Devolution Is A Blessing In Disguise

Background Reading


A “stand up for transportation” rally in Philly this morning. Photo: @thegreengrass

A “stand up for transportation” rally in Philly this morning. Photo: @thegreengrass

“Stand up for transportation” rallies are happening right now all over the country, demanding Congress put an end to the uncertainty surrounding federal transportation funding.

In Washington, some Republican lawmakers are pushing the opposite tack — an approach known as “devolution” that would create more uncertainty by basically wiping out the federal gas tax, leaving states to figure out how to adapt. The fallout would disrupt some bad road projects, but it would hit transit agencies the hardest. Eliminating federal transit funds would blow a huge hole in transit budgets, cutting off 43 percent of agencies’ capital funding, the American Public Transportation Association estimates.

At Transportation for America, Stephen Lee Davis explains why the “devolution” idea won’t appeal to states either:

There’s a reason you don’t hear state politicians calling for the end of the federal transportation program and the gas tax. That’s because every single state receives more in federal transportation funds than they pay into the federal system — in part because Congress has been transferring billions from the general fund to make up for slackening gas tax receipts and the fact that the gas tax hasn’t been raised in more than two decades.

According to our full analysis: (See columns 2-3 in the table)

  • 19 states would have to raise their gas taxes by at least 25¢ per gallon, over 36 percent more than the current 18.4¢ federal rate.
  • Vermont would have to raise the state gas tax by 50¢ per gallon to break even – and that’s on top of a recent increase lawmakers passed to add the equivalent of 6.5¢ to each gallon of gas.
  • New York, which receives the highest amount of transit funding in the country, would have to raise the state gas tax by 40¢ to keep the same amount of transit money flowing into their highly-used systems.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee reports that the owners of the Bucks are planning a $1 billion development, anchored by their stadium, and they want the city’s proposed streetcar to be part of it. Broken Sidewalk takes a critical look at what data collected from social media says about Louisville’s historic social divides. And Seattle Transit Blog shares a video about a Detroit project that seeks to examine the fundamental elements of a successful transit system.


Angie, you certainly have a great command of the figures. But you lack some common sense when it comes to dealing with the problems you have encouraged. You have, in the past,  been a big proponent of raising the gasoline tax to discourage driving. Fine. But that sort of thinking has its consequences.

It sort of reminds me of a ‘young trust fund baby to-be‘ who is unwilling to live on the allowance being given to her by her parents/guardians. She loves to ‘party‘. She knows that when she reaches majority she will be given ‘free rein‘ to some money (in the form of oil company stocks) that given today’s valuation will make her an instant multi-millionaire.

And so her life is one endless string of parties. Her friends are like her also ‘trust fund babies to-be‘. As it turned out they all have parents who contacted the same investment firm where a certain agent suggested what at that time was a very nice selection of stocks in the oil industry. Each had been building in valuation for the past 25 years and looked to be promising.

At school (they all attended Harvard) they learned that diversification was the best approach to the ups and downs of stock ownership. But their earnings were indeed diversified (if only in one field).

‘Reckoning Day’ Has Come

So now, Angie, like these ‘elites‘ we are all about to have to find out just how robust our trust funds really are. Mass Transit and municipalities have all drawn up to the teats of the sow known as the U. S. Highway Trust Fund and discovered that her milk is nearly gone.

And like the ‘elites‘ in my story we are in a panic. We have never had (until now) really had to live within our means. We have been pushing Mass Transit as the solution to a problem that never existed. In fact had every single motor vehicle on the roadways today simply vanished 25 years ago we would have been faced with the same problem then as now.

How do we manage when the motoring public is no longer paying for our needs? Well ‘lean in‘ and I will ‘mansplain‘ it to you (although Janet Yellen would no doubt have the same sad news). We is broke. Not going broke. We is broke. We have gotten around this problem for decades by printing more paper money.

But about 2008 the whole sorry mess came crashing down around our ears when the CDO mess collapsed. At that time the children of the folks who caused the mess in the first instance decided to huddle their asses masses in tents on Wall Street to Occupy it.

All over the country cities like Detroit went ‘belly up‘. Homeowners lost their investments because of this collapse and the ‘Liberal Activists‘ kept pointing fingers and rallying but never actually doing anything. Their best trick is to rally and get on the nightly news. They have little to offer in the way of solutions.

Besides the notion of mooching off of the Trust Fund that was set aside from fuel taxes seemed to be secure. So we all closed our eyes and kept throwing parties. But now the problem is all too real.

And guess what the Brain Trust that is Liberal Activism in this country is devoid of any new ideas. They fall back each and every time on what they know. But Angie, the sow is dry.

Think of it this way. If you do raise the taxes on fuels that is only going to make certain that drivers are ever more prudent about their driving distances. And eventually like the woman who wants to get think for her summer bikini there is only so much weight loss that can occur before nothing stays up.

States are afraid to have to deal with this on their own because by and large most of them are run by Republicans. And even states and large cities that are under the control of the Democrats are aware that property and income tax hikes are the ‘third rail of politics‘. But Republicans are counting on that very fact.

The idea is to make certain that the Trust Fund monies get used for maintenance of the roadways that the cars who ply them are going to need. Trails, bike lanes and other non-essentials are going to have to be funded locally. And that is indeed an excellent idea.

Putting control of these issues in the hands of a Washington Bureaucrat is troublesome, not only for Conservatives but Liberals as well. So going forward the idea is that the people who will actually be using the improvements in their area get to decide if they are up for paying for it.

Now here is the really interesting twist. When things are that local, it is hard for a mayor to shut down 50 schools and free up the payroll of the local public school system while trying to request more moment for a few ‘elites‘ who want to ride their bicycles back and forth to work year round.

Now I know that sounds harsh, but from where I stand it makes a great deal of sense. No you do not slap up a huge number of red light cameras and speed cameras and tell everyone that your concern is safety when in fact this is a money grab to help close the gap in your funding.

Every time you start playing fast and loose with the duration of the yellow light to ensure that you get millions of dollars in revenue from the very folks whose schools were closed is a travesty. And that is especially true when the burden falls largely on the black-and-brown communities. The ‘elites‘ could care less, because they (having chosen of their own volition to ride bicycles back and forth to work) feel safer just knowing that the red lights are there to keep their skinny jeans from getting crumpled.

Heaven forbid that a bump from a pedestrians cause them to hit the ground, raising road rash that threatens to obliterate their tattoos and simultaneously sustaining the loss of a perfectly good nose ring.

Poor Planning...

Poor Planning…

Time to stop the party going and figure out how to make that trust fund last. Well our problem is actually a bit different. Our trust fund babies have to figure out what to do now that their future is in doubt. We on the other hand have no more trust fund to play with (or that is what ‘devolution‘ promises).

So putting on our knit caps (every good hipster owns one) we have to think outside the box. Are we going to have to raise fares? Probably. In fact for once in our miserable lives we will have to see what it really costs to ride the bus or elevated train. That of course is a real tragedy for the Liberal Activists because it will allow ordinary people to see just how expensive Mass Transit really is.

But wait there is another piece to the puzzle. All the hipster can voluntarily decide to join in the suffering and ride the bus and train too. Gasp!

Just imagine having to ride alongside all those ‘poor people‘ (as Angie likes to call them) and pay your fair share. No more riding streets for free, devoid of even a driving license for bikes, and parking for free all over town while everyone else has to shell out their hard earned cash.

Nope this is going to be a blessing in disguise for the ‘elites‘ who are playing up their roles as Progressives but who live lives a bit ‘too high on the hog‘ to make that believable. Maybe Revolution Brewing will have to cut back on its expansion plans. After all what is more important than having Mass Transit succeed?

Surely for those of us with at least four bicycles in our stable, paring it down to perhaps two is not going to be a tragedy, right? We want so much to have to put our money where our mouths are, right?

Good! You agree. Now let’s go dress ourselves in sackcloth and ashes. It is always best to keep up the vision of ‘victimhood‘ so that our message better resonates with the very people who hate the idea of ‘red light cameras‘. Uh, scratch that idea.

Maybe we should just STFU and find ways to amuse ourselves that don’t involve drinking alcohol and getting high on weed.