In which we discuss MARTA and “equity”

Commenter: “I also have to re-stress the equity issue. In your response, you stated that you don’t want to “subsidize [my] choice” to take MARTA. What about the people who have to take MARTA? The poor, the elderly, those that can’t drive for whatever reason (legally blind, narcolepsy, DUIs, etc). Our nation has an obligation to provide them with a way to to get to the store, to work, to medical appointments. Yes, the road system works for most people, and I am happy that our taxes pay for roads. But it doesn’t work for everybody, and that is why public transit is needed.
Here’s an article from the American Planning Association showing how public transit, specifically MARTA, is needed to promote equity and availability of jobs, and has economic benefits because of this: ”

Response: So now your defense of MARTA is “equity”? What do you mean by equity? The dictionary defines equity as “the quality of being fair or impartial”.  How is MARTA fair?

You are apparently a healthy, gainfully employed person that makes the choice to take MARTA because subsidies from taxpayers like myself make it artificially cost efficient for you. According to MARTA you only pay 27% of the cost of your commute. Based on a $2.00 fare that means the actual cost of your trip would be $7.41 each way.  If the goal is “equity” then MARTA should charge people that aren’t disabled or disadvantaged the full $7.41 and use the money to provide better service free of charge to people that are less fortunate. We can agree or disagree whether that is a good idea but I don’t see how anyone could say it is less equitable.

You also claim that a report justifies “how public transit, specifically MARTA, is needed to promote equity and availability of jobs, and has economic benefits because of this”. I have thoroughly reviewed the report you identify and there is absolutely no evidence to support your claim in there. In fact the report clearly states on page 3:”Despite the lack of evidence, public transit system enhancements continue to be recommended to help solve central city unemployment problems” (emphasis mine). The report you refer to also says,”Certainly the study results do not indicate a causal relationship between increased access to public transit and increased labor participation.”

As I have stated before, governments and their dependent agencies are inefficient delivery systems. Even if the goal of MARTA were to promote equity and create jobs it is not an effective way of doing so.

What most of us know that politicians don’t

Life is not fair.

It just isn’t.

Innocent children die every day. That isn’t fair. Hookers are caught with governors and get rich as the celebutante of the day. That isn’t fair. Hardworking people are layed off on Christmas Eve. That isn’t fair. Human beings don’t like unfairness but most of us realize that unfairness is indeed a fact of life. Why don’t politicians?

About thirty years ago President Jimmy Carter decided that it was unfair that everyone in the United States couldn’t own their own home so he decided that the government should fix the problem. The federal government encouraged banks to give mortgages to people that had never owned their own home before. How fair. In the 1990’s Janet Reno threatened banks that had not made enough loans in economically challenged areas. Banks made more loans in those areas and then sold them to investors with the understanding that the United States government would pick up the tab if the homeowners couldn’t pay.

Everybody was happy. People that historically could not afford homes bought houses. People that already owned homes bought newer and bigger houses. Then lenders came up with more “innovative” loans which could get more people in homes and let everyone buy bigger and better houses. People were full of glee as home prices continued to rise and more people owned homes. Life was more fair and politicians patted themselves on the back for the great thing they had done.

Then the people who could not have bought homes thirty years ago started to default on their mortgages. Uh-oh. Statistically it was inevitable. Banks knew thirty years ago that a certain percentage of these homeowners wouldn’t be able to afford their houses. That’s why the banks didn’t lend to them in the first place. But politicians had wanted life to be fair.

As more houses were foreclosed the flood of homes started lowering home values. People with high incomes found that they could not afford the “innovative” mortgages on their bigger and better homes. Uh-oh. More people lost their homes. The banks and investors couldn’t sell the homes they foreclosed. Banks and investors started going bankrupt and that brought us the economic crisis which faces the entire world right now.

There are roughly 220 million people in the United States that actually pay income taxes. The United States government has authorized spending of 700 billion dollars so far to fix the current economic crisis. By my feeble calculations that means that every U.S. taxpayer  is now on the hook for about $32,000 because politicians wanted life to be fair.

The funny thing is that in 1970 you could buy a really nice house for $32,000. It would have been cheaper if the United States government had just bought a nice house for every family that didn’t  have one.

Which brings me back to my original point. Life is not fair. It just isn’t.

We understand that. Why don’t politicians?