Local Funding for Public Transportation Operations: Producing Inequitable Results?

MSA Income vs Transit Funding Rate

» Less wealthy regions may be more likely to spend less on transit, leaving the poor there with higher transportation expenses.

One of the unique features of the American transit funding system is that the federal government chips in significant sums each year for capital expenses, such as for the purchase of new buses or the construction of new rail lines, but the law forbids significant involvement in subsidizing operating expenses. This means that local and state governments must find the means to pay for service day-in and day-out.

This could offer the benefit of a considerable range of local political decision-making: Some cities may choose to prioritize transit, while others don’t — people can choose to move between cities based on whether or not they want to take advantage of such transportation offerings. Yet the provision of transit for impoverished people is a redistributive service, and there is considerable theoretical support for

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In a Failure of Municipal Ambition, Plans for Detroit Light Rail Shut Down as Focus Shifts to BRT

Detroit Regional Transit Plans Update

» More people will be served by the bus lines than would have been affected by rail, but new plans are predicated on a regional accord on funding improved regional service.

In early 2010, the U.S. DOT announced that it would award a $25 million TIGER grant to Detroit to begin construction on a new light rail line along that city’s central spine. For two years, hope spread through America’s most notorious shrinking city: This project, perhaps, would provide the boost to resurrect the Motor City.

Last week, just as the latest TIGER grants were being unveiled for other cities, local leaders announced they would reneg on that promise due to a fear that operations costs would be impossible to cover. A less aesthetically pleasing — but far more extensive and regionally funded — BRT program would be inserted in its place.

This situation speaks two realities: First, Detroit continues

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Facing Funding Shortfalls and Protest, Better Rail for Boston Region is Delayed

Existing and Proposed Transit in Cambridge and Somerville

» Opportunities for rerouting commuter rail via the Grand Junction in Cambridge are criticized by community members who fear increases in pollution. Meanwhile, the long-planned Green Line extension in Somerville is threatened by budget limitations.

Just northwest of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville are some of the nation’s exemplar cities when it comes to promoting transportation alternatives. In Somerville, 48% of the population rides transit, walks, or bikes to work; in Cambridge, 57% do. The explanation likely comes down to a strong commitment to livable streets in both cities, a large student population, high residential densities, community activism against limited-access highways, and big concentrations of jobs both in the traditional office center of Downtown Boston but also in the walkable Kendall Square-MIT and Harvard Square areas, both along the Red Line rapid transit corridor.

Yet, with the exception of the Red Line — extended north of Harvard Square in

Continue reading Facing Funding Shortfalls and Protest, Better Rail for Boston Region is Delayed »

Innovative Financing Points the Way Ahead for a Rail Project in Charlotte

RLRR Corridor Map

» In addition to transit-oriented development, Charlotte’s planners envision a system that appeals to freight users.

In the case of Charlotte, necessity may be the mother of invention.

Lacking sufficient revenues to construct the planned Red Line commuter railroad designed to connect Center City Charlotte with its northern suburbs, planners working for local transit agency CATS have developed a unique vision for its financing.

The $452 million upgrade of the existing Norfolk Southern O Line would allow a significant expansion of capacity not only for passenger trains, but also for freight trains running on the same tracks. In doing so, this agency’s planners are suggesting that the sometimes rivalry between the two types of transportation should really be approached hand-in-hand, especially for a project whose primary right-of-way extends far beyond dense urban neighborhoods that characterize the zones around most successful transit links. Perhaps for the first time so directly, transit-oriented development is proposed to

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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