Public Transit: A green line

Quite a contrast between the Garden State and the Prairie State:
In New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine aims to strengthen both urbanism and public transit by proposing up to $75 million in tax credits in hopes of enticing companies to build or lease offices in certain cities, within a half-mile of transit stations, and tries to ram it through the legislative session’s final days (hat tip to The Overhead Wire blog's recentpost.
In Illinois, where Chicago’s vaunted regional transit system threatens to implode without more stable funding sources, Gov. Rod Blagojevich – having killed a plan to raise the Regional Transportation Authority’s sales tax by 0.25 percent by threatening a veto – spent 2007 in a personal political feud with House Speaker Michael Madigan, and started 2008 by calling a Jan. 2 “special session” of the General Assembly to address transit funding.
Like previous special sessions (including the one he skipped to attend a Chicago Blackhawks hockey game), this one accomplished nothing substantive. The Chicago Transit Authority threatens yet one more “doomsday” of fare hikes and service cuts (currently scheduled to take effect Jan. 20).
Damaging blow to state pride aside, this matters because cities and regions with strong public transit systems will fare much better as the hydrocarbon economy begins collapsing. In Minnesota, economist Edward Lotterman explains why in the Jan. 2 edition of the<>St. Paul Pioneer Press(free registration required), by paying homage to Johan von Thunen, a German estate manager who, in 1826, coupled land and transportation costs (hat tip again to The Overhead Wire.
Von Thunen correlated land values with the difficulty or ease of transporting goods to market. In 21st Century Minnesota, Lotterman writes, that link is made in how people commute to work, meaning it’s thus no accident that property values along the Twin Cities’ Hiawatha light rail (streetcar) line are rising. And, he notes, property values are also rising along the Central Corridor streetcar line and the “Northstar” commuter rail line, both of which are still on the drawing board.
We should remind politicians and policy-makers about these facts; 2008 is a year in which they might actually listen.


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