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Cars Are Expensive, Poor People Need Transit

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"Cars Are Expensive, Poor People Need Transit"

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DC Streetcar - rollout - 2010-05-05 a

Mike DeBonis has an excellent article about Vincent Gray’s streetcar flipflop and the blog-led activist backlash against him. But I do want to object to the characterization of people with a stake in seeing improved mass transit as “well-off, mostly white, living in gentrifying neighborhoods and inclined to vote.” It’s of course true that the audience for the Greater Greater Washington blog is, like the audience for all blogs, largely well-educated and affluent. But the substance of the mass transit issue is primarily a topic of concern for poor people. After all, to state the obvious cars are expensive. Not just expensive to buy, but expensive to maintain, insure, fuel, etc. It’s cheaper to take the bus or ride Metro.

Indeed, if you think about it it’s precisely the fact that mass transit generally serves a downscale politically disempowered constituency that explains why it’s difficult to win generous funding for it. The emergence of interest in improved transit services among a slice of high-SES Washingtonians is a noteworthy political development that should benefit the city’s low-income residents.

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