Federal budget bills could badly impact transpo funding

It doesn’t take a genius to realize the haggling — a nice term — in Congress over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and huge federal budget cuts probably doesn’t bode well for many programs, such as transportation. That’s a bad thing, because transit agencies across the U.S. — including Metro — depend deeply on federal dollars for an array of needs.

Here’s the latest update from the ongoing brouha in Washington from Metro’s government relations staff:

Debt-Ceiling Negotiations In Washington, DC May Impact Future Federal Transportation Funds

Bills introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to address the debt-ceiling facing the U.S. Treasury would not create separate discretionary categories for either federal highways and transit programs. The practical effect of this is that both highway and transit programs would have to struggle for discretionary budget authority under the overall caps established by both the Boehner and Reid bills.  The exact effect of eliminating the separate discretionary categories [which were enacted in 1998 by the U.S. Congress] for highways and transit is unclear, though it is fair to assume that the end result will be less robust federal transportation programs. Both bills would cap new budget discretionary spending through 2021.  We will continue to closely be engaged in discussions with Members of Congress to aggressively advocate for a strong federal commitment to both its highway and transit programs.

9 replies

  1. @Greg

    Increasing gas tax doesn’t always work 100% to get people off of cars. Just look around LA and you see what some people are doing instead: they get a M1/M2 endorsement and start driving motorcycles. It doesn’t take much to notice that there are more motorcyclists and scooter riders these days.

    Increasing gas tax doesn’t mean a black-and-white approach of “oh it’s so expensive to drive, I’m just going to ride a bicycle or take public transit from now on.” There’s also many people who choose middle path of just getting a motorcycle; faster than a bicycle, even the most macho Harleys outbeat most fuel efficient cars in fuel consumption, and it still gives one the freedom to go anywhere they want when they want than being chained to unreliable public transit schedules.

  2. Again and again, from both the left and the right, I’ve heard it said that the simplest way to boost public transit ridership and to get people to drive more fuel-efficient cars would be to substantially increase the gas tax. But it is considered political suicide for a legislator to propose such a thing, in spite of the fact that the gas tax has not kept up with inflation. How did we get to this point?

  3. 1) By the time JNR was privatized to JR East, JR Central, etc., JNR had already built several Shinkansen (HSR) lines. These lines gave JNR the ability to compete with airlines

    2) Japan already had a huge, electrified and high-frequency public passenger railway system to build upon

    3) the Japanese people were used to the idea of using subways, commuter trains and long distance trains. trains were well integrated into neighborhoods and were visible on TV, anime and movies.
    * note that Japan has BOTH a well-developed car culture and a tradition of reliable trains.

    4) high gas prices and toll roads helped level the playing field for the railways.

    5) Japan currently has private railways and public-private partnerships. the private railways were built by hotel and department store companies, who used the railways to bring people to their other properties, and can use the hotels and stores to offset any losses by the railway.
    the public-private railways are a complicated mixture of public funding and private development.

    Do these things — build high speed rail, bring Metro Rail and Metrolink up to Tokyo electric standards, increase gas prices — and I would be willing to hand over a ROBUST railway system to private operators. Not hand over underfunded Amtrak to GM and bus companies.

  4. @the dude abides

    Oh yes, the old Yellow Cars that were bought out by National City Lines who were nothing but front companies of GM to artificially make streetcars unprofitable to shove car culture down our throats. Right.

    Look, privatization works if you knock some sense into to those that run Metro. Sure it may need subsidized tax, but the ratio of tax-to-revenue would become far less than running like an inefficient socialist tax-payer dependent bureaucracy like it is now as opposed to leaning towards more like a profit oriented business.

    I don’t have statistics, but wouldn’t you rather have a Metro that works on a 30% tax subsidies/70% revenue system as opposed to the other way around?

    Lessen tax burden and increase revenue flow. Metro can start with fixing TAP right and moving towards a distance based model.

  5. All the early railways in LA were private and went bankrupt because the economics don’t make sense. Most transit is subsidized.

  6. If Metro can’t figure out how to run public transit, privatize it just like how JNR was privatized to JR in 1987.

    Fine with me, I don’t mind paying distance based fares, I grew up with it and from my POV, that makes much more sense.