Too Big to Rail

People regularly forget this fact, but roads were originally built for bicycles before the cars became regular commodities. After World War II, highways were built to ease the transport of military vehicles across the nation. In other words, the infrastructure did not originate from the current experience, and people are still dreaming of expanding it. Sadly, because it grew to such a size, there will be no rebuilding or even maintaining the current transit infrastructure because public income is too small and the cost is too large. In other words, not enough taxes could be collected because of disintegrating middle class.

Rail as mass transit evolved before bus lines, and for decades, people used rail as often as it was available. People recognized that horse-drawn carriages required more time, and as industrialization increased, trains were everywhere taking everything. Unfortunately, with the rise of the automobile, people were discouraged from using mass transit and were constantly being motivated to buy cars. It was one thing when one’s options to cross the country were coach or train, but once the car came into the picture, people grew apathetic towards trains and their labor costs. Thus, railroads were destroyed to make room for more cars, and it would be incredibly expensive to revamp existing rail lines.

Many have suggested the use of toll roads and for decades, roads were able to be funded via toll. If drivers are socialized to avoid toll roads, and most are, then toll companies will be unable to recoup expenditures and fewer will invest in infrastructure. Whether new or old stretches of highway, people are conditioned to avoid more fees, and toll roads have seldom enjoyed excessive returns despite expensive investment.

Road funding often depends on property taxes, which means that under current funding structures, cities will often have better roads than rural communities. More importantly, people will notice road conditions in metropolitan areas before they notice those of an agricultural area. Unless those smaller cities can convince people in urban areas to spread to existing communities without building new ones, smaller, rural areas will fail to generate enough revenue even for the residents. Just like the digital divide, people are unwilling to move or expand to an area unless they can see a predictable profit.

As younger people are often in the most debt, owning homes and buying cars will remain impossible for generations to come. Most people are already spending their money on rents, and wage stagnation means that saving for a house or a car–or the taxes and registration thereof–will become next to impossible. Without vehicle registrations and/or gas tax, there are no other ways to fund the roads and revenue will inevitably diminish. If transit is unable to be funded, infrastructure will continue to deteriorate to the point of actually being a liability instead of a convenience.

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