Our Government: By the Wealthy, For the Wealthy

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» Congress’ willingness to address the sequester, but only for the Federal Aviation Administration, is a disgusting sort of bipartisan agreement.

The sequester, which went into effect at the beginning of last month, cut more than $85 billion from the federal budget for this year alone. Its cuts, whose impacts will continued to be felt through 2021, were disproportionately focused on domestic programs. Public transportation, for instance, was dramatically affected: Almost $600 million was cut from funding directed towards mitigating the effects of Hurricane Sandy; another $104 million was cut from capital investment grants that fund new train and bus lines; Amtrak lost $80 million.

Other cuts, such as those to the nation’s affordable housing, Head Start, schools, and meals for seniors, are even more devastating for the nation’s least well-off.

Congress, however, has been incapable of addressing the issue, allowing the cuts to these essential programs to reinforce America’s growing

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A Renewed Look at Federal Funding for Transit Operations

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» With a budget stalemate in Congress, the future for transit funding may increasingly be in the hands of state and local governments. But that could magnify seriously inequitable outcomes, an analysis of data from 65 cities shows.

The federal transportation program is at a crossroads. Congress is apparently incapable of advancing new or expanded funding for roads and transit, and has even passed legislation cutting back on previously approved appropriations.

The stalemate has left academics and commentators grasping about for a solution. Some, as Eric Jaffe profiled in an article this week, suggest that a decline in Washington’s role in funding transportation infrastructure may lead to better decisions by states and localities about how to invest; too many projects, they argue, are poorly designed or executed, in part because of federal sway. In theory, states and cities will raise the funds for their transportation spending themselves and make better decisions

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A Chance for Faster Commute Times in the Bronx

Co-op City Station

» New stations in the Bronx could significantly speed up travel times for people who spend too long getting to work every day. But there must be reasonable service frequencies offered at a reasonable price.

The Metro-North commuter railroad offers convenient service from Grand Central Terminal to Connecticut and Upstate New York. Though all of its trains run through the Bronx, the population there rarely uses its services, because they are simply not designed for transit-reliant city dwellers. They stick to the bus and the subway, despite those modes being slower.

The opening of the East Side Access project at the end of this decade will direct certain Long Island Railroad trains to a new station under Grand Central, opening up capacity at Penn Station for Metro-North trains. This service change offers many opportunities for dramatically improving the commutes of thousands of people in the Bronx — if it is

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The Economic Crisis Rolls on in Cities like Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Busway and Light Rail

» The U.S. economy may be improving in some ways, but transit services across the country continue to reel, thanks to lower-than-expected tax revenues.

The board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, serving the Pittsburgh metropolitan region, announced last week that it would have to cut services by 35% by September 2 — the largest cut ever for the agency — if it is not provided an increase in state aid. The agency expects that it will have to increase fares and lay off 500 workers. This comes a year month after the agency reduced services by 15%.

The service cuts planned would be, suffice it to say, devastating. As the maps below illustrate, the Port Authority’s austerity plans would eliminate almost half of the region’s routes. This is in a city where, according to the U.S. Census, more than 25% of households have no vehicle available and

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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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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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