Since the last time Congress took up a major transportation funding bill in 1998, public transit ridership has increased 21 percent. New transit lines are greatly exceeding projected ridership in Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City and elsewhere. New Starts, the federal program that helps promising transit projects get off the ground, has a record backlog of more than 200 projects, reflecting the fact that more and more communities are embracing, and clamoring for, public transportation.
The recent surge underscores an important realization that is taking hold in communities across the country: that public transit fuels economic growth and jobs, and it does so without the smog and other drawbacks of building single mode transportation systems that just put more cars on the road.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration seems to be ignoring what appears obvious to residents of places like Milwaukee, Portland, and Cincinnati, all cities with new transit projects waiting in the wings. Last year, the Bush administration proposed, as part of its six-year transportation plan, a radical change to the ratio for federal matching transit funds.
Currently, the federal/state funding match for all new transportation projects is 80:20, however, the Bush administration would like to dramatically increase the state share to 50 percent for all new transit projects. In doing so, this administration would put hundreds of transit projects across the country in jeopardy, and with them, the jobs and economic gains those projects bring locally.
This report seeks to highlight the economic and workforce benefits of public transportation and identify key projects that could suffer as a result of the Bush administration's attempt to put disincentives on transit projects.
Across the United States, commuters and travelers seek greater transportation choices. Missing the Train shows that the nation can craft a transportation blueprint that creates more vibrant communities, a better environment, and a higher quality of life, while improving job opportunities and economic growth.
Instead of believing that economic prosperity must come at the expense of the environment, and that the preferred road to recovery only involves endless construction of more highways, the Sierra Club believes there is a better way. With leadership from the Bush administration and a serious commitment to public transportation, this nation could make a strong step toward a more environmentally sustainable economic recovery.
Top right: Photo licensed to Sierra Club; all rights reserved.
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Top left: Photo courtesy www.lightrail.com; used with permission.