Jon Terbush writes in The Week about how the car culture hurts the middle class:
Undercut by the massive expansion of America's highways and the rise of suburban sprawl, public transit ridership dwindled for decades starting around the 1950s. But in recent years, that trend has gradually begun to reverse, such that ridership is now higher than it has been since 1956.
This is an extremely positive development, but additional funding will be needed to meet demand. A resurgence of mass transit would, as has been well-documented elsewhere, ease traffic congestion, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, decrease dangerous emissions, and improve public health. But there's another less intuitive reason why states, cities, and the federal government should start pumping more money into transit projects — and it has to do with the middle class.
Investments in public transit would most directly benefit members of the middle and lower classes because they make up by far the biggest share of riders. Almost two-thirds of all transit riders made under $50,000 in 2007, according to a report from the American Public Transportation Association; only 9.5 percent of riders made more than $100,000.
Terbush approaches this from the angle that more money is needed for public transportation. He notes the imbalance in subsidies for car infrastructure vs transit. While I largely agree, I think there's so much more we can do, and do effectively, by investing in bike and pedestrian infrastructure. It's just so much cheaper, less politically toxic and has immediate impacts. In so many cities across North America, there's barely a constituency for transit investments, and work needs to be done at an even more remedial level to build that up first.
More on this topic here.