A common political occurrence today is the combination of road and mass transit packages into a single bill. Erica Barnett writes about Seattle's situation, and I'm familiar with the same situation in Chicago/Illinois.
At first it sounds like a good compromise, but it's not. Sure, one concern of transit supporters is that they use it every day and more money should give better service. Thinking along this line, it then makes sense that you improve the roads to benefit the people who use them every day, right?
I'm all for compromise and fairness, but the question of roads and transit is not just about service. More roads insure more pollution, and undermine a major part of the purpose of better transit service; the encouragement of higher ridership, and lower pollution. In this concern, transit supporters lose through such a "compromise". Why? If no new roads were built, and no new funding went to transit, ridership would still increase, which would itself provide additional funding. Service quality would suffer, but one of two objectives would still be achieved.
In the compromise, the roadies get everything they want, and transit trades one objective for another, with no overall net progress. That's not fair as I see it. Some compromise is necessary, that's understandable, but roads and transit is not the right compromise. What if instead of more roads, we did something for roadies that would benefit them, but also not counter to transit objectives?
Here's one idea. What about additional funding for more efficient cars and trucks? Lowering the price of efficient vehicles will lower the amount of gas used, but also lower the amount of dollars roadies spend on their vehicles and gas. Everyone gets something out of that proposal.
Here's another that's already on the table, though mostly ignored. In Illinois the suburban population wants more money for schools as part of the compromise. No problem. I'd give five times as much money to compromise on schools rather than roads.