Private Charity Can’t Help Everyone

Related Post Roulette

125 Responses

  1. Avatar j r says:

    Congratulations. You’ve managed to take the failures of Detroit – in other words the failures of the confluence of 20th century big government progressive activism and big government conservative neglect – and turn them into an argument against limited government and private action. Color me impressed.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to j r says:

      As Harry Brown used to say, government breaks your legs, gives you crutches, and says, “If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t be able to walk.”Report

      • Avatar Road Scholar in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Harry Browne used to say a lot of stupid shit. He’s a big part of why I jumped ship on the libertarians.

        For some reason his go-to line was to compare any government service or function to the post office. This was an organization that delivered a letter between any two zip codes in the U.S., in three days or less, with an incredibly low error rate, for the princely sum of (back then) something like forty cents. Bad example.Report

    • Avatar Notme in reply to j r says:

      Jr

      Clearly this is an argument for the govt to take the next step and give all those poor folks their own obama car.Report

  2. Avatar Kimmi says:

    We need fast and reliable public transportation.
    We need some kind of government and subsidized healthcare.

    For various uses of the term “we”.

    Unless you’re saying that we need fast and reliable transportation for the entire country. Which would cost a bloody fortune. The Amish seem to do pretty well without health insurance.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Getting the administrative breakdown of a geographically large country like the United States or Russia is extremely difficult. If the large country is also very populous, like the United States or China, than you add even more difficulties. History also needs to be taken into account at times because people don’t like when the geographic-administrative unit they identify with locally disappears. If a legislature has too many members than it becomes a rubber-stamp but if it has too few representatives it becomes unrepresentative. The latter is especially an issue if the elections are done on a district-basis.

    I’m going close to Will Truman’s opinion on this. The ideal administrative structure for the United States should be federal, state, and counties within states. There should be no administrative divisions below the third level. I’m also in favor of fewer but larger, in terms of membership, with more responsibilities.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to LeeEsq says:

      When I was actively on business in my state, I started researching the confluence of doing just this at the school level. Maine is a mostly rural state, and to save money and gain economies of scale in education, we began consolidating school districts. I spent a lot of time studying this; because I’d noticed a pattern that the town that got the high school and the superintendent’s office maintained a thriving service center, the other town’s shriveled; a kind of big-box syndrome.

      I never was able to sort it out; at the same time, we were developing auto culture and early big-box stores (Sears, K-Mart, Aimes, etc.) were proliferating, also in the towns that had the super’s office and high school.

      But I do think there are issues of regional vitality here to explore. I don’t necessarily disagree that there should be nothing below the County; I might put it at the School District level, for instance. But there’s something, in so doing, that’s also lost. And here, with tiny towns that are scattered, there are all sorts of cooperative efforts that blossom, from fire protection to ambulance service. And the coalitions are necessarily arranged on the same kind of bright lines for any given service. There’s also the importance of highly local identities, that’s a big part of what we brand here in Maine when we invite you to Vacationland. Benefits of not having to drive 60 miles for milk or a bank, too.

      That’s just my rural perspective, anyway.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

        No, the county should be the source of most local services like education or licensing for commercial establishments or police work if done bellow state level. There is no need for a different elected body to oversee the schools. The county legislature and executive are perfectly capable of looking over the schools.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to zic says:

        I admit, that I favor centralizing education on the state level rather than leaving it to the localities.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic says:

        Lee,
        Northerner, your stripes are showing.
        In the South, all the cities have their own county, and the suburbs get their own around it. I’m not sure why (it’s an old thing), but it seems to me that you could profitably bridge the two and come up with better solutions.Report

  4. Avatar Damon says:

    Let’s not forget the NIMBY aspect, which can be very powerful. Some extensions to public light rail in my area was effectually countered because the locals got all riles up when they realized that there was a clear increase in crime stats in the area surrounding the terminus of the line….

    Defeats the purpose of moving away from the crime if the gov’t constructs an mechanism to transport the criminals out to your new digs.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Damon says:

      This is not the way it has worked in Austin, and my impression from the debates surrounding the three votes here in Austin is that it’s not the way it generally works. That is, the people closest to proposed light rail or commuter rail lines here have tended to vote for it, and you can in fact pretty reliably predict a precinct’s voting on a rial measure and its proximity to the proposed line(s), with the percent of voters voting for rail increasing as you get closer and closer to the line.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Though I should add that part of this is because, by the time a rail proposal gets to a popular vote, it’s been through the pretty painful process of the stakeholders (especially those with money) giving their input.

        The first light rail proposal in Austin during my time here (back in ’00) was supported by residents along all of its line, but opposed by businesses along part of it (specifically SoCo), because businesses there are highly dependent on the sort of car and pedestrian traffic that would be disrupted by the construction.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

        Chris,
        Construction stands to really hurt a business, even if there will be more business afterwards. I’d be okay with a decent “pay it forward” stipend to businesses for “Hey, we just destroyed your foot traffic.” (With the stipulation that they’d have… say, five times the length of the construction to repay. They’re a small business, give them a bit of buffer room to repay).Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Damon says:

      Actually read the history of BART on Wikipedia, and you find that originally it was supposed to circle the south bay and go to Marin. But Santa Clara County (San Jose) opted out before the vote, as did a bit later did San Mateo County (Plus they had the SP Railroad commuter trains at the time) Now then Marin was forced to withdraw when these events meant that the extension to Marin would likley never be built as there were insufficient funds to do so, as well as the opposition of the Golden Gate bridge district who felt they would loose tolls. In the case of San Mateo one article suggests that it was the merchants at the local malls who felt they would loose business to San Francisco that pushed this. So the bay area starts with the problem of 5 Counties on the South Side of the Bay and 4 on the north. Clearly in this area counties are to small to solve regional problems. (Since their boundaries were set by 1850 or so)
      So each county decided based upon its percieved interests what was best for it at the time, and of course in the 1950s who ever thought that silicon valley would emerge.Report

  5. Avatar LWA says:

    Small and local can easily be the most effective solution.

    If it’s formed to provide a solution, and if a solution is desired.

    If the solution being sought is “How do we maximize freedom” then private individual automobiles will be favored and James Robertson will have the freedom to walk to work.

    If the solution being sought is “How do we provide effective universal public transportation” then a municipal bus line will be created and car drivers will be inconvenienced by taxes or bus traffic and James Robertson will ride to work.

    In other words, the things that we liberals see as goals- universal education, universal health care, universal transit- are not the same goals as the people who talk about smaller more localized government. So when we ask if smaller or larger government can work, we forget to ask “work to accomplish what?”Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to LWA says:

      Right. So I guess we can blame James Robertson’s plight on all those small government libertarians who governed Detroit for all those years.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:

      The end goal observation is a very good one. Liberals and conservatives and libertarians might simply have very different and impossible to irecconsile end goals.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        To be clear, though, they’re only irreconcilable in one direction. As a libertarian, I’m willing to let you have San Francisco—even the whole state of California, though it breaks my heart to see what you’ve done with it—but you’re hellbent on imposing your policy preferences on the whole country, so that there cannot possibly be a libertarian counterpart.

        Federalization stacks the deck. You can always add government at the state level, but you can’t subtract it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Brandon,
        Oh, sure you can subtract it. “No locality can make a law infringing on gun rights” is a nice pissy way for the state legislature to say, “we rule, locals drool”Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @brandon-berg
        How can we impose our policy preferences on the whole country, without the whole country agreeing to it?

        Because really, if I could impose socialized medicine and nationalized banking by executive fiat, I would in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the only way I know of to do that is to persuade people and win elections.

        But I am open to other suggestions!Report

  6. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Saul, I think this is one of your weaker posts and blaming America’s transportation mistakes on conservatives and libertarians was not really fair. A lot of really Democratic and liberal voting areas like St. Lous, Cleaveland, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Detroit, Seattle, and company decided on a car-focused transportation policy after World War II. This was very popular with most voters regardless of their political preferences or race. Its true that Republican voting areas might have add more theoretic antipathy towards public transportation than Democratic-voting areas but the difference was insignificant for decades in most places.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    I’m sad to say so but I agree with Lee and JR here. Your example is Detroit for God(ess?)’s sake.

    Detroit is an absolute disaster; a national basket case caused by generations of bad management and bad politics. Detroit is so broke that they can’t afford to enforce all the sprawling rules they have on their own books. They can’t pay their own public pensions and, being government, one can’t lay the blame for that on a Romney style vulture capitalist. You can’t give land away in Detroit, let alone induce people to buy it. The reason that Mr. Roberts has to commute so far to his job is because businesses aren’t willing to locate to Detroit.
    Detroit is a place that conservatives and libertarians point (unfairly in my mind) to as a natural outcome of liberal government. For you to raise it as an example of a place where more centralized government assistance is needed is either some impressive chutzpah or possibly an indication that you don’t know a lot about the background of Detroit.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      I don’t get to pick the examples that are present in the media.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

      North,

      “They can’t pay their own public pensions and, being government, one can’t lay the blame for that on a Romney style vulture capitalist. ”

      Oh Can’t one?
      Funny ain’t it, how Wall Street is bearbaiting in Detroit?
      Ain’t it to Wall Street’s advantage to have Detroit be on death’s doorstep — artificially depressing prices — right before Wall Street scoops up a ton of real estate?

      (Obviously, this is a short term plan. Wall Street ain’t German, after all. I don’t blame 1990’s neglect on current wall street.)Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      And it doesn’t change the broader issue is that it is a fundamental liberal realization that government has a role in providing welfare because private charity cannot help everyone. A lot of the conservative arguments against the ACA were false nostalgia about how neighbors could help take care of people who got seriously ill.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Fundamentally sure; private charity has enormous fundamental limits. For instance it is at times when the need for assistance is greatest; depressions, recessions etc; that the resources available to private charity is the most scarce. Private charities existed in profusion during the onset of the depression, they foundered and collapsed in the face of the overwhelming need. There’s only one entity capable of increasing spending at a time when the economy is contracting and that’s the people who print the money aka government.

        That granted, Detroit is a really really bad example to use. It’s an especially bad example if one doesn’t address Detroits really bad background particularily in the area of misgovernment.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Given what a disaster Detroit has become, I don’t blame outlying areas from being resistant to hitching themselves to Detroit for big ticket items. If The Detroit metro area had a light rail system prior to the collapse of the city government, the outlying areas would probably find themselves stuck with the bill for keeping those systems running.

        I look at Sound Transit, and how every time Seattle wants some shiny new public transit geegaw, the rest of the communities in the region have to pay for something that is unlikely to have any real benefit to them.Report

      • I look at Sound Transit, and how every time Seattle wants some shiny new public transit geegaw, the rest of the communities in the region have to pay for something that is unlikely to have any real benefit to them.

        My knee-jerk response would be, “Well, then, Seattle is doing something wrong!” Consider Denver’s light rail system. The suburbs are paying the biggest share of the costs, but will eventually reap the biggest share of the benefits — better access to downtown’s facilities, (much) better access to the airport, at least a chance of avoiding the need to condemn property to build bigger, wider, or double-decker highways through those towns. Denver’s inner-ring suburbs all seem to be enthusiastic about getting their own light rail lines.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        Are you referring to Seattle’s big dig boondoggle. As I read the situation, most people opposed the project but it was rammed through via backroom manuvering:

        http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/what-could-possibly-go-wrong/Content?oid=4399657Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @michael-cain

        I look at Portland’s light rail, which has many critics, and some issues, actually EXISTS & WORKS! PSTA & Seattle have been promising the region light rail to the suburbs for decades, and it keeps getting pushed further out while money is spent doing “studies” or buying trucks that can’t fit in the tunnels, or getting the worlds biggest drilling machine stuck under the city for almost two years now (I think), or failing to supervise contractors building the new 520 floating bridge sections* (they were unsafe & had to be rebuilt on the public dime) – all the while more & more money is requested from the PSTA and no one seems to be facing criminal charges or even losing jobs.

        The one light rail line we have goes from Downtown to SeaTac through Beacon Hill & Rainer Valley before cutting across the south end of Boeing Field to SeaTac. Boeing Field is not close to it. Southcenter mall is nowhere close. It’s a very expensive system that serves a very limited population. The train is nice, make no mistake, but that is not the route I would have chosen for the line that hopes to prove the concept.

        *Granted the tunnel & the bridge are also on the State, not just the PSTA, but PSTA just can not seem to get their crap together.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Don’t worry @mad-rocket-scientist, us evil Seattle liberals raised taxes on ourselves, so that previous suburbanites won’t have to send a penny to the evil, evil city who actually wants to spend money on something other than roads, roads, roads, roads, and roads.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @jesse-ewiak

        Link was paid for by the whole PSTA, with the initial ballot measure for a tax increase approved in 1996, and the central line not opening for more than 20 years, so I’m not sure what you are talking about.

        Also, I never said anything about evil, stop being hyperbolic.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        MRS,
        Seattle has great public transportation. Port Angeles to Seattle costs less than $20 for a 90 mile trip. (and yes, I’ve been on it, and seen plenty of people taking it)

        You’d be hard pressed to even GET 90 miles out of Pittsburgh, for love or money.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @kimmi

        That’s a ferry ride, part of a state run system (which is, I agree, an awesome thing, but it has it’s own financial headaches and an aging fleet).Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Vox has this interesting bit on Transit expenses. Matt Y is wondering why Europe seems to be able to build roads and trains so much cheaper than the US can.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        Also, I never said anything about evil, stop being hyperbolic.

        That’s like asking me to stop being short. I’m 5’5″.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @dave

        I’m 5’6″. I prefer to think of myself as a compact American.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        MRS,
        a combination of things: “pay later” philosophy, “lowest bidder” philosophy, and “It’s acceptable to go over budget” (not “You’re FIRED” unless you have a DAMN good reason).

        I’d do it the way programmers do: Here’s your “optimistic” here’s your “average” and here’s your “pessimistic”. And make hell to pay if you’re over your pessimistic, on time or on money.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        MRS, from what I can tell European governments build transit better and faster because people who would gum up the works have fewer tools to do so and because the contracting system works better. They might not go for the cheapest contractor but the most efficient contractor, which tends to be cheaper over time. In America, officials have this tendency to pick the lowest possible bid but it usually ends up being more expensive.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @leeesq

        I think the contracting rules are probably the right spot to look. @michael-cain might have more insight, but I think the trend toward seeking the lowest bid, coupled with cronyism and the tendency of governments contracts to shield/fail-to-penalize contractors from cost over-runs removes the incentives for contractors to keep to their bid and to make sure their bid accounts for something going pear-shaped. Of course, this isn’t my area, so I’ve no evidence to back it up except the various news stories I’ve read over the years that describe such things.

        Again, I look to the Seattle tunnel project and I see how the state & the city are squabbling over who has to pay for what to me seems to be a mistake by the contractor who failed to do due diligence to ensure no metal was in the path that could damage the TBM.Report

      • State-owned railways is part of it. Part of the original plan for Denver’s light rail system was a route from the center of town running NW as far as Boulder (25-30 miles, several stops in the suburbs in between). The trains were going to run mostly on lightly-used existing right-of-way. That whole part of the plan went up in smoke when the railroad company that owns the right-of-way said that the price to lease usage rights was $7B, payable up front. In any of Germany, France, or most of the UK, that right-of-way would have been owned by the government and usage rights would have been mostly a matter of figuring out how to share the maintenance expenses. Some of Denver’s routes would be laid out differently, and the whole system would have cost a lot less, if more existing rights-of-way could have been used.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @michael-cain

        Oh! Thanks, I forgot about that small legacy problem of existing right-or-ways that RRs own and aggressively defend.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to North says:

      @north

      I would also add that I am not the only using this story as a springboard:

      http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120980/james-robertsons-detroit-commute-symbol-broken-policiesReport

  8. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Detroit is a place that conservatives and libertarians point (unfairly in my mind) to as a natural outcome of liberal government.

    Honestly, I think those pointing to it as the evils of a liberal government are kidding themselves if they think any other party would have done better. Detroit is, rather, an good example of what happens when citizens allow power to accumulate to people or offices, and then fail to keep those with the power in the spotlight*. I don’t care what party you ascribe to, given power and little oversight, most people will rationalize bad behavior, even more so the people who seek that kind of power.

    *honestly, the more powerful a public figure you are, the more transparent your actions need to be. Up to and including one of these.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

      Aside from the corruption in Detroit, that whole auto industry having massive struggles did play a bit of part. You can’t really explain Detroit w/o looking at it being a one industry town that massively hit the skids. Plenty liberal places are doing just fine. Plenty of conservative places are doing just fine. It isn’t simply one sides philosophy is to blame for all the problems.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to greginak says:

        On one hand, Greg, yes but on the other hand no. Many auto industry dependant communities have struggled but not like Detroit does. Race relations hit the city hard. Detroits geography is also somewhat harsh. Above all, however, was misgovernment. Tough decisions were deferred, the can was kicked and terrible terrible mismanagement was allowed as MRS observes primarily through a lack of accountability at least partially due to race relations being used as a political weapon. Detroit had many more resources than other smaller auto dependant cities yet many of them have rebounded while Detroit has sunk into near ruin.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        I don’t disagree North. But w/o the collapse of the auto industry it is not possible to understand the Detroit story. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t’ have dealt with it better if they hadn’t had corruption problems. Also the weakening of unions and auto makers moving out of state or the country hurt them. Those things are more about pro-big business/anti-union policy.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak says:

        I think Union weakening was part of it, but there was also a lot of Union leadership being unable or unwilling to adjust to new realities, or, more likely, unwilling to be honest with their membership as to what the future would hold until they had no choice but to deliver bad news, and by then it was too late for the workers who trusted them to take some action to protect themselves.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

        If there was some way to have prevented car companies from moving elsewhere or being built overseas, maybe the unions could have kept their promises.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Oh the unions didn’t help themselves, that is for sure. But anti union laws hurt them and an antagonistic relationship with the businesses hurt also. As i was told once by a manager at an anti-union casino , Harrah’s, businesses get the unions they deserve. The owners and unions clasped hands and surfed down the toilet bowl. Both share some blame.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to greginak says:

        Not going to disagree with you there, greg.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to greginak says:

        If there was some way to have prevented car companies from moving elsewhere or being built overseas, maybe the unions could have kept their promises.

        Like Germany? Where wages in an industry are negotiated nationally and the laws make shutting down domestic production difficult? Where the union gets one or two seats on the board of directors? Where managers are forced into thinking in terms of “how do I deploy capital and training to make my workers worth those wages” rather than “where can I find cheaper labor”? Of course, Germany has a very long history of workers being politically powerful.Report

      • Avatar LWA in reply to greginak says:

        But unlike Americans, do the Germans enjoy the benefits of globalization such as cheap tee shirts and Iphones?

        Surely there must be some awful downside to such tampering with the market mechanisms.Report

      • Avatar Zac in reply to greginak says:

        @jaybird “If there was some way to have prevented car companies from moving elsewhere or being built overseas, maybe the unions could have kept their promises.”

        I swear, one of these days I really need to sit down and write a Modest Proposal-esque piece on why the United States should try to incite a World War every half century or so, just to keep the post-war boom years going forever.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to greginak says:

        Where managers are forced into thinking in terms of “how do I deploy capital and training to make my workers worth those wages” rather than “where can I find cheaper labor”?

        Because they already know the answer is South Carolina.

        When it’s not 64 other countries.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

        @zac You can open it with “Do you ever wish that America had a much more historically German culture?”Report

      • Avatar North in reply to greginak says:

        Greg we mostly agree but above all things is the mismanagement and corruption. If I am paralyzed and get run over an elephant, a train and a bus because I’m unable to move out of the way then yes one can blame the train; one can blame the elephant or one can blame the bus but beneath it all is the paralysis. Remove the bus, and they get run over by the elephant and the train but remove the paralysis and they could have at least in theory get out of the way of all three.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

        @lwa The PPP-adjusted median income in Germany is about 3/4 of what it is in the US.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to greginak says:

        What we need is a Norwegian culture.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to greginak says:

        So…oil?Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

        Brandon,
        yet they still buy washing machines (sorry, “Washing Robots”) that cost double the price of what your average American buys.
        Germans like things that last.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

        North and greg,
        Pittsburgh’s on the mend. Detroit’s next.

        Detroit suffered from some bad “urban planning” (not enough investment in infrastructure during the good years).Report

  9. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “James Robertson needs to walk to work because the Detroit-Metro area does not have much public transportation. The good jobs in the Detorit metro area are in suburban and expensive Oakland county.”

    There aren’t a lot of places in America where ‘reverse commuting’ is all that easy. Even in metro areas where bi-directional commuter transit is available it’s significantly biased towards the AM rush to the city center, PM rush away from the city center model. Anyone who works odd hours, like Mr Robertson does (2 pm to 10 pm from the Detroit free press story) is almost invariably unable to take advantage of multi-jurisdiction express service in any location. Every transit service everywhere treats both those times as off peak (the PM one significantly off peak).

    It really would be far cheaper to just give everyone a car than to try to set up a transit service for the middle of the day to a place that only has a daytime population of 70,000 and is over 20 miles from the population center of the MSA.

    (and, I’ll say it, yes, Michigan has a higher than average cost of owning a car $2,300 a year vs a nationwide average of around 2000, and Mr. Robertson doesn’t make all that much – less than $25 K a year, assuming no overtime. But after 10 years, he still couldn’t save enough to buy a beater? In the Detroit metro area? Craiglist shows over 2500 this-century cars for $2k or less)Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Kolohe says:

      Anyone who works odd hours, like Mr Robertson does (2 pm to 10 pm from the Detroit free press story) is almost invariably unable to take advantage of multi-jurisdiction express service in any location.

      The people I know who are most enthusiastic about the Denver metro area’s light rail system hit both of your points. Service between downtown Union Station and the more distant suburbs starts earlier and runs much later than express bus service, which is basically rush-hour only. And since they can’t stack the trains downtown during the morning rush hour, outbound service is much better than the buses provide.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

        A yearly pass for a regional commuter (the most cost effective way of purchasing a daily commute) is $1,936. Could Mr. Robertson afford that, since we’re told that he can’t afford the $2K-2.5K per annum to maintain an automobile?Report

      • That’s not necessarily a fair comparison. That price is for a pass that allows unlimited travel anywhere on the system, which may be inappropriate for a commuting need. Some new lines will open next year, one with a station about a mile-and-a-half from my house. From that station, the local pass ($849/year) would have accommodated both my last job (14 miles each way to downtown) or my travel when I was in graduate classes at the University of Denver (23 miles each way). In both of those cases, driving also incurred parking fees, which light rail avoids. There are various subsidies that reduce the price (as a DU student, I would have been eligible). Also, RTD is almost certainly going to change the light rail fare structure for 2016, to address suburban complaints that the current structure is too Denver-centric.

        I concede that the $2-2.5K buys Mr. Robertson unlimited access to the public road system. Also that the Denver suburbs are building a system that addresses their rather white-collar problems, where transit replaces only a portion of people’s transportation needs. Light rail addresses two of the problems you identified — outbound service and broader times — but that won’t necessarily make it affordable for the poor.

        Denver and its suburbs’ situation is much different than so many of the old Rust Belt cities, a claim that can be applied to most of the urban West. Detroit’s not going to build a light rail system, and the Detroit suburbs aren’t going to be interested in building one that depends on Detroit as a hub.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Michael,
        a car does not buy free access to anything. There’s still cost on the margins (gas, wear and tear).Report

      • Where did I say free? I said that Kolohe’s $2-2.5K annual expense for a car — which I assumed to include gasoline and regular maintenance — bought unlimited access to the road system. Mr. Robertson is free (as in libre, as the open-source folks say) to drive anywhere the public roads go. The $1,936 annual pass Kolohe mentions buys unlimited access to RTD’s transit system — you can ride any train/bus, anywhere, anytime. That’s a huge waste for me, because almost everywhere I want to go that I would ride mass transit to reach would be covered by a zone-limited $849 annual pass.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Kolohe says:

      @kolohe

      It really would be far cheaper to just give everyone a car than to try to set up a transit service for the middle of the day to a place that only has a daytime population of 70,000 and is over 20 miles from the population center of the MSA.

      Good point, if you grant that government intervention is called for, it’s an open question as to whether more public transport or direct income support. Or for that matter, helping people to move to places that don’t have a moribund economy.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kolohe says:

      Kolohe,
      It’s around $6000 for owning a car, isn’t it? Counting gas, insurance, wear and tear? Maybe $4000 if you’re lucky.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kimmi says:

        The 2-2.5K comes from here (was dropped in the previous post) and includes repairs, fuel, and insurance (the last being the highest in the nation in Michigan due to government regulations), but not depreciation.

        Depreciation depends on how much car your willing to buy. Used cars are pricier than they used to be due to cash for clunkers and that they’re simply better built nowadays and retain value longer. Nonetheless, like I said earlier, there’s over 250 cars for sale under 5K in a distance he would only have to walk once.

        The all-in cost to the US government for a leased (which mean no more than 3 model years old) small, but not smallest, car comes out to about $4,500 a year.

        ($169 / month * 12 + 15.3 cents a mile * 50 miles a day * 6 days per week (don’t roll on the sabbath) * 52 weeks per year)

        So, if the bureaucratic federal government can do it for that, surely an enterprising hard working individual can do it for less.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I really don’t understand why public transportation became such a partisan issue in the United States. Healthcare and other social welfare policy is understandable as a partisan rather than a purely political issue because how things like healthcare are provided can be done through an ideological lens. A person that basically trusts the market would be more willing to leave healthcare to market forces than those that don’t. Transportation is infrastructure, something that government had a hand sense forever. The importance of a well-balanced transit system that doesn’t favor one mode over another should have been a no-brainer. If non-car transportation was possible in more locations than fewer people would be on the road and traffic would decrease. It benefits everybody.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I really don’t understand why public transportation became such a partisan issue in the United States.

      If you look at where we put public transportation, and who benefits from it most directly, I think you’ll have your answer.Report

    • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The importance of a well-balanced transit system that doesn’t favor one mode over another should have been a no-brainer.

      This is your answer, because in many ways those who push hard for public transit want it to displace auto traffic, not operate nicely alongside it. When bike lanes and rail lines destroy existing lanes of auto-traffic, without a compensating decrease in traffic volume, or the addition of parking along the system so auto users can at least park & ride, then you get resistance.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        In the present, yes you are right to an extent. In the mid-20th century, this wasn’t the case.Report

      • You get resistance from suburban drivers even with those things.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Chris, I think most suburbanites could care less about the demographics of bus/rail ridership, or even if they do, it’s not a huge sticking point. For those who drive, the much larger issue is if the transit system will impact their commute in a negative way, followed by whether or not the system would be useful to them if it did, then by how efficiently/effectively it is run and how much taxes are subsidizing it.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Yeah, I was unclear:

        My point isn’t about race, but that city people benefit, suburbanites generally don’t, or benefit less (or at least less directly, and less obviously — I actually think they benefit a great deal, but that’s another conversation). I suspect that if you looked closely at the partisan divide on transit issues, you’d see that it lined up pretty well with the urban-suburban divide in partisanship.

        As I said elsewhere, if you look at who votes for and who votes against transit, I think you can pretty reliably predict the percentages based on proximity to the transit itself.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Chris

        Yeah, that makes sense. It isn’t even a bad thing. I can certainly understand people not wanting to pay for a very expensive thing that is of limited direct benefit to them, and of opaque indirect benefit.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        In Austin, for reasons of absurd local politics, suburban residents who would not have to pay for rail (that is, the bonds wouldn’t raise their property taxes) have gotten to vote on rail initiatives, and have overwhelmingly voted against them. It’s more than just having to pay for them.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        Chris

        Allow me to add that I think a lot of the resistance to transit is a failure of marketing & messaging.

        Cities & athletic boosters never seem to have a problem getting stadiums built on the public dime, even though such stadiums are of limited direct or indirect value to the community at large.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        suburban residents who would not have to pay for rail

        How does that happen?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        The Cap Metro service area does not extent into most of the suburbs (some suburbs pay for express service, but those suburbs aren’t the problem, voting-wise), and the bonds cover only the service area, but are voted on by all county residents. So suburban Travis County residents who aren’t impacted by the property tax hike still get to vote on the initiatives, and in 3 separate attempts over 14 years, have overwhelmingly voted against it. The 2000 initiative, which again would only have impacted service-area property taxes, lost by a couple hundred votes despite winning handily within the service area.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “Allow me to add that I think a lot of the resistance to transit is a failure of marketing & messaging.”

        And a lot of that is because transit advocatesdefend the indefensible in construction cost overruns.

        On top of that, increasing operating costs (over projections – and in a ‘zero inflation’ environment that we’ve had for 6-7 years now) that simultaneously demand fare hikes and a greater government subsidy, ‘or else service will be cut’. Then service is cut anyway.

        (and that’s all before going into high profile safety incidents, which I grant are not fair, as pov traffic deaths are the biggest cause of death in the US outside of your-own-body-failed-you (e.g. cancer, heart disease). Public transit deaths are measured in single or rarely, double digit numbers a year).Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “but are voted on by all county residents. ”

        Not according to the Travis County board of elections.Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        @kolohe

        First, I think you meant to have a link in there that didn’t happen (defend the indefensible).

        I agree about the cost problems. I also think there is a lack of caring amongst advocates regarding the ridership experience. An attitude that people should just take transit because it’s a good thing, you don’t have the stress of driving and the costs are lower* – even if it’s dirty, smelly, uncomfortable, and you have to deal with the occasional person who is off their meds or criminal element. I mean, this is a big part of why Google & Microsoft buses are favored, they are a much better ridership experience.

        Now, one could argue that such problems are endemic to transit, and tackling them is difficult, if not impossible, if transit is meant to serve the populations it needs to serve. But what I usually hear is a big, collective sigh, sometimes followed by an admonishment to quit whining.

        *Of course, the stress of driving is offset by being able to sit in a very comfortable seat, with well adjusted climate controls, my coffee at hand, a nice fresh smell, the ability to take calls in private, and no one trying to talk to me about Jesus or their fuzzy 6 foot friend, Harvey. Transit rides are not always as stress free as many like to pretend.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        “Defend the indefensible link (thank you).

        And to expound on that anecdote, it was the beginning of the end for the street car system (now cancelled) and the start of a chain of events that may completely turn over the county board by the next election cycle.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    It’s funny, but I was just hearing about James Robertson on talk radio yesterday on two different programs.

    The gist of the coverage and call-in commentary?

    That Robinson is the right kind of African American, who never complains that he works full time and still can’t afford basic transportation. Not like those other African Americans, who think having a system where they have to walk 21 miles a day is unfair. Why can’t other African Americans be like James Robinson? Oh and by the way, if that was us we would totally walk 21 miles a day and never complain, and the fact that we theoretically would do that without complaining totally explains why we never have to.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Which is the big problem with charities, they are great for the “right” kind of people. Those that make the givers feel good, those that don’t rock the boat. Who doesn’t love to give to people who are exceptional and make you feel good. If only we lived in a place where everybody was above average.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak

        This is pretty much my point and the point of every other person on the left commenting on this story.

        We confuse helping individuals with dealing with systematic issues.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        This is why a lot of social conservatives are against government welfare. With private charity, you can place more requirements on who gets aid. Its a great tool for social policing, at least among the socio-economic groups that would need it. Its why 19th century charities liked to distinguish between the worthy poor and the unworthy poor. Government welfare needs to be more value neutral in who gets aid for a variety reason ranging from due process to the fact that using welfare as a tool of government control is cumbersome.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

        @leeesq “This is why a lot of social conservatives are against government welfare. With private charity, you can place more requirements on who gets aid. Its a great tool for social policing, at least among the socio-economic groups that would need it. Its why 19th century charities liked to distinguish between the worthy poor and the unworthy poor. Government welfare needs to be more value neutral in who gets aid for a variety reason ranging from due process to the fact that using welfare as a tool of government control is cumbersome.”

        In all fairness, I don’t believe this is true. It’s just true that that’s what most liberals say is the reason so-cons don’t like government welfare.

        Whenever I’ve seen so-cons argue for for private v. government assistance (and in my previous life I saw a lot of it), it has always been for one of there reasons:

        1. Private charities (according to so-cons) puts more premium on the getting someone to a better place than the impersonal act of simply cutting a check,

        2. It’s more cost efficient and effective , and

        3. It keeps the community more directly involved with the process

        Now, you can argue that there positions are right or wrong, but none of them have to do with giving charity to the “right” people. In fact, if you skip obvious touchstone cases like non-profit abortion clinics, conservative areas of the country actually give more per capita and to a more robust variety of causes — including ones that cater to the poor and minorities — than liberals do.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

        And then there’s

        4) A desire to disrupt the “culture of poverty” which liberals created by putting poor … inner city folks … on the t-bone eatin, baby-makin welfare gravy train.

        5) The Santorum Memorandum: “”I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.”

        I mean, I could go on, but what’s the point?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        @tod-kelly, those are the officially stated reasons but a lot of concern over government welfare among social conservatives has always been about the “wrong” type of poor people getting welfare. This isn’t necessarily a racial thing. In the 19th century UK, there was a lot of obsession about “able-bodied paupers” getting charity when they should be out working. It led to the entire workhouse regime. The general idea has always been that welfare should only be reserved for those that really need it and that we need to make sure that those that really need it are also deserving of it.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

        Tod,
        Yeahhhhh…. and no. MOST conservatives want “the community to be involved” which means people being all up in your business about what you’re doing, and means people being able to shame you.

        The ones who want to simply deny shit to most of the poor? They’re the ones with power. It’s very, very hard to get rich without being an asshole, after all.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to greginak says:

        Which is the big problem with charities, they are great for the “right” kind of people.

        This is pretty much my point and the point of every other person on the left commenting on this story.

        @saul-degraw, I understand your point and, to some extent it’s true. However, my response to both you and @greginak is to point out that the exact same thing can be said of government programs. With the possible exception of Social Security (which was enacted universally, but has its own problems), I can’t think of any government anti-poverty intervention that does not work much better for certain types of people than for others. A person who is, on the whole, squared away, but going through a rough patch is almost always going to be in a better position to make the best of assistance, whether government or private assistance, than a person who has deeper issues. Government assistance programs can provide a reliable path out of poverty for some folks and can trap others in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare.

        As I said above, when you take the example of Detroit to try and construct a case for more government intervention, don’t be surprised when people counter by reminding you about the actual history of Detroit.

        Anti-poverty intervention is hard. Full stop. So maybe it’s best we stop approaching this issue as an undercard to the larger Red Team-Blue Team fight and start focusing on the problem itself.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

        jr,
        Yeah, I’m perfectly willing to give private charities as much yards as they need, so long as we keep the gov’t charity for those unwilling to submit to whatever burdens the private charities have, and also for “catching things falling through the cracks” (two independent systems function better than one, and one large system can make a big net,while the tiny, interlocking system can make a net with a finer mesh).Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      @tod-kelly

      What is also worrisome about that narrative of “we need more people like James Robertson” is that it can be used as a stick to beat other people who are poor and unemployed or working poor and live far from their jobs. “James Robertson walks 21 miles to work, why can’t you?”Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    I’m sort of aghast at this whole discussion; like there’s this binary of either private charity or public assistance and the two don’t mix.

    That is not how the real world often works.

    I volunteer at the local food pantry, a private non-profit charity. We are funded by 1) used-clothing donations which we sell at a local thrift-shop called The District Exchange. It’s located in a room at a low-income housing development, which was built using HUD money. 2) Most of the meat we provide is purchased through the Dept. of Ag. at below-wholesale prices based on the numbers of people we serve who live below the poverty line, 3) our actual food pantry is in a local church, 4) we’re constantly competing for grant money, both from government (often CDBG money) and private charities; 5) each of the local towns in the area we serve makes some sort of contribution because we’re one of the resources they turn to when they have someone in need of emergency food; 6) we often refer people in emergency situations to both government and private orgs. for help.

    Most charity is like this; a conglomeration of sources, building a support network of the available resources. There’s no measuring is this private? Is it public? It’s doing the best you can with whatever resources are available.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

      And I will add that the single biggest thing the people our food pantry are dealing with is that they often cannot access health care for lack of insurance, and that’s solely because our governor refuses to do the ACA Medicaid buy-in. This means more of our local health-care services provide low/no-cost care, and that also drives the price of care up for everyone else; drives our premiums up to help offset that free care.Report

  13. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Related to some comments I was making above regarding buses and the ridership experience is this article from Mother JonesReport