Friday, September 13, 2013

Rural bias favors cars

In my last post, I gave six more or less independent factors that combine to maintain car dependence, particularly here in New York City, and observed that any campaign focused on a single one is not likely to succeed. The list wasn't meant to be comprehensive, but I missed an important factor.

7. Rural bias favors drivers. Low population density doesn't cause driving, but they're correlated, and if a politician can pander to drivers in a district where 77% of households are car-free, a politician who represents a district with less than 10% car-free households can feel free to completely ignore non-drivers. That's exactly what happens with the New York State Senate majority, and of course the majority of the US senate. There are thousands of transit users living north of Bear Mountain, but whenever people talk about "fairness for Upstate" somehow it always winds up meaning more money for roads.

The "Senate problem" of disproportionate power given to rural voters is not confined to elected bodies. It's also present in nonprofit associations of bureaucrats, like AASHTO and GHSA, that have a one-state-one-vote policy, and organizations like the New York State Association of Counties, whose mission is to disenfranchise New York City Democrats (and combat complete streets).

Fighting rural bias would be a bit easier, though, if it weren't for the enemies on the left. Small towns and "farms" across Upstate are populated with back-to-the-land hippies and Suburu-wagon liberals who despise cities, fetishize "nature" and romanticize agriculture. David Owen's Green Metropolis and its successors have done a lot to combat this fantasy, but spend a few days in Ithaca, Woodstock or even Astoria and you'll discover that it's still kicking.

Now don't get me wrong. I grew up Upstate. I like small towns and forests, and I value agriculture. I just don't overvalue them, and I don't believe that "counties" and states should get a say out of proportion to the number of people who live in them. It's bad for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that it leads to more government money spent on roads and parking and gas.


Adirondacker12800 said...

whenever people talk about "fairness for Upstate"

They should be laughed at heartily. The Dept. of Finance publishes numbers, which I'm not in the mood to go find right now. Roughly 40 percent of the people in New York State live in New York City. The state collects 60 percent of taxes in collects in New York City. If I remember correctly 5 billion dollars worth from people who work in New York but don't live in New York. 20 percent of the people who live in New York State live in suburbs of New York City. Where the state collects 20 percent of the taxes. Upstate has 40 percent of the population and contributes 20 percent of the taxes. If they want it to be fair, upstater's taxes should double.

neroden@gmail said...

One thing which is true even in rural areas is that people don't want to get run over by cars while walking from one house to the next.

In short, sidewalks are popular *everywhere*. This is a good place to start. More sidewalks means more willingness to get out of cars, and that means more demand for public transportation.

Sidewalks, sidewalks, sidewalks.

neroden@gmail said...

One thing which people want even in small towns and even in rural areas is an escape from getting run over by cars.

Usually *this means sidewalks*.