Progressive Culture Shock

Believe it or not, I’m not a big fan of class warfare. I’m a blue-collar capitalist, after all. I break my back merely to get by, but I’m deeply suspicious of plans to grant the government authority to redistribute income away from those who are more likely to have their backs massaged than strained.
Still, when a behind-the-scenes architect of the progressive Economic Death and Dismemberment Act laments that working stiffs aren’t helping to make his commute to work via public transportation more pleasant, it’s a bit much to take:

Last week, I was a little startled to get a phone call from my daughter, who is 14. She plays the viola, you see, and is traveling with her high-school orchestra in Europe for ten days this summer, and I’m the kind of 20th-century guy who is surprised by phone calls from Germany.
But it was a happy call, and she reported to me that they were in Berlin, and told me about the Checkpoint Charlie museum (giving me the opportunity to reflect that the Berlin wall, which seemed eternal to me once, came down three years before she was born), and the Fernsehturm, a giant TV tower with a rotating platform from which to view the city. But she also reported that the trains and buses were cool, too. She was thrilled that she and her friends could get wherever they wanted to go — by themselves. We had a 3-minute call, and probably half of it was about the feeling of independence and how much fun the trains were to use. …
The problem [in Rhode Island] is that the system is stuck: endlessly starved of resources by a legislature and Governor who don’t ever ride the bus themselves and don’t see its value. The result: overcrowded and unpleasant riding conditions, schedules so sparse they barely work at all, and unreliable service to boot. The truth is that RIPTA is barely adequate as public transit, and the proof is in the number of cars parked at RIPTA’s Elmwood Avenue garage each day — even the drivers and managers who get a free ride don’t take it.

My question for Tom Sgouros: If my wife and I don’t have the global mobility that his teenage daughter enjoys, why should we subsidize her vehicular independence back home? If we haven’t been able to afford to take a whole week off in two years or to take those sorts of vacations that involve, you know, hotels and stuff for about a decade (since our honeymoon), perhaps it isn’t merely the elitism of the governor and the GA that limits the distribution of public finances.
If Mr. Sgouros wishes to transfer more of the state government’s current spending toward public transportation and infrastructure, he’ll earn my support. But he’ll have to explain to his union and other public-dime friends and employers that their largess must be the source of the funds. The rest of us are tapped, and those who need to carry van-loads of tools (rather than laptops and leather briefcases) to work don’t derive quite the same cost-benefit analysis.
And if public transportation is such a great deal, by the way, why can’t its managers charge enough of a fare to make ends meet without tax dollars? Their doing so might deprive a viola or two of international airfare, but at least Dad wouldn’t have to ride to the office on the backs of the proles.

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Tabetha Bernstein-Danis
Tabetha Bernstein-Danis
13 years ago

Justin,
While I agree that a person who flaunts the fact that his teen can travel to Europe perhaps shouldn’t be lamenting the state of RIPTA in the same breath, the truth is that RIPTA is primarily used by hard-working blue collar folks who need to get back and forth to work. People like my brother, a deli worker at the Lincoln Stop and Shop and father of a two-year-old child. My brother lives in Providence and relies on RIPTA to get to work and back home. Better public transportation will benefit ordinary Rhode Islanders just trying get by, will make RI more attractive to those looking to relocate, and will also lead to a cleaner environment by reducing the number of autos on the road. In fact, the best thing that could happen would be for the RI state government to invest in rebuilding the trolley system. Just a thought.

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