Public transportation is being cut just when it’s used—and needed—most
Last year, Americans took more than 10.7 billion trips on transit, the highest level in over fifty years. Public transportation use has increased 38 percent since 1995 — nearly triple the growth rate of the population.
Yet only 17.7% of federal transportation funding dollars go to public transportation, as opposed to highways, and those funds are largely restricted to capital expenses (buying new buses), not operating expenses (paying bus drivers). At the same time California’s public transit agencies are working to serve their increasing ridership, they face shortfalls in state and local revenues brought on by the recession and the contentious state budget.
Due to these factors, transit agencies nationwide are being forced to cut service, raise fares, and lay off workers. The Bay Area is not alone. See the national map of service cuts at: t4america.org/resources/transitfundingcrisis/
The solution: More money for transit, with increased flexibility for operations
1. Increase public transportation funding in the next federal transportation bill
- According to a national poll, four in five Americans - 82% - believe that the United States would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system. We won’t be able to meet this need if we continue to allocate the lion’s share of federal transportation funds to highway expansion. Transit access make a difference to our economy, environment, and quality of life:
- Transit creates more jobs than highway spending. The 2009 ARRA Stimulus Act saw twice as many jobs result from a dollar spent on transit as compared to highways.
- Transit helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean the air. Nearly 40% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Transit enables people to get out of their cars and lower tailpipe emissions and pollution.
- Transit saves families money. If everyone had access to transit, the average household in California would save over $5,000 annually on transportation expenses – a huge windfall, particularly in this down economy.
2. Increase flexibility for transit funding to be spent on operations
- Under current law, transit systems in areas above 200,000 in population cannot use their federal transit funds for operating assistance, putting a huge strain on their ability to maintain service. Increasing flexibility would create more jobs, faster, greener and with broader benefits:
- Operational spending gets people to jobs.
- Operational spending creates more jobs than capital. The vast majority of operational spending goes into payroll.
- Operational spending benefits a cross-section of America. Economic models, like that run by the Economic Policy Institute, show operations especially benefits those hardest hit by the recession. These investments would also create more jobs per dollar for African-Americans and Hispanics relative to their employment levels in the overall economy.