ratpag had tried to stay away from politics – we wanted to stick to our standard fare of lighthearted rail advocacy, our Investigative Series, our Link Dumps, and the like – but politics came to us. We suppose it’s just not possible to stay completely unpolitical when publicly-funded mass transportation is the entire focus of your advocacy group.
Our first story comes to us out of Columbus, Ohio, where we find an interesting contradiction afoot. It seems the Republican National Convention is whittling down its list of prospective cities to host its 2016 presidential convention and, wouldn’t you know it, Columbus got the axe due to the “city’s lack of public transportation alternatives.”
So the GOP is in favor of public transit now? The same GOP who selected our pal John Mica to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee? The same John Mica who described Amtrak as having “Soviet style operations”? We can only suppose that the GOP is in favor of public transit when it will be directly used by them and, otherwise, it would be a waste of time and money.
Think we’re going a bit too far? Well, our second story comes to us from our nation’s capital where Senate Republicans valiantly “blocked a vote on legislation that includes language to restore mass transit benefits to their 2013 levels.”
The mass transit benefit dropped from $245 to $130 on Jan. 1, after a provision in the American Taxpayer Relief Act — also known as the fiscal cliff deal — expired. The parking benefit, however, actually increased by $5 to $250 for 2014.
The Republicans filibustered or, we’d guess, threatened to filibuster (or maybe it was assumed) the bill to bring the mass transit benefit up to the level of the parking benefit and, the article presumes, “with an election right around the corner, the issue is likely to be tabled until November.” Wonderful.
We suppose Republicans (or even Democrats, really) don’t rely on public transit or else we’d expect to have seen the incredibly fast (less than 24 hours!) actions to remedy the problem, as was the case with the FAA furloughs just over a year ago. Thanks for keeping all of your constituents in mind.
And, finally, a bit of somewhat good news out of Nashville, Tennessee where we learned a couple weeks ago that the Nashville AMP, a proposed 7.1 mile BRT line, is still alive despite the efforts of Koch brothers-funding to “effectively ban real bus rapid transit in Tennessee.” Discussions will carry on in Nashville regarding design changes, traffic flow impact, and cost and now talks of the health benefits of mass transit have arose!
Though ratpag believes, wholeheartedly, in the potential for improved air quality (from fewer vehicle emissions), increased physical activity (from “walking or biking to and from transit stops”), and reduced stress (from less time spent driving and sitting in traffic), we feel there will be an uphill battle in convincing those unconvinced of the science of the benefits of such a lifestyle.