July 25th, 2016 by Derek Markham
The latest iteration of the Republican Party platform calls for the elimination of the funding of mass transit from the federal Highway Trust Fund, a move that could “undo more than 30 years of overwhelming support for dedicated federal investment in public transit.”
While not very surprising, considering the wide range of regressive policies the GOP tends to prefer, this anti-transit and anti-urban stance seeks to erase the benefits that came from a prior Republican administration, the Reagan White House, which enabled mass transit programs to get a small portion (15.5%) of the money from fuel taxes. Considering that the gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 (essentially losing 37% of its purchasing power), and the Republican platform is (unsurprisingly) still against it, cutting transit money out of this funding source hardly seems an appropriate way to “make America great” again.
According to Richard White, American Public Transportation Association Acting President and Chief Executive Officer,
“The public transportation industry is currently underfunded. Having no federal funds would be devastating, not only to the millions of Americans who use public transportation and to the employers who depend on it for their employees, but also for communities of all sizes that need it for a thriving economy and quality of life.”
The Republican platform calls mass transit “an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities,” and is equally opposed to using federal funding for quite a few other alternative transportation programs, including high-speed rail, ferry boats, and scenic byways, as well as “bike-share programs, sidewalks, recreational trails, landscaping, and historical renovations.”
Like pretty much every other word out of the GOP’s collective mouth, the new platform paper is full of finger-pointing and carefully worded attacks on Democrat initiatives, such as referring to sustainable transport programs as “social engineering.”
[The current Administration] subordinates civil engineering to social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit. Its ill-named Livability Initiative is meant to “coerce people out of their cars.”
Coerce people out of their cars? Hmm. Perhaps I missed something in the Livability Initiative, because as far as I can tell, it’s about giving people more transportation and housing choices by enabling livable communities (“places where coordinated transportation, housing, and commercial development gives people access to affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation“).
Considering that cars just might be the most socialist form of transportation in the US, it seems a bit odd that the GOP wants to keep people in their cars, except for the fact that for some reason, many Americans see their cars as their own personal symbol of freedom, and those pesky carpool lanes must be some sort of conspiracy against their God-given right to drive wherever, whenever, and however they want.
As this piece in the Washington Post points out, the anti-transit platform isn’t in line with the Republican nominee’s stance on trains and other public transit infrastructure:
“The irony? Donald Trump is actually a big fan of public transit — and it’s one of the issues on which he’s been absolutely consistent since he entered the race. He often talks in glowing terms about the state-of-the-art train systems he sees during his international travels.”
The platform paper also wants to “end federal support for boondoggles like California’s high-speed train to nowhere,” and to privatize Amtrak and “high-speed and intercity rail across the country.”
Privatize everything. Yeah, that will totally work.