July 26, 2019
By Mike Brownfield and Jennifer Tiedemann
Expanding public transit is a tough sell these days. As The Onion aptly jibed, “98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others.” And as cities and states struggle to convince voters to spend more money on services they don’t want, officials in Phoenix are turning to an illegal solution — spending public resources to advocate for, well, more public resources.
Across the country, the headlines tell a similar story: Public transportation isn’t working well, officials are looking for more money for it, and passengers are turning away. Transit officials in Boston are asking for more funding, pointing to delays and other service issues in the city’s subway system. Southeast Michigan transit leaders withdrew a multi-billion dollar plan to expand regional public transportation after it became apparent that voters weren’t going to get behind it. And in Los Angeles, commuters would rather drive in the region’s notorious traffic than deal with long wait times for the bus, and bus ridership has been falling as a result.
Now, in a little over a month, voters in Phoenix, Arizona, will go to the polls to vote on a proposition that could end future construction on the city’s unpopular light rail system. But it appears that Phoenix’s regional transit system has been using taxpayer money to sway these votes — and that’s against the law.
Mike Brownfield is the communications director and Jennifer Tiedemann is the deputy communications director at the Goldwater Institute.