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Detroit Media Mogul: Beware Transport Subsidies (Except for Cars)

10:47 AM EDT on May 23, 2011

From Scott Walker to the New York Post, opponents of transit and bicycling have displayed a masterful ability to selectively apply their disdain for "government interference."

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When it comes to transportation policy, they equate spending on rail lines or bike lanes to socialism, while overlooking any and all subsidies for roads and cars. That's just the "free market" at work, they say.

The latest purveyor of this double-standard is none other than the publisher of a national news conglomerate. Keith Crain, chairman of the Crain's media empire, doesn't like the fact that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has accepted federal money for a rail connection with Chicago.

As Joel Batterman at Network blog Transport Michigan points out, Crain has a pretty short memory:

"Beware," Crain warns, "when anyone shows up and says, 'I am from the government and I'm here to help you.'" Interesting. Turns out a certain Detroit publisher begged the federal government to step in and bail out another transportation industry (hint: four wheels, internal combustion engine) just three years ago. "Across the world," Crain wrote back then, "governments are reaching out to help their auto companies survive." He lamented the "theatrics" that Big Three CEOs had to endure in Washington hearings after their neglect of more fuel-efficient vehicles nearly wiped out the industry.

Come to think of it, didn't the government have a hand in building our roads, too? Why no column titled "We don't need highway aid from Washington," just for consistency's sake? In Crain's mind, are the Interstates also an example of Big Government largesse?

The "libertarian," "public choice" argument for exclusive government support of automobiles is getting just a little old these days. It's rather embarrassing, here in Michigan, watching poor Keith trying to make it work in defiance of historical memory. How can anyone still think this way, when they've just had the government step in to save their whole business universe?

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Wash Cycle asks if it's time to retire the "Share the Road" sign. Gateway Streets reports that despite the St. Louis region's growing number of roadway miles, commuting isn't getting any easier for area residents. And Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space comments on D.C.'s attempt to raise residential parking fees for households that own multiple vehicles.

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