DC Councilman Jim Graham thinks that the rich should pay to transport the poor
We've got a subway system here in DC called "Metro" that subsists on passenger fares and taxpayer dollars from three separate jurisdictions - DC, MD, and VA. The Metro is a nice transportation system, and is used by 100's of thousands of people per day. The problem with Metro is that it is perennially operating in the red, a problem that Metro claims is caused by problems with securing funding from each of three aforementioned jurisdictions. Of course, this problem could be easily solved (and many others as well) by converting Metro to an entirely user-supported system; in other words, Metro fares should completely and totally pay for the operation of the Metro.
Unfortunately, that isn't what happens now - currently, passenger fares account for a very small percentage of Metro's operating budget. Instead, Metro is largely dependent on payments received from each of the three jurisdictions listed above. When any of the three jurisdicitons refuse to pay full amount of the ever-skyrocketing fees demanded by Metro (and they always do), Metro responds by cutting service levels - they reduce the number and frequency of trains, and they delay on making routine repairs. (the escalator at Cleveland Park, my home Metro stop, hasn't worked for over half a year.) (!!)
Currently, the base fare for Metrorail service is $1.35. Let's imagine that the Metro was converted to en entirely fare-based system - in that case, the base fare might have to rise to $5 or $6 per ride to make up for the lost revenue. (I don't have the exact numbers, so I don't really know, I'm just guessing here.) Upon hearing this, critics immediately jump up and scream that Metro riders can't afford that increase, and therefore it must not be permitted.
I think that they are only half right. Metro riders can't afford that increase, that is true. But does that mean that a fare hike shouldn't be considered? I don't think so. Consider this: An efficiency apartment in Cleveland Park, DC, starts at over $1000 a month. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, that means ZERO bedrooms. You get one room, and that room serves as you living room, your dining room, your bedroom, and sometimes your kitchen. Let's say that you want a little more space - you can't rent a 1 bedroom apartment in Cleveland Park for under $1,500 per month. Since living in DC, I've paid enough in rent to flat out buy the house I grew up in.
If the Metro were to be converted to an entirely user-supported system, these rents would all drop, drastically. People live in Cleveland Park because there is a Metro stop here. Most people here don't own a car, they instead rely on the Metro for transportation. They take the money that they would spend on a car, on insurance, on gas, and they instead put that money towards _______________. Ok, fill in the blank here. What is the logical answer? The logical answer, of course, is the Metro. But that isn't what happens - these people instead pay their extra money, all $1500+ of it, to RENT.
The net result is that the apartment owners are making a killing. The region is subsidizing the Metro service for the passengers, and the passengers are turning around and giving that money that they "save" directly to the apartment building owners. If the Metro was entirely fare supported, that wouldn't happen. Charge $5 per Metro fare - rent in Cleveland Park will easily drop to a third of what it is now.
But, of course, DC being dominated by democrats, that isn't on the horizon.
Instead of adopting the best solution, Metro and area governments continue to looking to other ways to fund the Metro. The latest idea is a proposal for an area-wide sales tax to fund the Metro. I have to admit, I kind of like the idea in concept - everyone does benefit from the Metro, especially businesses, even if indirectly, so this idea is at least worth discussing. (There are problems, i.e. DC sales tax is already at a whopping 10% on food, 5.75% on other goods, but I would like to "explore" the idea further. It's at least a solution, even if not the best solution, and it gets the issue where it directly affects everyone, so change can happen in the future.)
But look what DC Councilman Jim Graham has to say about the idea:
Jim Graham from the District doesn't like a sales tax because it affects both rich and poor.
That's right, apparently Jim Graham thinks that any solution worth considering should affect only the "rich." Never mind that the "rich" are a very small percentage of DC's population, and probably an even smaller percentage of Metro customers. Jim Graham doesn't care. Jim Graham thinks that any idea worth considering should be entirely paid for by the rich, so that the poor can benefit.
I wonder, does Jim Graham also think that the rich should subsidize meals for the poor at fancy restaurants?
More on point, if a poor person had to figure out how to pay for a new car, would Jim Graham immediately poo-poo the idea of the poor person taking out a loan for the car, and say "well, that solution falls disproportionally on the poor person! we need to look for a way to get a rich a guy to pay for that car for that poor person!"
Posted by jkhat at December 2, 2004 06:47 PM
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|# March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM Converted_Comment|
You have a sales tax on food and it's *more* than the regular sales tax? Is that really true? How in the world could *that* pass? Wouldn't that kind of tax hurt the poor too?
|# March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM Converted_Comment|
the tax for food in grocery stores is 0. (but most people buy food out of the district b/c its so expensive here)
the tax on restaurant or fast food is 10%. if you buy a lunch in dc for $6, it's $.60 tax.