Transit Ridership Is Up, But So Are Costs

<p>More and more people are riding public transit systems, which many officials see as a good sign. But the added strains to the systems are placing many in tight financial situations.</p>
April 9, 2008, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"With gas at $4 per gallon and highway congestion soaring, ridership on the nation's subways and buses has jumped dramatically. Between 1995 and 2006, use of public transportation increased by 30 percent, a rate far outstripping both population growth and increased highway usage. Last year, that meant Americans took some 10.3 billion trips on mass transit. And therein lies the problem. 'There's a transportation finance crisis writ large across the country,' says Robert Puentes, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's metropolitan policy program."

"Because mass transit systems are so expensive to operate, they rely heavily on subsidies from federal, state, and local coffers. But the flow of money has not kept pace with the ridership growth. And when demand is coupled with capital costs or deferred maintenance and bonds coming due, many transit systems now find themselves in a financial bind that promises to only get worse."

"In the red. The transit agency in Boston, for instance, is now some $5 billion in the red. The New York Transit Authority will face an estimated $700 million deficit this year, which is projected to jump to a $1.1 billion shortfall in 2009 and a $2.07 billion gap by 2011."

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Published on Thursday, March 27, 2008 in U.S. News & World Report
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