Conservative Think Tank: Invest in Transit to Boost Metro Economies

Here’s a refreshing take on metropolitan economic health from the right side of the aisle: The conservative Free Congress Foundation says it’s time America got serious about investing in transit in its metro areas.

Young, educated people are demanding better transit options and returning to cities, notes a new report by the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative think tank. Image: Brigham Young University Civil and Environmental Engineering

This think tank, founded by conservative Paul Weyrich (also co-founder of the Heritage Foundation), released a report [PDF] last week extolling the economic benefits of transit investment and healthy cities. The Free Congress Foundation is also holding congressional hearings on its findings on the Hill, bringing some much-needed conservative support for walkable, connected cities to Washington politics.

The report argues that returns on investment in highways are declining. Author Michael Bronzini says healthy, walkable cities are important to attracting talent in a knowledge-based, 21st century economy.

“The history of metropolitan area development in the U.S. since World War II to the present is well known, and has often been described as the ‘flight to the suburbs,’” says Bronzini. “More recently, many metropolitan areas have been seeing somewhat of a return to the city.”

“These new urban residents want walkable communities, social and cultural amenities and good public transportation services that will enable them to access all the opportunities that vibrant central cities have to offer,” Bronzini adds.

While some prominent conservative electeds have starved transit and approached the movement toward cities as a political threat, others, like Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, have shown leadership and recognized the economic value of creating more walkable places. The Free Congress Foundation’s report is more evidence that Republican transit opponents don’t speak for all conservatives when it comes to transportation policy.