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New York Times: Transit on West Coast Surging Ahead of East Coast

East Coast transit systems used to be the envy of other cities, but now the West Coast is taking big steps to expand their networks.
January 7, 2019, 11am PST | Camille Fink
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Los Angeles and Seattle are pumping money into transit, while New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., are struggling with deferred maintenance on aging systems, reports Emma G. Fitzsimmons.

Ridership is also down on the East Coast, and New York is dealing with delays, shutdowns, and much-needed repairs instead of building new stations and lines. Los Angeles, on the other hand, plans to add 100 miles of rail, and Seattle is also expanding its transit system as ridership increases and car use decreases.

West Coast cities do not have established systems like the East Coast and so they have plenty of room to grow. Still, political will for transit has played out much differently in cities on each of the coasts, notes Fitzsimmons:

One key difference is the West Coast has the ballot measure, while New York State does not allow voters to directly approve measures like transit funding. In 2016, both Los Angeles County and the Seattle region approved measures to boost transportation funding. The Los Angeles proposal, known as Measure M, won nearly 70 percent of the vote, greenlighting $120 billion in spending by raising the sales tax.

In addition, the New York subway is governed at the state level, while the mayor in Los Angeles has a much more involved role in transit planning and budgeting. As a result, policymakers are much more hands off in New York and transit is less of a priority. "Instead, the subway’s leader, Andy Byford, is pleading with state leaders to approve new revenue sources when they return to Albany in January," reports Fitzsimmons.

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Published on Tuesday, January 1, 2019 in The New York Times
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