The Leftish Mindset, In One Sentence

Cameron Scott meant this sentence as a withering critique of everything that is wrong with the government, from his point of view:

Transit riders shouldered four times the share of the MTA [Metropolitan Transit Authority] 2008 budget disaster [than] drivers did, but officials promised to seek more revenue from parking.

Holy cr*p!  You mean that transit users shouldered four times more of the transit budget than transit non-users?  Gasp!

The Bay Area where he lives is experiencing light rail disease.  This is the phenomenon where middle class voters along heavy white collar commuting routes push for horrendously expensive light rail lines.  The capital costs of these systems drain transit budgets into the distant future, forcing service cuts, particularly in bus systems that serve the poor.  The result is that the city ends up with bigger transit bills, but less actual transit, and progressives like Scott scratch their head and try to figure out what went wrong.  It must be because non-users of Transit aren't paying enough!


  1. Matt:

    Do you realize that web site proprietors share a bulk of the cost of hosting fees?! It's insane!

  2. Knucklehead:

    Why does this surprise you? What are we hearing now, and said with a straight face? Things like:

    People who don't use:
    - health care insurance aren't paying enough for health care insurance
    - welfare aren't paying enough for welfare
    - unemployment insurance aren't paying enough for unemployment insurance
    - disability insurance aren't paying enough for disability insurance
    - don't use parks aren't paying enough for parks

    It could go on. The overarching theme, however, is that those who make the most use of whatever would like the rest of us to help bear the burden of paying for it.

    Tough time for working folk what be reasonably healthy. To listen to the Professional Caring Class, you'd think 90% of us were unemployed and unhealthy rather than the precise opposite. They'll go to any length to punish the 90% for the suffering of the 10%. Any length up to, and including, criminalizing the 90%.

  3. MJ:

    Wow. I've got my violin out, and I'm playing Cameron a tune. The anger directed toward drivers is apparently also reserved for the MTA executives (but not for the highly-paid unionized workforce, of course -- they live hand to mouth).

    There is so much wrong with this. Many of Muni's users are non-poor, and would not be harmed much by a fare increase. Since most transit systems use electronic fare media these days, perhaps they could create a special fare class for poor users in order to shield them from the fare increase, but still nab those unsavory white-collar professionals. Of course, this would probably cost the city some of its green credentials, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

    Another option would be for the city to lease its parking facilities to a private operator. This would give the city some much needed cash immediately, allow the operator to set parking rates at market prices (which would probably also be a plus for MTA), and prevent the city's parking operations from becoming a cash cow for the city's mismanaged transit operations.

    I also got a kick out of the comment that suggested that more money should be directed to San Jose. That city's transit system was recently audited, turning up copious evidence of fraud and waste.

  4. Mike Walsh:

    We had the same situation here in Buffalo, NY a few years back. Ridership was down and they threatened to increase fees for users. All the bleeding hearts screamed about it and the county then passed a doubling of the real estate transfer tax to make up the gap. That amounted to a couple of hundred dollars tacked on to every real estate transaction. So, if you bought a house in the suburbs where no metro service was available, you still ended up subsidizing mostly city and first tier users.

  5. Michael:

    I don't catch much Michael Savage, but his take that liberalism is a mental illness is mostly correct.

    Their logic goes like we have manufactured problem A and the solution is always to make A worse along with B,C,D,...

  6. ArtD0dger:

    But if you don't even have trains, how can you demonstrate your firm, benevolent leadership by making them run on time?

  7. Eddie:

    When regional governments are trying to sell the populace on light rail they never actually come clean on the real costs to the region. If they tried to sell it honestly, I don't see how it could ever fly. When fares pay for 20% or less of the operating costs, and you throw in construction costs which usually work out to 70 or 80 thousand dollars per new rider, it's hard to convince people of the need.

    Or to put it another way, for that $70,000 per rider they can either get a daily train ride which they'll have to pay a fee to ride, will take considerably longer than an auto commute, have a lot less flexibility and freedom in their daily travel, or for the $70,000 they could have a $30,000 car and gasoline good for over 300,000 miles of driving (at current market prices).

  8. gn:

    Was in Copenhagen recently. Rode the trains everywhere (including up the coast, over to Sweden, back again). New experience for this midwest boy.

    Why do European cities do trains/transit right (do they?) and we do it so poorly?

  9. Methinks:


    probably for the same reason that Amtrak's only profitable line is the Northeast Corridor. They connect very densely populated areas over relatively short distances and European roads are often much shittier compared to U.S. roads.

  10. spiro:


    Methinks nails it. I don't know where you live gn, but you could fit all of Denmark in our COUNTY...yet our county has less than 1/1000 the population.
    1) Outside New York city, America is big and spread out.
    2) We work longer hours and less uniform shifts than Europeans, so it's much harder to set a train schedule that maximizes ridership.
    3) Most American cities don't have one centralized commercial district where everyone works. Workplaces are spread out also. This is why buses are such a better urban option here. Buses can go anywhere you have roads, trains can only go where you spend the money to build their unique infrastructure.
    4) Unions, unions, unions.

  11. Not Sure:

    "Why do European cities do trains/transit right (do they?) and we do it so poorly?" - gn

    Based on an admittedly brief Google search, I came up with the following costs for travel in Europe:

    Rail pass for 15 days for two people = $2000
    Rental car for 15 days = $800
    Gas = $6/gal.

    So, assuming that the same amount of money is available for travel regardless of the choice of either train or car...

    $2000 (rail) - $800 (car) = $1200 for gas
    With gas @ $6/gal: $1200 / $6 = 200 gallons
    Assuming 30mpg: 30mpg x 200 gal. = 6,000 mile driving
    6,000 miles / 15 days = 400 miles per day

    Obviously, there are way too many variables to make any sort of conclusion valid for everybody, but depending on your situation and preferences, I'm not seeing that European train travel is necessarily an improvement over travel by car.

  12. Xmas:


    The most common complaint about the European model of train usage is that it is skewed towards passenger travel. They use trains to move people and roads to move cargo. While the US does the opposite.

    You could increase passenger rail services throughout the US, but you'll have to divert more cargo transport to roads.

    Also, the population density argument works well too. Europe is dense enough that a 5 GBP per flight airline can be successful (I was going to say $25 per flight, but I just checked the RyanAir website, hachi machi!).

  13. smurfy:

    "It must be because non-users of Transit aren’t paying enough"

    Don't forget why the non-users of transit have to pay in the first place: because they are morally inferior. I used to subscribe to the theory that the moral hierarchy went pedestrian> cyclist> transit rider> efficient car driver> SUV driver. Opportunity costs were never part of the equation. Not sure when I changed my tune, sometime after college and after I started eating meat again.

  14. Maddog:

    I wonder what it is that makes the following two groups so different?

    Rail transit acolytes and their desire for others to pay for their rail and transit fantasies.

    Hunters and fishermen who for about 100 years have provide virtually all of the money for animal habitat and restoration in the USA. Yet these people welcome with open arms anyone to enjoy the beauty and largesse they have created.

    I suspect this goes back to the underlying reasons that conservatives give substantially more to charity than do liberals.

  15. Tom:

    You nailed the politics here. But I don't understand why you "corrected" the writer's sentence. He wrote:

    "Transit riders shouldered four times the share of the MTA 2008 budget disaster that drivers did ..."

    You changed it to:

    "Transit riders shouldered four times the share of the MTA 2008 budget disaster [than] drivers did ..."

    His grammar was correct. Your fix is incorrect.

  16. MarkH:

    I'm in the East Bay. I brought this argument up with a friend. It makes perfect sense to him that if the transit riders are already paying 4x of drivers, then it only makes sense to increase the fees on the drivers.