Taking Responsibility — Locally

» A reliance on federal aid may not be a realistic approach in a budget-constrained future.

Like it or not, U.S. transit agencies are incredibly reliant on the federal government when it comes to funding their capital needs. In Chicago, for instance, over half of funds expected to pay for new capital investments over the next five years are supposed to be handed in from Washington. Every major city around the country relies on aid from D.C. for the purchase of new buses and trains, the maintenance of existing infrastructure, and the construction of new rights-of-way.

The current state of things in the nation’s capital, however, should put in question just how much local agencies can rely on federal funds to go about their business. Congressman John Mica’s proposal for a six-year transportation reauthorization bill — currently the only such legislation that has actual funds attached to it* — would cut annual

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Dallas, a Transit Builder if Not Pioneer, Moves Forward on Streetcar

Dallas Downtown Streetcar

» A 1.6-mile streetcar line would bring dubious benefits to this Texas city.

Not all transit expansion projects are created equal — let that be clear. Sure, expanding public transportation options in general usually contributes to the expanded mobility of urban residents. But governments, as we know all too well, have limited funds. So identifying the best possible investments for the money must be an essential part of political decision-making.

Which brings us to Dallas, which submitted plans this week for a 1.6-mile streetcar from the city’s downtown to the Oak Cliff neighborhood just southwest across the Trinity River. It could be the first rail line in the U.S. to feature streetcars that use battery propulsion instead of always having to rely on overhead catenary. The project was funded by a U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant in February 2010 and it will be

Continue reading Dallas, a Transit Builder if Not Pioneer, Moves Forward on Streetcar »

With Few Funds Available, What are Transit Agencies to Do?

» The manifest lack of support for an increase in funding for transportation at the federal level means public transportation providers will have to adapt to survive.

This month’s federal budget negotiations have been incredibly disheartening for those of us who believe wholeheartedly in the advantages of popular social welfare provision in the broader sense; the ease with which members of both of America’s two major political parties have dispensed with the goal of widening the provision of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid suggests that the sense that government can do much to reduce inequalities in our society has been pushed far enough aside as to be ignored in the meeting rooms of even a president representing the so-called left.

The timing of these discussions — premised on GOP skepticism of government spending and Democratic fears of advocating raising taxes — comes not coincidentally just a week after House Republicans revealed their

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Reorganizing the Bus System within the Network Hierarchy

Trolleybus Lyon

» Lyon’s bus network is enlivened thanks to reorganization and new branding.

The advantages offered by street-running bus operations, such as offering a variety of routes and the ability to alter them at will, can sometimes be a curse. Many individual routes may provide direct service to and from specific destinations, but if they are not able to attract enough riders, the resulting low frequency of service makes them ultimately difficult to use for both those dependent and those choosing to use transit.

The New York Timesstory last week on the cancellation of a bus route in Los Angeles raised a number of questions about the manner in which bus routes operate. The Times signaled out L.A. Metro for supposedly being willing to sacrifice the mobility needs of a heavily transit-dependent community, forcing riders onto indirect buses that require transfers. But Metro’s efforts — intended to concentrate users on its Continue reading Reorganizing the Bus System within the Network Hierarchy »

For Federal Transportation Investment, a Difficult Prognosis

» A new plan for the country’s transportation financing system from Congressman John Mica would cut spending significantly — but Democrats have yet to provide a serious counter-proposal.

With everyone from Mitch McConnell to Barack Obama arguing — no matter the evidence to the contrary — that the federal budget must be constrained in order to save the American economy, it is perhaps no surprise that the long-expressed hopes of a greatly expanded transportation bill have fallen to the wayside.

The revealing today of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica’s (R-FL) plan for a six-year, $230 billion reauthorization bill is the latest evidence that support in Congress for expanded investment in the U.S. transport network is weak. Though the bill is by no means final — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA)’s own two-year plan, slightly larger (and with $12 billion in missing revenues), was

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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