, 13 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
I understand the logic behind “get the federal government out of transit” but simply ending federal transit funding — without any other changes — would make US transit worse.
Yes, there have been some bad projects built from New Starts/Small Starts/Core Capacity funding, but there have been many good ones as well — Seattle, the Twin Cities, Chicago modernization, etc.
FTA funds also pay for a lot of smaller projects like new buses, transit centers, and bus operating facilities across the country, in big cities and small ones.
Would these have happened without federal funds? Maybe. But many metro areas are in states where statewide politics won’t support transit funding even if there’s local support. And no city or metro area can increase local transit funding without a state legislature enabling it.
Even in states where statewide politicians are supportive in principle. they won’t necessarily follow through with money. Just look the the NYC subway crisis for a good example.
New York is also a good case study to prove that local funding will not necessarily result in smarter or more cost-effective projects. The FTA would be asking much harder questions about the backwards Airtrain than anyone in power in New York is.
And in many places federal funding is not about new projects — it’s about basics like replacing worm out buses and even operating routes. When those buses don’t get replaced service has to be cut.
So cutting federal transit funding means less transit = fewer people having the option of using transit = lower ridership.
…and if you want to argue about whether federal transit funding is constitutional, consider that federally funded highways carry overwhelmingly local traffic — the same kinds of trips that transit serves — and are designed and optimized for that traffic.
Is transit part of a network of interstate commerce? Definitely. When I travel from Houston to New York, I use a bus, a plane, and a train.
And if you want to be pedantic on that point, would end up arguing that PATH and Metro North are eligible for federal funding while the NY Subway and LIRR aren’t, which makes very little sense.
We can have a discussion about how all transportation should be funded differently. The US had such a debate in the 1950s, and the conclusion was that the feds should fund local transportation.
But don’t pretend that just pulling the feds out of transit -- esp. without changing highway funding — will make transit better. It will make transit worse. Reforming federal funding, though, could make transit better.
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