The Small-Minded Anti-Streetcar Conspiracy

August 22, 2013 by
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Below is an excerpt, please click this link to view the full pdf of the paper.
The Small-Minded Anti-Streetcar Conspiracy- FINAL

By Glen D. Bottoms, Rick Gustafson, Eric Hovee and William S. Lind

The libertarians’ anti-transit study mill continues to grind out new products, which regrettably contain more chaff than grain. We say “new” cum grano salis, because they offer the same arguments over and over. To ideologues, facts don’t count. The first thing written is the conclusion. A recent example of the genre is The Great Streetcar Conspiracy by Randal O’Toole, published June 14, 2012 by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank. As usual, it is a child’s garden of errors, false “facts,” distortions and unwarranted conclusions. This study may set a record, even for the anti-transit troubadours: in a mere 16 pages it manages to make at least 52 false or misleading statements. We don’t know how they will top that, perhaps by claiming in their next study that streetcars are bad because of all those moving cables that run beneath the streets. Fifty-two is a lot of errors to correct; let’s get started…

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4 Responses to “The Small-Minded Anti-Streetcar Conspiracy”

  1. tz says:

    I should point out here that I’m not anti-rail, but am for the most appropriate form. I’m an engineer who designs things which just fit into whatever is already there.

    I would so love rail, but for me that means driving my car onto a rail-car, riding to the far reaches, then instead of renting a car, using my own.

    That will never happen because of the religious wars here. One side calls to abandon their cars and trucks – although they may have boats or snowmobiles or other vehicles which require towing. The other side simply hates trains.

    Where is the room for true free enterprise between the two? I love to ride my harley in the back roads out west, but I have to ride to get there. Those who promote trains say I can’t take my harley. Those who hate trains say I should just ride through traffic jams and bad roads until I get there.

    I would ask for both a truce and reason.

    Then I might be able to ride my harley to the nearest train station, get on board, do something via wifi for a while, then sleep, and wake up in Idaho and ride up into the mountains. Ride through Wyoming, Colorado, up Mt Evans, then return to a train and sleep with sweet dreams of my rides as I return to the midwest.

    But no. Both sides would deny me that because their war is more important.

    • Claude says:

      I don’t know of any rail people trying to ban cars. In fact what you’re describing sounds like the Auto Train that runs between D.C. and the Orlando area. Passengers ride the coaches while their vehicles ride in autoracks.
      I’d like to see that service extended to some of the transcontinental routes. It would be nice to get to the other end and have my scooter handy for the last part of the trip.

  2. philadelphialawyer says:

    So, what is up with Cato? Why do they hate streetcars so much?

    Especially when the alternative seems to be buses. It is not as if city and metro transit authorities are going to go away, leaving the field to cars (mostly) and, perhaps, a few private bus lines. No, it seems as if Cato for some reason prefers city and metro transit authorities to rely on buses, to the detriment of light rail. Again, why? Is it because they fear light rail? That light rail might actually be too successful and replace the private auto as the dominant transportation mode (at least in terms of point to point, commuter weekday traffic)? Whereas buses (a) will always be stigmatized as “transit for the poor” and (b) leaving stigma aside, will just never be that good (because reliant on surface streets which it must share with cars, and all the other reasons you cite), and so the Cato guys have no fear of them? They love cars, for all the obvious libertarian reasons, and they hate trains, for all the obvious libertarian reasons. And so they cook the books against any form of train, no matter how good, leaving the field of mass (and thus disfavored) transportation to the bad buses?

    Is that it?

  3. William Fellows says:

    Very happy to have found this. I am glad not only there is American Conservative for a thinking, forward looking reflection on conservative politics to bring it back to something useful, but that you’re also thinking usefully about public infrastructure.

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