Is A Mass Transit Bailout the Right Move?

National Journal asks its panel of transportation experts whether mass transit agencies really deserve $2 billion in emergency operating aid.

Eight democratic senators have introduced legislation that would offer $2 billion in federal funding to transit agencies to help them close gaps in their operating budgets. More than 84% of all transit agencies in the U.S. have been forced to at least consider cutting services or raising fares, and many of them already have.

"By law, mass transportation can only use its share of revenues from the Highway Trust Fund, which provides most federal funding for transit programs, to pay for capital expenses.

Some public transportation advocates want Congress to go a step further and allow transit agencies to use their federal dollars to meet their day-to-day operating costs as well. Others fear that doing so would reduce needed capital investment and could reduce state and local government contributions to transit budgets as a result."

Full Story: Should Mass Transit Get $2 Billion In Emergency Operating Aid?



No, it needs the money to maintain its coverage services

"Really deserve"? Talk about bad framing.

Reductions in Mass Transit Support Would be Disaster

Nobody pretends that all mass transit is equal, in terms of need, type of service, and how well it is run.

But the bottom line is that without the mass transit systems that exist, our nation would be in deep trouble. Reductions in service like we're seeing in the Chicago area are disastrous for those who work nights and odd-hour shifts. I don't pretend that the CTA is run well; nor that the suburban PACE system isn't a bloated bureaucracy with excessively large buses -- and therefore wasteful -- for the ridership PACE serves. We need substantial reform in how our transit systems are fun and financed.

And as Norm Krumholz has often said, mass transit should be viewed as a public utility. Without out, our roads would be even more clogged than they are and unemployment would surge as workers without cars could no longer get to their jobs. We need to accept that mass transit cannot turn a profit, it needs to be run more efficiently, and it needs ongoing public subsidies. The adverse impacts of failing to fund mass transit adequately are too disastrous to imagine.

Daniel Lauber, AICP
AICP President 2003-2005, 1992-1994
APA President 1985-1986

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