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Transit advocates bemoan stimulus breakdown

by Benjamin Kabak

The Democrats have released a breakdown of the proposed transportation stimulus bill, and transit advocates are not happy. The bill would send $30 billion to road expansion and maintenance problems while just $10 billion would be earmarked for public transit and rail plans. Streetsblog has a breakdown of the bill and round-up of the reaction. Historically, transit investment has been on the smaller end of an 80-20 split. While 75-25 is a step in the right direction, this is no victory for transit agencies or public transportation advocates.

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Gary January 16, 2009 - 11:47 am

I’m going to do a post on this myself . . . my initial response was shock at the small portion for transit (only $10 billion) not just in relation to the highway spending but in terms of the overall stimulus package. A drop in the bucket.

However, the real transit money will come in the new SAFETEA-LU bill which will be renewed this year . . . that’s where our emphasis needs to be. It’s also the more logical place for transit funding, as the stimulus bill is limited by it’s nature – they’re looking for shovel-ready projects. So the stimuklus bill is not where we should expect to see any big-ticket spending.

But we do need to keep the pressure on the administration and our NY delegation. It should be helpful that our new congressman from the 13th, Mike McMahon, was appointed to the Transportation Committee. And Nydia Velazquez has always been good at securing funding for projects in her district; she is another person to focus on.

herenthere January 16, 2009 - 5:48 pm

Although I am disappointed by this ratio, politicians have no choice but to encourage job creation, and I think funding road infrastructures provide a lot more jobs (although most of the jobs are short term) than mass transit construction.

Alon Levy January 17, 2009 - 3:14 pm

It’s the other way around. Rail infrastructure provides more jobs in the short term, because rail has far higher startup costs. A six-lane highway averages about $30 million per kilometer. A two-track subway has five to six times the capacity, but costs at a minimum $300-500 million per kilometer; SAS is projected to cost $1.3 billion per kilometer.

The advantage of subways is that they have far fewer negative externalities like air pollution and neighborhood splitting, and have lower operating costs once you factor in the cost of owning a car. That means that they save money in the long run, mainly by destroying auto and oil jobs, by spending a lot in the short and medium run.


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