Last weekend, tens of thousands of right-wing protesters invaded Washington, DC for the 912 March. Not only were they rallying against President Obama’s plans for health care reform, but more generally against “socialism,” government-run services, and too much taxation.
A large number of the tea party protesters relied on DC’s transit system to get around the city. The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) reported that on Sept. 12, metrorail ridership was double compared to an average Saturday. The Washington metro, of course, is public transit — in other words, it’s run by big government. Nevertheless, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) has written a letter to WMATA complaining that the service wasn’t good enough for the tea baggers:
“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.”
A spokesman for Brady says that “there weren’t enough cars and there weren’t enough trains.” Brady tweeted as much from the Saturday march. “METRO did not prepare for Tea Party March! More stories. People couldn’t get on, missed start of march. I will demand answers from Metro,” he wrote on Twitter.
In his letter, Brady also complained that overcrowding on the metro trains
“forced an 80-year-old woman and elderly veterans in wheelchairs to pay for cabs” — in other words, to rely on the non-government-run transportation system, which tea party protesters would presumably want to support.
A large part of the reason that the DC metro has had so many problems in recent years is that it doesn’t “have dedicated tax revenue.” It has often run into protests from people such Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has said that we shouldn’t “steal opportunity from our children so that we can have a ride on the Metro.” The American Public Transportation Association says that “recession-imposed limits on government budgets and increased demand are doubtless among the reasons why ‘transit systems are strained all over the country.'”
Americans around the country are relying on metro more than ever. Last year, they took 10.7 billion trips, the highest level in 52 years. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials reports that “an annual investment of $46 billion is needed to keep up with an expected 2.4 percent annual growth in ridership,” but in 2006, “transit capital from all levels of government amounted to only $13.3 billion.”
As for Brady…John Cole points out that when a bill containing $150 million for emergency maintenance funding for the DC metro system came up this summer, Brady voted against it.
On DailyKos, Electablog lists some of the socialist services the tea parties used while in DC.
Culture of Truth writes, “But should you really take public transit to an anti-government protest?” Atrios adds, “This is also about people not from cities seeing cities – especially DC – as big urban theme parks. The monorail ride broke down.”
,Steve Benen writes, “In some instances, Brady said constituents relied on private enterprise — taxi cabs — rather than the (ahem) public option. The conservative lawmaker described this as a bad thing. Local officials, Brady said, should have made “a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit” to the public. Read that sentence again and replace ‘transit’ with ‘health care coverage.’“
,Today Brady defended his comments, saying that if metro “routinely adds or subtracts cars to meet demand, daily or on weekends, I would expect them to make those same adjustments for this rally, a local sporting event, or any event where they expect increased ridership.” He also said that there was no contradiction in the fact that he’s griping about metro service even though he voted against the stimulus because it was “supposed to be for creating jobs, for creating new lines and expanding and modernizing their existing facilities” and had “nothing to do with the day to day operations of it.”