While all areas of infrastructure are important to address, with its “D-” grade—the lowest in the Report Card—transit would benefit from a little extra attention. For proof, look no further than two of our nation’s most prominent cities’ subway systems.
Reliable transit systems are critical for thriving cities. Yet the subway systems in our nation’s capital and New York City are paying the price for years of neglected maintenance. And riders are bearing the consequences. As an article in Crain’s New York Business, the state backed away from its commitment to fund mass transit more than two decades ago, and now after a generation off, riders are paying the price. And now, because the MTA operates 24/7, the only way to modernize the system would be to close the subway lines for weeks at a time to install the proper technology. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been frank about the inconvenience, as he titled the massive summer repair project the “summer of hell” for the disruptions it will cause riders. The inconvenience is one riders are already feeling. A survey of 1,200 commuters reveals the extent to which these repairs are disrupting their job performance and family obligations, causing a ripple effect on the whole economy. Reliability is a huge factor when deciding which transportation mode to take. Making these upgrades all the more necessary.
In addition to New York, the D.C. metro continues to move forward with much-needed repairs. According to an article in The Washington Post, WMATA is looking for ways to increase revenue, including by selling the naming rights to some stations to generate more funding for maintenance. While selling naming rights to some metro stations has received some negative feedback, it may limit the need to ask for additional subsidies from the District, Maryland and Virginia.
Meanwhile, the House Appropriation subcommittee on transportation approved legislation that would cut funding for the DOT by half a billion dollars. The spending measure would eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, which has been an effective funding mechanism for transportation projects of all modes, including transit.
Whether it’s a major transit system or the rural bus service, our transportation network needs increased investment.