The C is for Crank

 Unlike Josh, I'm not especially sanguine about yesterday's Elway Poll, which found that a majority of respondents don't support new transportation taxes. (Josh found a silver lining for urbanists in the news that a majority of respondents said they supported spending on mass transit and opposed a $25 flat tax on bikes.)

To me, though, the real news here (as the overheated rhetoric from bike-tax supporters amply demonstrates) seems to me to be this: People are selfish. When asked what they're willing to pay for, they pick the things they're most likely to use. But that doesn't mean those are the only things worth funding.   

Road maintenance and highway expansion for cars, for example, were the top two transportation priorities among Elway's respondents; transit and ferries, which, obviously, fewer people use, were the bottom two. 

To appeal to the drivers for a moment: This is a short-sighted way to think about our transportation system and government in general, because even government services you don't directly use often benefit you indirectly. Keeping bikers and transit riders out of their cars reduces congestion, of course, making commutes easier for people who choose to drive.

But the truism extends far beyond the contentious world of transportation funding. I don't have kids in public schools, but I'm happy to pay property taxes (via rent) for education. I may never use our state's social or health services, but I'm happy to help fund the safety net. Even if you don't use any of the programs your taxes pay for directly, society benefits from their existence. The same is true for things like bike lanes and mass transit. No, they won't eliminate congestion or fix our climate crisis. But they help. And for that reason, they're worth funding, even if you don't choose to use them. 

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