Robert W. Poole Jr. makes a convincing case for high-occupancy toll lanes in “Fixing America’s Freeways” (March). However, Poole misleadingly refers to a consumer “preference” for one-person-per-car commuting and a “diversion” of (a small percentage of) federal highway funds to pay for public transit, sidewalks, and bike paths. Poole forgets his history. Our car-dependent way of life is a direct result of government policy, not consumer preferences created in a vacuum.
One-person-per-car commuting didn’t spring up on its own. In the 1950s and 1960s, following federal policy, local governments used bonding and aggressive eminent domain to destroy cohesive, traditional neighborhoods in order to build elevated freeways. Streetcar systems were ripped out, in some cases after pressure from the auto industry. The federal government subsidizes freeways and other projects by making municipal bond interest tax-exempt, unlike interest on other bonds.
Suburban zoning boards denied permits for high-density and mixed-use projects in favor of more single-family homes on large lots. This created the geographic separation of home, work, and shopping, requiring more use of automobiles.
Finally, let’s not forget the biggest deduction in the tax code. The home mortgage interest deduction provides further incentive for families to eschew rental housing and smaller, less expensive owner-occupied units in favor of large, single-family houses in the suburbs.
The consumer preference for commuting by car is a direct result of a half-century of government policy subsidizing freeway and single-family house construction while destroying cities. In European cities, where development is more balanced, a higher percentage of consumers prefer walking, cycling, and public transit.
In “How Stimulus Fails” (April), spending under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was incorrectly described as costing $840 million; the correct number is $840 billion.
The Letters page of the May issue incorrectly identified the issue in which “Fixing America’s Highways” by Robert W. Poole Jr. appeared. It was March.
Peter Suderman has the best dissection of Romney’s politics—or lack of them.
—Guardian politics blogger Richard Adams in response to “Consultant in Chief” (March)
I certainly understand the Romney-averse crowd here. But truth be told, I consider him the most palatable option outside of Ron Paul (or Gary Johnson on the Libertarian ticket). Mitt Romney strikes me as a shrewd enough chap to say what he needs to say to get elected, but also well-informed enough to know what the big issues are.
He refuses to address entitlements, but a man of his background surely recognizes the complete absurdity of the entitlement state. Maybe he is just trying to avoid scaring granny until he secures the nomination. That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing Obama beat him, if only to provide the opening for Rand Paul in 2016.
—reason online commenter “Sudden” in response to “Consultant in Chief”