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Kochs Mobilize to Kill Public Transit Plans

An artist's rendering depicted a light rail line on Charlotte Avenue near Sylvan Park. Nashville Public Radio / Nashville Mayor's Office

The Koch brothers are pouring money into grassroots state efforts to defeat public transit proposals, The New York Times reported.


Local chapters of Koch advocacy group Americans for Prosperity have worked in at least seven states since 2015 to sway voters against public transit proposals, with some notable successes: the group was partially responsible for the defeat of a popular light rail and bus improvement plan in traffic-choked Nashville this May, after making more than 42,000 phone calls and knocking on 6,000 doors.

Koch Industries is deeply embedded in the automobile industry, and the group has also launched attacks on electric vehicles in recent years. "Stopping higher taxes is their rallying cry," Ashley Robbins of Virginia Tech told The New York Times. "But at the end of the day, fuel consumption helps them."

As reported by The New York Times:

"Supporters of transit investments point to research that shows that they reduce traffic, spur economic development and fight global warming by reducing emissions. Americans for Prosperity counters that public transit plans waste taxpayer money on unpopular, outdated technology like trains and buses just as the world is moving toward cleaner, driverless vehicles.

...

The paucity of federal funding for transit projects means that local ballots are critical in shaping how Americans travel, with decades-long repercussions for the economy and the environment. Highway funding has historically been built into state and federal budgets, but transit funding usually requires a vote to raise taxes, creating what experts call a systemic bias toward cars over trains and buses. The United States transportation sector emits more earth-warming carbon dioxide than any other part of the nation's economy.

The Trump administration had initially raised hopes of more funding for transit by advocating a trillion-dollar infrastructure push. However, when that proposed plan was made public it reduced funding for transit-related grants."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times

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