Public transit is a wealth multiplier. Deploying transit is a primary strategy for building wealth within a community.
Transit builds wealth when it is deployed as a road connecting two productive places, or as a street as part of a strategy to build wealth incrementally within a place. Transit investments must be scaled to the places that they are serving, increasing in intensity as the place increases in productivity. Advocates who want to improve transit need to focus primarily on building a productive place.
For transit to build wealth on a road, it must be given space and priority to provide faster travel times than auto-based trips.
For transit to build wealth on a street, it must be given adequate space and receive priority at intersections. It must also be part of a reliable network of high-frequency service, making it unnecessary, and ultimately burdensome, to travel streets by automobile.
On streets, transit is used to overcome the geometric limitations of automobiles, allowing greater investment to occur on the same street framework. Successful transit provides a high level of service by crowding out the automobile and auto-related infrastructure. All transit trips are also walking or biking trips, so a transit strategy must emphasize building great streets. Use Street Design Teams to identify urgent struggles and respond incrementally.
Pay for capital projects with a direct assessment, the establishment of a service district, or dedicating a percentage of a property or land tax to transit. Operations and maintenance must be funded through the fare box, which should never be used to retire debt or to fund capital improvements. For the sake of stability and the need for positive feedback loops, there is no role for using sales taxes to fund transit.
Investments in public transit are an ineffective way to alleviate poverty. There are many helpful ways to support the poor that do not involve transportation. Considering only the transportation system, we best support the poor by making public transit an indispensable mechanism for building wealth within the community.