Currently, when the federal government approves any new transportation project, whether it's a road or transit project, it is supposed to pay for 80 percent of the cost and the state or local community pays 20 percent. The Bush administration has proposed to maintain this 80:20 ratio for roads, while dramatically changing it to 50:50 for transit projects.
This means that communities who want transit would have to come up with 50 percent of the cost - a significant increase. This would help to cripple efforts of states and localities to invest in more efficient, cleaner, and more desirable public transportation. The Bush administration proposal creates an obvious disincentive for states and localities to develop any transportation mode other than driving.
What's more, the overall highway to transit spending ratio remains stagnant in the Bush administration proposal. Under the transportation bill passed in 1991, this transportation funding ratio was 5:1 (roads to transit) which was improved to a 4:1 ratio over the course of the transportation bill that was passed in 1998.
With the growing popularity of public transportation, transportation spending should be more balanced. There are hundreds of communities across the country waiting in a decades-long line for public transit funding. Current, inadequate funding levels will mean only a small fraction will be able to invest in multimodal transportation systems. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has ignored the demand.
Inadequate funding for public transportation has resulted in a limited pool of dollars for new transit projects and places more financial burden on localities. Of the 200 new transit projects listed in the Federal Transit Administration's 2004 Annual Report on New Starts, only a handful will receive full funding for construction and the majority of the rest of the list will be jeopardized by the Bush administration's unbalanced transportation proposal. These are projects that would increase redevelopment and commerce around transit stations, provide job opportunities, and help to ease commutes in dozens of communities across the nation.
Photos licensed to Sierra Club; all rights reserved.
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