All around the country it's a time of budget cuts. Some, like the New York State Legislature and Governor, are unwilling to prioritize any spending category, and cut everything across the board. Others, like the President, initiate spending caps but reallocate the spending. We need more leaders who are willing to do this.
If your personal income drops by half, do you just spend half as much at the supermarket and half as much at fancy restaurants? No, because feeding yourself is a higher priority than feeling pampered, and groceries are a more efficient way of feeding yourself. If instead you cut the grocery budget by a quarter and the restaurant budget by three-quarters, you can be just as well-nourished.
It's the same with transit. Government funding for transit doesn't just stimulate the economy by moving people around. It furthers social justice through access for all. It helps make our world safer, healthier and more sustainable by getting people out of their cars. These should be the priorities of government, whether the economy is good or bad, and no matter how much the government has to spend.
But where will the money come from? Let me tell you, it really pisses me off to see people holding rallies against the transit cuts in their district, without acknowledging that the MTA simply has a lot less money to spend than they've had in previous years. You may say you want transit to keep running, but if you can't find the money for it, what does that say about your priorities?
I want to make it clear that I'm willing to sacrifice. I'm not a liberal who clamors for spending but won't support tax increases to pay for it. Tax me! Tax my income, tax my apartment, tax me when I buy computers and fancy clothes. But don't cut my transit service. More importantly, don't cut the service of my neighbor, who might drive if transit is no longer convenient.
Sadly, there's a lot of stupid anti-tax rhetoric out there, and many politicians have sworn not to raise taxes. Even though it might be the best thing to do, it probably won't happen, which leaves us with a shrinking pot of money.
The government should spend more on transit, but it's not willing to raise more in taxes. The money should come from other things, like roads. Spending priorities should reflect overall priorities, and paying billions for free highways and bridges for cars should be a low priority.
It's as simple as that: free bridges for drivers=low priority. Low-cost transit=high priority. Time to get our priorities in order.