Staff report on impacts of U.S. House transportation bill proposal

I wanted to point readers to a Metro staff report from earlier this month that looks at the six-year federal transportation spending bill being floated by Republicans in the House of Representatives.

And it doesn’t paint a very pretty picture of what the bill would do to Metro: big-time spending cuts. If Metro were to lose 30 percent of its federal funding for the next six years, here are the $1.44 billion in cuts it would have to make to its capital spending:

•Cut $240 million in operating funds.
•Cut $260 million in bus purchases.
•Cut $70 million in rail vehicle purchases.
•Cut $70 million in paratransit vehicle purchases.
*Cut $400 million in rail system repairs.
•Cut $400 million in highway improvement projects.

It’s a tough issue because the bill, as proposed by Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) does include some provisions needed for America Fast Forward — the changes in law Metro is seeking to accelerate the building of Measure R transit projects.

It’s also worth noting that the bill has an uphill battle. Republicans may control the House, but Senates are in the majority in the Senate and a Democrat is occupying the White House and there’s this little election thing next year. The cuts shown above wouldn’t just hit Metro hard, they would also impact spending plans by many other big transit agencies in urban areas, where voters often lean toward Democrats.

9 replies

  1. @GaryB

    The way things are going in Washington we have no choice but to get rid of art. Art needs to be maintained and those come from public funding. We don’t have that luxury of “free money” anymore.

    Plus, it’s not like people are going to pay $10 just to see art in a train station either, nor are people going to go for local tax hikes just to maintain art in Metro stations.

  2. @Y Fukuzawa:

    Please stop complaining about Metro spending money on public art. That’s required on ALL large projects in the city. It’s the law.

    If you want your Metro station to be empty of public art, try calling your representatives and ask them to either eliminate the public art requirement or exempt Metro. Good luck. The vast majority of people enjoy the public art, so you’ll need it.

  3. The austerity climate in Washington is really tragic. It’s going to be terrible for the economy. And, as usual, it will be the most vulnerable people in society who bear the brunt of the cutbacks.

    The feds should do more stimulus to get the unemployment rate down, then work on balancing the budget when the economy is in a position to handle the shock.

    Write your members of Congress!

  4. @Redebbm

    Socialism does not work. You said “I’d rather we get some more revenues so we can see Metro run efficiently.” That’s called capitalism.

    It doesn’t take much to look at public transit agencies in East Asia on why cities like Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo have a much better public transit system than any public transit agency in the United States. Why? Because their public transit agencies are run like a business.

    They don’t run on a flat rate system, they run on a more rational distance base model because from a business perspective it makes much more sense to charge riders a fair fare based on distance to make up for keeping public transit running in a big bustling metropolis like Taipei, Seoul, and Tokyo. The same should be applied to LA; the city is just too big to be run on a single flat rate fare.

    They also are run with constant revenue stream in mind by renting out spaces to retailers and merchants instead of spending on wasteful things like art which don’t bring any penny of revenue. Why have all these empty spaces at the train station when you can add a vending machine?

    Spending thousands of dollars in art that just costs money to maintain. In contrast, corporate ad space brings in constant revenue instead. Why do you think airport terminals have corporate ad space all over? Because it helps pay to keep the airport running.

    The only revenue that Metro has is mainly subsidies from hard-earned taxpayer dollars. It’s time to look elsewhere than just solely relying on public funds. You want real revenue stream, it needs to start acting like a business.

    They can first start with fixing TAP. Whomever implemented this half-baked system should be fired and replaced with people that implemented Boston CharlieCard, London Oyster, or the JR Suica. In the real business world, that’s what happens; no results = immediate fire and replaced with better qualified candidates.

  5. There is an economic rationale for subsidizing transit service to some extent. There is an economic rationale for taxing driving to some extent. The local bus should never be expected to pay for itself, though I would like to see farebox recovery raised.

    The federal budget is just another transit crisis waiting to happen. This infrastructure is a public good. I don’t know why our leaders cannot understand what the Romans did.

  6. @Y Fukuzawa & Sonlita We shouldn’t apply the standards of businesses to a public agency. No business does what Metro does. Asking Metro to turn into a business is simply not a rational thing. What we need to do is make is run efficiently as possible without subjecting it to the standards that everything must be run like a private business. I’d rather we get some more revenues so we can see Metro run efficiently. Metro will only continue to cut more service and employees if their are cuts simply because “thats what business do.”
    Certainly the DMV could be just as efficient as McDonalds if it had the same daily operating budget, but it doesn’t so we can’t hold it to that same standard.

  7. Nothing wrong with running a business like a business, bringing in revenue and such.

  8. This is why I’ve been advocating a more common sense and rationale approach to public transit; “free” money from the federal government is not going to last forever in the polarized politics we have in the US today.

    We need to start looking at alternative sources to fund public transit. This includes stopping the flat rate system and moving towards a distance based model that makes up for running public transit in a city as large as LA.

    This includes stop wasting taxpater money on “art” that don’t bring a single cent into revenue and instead installing vending machines, corporate ads, and making train stations as a multi-use property to be rented out for retailers and merchants.

    Metro needs to get its act together to start becoming like a business instead of a wasteful government bureaucracy. In the real business world, anyone who has implemented a half-baked system like TAP would’ve been fired ages ago.