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Old Posted Jul 2, 2009, 11:33 PM
ProTram ProTram is offline
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Mass Transit: A New Socialist Ideal?

With the "Renaissance" of Mass Transit alternatives that have made their way onto the scene in growing numbers lately in the United States, it has been a significant, but expected, note that there has been a large level of opposition. Yet many of these topics of opposition are understandable, the nature of our mentality toward community prevent us from significantly evolving as a Society.

Now while it seems like there is a growing amount of 'every silver lining has a cloud, guilty until proven innocent, glass is half empty' type of people these days that will find negativity in EVERYTHING, there must be a point when a level of understanding and sympathy toward a visionary cause is met. A visionary thinks more than 2 inches in front of his nose when designing a freeway or a neighborhood with extra land set aside for when it might be needed. Many cities are planning with the future in mind and hopefully with the community and its well being at heart.

This I feel has really become almost a renewed debate between Capitalism and Socialism. While Socialism, like Capitalism, is by far not a perfect system, Socialism and Socialist beliefs have been deemed a four letter word. There is, however, something very Socialist about Mass Transit, following the ideal of providing or supporting a project for the greater good of a community or society, as opposed to only supporting the ideal of the greater good of individual gain and importance. Where a Socialist may say "How do I fit into a community and what can I do to aid in its advancement and my placement in it?" a Capitalist may say "What does the community have to offer ME and how can I use it to better myself?"

Everyone should have the right to pursue their own well being and personal freedom, I do not argue that at all, but there should also be more of a point where we, as individuals, step back and find ways to better the community around us in ways that can have a lasting effect. Call me a SocioCapitalist I guess but I personally feel that Subsidy can be a good thing too if it can offer benefit to those who choose to use it and who really need it, and Mass Transit is a prime example.

Of course Mass Transit has its drawbacks, I am not denying that. Of course it doesn't work everywhere, be it bad planning, low density populations or otherwise. When it does work, however, it has the ability to create a change where it counts: strengthening the community as a whole; creating jobs, spurring business growth, inspiring liveable and sustainable lifestyles that all take part in the contribution of a society that can prepare for the future TOGETHER.



"...the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development..."

"Socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society."

"The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.” It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees."

"I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society." - Albert Einstein

Quotes taken from-
http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einstein.php
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  #2  
Old Posted Jul 2, 2009, 11:41 PM
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The purported social betterment from mass transit is a side-effect.

In reality, it's meant to focus economic development and a decidedly capitalist workforce (more jobs in one place, more business opportunity and more business options) with little actual regard to any socialist ideal like offering a service on subsidy.

Most opposition is due to some kind of undercutting (limiting dependence on cars and therefore cutting down per-trip shopping expenditures) or the opponent's selfishness (tax money spent on others).
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 12:52 AM
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I wholeheartedly agree that transit contributes to the betterment of our societies, but framing that argument within abstract socialist vs. capitalist terms simply isn't going to win anyone over to the transit camp. The issue of mass transit really transcends any Socialist/Capitalist or Liberal/Conservative divide.

The way I see it is this: one way or another, transportation, like most other infrastructure networks, needs to be subsidized by government. We can either build sprawling roads and highways to support automobile-oriented development, or maintain denser, walkable road infrastructure supported by mass transportation.

So why not choose to save our natural resources by combating sprawl, and reducing congestion, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions? Why not choose to encourage active lifestyles, and fight against the scourge of obesity? Why not choose to build closer-knit, stronger communities? There is nothing inherently capitalist or socialist to these issues. Supporting mass transportation is simply the smart choice to make!
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 1:31 AM
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couldn't we say roads/highways and airports are Socialist ideas also? They are built and maintained by the Government too. I can make the same arguement for the military.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 2:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alexjon View Post
The purported social betterment from mass transit is a side-effect.

In reality, it's meant to focus economic development and a decidedly capitalist workforce (more jobs in one place, more business opportunity and more business options) with little actual regard to any socialist ideal like offering a service on subsidy.

Most opposition is due to some kind of undercutting (limiting dependence on cars and therefore cutting down per-trip shopping expenditures) or the opponent's selfishness (tax money spent on others).
Bingo. There is nothing overtly socialist about mass transit. It would be very easy to take the argument made above equating mass transit to socialism and turn around and equate highways to socialism. This mass transit revival going right now is being fueled as much by old fashioned capitalism as anything as communities, employers and people look to give themselves better access to jobs/employees/tax income while staring down a future with expensive gas and long/expensive commutes. Any social betterment is merely a byproduct.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 2:26 AM
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Don't forget that up until the "socialist" construction of the Interstate System 99% of America's mass transit networks were privately built and maintained. Probably upwards of 2/3's of Chicago's El still runs on tracks that were constructed by private companies around 100 years ago.

I think you are making a really abstract point, but I can say that it could apply if you used the words Communism vs. Individualistic Liberalism instead. As far as abstract arguments go, the "mass" of mass transit would make it far more communal (communist) than the individualistic use of cars (individualism). But this whole thread is super abstract and far more complicated than two broad terms for social structures can ever accurately describe.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 2:35 AM
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You all make very rational statements. I believe the point I was trying to make was that Mass Transit is very much a propeller that focuses on the "bigger picture." It focuses on the betterment of a population as a whole as opposed to harboring selfish ideals. It is for that reason that the Cap vs. Soc is presented. The Mass Transit itself is not Socialist, it is the engine behind it that possibly makes it so. Highways make a little sense but I always see more of an isolated singularity to Highways. When I say Socialism, Subsidy and Mass Transit in the same sentence, I think in the same vein as subsidized healthcare and education. Of course in todays economy, that may not be a positive thing to bring up.

You also make an excellent point about Social betterment being a by-product. I think from the viewpoint of the local government putting it in place that is absolutely TRUE, and from the viewpoint of the individuals in the community, it could be more about making their lives easier while also encouraging social stimulation and responsible planning.

Also, regarding 'Individualism,' this isn't about keeping people from cars. That is not the point. People are free to travel however they want. But if I am driving down the freeway in my car, I will be in full support of Mass Transit because I know it is helping to make the community I live in a better place. Hope that helps.

Last edited by ProTram; Jul 3, 2009 at 2:56 AM.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 3:46 AM
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I think a difference here that should be noted is the funding for the systems. Since mass transit is for the most part localized near one city and not connecting other cities, people dont want to pay for those services. For example, taxpayers in Philadelphia do not want to pay, with their federal taxes, for a new subway in DC because they will probably never use it. Now with regard to highways, people in Philadelphia will see more of a benefit from their taxes for a highway near DC because it will improve traffic around the area that will allow for quicker movement of goods, travelers, or themselves several times a year. Getting back to the socialism/capitalism aspect, funding for mass transit mostly benefits the residents of a city so taxes levied against Philadelphians for DC mass transit would be viewed as socialist tax because while it benefits society (eg. less pollution) it doesnt benefit Philadelphia directly or indirectly. Using tax money to fund a highway to improve traffic flow around DC, will benefit Philadelphians indirectly if not directly on a daily basis.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 6:00 AM
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I think you've been using Rush Limbaugh too much to define what "Socialism" is and isn't. Mass transit isn't inherently "socialist", especally when you consider the many Els and Subways originally built by private companies in contrast to the totally government-crafted highway. So in pure economic terms, there is nothing "Socialist" about it.

Now, the issue with many self-described "Conservatives" is labels like "Socialism" have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with social conservatism. My experience has been once you scratch the surface of the Fox News set, is a deeply rooted racial/social animosity that clouds their vision. For many, auto-oriented subrubs restrict access and that's part of the appeal. Mass Transit forces you to sit next to people who don't look/think/talk/act/believe as you do, and for the whitebread masses, that's a very deeply scary prospect. In essance, it's a sneakly, legal form of Jim Crow.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 6:27 AM
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Actually the focus on rail today is not just for mass transit, it's for improving the movement of goods. If we create new right of ways for passenger rail, we decrease congestion on existing rail lines so freight can move better/faster.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 6:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowhereman1280 View Post
Don't forget that up until the "socialist" construction of the Interstate System 99% of America's mass transit networks were privately built and maintained. Probably upwards of 2/3's of Chicago's El still runs on tracks that were constructed by private companies around 100 years ago.
Not this old rag...

Yes, private companies owned and operated mass transit systems. HOWEVER, they did so in an odd transitional period when urban commutes were too long for walking, and the auto had not yet entered mass production and become affordable. City-dwellers had no choice but to ride the streetcar/L/subway to get to work.

The private companies, at least in Chicago, also operated under a government so corrupt that it could barely be considered a free market. City government granted exclusive charters, guaranteeing monopolies on transit to the tycoons who built the systems. Untold amounts of government resources also went into these systems - it's impossible to build tracks on, above, or below city streets without incurring costs on the city in some way.

I've yet to see an example of a system without some form of subsidy. Not that this is a bad thing - I'd much rather spend my tax dollars on mass transit than farm subsidies or defense technology.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 11:17 AM
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Just to be sure people don't read me the wrong way. I am entirely in support of Light Rail and other forms of Mass Transit. And lets put it this way, I choose not listen to Rush Limbaugh.

My aim was not to address the economics, for which that you are all correct. Other than the subsidies, I am talking more about community. The people. The individuals. Less about the money putting the system there, more about the ideology of supporting a community strengthening tool like Mass Transit.
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Old Posted Jul 3, 2009, 4:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Qubert View Post
I think you've been using Rush Limbaugh too much to define what "Socialism" is and isn't. Mass transit isn't inherently "socialist", especally when you consider the many Els and Subways originally built by private companies in contrast to the totally government-crafted highway. So in pure economic terms, there is nothing "Socialist" about it.

Now, the issue with many self-described "Conservatives" is labels like "Socialism" have nothing to do with economics and everything to do with social conservatism. My experience has been once you scratch the surface of the Fox News set, is a deeply rooted racial/social animosity that clouds their vision. For many, auto-oriented subrubs restrict access and that's part of the appeal. Mass Transit forces you to sit next to people who don't look/think/talk/act/believe as you do, and for the whitebread masses, that's a very deeply scary prospect. In essance, it's a sneakly, legal form of Jim Crow.
Or we could be partially projecting what we believe in order to fit a sociological theses. To whatever degree cars do keep out the supposed riff-raff that that is now a rather antiquated notion for those that support autos on that basis given that many of the poor in this nation even have autos.

I see the attraction in wanting to make it about about social issues but a more more practical reason is because for many the car is simply a familiar and fantastic item. That doesn't mean that cars should be catered to or that governments shouldn't invest much more in mass transit for a variety of good reasons. However caricaturing people who really like a cars benefits as merely racist seem to be armchair psychologist who want to put their fingers in the ears and deny the mobility, accessibility, privacy, comforts, and individualism that cars can at times provide and which most grew up valuing.

Another major factor I think is that a great majority of places are dependant on auto and many people simply have no reference point on what or how living in an alternative transit environment can readily happen and unless if zoning and development are also promised to simultaneously wondering if tranist will improve their lives (or many others) is a reasonable question.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2009, 12:04 AM
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Absolutely not. The more people that live in a place the greater infrastructure capacity needed to get them around. Living in Houston, it always bothered me that we didn't have rail connections to the airport, and the ones they are proposing (Light Rail) are slow and impractical.

As it turns out, the most outspoken opponents came from a Union representing cab drivers. So organized labor working to prevent mass transit.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2009, 4:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ardecila View Post
Not this old rag...

Yes, private companies owned and operated mass transit systems. HOWEVER, they did so in an odd transitional period when urban commutes were too long for walking, and the auto had not yet entered mass production and become affordable. City-dwellers had no choice but to ride the streetcar/L/subway to get to work.

The private companies, at least in Chicago, also operated under a government so corrupt that it could barely be considered a free market. City government granted exclusive charters, guaranteeing monopolies on transit to the tycoons who built the systems. Untold amounts of government resources also went into these systems - it's impossible to build tracks on, above, or below city streets without incurring costs on the city in some way.

I've yet to see an example of a system without some form of subsidy. Not that this is a bad thing - I'd much rather spend my tax dollars on mass transit than farm subsidies or defense technology.
The MTR in Hong Kong works without subsidies.
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Old Posted Jul 18, 2009, 5:13 AM
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Old Posted Jul 20, 2009, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProTram View Post
Just to be sure people don't read me the wrong way. I am entirely in support of Light Rail and other forms of Mass Transit. And lets put it this way, I choose not listen to Rush Limbaugh.

My aim was not to address the economics, for which that you are all correct. Other than the subsidies, I am talking more about community. The people. The individuals. Less about the money putting the system there, more about the ideology of supporting a community strengthening tool like Mass Transit.
I don't think you have to give a rat's a** about "the community" to be pro-mass-transit.

All you have to do is to want to be able to have choice and options on how you get around. Personally, I am solidly upper-middle-class in income, residential location and lifestyle, but I choose to not own a car because I find owning a car to be a financial straightjacket. It is PURELY for selfishly economic reasons that I support mass transit. And I *know* I'm not the only person who feels that way. I'm more than willing to pay appropriate taxes and fares to fund it, too - I don't expect anything for free. And, while relatively liberal, I'm a long way from being a socialist.

I think even trying to say mass transit is "socialist-minded" is naive and incorrect. It's just one more way for people to get around that happens to work best with dense forms of living that some people prefer and, when properly implemented coincidentally happen to be energy-efficient.
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Old Posted Jul 20, 2009, 10:14 PM
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The MTR in Hong Kong works without subsidies.
Only for operations - not for construction and land acquisition. It helps tremendously that government power was used to acquire land adjacent to stations to give to the transit agency, as well.
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Old Posted Jul 20, 2009, 11:28 PM
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I really do not follow how mass transit is somehow inherently socialism. I think this bespeaks a general cultural illiteracy on what socialism is; rather than somehow uncovering an inherent socialistic milieu that under girds mass transit
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Old Posted Jul 20, 2009, 11:59 PM
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Who cares if its is "socialist" or not. In a world of falling wages and limited energy and natural resources, it will be the only option for many people. Soon, we won't have the luxury of silly debates like this.
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