Katharine Mieszkowski tells the sordid story: in the U.S., ridership for public transit is up, demand is up, but funding is going down and transit systems are decaying. The Washington Post says "[D.C.] Metro and 30 other transit agencies across the country may have to pay billions of dollars to large banks as years-old financing deals unravel, potentially hurting service for millions of bus and train riders." Not good.


Reconnecting America recently released new report: "Jumpstarting the Transit Space Race: How the New Administration Could Make America Energy-Independent, Create Jobs and Keep the Economy Strong."

Is shows that demand for transit is high and rising:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The number of transit projects that have been authorized to begin the federal funding process increased from 220 in 1998 to 331 in 2004. At least 64 new projects have been proposed in the four years since, with regions from Cleveland to Tampa to Baltimore proposing construction of entire rail and bus rapid transit systems consisting of several lines. So many projects have been proposed that the total investment required would be at least $248 billion — roughly the same amount allocated for both highways and transit in the last federal transportation reauthorization, a six-year funding bill named SAFETEA- LU. Billions more are needed to modernize existing transit lines in cities with older systems — including New York; Chicago; Boston; Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

The conclusion:

The next president and Congress could enact a public works project similar to the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 in order to build the transit projects lined up and waiting in the federal funding queue. A public works project of this magnitude would help make this country energy independent and more financially secure and create jobs. At the same time it would help Americans avoid high gas prices and find places to live where commutes are shorter and less expensive. Given today’s economic crisis, these investments are warranted.

A massive public works program that would put people to work, stimulate a range of industries, reduce transportation costs, and reduce greenhouse gases. At a moment of economic recession when we direly need stimulus spending. At a moment of energy insecurity when we direly need to reduce oil use. At a moment of impending climate crisis when we direly need to reduce emissions.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Why, it’s almost a no-brainer.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.