Yesterday's post "Subsidizing rural folk" generated more commentary than usual. All of it was through my Facebook profile (I cross-post the Daily Parker there), so I thought I should copy it over here.
Debbie K. of Highland Park, Ill., wrote: "In urban areas, cities maintain roads, or the Fed maintains freeways. There are more county roads to maintain in rural areas. A fact also conveniently left out of a similar story when in ran in the SF Chronicle about a week ago."
I responded: "But that's the point: the stimulus money is going disproportionately to highways, which are disproportionately rural. Urban areas have old bridges, canals, railroads, buses, and, yes, roads, many of which need repairs, and which provide significantly higher ROI. Even highways in urban areas make better investments. Of course I want the good people of Kittitas County, Wash., to have decent infrastructure, but more people drive on Lake Shore Drive (U.S. 41) every day than will drive on U.S. 2 through Wenatchee, Wash., in a month."
Debbie K. followed up: "My issue isn't necessarily whether county roads are more valuable than city roads, but that the fact, which is relevant to the issue, was left out of a news story. Kind of like how everyone seems to be leaving out the whole 'Manuel Zelaya's removal was required by the Honduran constitution' thing. I'm so incensed that I can't trust newspapers to deliver the entire story anymore."
Samantha D., writing from the U.K.: "David, I am inclined to agree with you, but our fuel is $5.60 a gallon (equivalent) and there's no more investment in public transport. It's so bad, in fact, that people are driving more than ever and the south-east of England is virtually gridlocked at some times of the day. I wish they would invest in it more, but instead they keep hiking up the fuel duty (on which we also pay sales tax, BTW) and spend the money giving themselves pay rises and gold-plated final salary pensions, which the rest of us don't get."
Nancy R., a professional journalist in Lexington, Ky.: "I think it's a bit more complicated than traffic volume. At least my take coming from a largely rural state that is subsidized heavily by the cities, specifically the one in which I live. But I always expect a city perspective on everything from the NYT. Case in point: story on laid-off moms that interviwed only weathy moms who shared how interesting it was to actually figure out where the playgrounds were and what their kids pediatricians looked like. The nannies had always taken their kids to those place in the past. Really representative of most people's experiences, I bet. The NYT always (almost gleefully) plays the rural stereotype, at last that's my experience as a Kentuckian."
John H. said: "David, do you like to eat? I thought so. Those rural roads you are complaining about are used by trucks to get the raw materials used in most of the food you eat to where you can buy it. If those roads aren't maintained well, then the trucks need more maintenance, which costs money, which is ultimately passed on to us. Also, the porkulus money is supposed to go to 'shovel ready' projects. If these other areas are like where I live, these projects have been on the books, ready for funding, for some time. Where I live there is a project to reroute a state highway that has been on the books to be done for 55 years, and it's being bypassed (pun intended) for other projects as far as the porkulus money is concerned. As for the $5 gas; my brother used to think that too, until he had to pay it, and saw the actual impact on the economy, then he changed his mind."
Finally, Yoshio K., Debbie's husband, summed it up neatly: "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!"