The Partisan Transit Divide
"Democrats generally want more investment," writes Kellie Mejdrich of Roll Call. "Some Republicans question whether the federal government should even be involved."
Step into a city council chamber, however, and you’ll hear something different. Growing interest in public transit, especially among young people, has local officials clamoring for the federal government to fund transportation.
“America needs something new,” Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker (Democat) told fellow mayors and other city officials in Washington, D.C., at the National League of Cities’ annual summit earlier this spring. [Note "livability agenda" on Becker's homepage]. “We certainly have been, in the last half century, a country whose surface transportation has evolved around the vehicle. ... This vision has run its course.”
Mejdrich writes about the popularity of Salt Lake City's 45-mile light rail system, TRAX and the two-and-a-half mile Sugar House Streetcar. "To ignore these changes, and not adapt to them and not invest intelligently with federal transportation dollars, to me, is a real misplacement of taxpayer dollars," Becker said.
The feds are not listening—the lawmakers, that is.
Therese W. McMillan, acting director of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), points to an $86 billion transit maintenance backlog for "she said would grow by $2.5 billion a year if it’s not addressed," writes Mejdrich.
For fiscal 2015, about 15 percent of what’s spent from the fund will go to transit and 85 percent to highways, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, maintaining the 15 percent level for transit may be a battle in itself as Congress struggles to fund either the next patch bill or a six-year authorization bill by July 31 when the current funding extension ends.
Hat tip: Tanya Snyder, StreetsblogUSA