TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Clean Technology Bigger than Internet Claims Bill Joy

Re: Clean Technology Bigger than Internet Claims Bill Joy
25 May 2007 07:38:10 -0700

On May 24, 7:03 pm, John David Galt wrote:

> Viewed by itself it's also quite deceptive, because there is so much
> subsidy FROM drivers TO public transportation.
> is a pretty accurate summation of the
> total picture.

Many states limit gas tax revenues for highway purposes only.

In some places, bridge tolls are used to subsidize local transit.
However, this benefits motorists since the traffic congestion becomes
terrible without transit carrying many people (as have happened).
Examples are PATH trains to NYC, PATCO trains to Phila, and TBTA
bridges in NYC.

The incremental cost to subsidize such existing transit lines is far
cheaper than building new river crossings. When PATCO opened in 1969,
the Delaware River Port Authority published numerous reports
explaining the money and time savings PATCO offered.

>> Highways and airports take up enormous amounts of land. Land is
>> taxable, but when a highway or airport grows, that land is taken off
>> the tax base. That's quite a nice subsidy. When transit was provided
>> by private companies, they had to pay very high property taxes where
>> their competition paid nothing.

> Calling that a subsidy is a lie, one of many by leftists on this
> topic. Property taxes exist to pay for community services such as
> police, fire departments, schools, libraries, and parks. Roads do not
> generate any demand for the last three, so there's no sense in taxing
> them for them; and at least in California, the highway patrol are
> funded entirely from vehicle registration fees.

Sorry, but it is a fact, not a lie. Transportation corridors used to
be taxed, in some cases (e.g. railroads) at very high rates. As an
example, In NYC in the 1950s, the Pennsylvania Railroad was paying
over $1 million a year just for Penna Station. However, at the same
time the competing Port Authority bridges and tunnels paid zero taxes.
Historically, the PA would be liable for taxes, but they went to a
great deal of trouble to secure an exemption. The book "Empire on the
Hudson" details all this. All over the country commuter railroads
paid steep property taxes on their facilities while newly built
expressways were tax free. This was an effective cost subsidy to

As to the issue of roads not "generate any demand for the last three",
plenty of us have no children yet we all must pay property taxes for

When a highway is built, the land goes off the tax rolls and the rest
of us have to make up that shortfall. That should be obvious.

In any event, roads do require substantial public safety services such
as police/fire/resue. Someone has to paid for them. The taxation
varies by state, but in many places (like mine), it is is paid for by
local property taxpayers. Note that highways are ten times as
dangerous as trains and require far more services per passenger mile
than trains do.

As to the term "leftist", the support of transit is not a 'left' or
'right' issue, it is one of giving people the safest, fastest, and
cheapest way to get around. In addition, developed areas have run out
of land to bulldoze for more highways. Automobiles pollute big time.
Or, perhaps you are saying only those on the "left" are concerned
about pollution?

>> Highways and airports were built with tax free safe bonds which
>> accordingly paid low interest.

> Which ones? Any highway bond written in the last few decades has paid
> the same interest as other bonds, otherwise it wouldn't sell. The
> feds used to heavily fund highway building; now most federal
> transportation money is earmarked for transit projects that they know
> nobody will ride.

The interest on bonds issued by government agencies are exempt from
taxes. The bonds issued by railroads and the private transit
companies were taxable. The tax exemption allows bonds to be issued
at a lower interest rate which is a savings not available to the
railroads. In addition, bonds from govt agencies, even if not
officially guaranteed, are in essence guaranteed none the less because
a state doesn't like to have defaults. It is extremely rare for a
govt bond to default for that reason. This also helps lower the
interest rate.

> Transit system advocates come in two types: people who are still under
> the delusion that others will ride transit, thus freeing up the
> highways for themselves; and people who know perfectly well that
> anything spent on transit is wasted, but who would rather waste
> car-tax and gas-tax funds than allow them to be spent on needed road
> expansion.

The above ignores the fact that millions of people ride transit.
Amtrak, with all its flaws, is carrying a record number of passengers.
As stated above, in developed areas transit does free up critically
needed highway space.

When quality transit is offered people will ride it. When old lousy
systems were fixed up, riders came back. The buses, subways and
commuter trains in the NYC metro area has ever increasing ridership.
New subways and rail lines in car-loving California (San Fran and
L.A.) carry many people.

> The environmental movement in general is really a front for a bunch of
> rich elitists whose attitude is "we've already got our nice homes, and
> we don't see the need to put up with more traffic noise or give up our
> view of other people's unbuilt land just so others can live as well as
> we do. And besides, the more of a scarcity of good housing we can
> create, the more *our* investments will be worth. So screw anybody
> who needs to buy a home!" Unfortunately, these are the people who own
> and operate all the local planning agencies. That, in a nutshell, is
> the essence of the twin scams known as urban planning and the
> environmental movement.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: And also, please see the report from
the *Chicago Tribune* today (in this issue of the Digest as the second
message) telling the latest tale of woe from CTA. They are now
referring to some date this fall as their 'doomsday' when fares will
go up substantially and service will drop dramatically. And even
though the Transit Atrocity just finished building (about five years
ago) the new station in Skokie -- after abusing and neglecting the old
terminal for about forty or fifty years, they say their plans include
closing down the Skokie Swift entirely. As I see it, the biggest
problem with _any_ government funding of public transportation is that
the employees -- your public servants -- are all thieves and incompetents.
The big bosses are all politicians. A few years ago, the federal
government took over the Chicago Housing Atrocity and (a bit later)
the Chicago Public Schools; putting both atrocities into receivership
since the politicans and hacks in charge of running them both were
doing such a poor job. Now, I have no love lost for federal goverment
management of things either, but it might be about time for CTA to go
the same way.

I am reminded of the time Mayor Daley suggested 'municipalizing' the
Commonweath Edison Company. Their rationale was 'people want to get
fair prices and inexpensive electric service.' Edison got up in Daley's
face and said, "So ... the politicans who run the Chicago Housing
Authority, the public schools and the Transit Authority should now
take over the nuclear generating stations as well?" And Edison kept
on saying that publicly, via television and radio. Major corporations
made plans to move out of town; saying that the mere thought of City
of Chicago in charge of necessary electric power scared the Bejesus
out of them. Mayor Daley meditated on that for a while and finally
backed down. PAT]

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