Public Transit’s Existential Crisis

U.S. transit systems are still scrambling to find alternate funding sources and adjust their service to new needs as ridership remains below pre-pandemic levels.

2 minute read

March 1, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

“How can you fill a revenue gap when the riders haven’t come back?” As Jared Brey writes in Governing, this is becoming an increasingly urgent question for transit agencies around the country. 

For San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the answer may be putting a measure on the ballot asking voters to fund transit more heavily.“BART’s budget is balanced for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, but next year, it’s facing a $140 million deficit,” Brey explains. “Every year after that the system is looking at a deficit of around $300 million.” And while the agency has requested funding from the state, so far, they’ve only seen cuts in Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget.

On the other side of the country, “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York is considering raising subway fares above $3 as part of a suite of measures to plug an estimated $2 billion yearly revenue gap once federal funding runs out. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is facing gaps of between $286 million and $542 million in fiscal years 2026-2028 and is leaning more on state and local subsidies than it used to; MBTA’s fare recovery ratio dropped from 43 percent before the pandemic to less than 25 percent in the current budget, according to Lisa Battiston, an agency spokesperson.”

Reducing service may seem like an attractive option for cash-strapped agencies, but could in fact be “a feedback loop that makes everyone worse off,” according to Garett Shrode, a policy analyst at the Eno Center for Transportation. “Cutting service to save money would harm those riders and wouldn’t do much for most agencies’ budgets in the long run,” Shrode says. For many transit agencies, the path forward remains unclear.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 in Governing

Aerial view of homes on beach in Maui, Hawaii

Hawaii Passes First Legislation Regulating Short-Term Rentals Statewide

The new law will give counties the power to limit number or short-term rentals and convert existing short-term rental units back into long-term residential housing.

May 13, 2024 - USA Today

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Rail tracks on the left, rustic log-built train station painted reddish brown with a green metal roof and concrete platform on the right, evergreen forest and bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds in the background.

More Passenger Rail Coming to Montana

Planning is underway to restore a 45-year-defunct regional passenger rail line connecting southern Montana to Billings and Amtrak’s east-west Empire Builder line from Seattle to Chicago.

May 14, 2024 - 8KPAX

Apartment For Rent Sign

HUD Proposal Would Soften ‘One-Strike’ Policy

Formerly incarcerated people are often barred from publicly subsidized housing, putting them at higher risk for homelessness and recidivism.

May 20 - Truthout

Water flowing through Glendale Narrows section of Los Angeles River in Glendale, California with a concrete bridge, power lines, and hills in background.

Los Angeles County Making Progress in Stormwater Capture

During this “super year” of storms, L.A. County has successfully captured 96 billion gallons of stormwater which is enough to meet the needs of about 2.4 million people a year.

May 20 - Los Angeles Times

Aerial Texas Hill Country at sunset, with an aerial view of a highway interchange and Interstate 35 in Austin, Texas.

The True Cost of Texas Highways

An explainer of the monetary, environmental, and social costs of exuberant road building.

May 20 - KERA News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.