Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Good times, bad times for public transit

These are good and bad times for public transportation. More and more people are taking public transit, but budgets, which include revenue from sales taxes, are actually shrinking, according to the LA Times. On a personal note, I liked this article because it quotes a friend of mine:

"You're only postponing the day of reckoning in terms of generating more revenue for these programs," said Deron Lovaas, federal transportation policy director for the National Resources Defense Council.

Note to the LA Times: it's the NATURAL Resources Defense Council, not NATIONAL Resources Defense Council. It's an easy mistake, but come on, you're an allegedly world-class newspaper. I know Deron from living in DC back in the early '90's. I am also eternally in his debt because he once got me a free ticket to see the Rolling Stones, which was extraordinarily cool.

OTOH, TPM reports that there is good news for public transportation in the stimulus package. One of the drivers of this in the House is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). I always note his success because he used to be my representative. He's a good guy.

I expect public transportation to do well under Obama. It's one of those things that Republicans love to attack, because they like to pretend that it benefits urban populations, i.e. people who don't vote Republican, while it doesn't do much for voters in rural areas. Of course, more and more people are living in urban areas, so it's not a great argument in terms of future demographics.

One reason I expect public transportation to do well under Obama is that there are lots of state and local governments who have been pushing for more investment and innovation in public transporation for a long time, and I think a fair amount of that is going to start paying off in the next four to eight year. Two light rail lines are set to open in LA in the next two years.

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