Talking Points for Mass Transit

Below are some ideas in support of mass transit that we are using here in Oklahoma City. Except for the local issues identified below, the ideas can be useful in many other areas.

1. Opponents of mass transit often claim that "cars and trucks pay their own way, while mass transit is subsidized by the government". But this statement simply isn't true. If it was, Oklahoma City would not have to borrow half a billion dollars to fix its roads, on top of all the other bond issues that have been applied to that same purpose. Trucks do not pay the full cost of the damage they cause to the highways. All transportation modes are subsidized by taxpayers.

2. Funding mass transit takes some traffic off the roads and thus lessen the life and the maintenance costs of our existing investment in roads. Mass transit helps us use our roads more wisely and prudently.

3. We need a dedicated source of funding for mass transit operations (which will also bring in more federal money) and we need strong investments in mass transit in the upcoming bond issue and Maps 3 programs. The present mass transit allocation in the proposed 2007 OKC bond program is woefully inadequate. We should oppose and vote against the bond issue if mass transit does not get a larger investment than is presently proposed.

4. Mass transit is PRO-BUSINESS. Workers and customers need to be able to get to work, shop, dine, and entertain irrespective of the good will of Middle Eastern fascists and the price of gasoline.

5. Mass transit drives SMART GROWTH. It reduces the need for wasting scarce urban space with acres of parking lots. Everywhere that commuter rail goes, economic investment follows.

6. Mass transit is PRO-FAMILY. Many families struggle to maintain one or two cars because people have to get to work and shop. With an adequate transportation system, some families could decide to not own a car at all, and take public transportation instead. Other families may decide they can do without a second or third car. This saves these families thousands of dollars every year. That means less financial stress on families. And that brings greater family stability, which leads to less divorce, less abuse of women and children, less alcohol, drug, and nicotene dependencies, less crime, and lower rates of school drop-outs. Money invested in mass transit can thus have many benefits not related to transportation. And likewise, a poor mass transit system, starved for funds, can drive many social problems not related to transportation.

7. Mass transit is important for SOCIAL JUSTICE. The most important thing that Oklahoma can do to help the working poor is to fund adequate mass transit. Because the capital and some of the operating costs are spread over the entire population, the additional tax burden is minor (especially when compared to the taxation costs of other, less beneficial programs).

8. For Oklahoma City, our original Union Station remains the best option as the multi-modal transportation center. Moving it elsewhere (as is presently proposed) will cost the taxpayers additional millions of dollars. Since money is scarce, it makes no economic sense to waste money re-creating a facility that is already available.

9. Union Station makes an excellent south-end anchor for the "Core to Shore" program.

10. Oklahoma City should learn from the experience of Dallas, Denver, and Salt Lake City and not sabotage the rail yard at Union Station. "Those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them." One of the worrying aspects of present plans is that they don't take into consideration the experiences of other areas.

11. Mass transit is a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY. Thanks to our petroleum addiction, we are constantly at risk of petroleum supply lines being cut by war and terrorism. Petro-dollars fund the terrorist crusade that is slaughtering innocent civilians and killing our service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars and threats of terrorism will continue as long as petro-dollars fund terrorism. More money spent on gasoline inevitably means more money is available to terrorists. Attacks that could destroy Saudi Arabia's primary oil export facilities could send gasoline towards ten bucks a gallon, crash the stock market and our economy overnight, throw millions out of work, and usher in a second Great Depression. During the Great Depression, there were Oklahoma counties where 90% of the property went into foreclosure and was sold at public auction. Removing this threat to our local economy requires fast-track, emergency funding of a multi-modal mass transit system.

12. Mass transit reduces air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The combustion of one gallon of gasoline releases 19.8 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air, together with other pollutants. (While a gallon of gasoline weighs 6 pounds, it is mostly carbon and it combusts with twice as much oxygen to make carbon dioxide.) Central Oklahoma is approaching non-compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, and if this happens, it will trigger mandatory actions which could cost the local economy big dollars.