By Gery L. Deer
Deer In Headlines
Throughout most ofOhio, public transportation mainly consists of busses and commuter trains. But around the country, public transportation also includes cable cars, street cars, subways, ferry boats, and a host of other means, all of which are vital to the communities they serve.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, in 2010 Americans took 10.2 billion trips on public transit systems. The organization also reports that for every $1 spent on public transportation, $4 of economic return is generated.
Additionally, out of every dollar earned, Americans spend 18 cents on transportation and 94 percent of that money is used for maintaining a personal vehicle. People who use public transportation can save that money or use it for other expenses, providing further economic benefit.
So why are so many local government leaders in towns like Beavercreek and Tipp City resistant to the idea of placing public transit stops in their communities? The answer is simple; the same things that tend to limit progress in any small community – ignorance and prejudice.
Regardless of how much positive information is provided regarding public transportation, some communities believe that unwanted elements outweigh any potential benefit. One argument leveled by critics is that buses will increase traffic problems. In reality, they actually ease road congestion by reducing the number of individual cars.
Proponents say that civic leaders want to block public transit stops so they can be more discriminating about who has access to certain neighborhoods. In the media both sides seem to be dancing around the concept that minorities, lower income people, the disabled and elderly, and even criminal elements are presumed to be the primary customers of public transportation.
Local officials and residents alike apparently believe that by restricting bus routes from higher-end retail areas they are somehow protecting the community from the less-desirable elements of society. How is that not racist or at the very least, discriminatory towards lower income people?
Of course dangerous criminals like drug dealers can ride into town on the local transit bus, but it’s likely that they already have a way in. Research shows that drugs are highly prevalent in upper income neighborhoods – just better hidden – and a bus stop is unlikely to have much of an effect on that problem, one way or the other.
Politically, government officials often take whatever side they think will appease the voters, regardless of what might be the right thing to do. Not everyone does this, but more do than not, unfortunately.
The indication here is that it’s not just the city councils that are uninformed, but so are the residents. After all, any hope of re-election rests with the brainless masses of the voting public. Remember folks that while your elected official is kissing your baby, he or she is also stealing their lollipop.
Regardless of the political implications, increased consumer traffic is good for local merchants and the economy. Public transportation provides more consumers with additional access to restaurants, malls, civic centers, post offices and other business routes. The money they spend goes into the local economy and increases the value of these businesses. When business values rise, so do those of the properties around them – commercial and residential.
In the end, none of the negative arguments hold much water. It still seems to boil down to snobby white guys (and gals) who are stonewalling public transportation expansions because they don’t want their neighborhoods to look like an inner city.
It might behoove these people to do a little research on urban decay before worrying that something like a bus stop is going to destroy their property value. Sometimes stupid is perpetuated by greed, prejudice and arrogance, and this issue is a perfect example of all three.