Upzoned

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August 30, 2019  

What the Left Gets Wrong About Public Transportation

August 30, 2019

If you live in an American city, chances are, you’ve got a bone or two to pick with your local public transportation network. Whether you’re sweating it out in a stalled subway car or waiting in the rain for a bus that never seems to come when it’s supposed to, it seems like there’s hardly a major metro out there that’s meeting all of its citizens’ community transit needs. And if you tend to view the world through a social justice lens, the picture looks even more grim: inconvenience aside, a broken public transportation system is a total disaster for the working poor, for whom a late light rail can mean the difference between making it to work on time and putting food on the table for your family.

So it’s probably not a surprise that for many segments of the American left, increasing transit funding is a top priority—and any opposition or skepticism must be quashed if we want our cities (and our neighbors) to thrive. In a recent episode of Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix-based news and politics show, The Patriot Act, the comedian took that threat seriously, delving into the dark money forces working to shape our transit debate (hint: rhymes with “Woke Mothers”) and the policy roadblocks that stop direly-needed transit funding from reaching our cities. With our most vulnerable neighbors’ health, wealth and social mobility on the line, Minhaj argues, it’s crucial that we cut through the noise of all the anti-transit arguments out there, stop calling everything a boondoggle, and just build more transit—and do it, like, yesterday.

Here’s the thing, though: replace the word "transit” with “auto infrastructure,” and replace “the Koch Brothers” with ”[insert ominous liberal dark money group du jour]”, and all of those arguments could be put in the mouths of the political right. Seriously: check out this ridiculous video from the conservative Prager U if you don’t believe us.

Today on Upzoned, hosts Chuck and Kea explore why the loudest voices on both the left and the right get it wrong when it comes to public transportation. And along the way, they tell you how to spot the real transit boondoggles (yes, they exist, even if they’re not as numerous as their road-project boondoggle counterparts), why making our cities easier for all our neighbors to get around might mean not funding that mega-project train (or that mega-highway project, ahem), and what it will really take to build a transportation network that makes our cities financially stronger, not weaker (hint: it has to do with our buildings, not our streets or our subway tunnels.)

Then in the Downzone, Chuck tells us what he read on vacation (no surprise, it’s geeky), and Kea talks about a book-to-film adaptation that she loved just as much as the original.