Why Is Mass Transit Getting Shafted By The Stimulus Bill?

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When the final massive check is cut for the stimulus, it looks like public transit is going to be screwed. There are few if any provisions to take care of existing services.

This is idiotic. If the stimulus is supposed to create jobs and–when possible–help the environment why not pour funding into the financially destroyed public transit already in existence? New York City, for example, is firing 1,500 transit workers and limiting subway service.

The people that are getting cut are the people at the bottom of the economic stratosphere and are thus more likely to struggle during the recession.

David Leonhardt at the Economix tries to figure out why this happened. His answer: “The main reason seems to be a fear that giving federal funds to transit agencies will make them fat, happy and inefficient.”

A well grounded fear. As former residents of Philadelphia, the Green Sheet has seen public transit ineptitude up close in the form of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA.) However, is it possible that this is just a chicken and egg dilemma?

Few people ride SEPTA because its services are limited and unreliable. It makes no money because of this. Therefore it can’t improve its services. If it was handed government cash, maybe it could improve its services and then more people would ride it.

However, the organisation probably would squander the government cash. So it makes sense that they’re not going to be handed a big check. Still, it makes less sense for the government to fix the pot holes in Philadelphia to encourage driving rather than improve the train and bus systems to encourage alternatives to driving.

(image via SEPTA Watch)

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