The Feds Need to Stop Financing New Light Rail and Start Fixing Existing Subways

Crowded subway platform, via Flickr/Angela Rutherford, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of the dumber things we’ve been doing as a country is building a bunch of new roads, many of them dubious, when too many of our old ones are falling apart.

But we’re doing the same thing for transit too.

Safety and reliability problems sent DC Metro ridership plunging 14% last year. (Somebody I talked to earlier today told me his stop had smoke in it just this morning). Boston’s T collapsed in a snow storm a couple of years ago, and the American Prospect says it could be in worse shape than DC. New York’s subways are getting more and more unreliable.

Yet transit advocates still want to keep building new dubious light rail lines around the country instead of fixing the system’s we’ve got.

That’s the subject of a short new Manhattan Report I put out today, “Does America Need More Urban Trail Transit?

Transit advocates should use Trump’s call to eliminate New Starts as an opportunity to rethink capital funding, shifting away from new and highly dubious light rail lines towards fixing up the nation’s most critical subway systems that are in terrible shape.

While complete elimination of these capital grants is not necessary, significant reform is warranted. Other than a handful of critical projects, such as future phases of New York’s Second Avenue subway, the federal government should stop financing rail-transit expansion projects. Instead, it should reroute all capital funds for rail transit toward critical repairs of major legacy-rail systems.
This might be politically difficult to pull off and is certainly unpopular with transit advocates.  But the latter should be willing to rethink a system that routes 80% to roads and too much of the latter 20% into questionable projects while the nation’s most critical transit systems turn into a (sometimes literal) smoking hole in the ground.

from Aaron M. Renn


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