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TWITC: Krusee's change of heart

A fairly good article this time about Krusee seeing the light on new urbanism and stepping down. I'm honestly not sure how much I believe, which is a huge step up for me on this guy, actually. Here's some interesting quotes:

"It's an article of faith for Democrats that the sales tax is regressive. The gas tax is much, much more regressive. The gas tax is, literally, a transfer of wealth from the poor to the middle class – to the upper-middle class."

That's not some blogging transit activist or Green Partier speaking on the inequitable burdens of highway costs. It's District 52 state Rep. Mike Krusee, who's currently best known – for better and worse – as the legislative face of Texas toll roads.

Gosh, I wonder if anybody else has been talking about that for years now. Couldn't be, huh? I presume the "transit blogger" might be me, given that every other blogger in the universe has swallowed Costello's tripe "TOLLS BAD. HURRRR."

As for the rail issue:

There are those who say his successful advocacy of suburban commuter rail instead of the light-rail lines initially proposed clumsily destroyed the possibility of effective Downtown mass transit for another decade – and that instead, we'll be trying to retrofit a system conceived for the very suburban sprawl it's supposed to replace. But as Mike Clark-Madison wrote here, about a year after Krusee was having his New Urbanism epiphany, "It's also pretty obvious that the only way Austin will ever have rail transit is if we start with a commuter system serving western suburbanites" ("Austin @ Large," April 9, 2004).

It's too late, Mike. The first quote is right - we're screwed; but Michael King is as wrong now as Mike Clark-Madison was then; there is literally no way to start with this commuter rail line and end up with a system which both suburbanites and urbanites can ride and get some benefit from. Even a transfer from "good rail" to "good rail" (both running in their own right-of-way) is enough to turn off essentially all suburban commuters not currently taking the bus, unless we reach Manhattan levels of density and parking costs (which we never will). And that presumes that we're somehow able to surpass tremendous obstacles and get a light rail stub built down Lamar and Guadalupe, which I doubt very much that we can (now that we wasted all our money on "urban" commuter rail that serves the suburbs poorly and the urban area not at all).

My comments posted there (some repetition of the above):

I can't believe Krusee gets it about inner-city drivers. That makes precisely ONE politician that does.

Of course, that doesn't make the gas tax regressive by itself - it's the fact that we pay for so many of our roads (even parts of our state highways) with even more regressive taxes (property and sales) which do the trick.

As for the rail thing - Krusee has destroyed it here, forever. You can't start with commuter rail and end up with something good - suburban passengers won't transfer from one train to another train (even if by some miracle we GOT a second train running down Guadalupe in its own lane) to get to work until we're reaching Manhattan levels of density. He doomed us to the point where we have to abandon transit to the suburbs, even though we spent all of our money building it. Good show.

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Don't Hurt Us Mr. Krusee, We'll Do Whatever You Want , I Told You So , PS: I am not a crackpot , Republicans Hate Poor People , Republicans Hate Public Transportation , Republicans Hate The Environment , Subsidies to Suburban Sprawl , Texas Republicans Hate Cities , This Week In The Chronicle , Transit in Austin , Transportation , Urban Design

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Comments

I don't know if the gas tax is as regressive as its opponents like to portray it. Low-income households are more likely to use public transportation, to drive smaller compact cars, and to share vehicles. I still think it is regressive, but not any worse than our other forms of taxation in this state. But the gas tax also has another benefit -- a marginal cost incentive for all consumers to use public transportation, drive more efficient vehicles, and share vehicles. This is why I prefer it to tolls. Tolls as used recently in Texas seem to be just a way for TxDOT to keep the contractor gravy train rolling -- overbuilding capacity, promoting more and more sprawl, etc. If we were forced to live within our inflation-adjusted gas tax means, I think our transportation funding decisions would be better based on actual needs.

I don't know if the gas tax is as regressive as its opponents like to portray it. Low-income households are more likely to use public transportation, to drive smaller compact cars, and to share vehicles. I still think it is regressive, but not any worse than our other forms of taxation in this state. But the gas tax also has another benefit -- a marginal cost incentive for all consumers to use public transportation, drive more efficient vehicles, and share vehicles. This is why I prefer it to tolls. Tolls as used recently in Texas seem to be just a way for TxDOT to keep the contractor gravy train rolling -- overbuilding capacity, promoting more and more sprawl, etc. If we were forced to live within our inflation-adjusted gas tax means, I think our transportation funding decisions would be better based on actual needs.

Kedron,

I've often argued against the gas tax being regressive in general, but in Texas it absolutely is - due to our road funding mechanism penalizing urban areas - and tolls are a great way to even the scale.

And a road built out to sprawl which is tolled is far less of a sprawl-inducer than the same road built as a freeway. In the world as it exists, most of these toll roads were going to be built as 'free'ways, not just left unbuilt.

The city did get a promise to get back a bunch of bond money for the phase-II toll roads a couple of plans ago. Don't know if that made it past the resulting kerfluffle, but imagine: that's tens of millions of dollars which could be spent on urban arterial roadways (or even bike/ped projects).

Having seen some of your posts here regarding Krusee, I saw that article and figured you would have some reaction - just wasnt sure what.

Maybe if Krusee can reach a new conclusion about new urbanism he can do the same regarding Austin rail as currently planned.

Hope, it doesn't matter; it's impossible to add things to the current commuter rail plan and end up with something that serves both suburbanites and urbanites well. The commuter rail line is using real estate that light rail needed in order to do the job right.

OK then.

So now what? If we are stuck with the commuter rail line, how could we work around it/over it/through it etc and get better public transit in Austin?

We CAN'T. That's why 2004 was so important that I got myself tossed off the UTC for my trouble.

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