The economic stimulus bill will go a long way in helping transit agencies ensure that they can continue buying buses and maintaining the safety of existing tracks and stations. But the bill doesn’t provide any money for operating expenses, and as a result, riders of public transportation almost everywhere can expect to see fare increases and service cuts over the coming months.
Transportation for America has done a good job compiling information about cuts being made by transit agencies in the United States, but their information doesn’t go far enough in expressing the dire situation in which most transit agencies find themselves today because of the economic crisis.
The chart below displays the financial deficits transit agencies will need to cover this year alone to handle decreasing state aid and tax revenue. We’re facing a major transit-funding meltdown.
|Los Angeles||Metro||$227 m||10%|
|New York||MTA||$1.2 b||9%|
|Pittsburgh||Port Authority||$17 m||5%|
|St. Louis||Metro||$46 m||21%|
|San Diego||MTS||$14 m||6%|
|San Francisco||Muni||$100 m||13%|
|Tacoma||Pierce Transit||$5 m||4%|
* Note: This is the percentage of the FY 2008 or 2009 operating budget represented by the deficit. Note that for some of these organizations (such as L.A.’s Metro), that operating budget includes money going to road projects; this information is simply a rough manner to compare the deficits of the different transit agencies.
There is an alternative, however – direct federal government intervention to prevent the massive decrease in funds for transit. Together, the governments of Canada and Ontario announced yesterday that they would be supporting GO Transit, which provides commuter rail and bus service in southern Ontario, to the tune of $500 million this year alone. About half of that money will go to service improvements (operating costs) and the other half to construction (capital costs). Though Toronto’s inner-city service provider, TTC, has yet to receive such an infusion of cash from the Canadian government, the city of Toronto recently added $91 million to the agency’s annual subsidy, so it won’t be seeing any fare hikes or service cuts.
With virtually every American city and state budget in utter crisis mode, it’s unlikely that we’ll see them making similar commitments.