be obvious, but nonetheless often seems to get glossed over. If you do drive, and need to drive, or just want to continue driving and have no interest in using rail transport, or other public transport, that doesn't mean that rail transport has no value to you. Most everyone I've ever know, who drives, would prefer to drive with fewer other drivers on the road, rather than with more. Traffic congestion is pretty universally felt to be a pain. Likewise, most everyone who drives would prefer lower gas prices to higher. Even if you want to stay in your car, more people on the train means fewer people congesting your traffic and lower demand, and thus in general lower prices, for gas. Building more commuter rail, will benefit drivers. In our political discourse there is this very mistaken meme that we can either spend money on roads and help drivers, or else spend money on rail and help only rail passengers. While this idea is useful (wrong but useful) for some conservative positions, it seems to be universally accepted.

So, if you are a driver, and want to keep driving on uncongested roads with realatively cheep gas, we should build more commuter rail.

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