No short cuts to bringing our transit system back from decay

An unfixed Metro can hammer the local economy to the tune of $11 billion. Local governments that have cobbled together a half-baked funding plan to (just barely) repair the neglected transit system are toying with big hits to the local economy.


 

/PM BlogSpace Report/ American Public Transit Association and the nation’s civil engineers have together provided the grim numbers for our local transportation system and economy: WMATA is third on the list of major urban systems in a series of case studies when it comes to necessary system repair costs, and third on that same list in terms of the battering the local economy will endure if those repairs are not largely accomplished in the next six years.

Local governments that have cobbled together a half-baked funding plan to (just barely) repair the neglected transit system are toying with big hits to the local economy. The not too hidden notion on the part of some officials that the repair funds will come out of the hides of Metro employees sets up a further struggle that employees will win and will leave the officials’ scheme in tatters.

Metro officials are already getting the picture that trying to come up with repair funds by raising transit fares is a recipe for further ridership declines. The flat $2 fare urged by transit advocates like Save Our System is the way to recapture ridership.

A dedicated-tax source for the funds is still necessary, despite the artful dodging of tax-shy local governments.

metrorail.jpgBeing just Number Three on the list offers only limited schadenfreude relief.

WMATA’s potential bill for getting the system to acceptable working status is $6.6 billion. Chicago’s CTA faces a staggering $12 billion and change (222 miles of track vs. WMATA’s 117 miles) and greater Boston’s MBTA is looking at just over $7 billion.

If the needed repairs aren’t taken care of within 6 years, the DC Metro will be minus $4 billion – the net loss after the local economy takes a hit just short of $11 billion as a result of failing to commit the $6.6 billion that APTA estimates is needed.

Chicago faces a loss to the local economy of $25.2 billion (net minus about $12 billion) and Boston $15 billion or a net minus of nearly $8 billion.

New York’s system, not included in the case studies, is noted in the report to be responsible for a loss of about $1 million per day in the local economy because of the lack of upkeep in its system.

Systems in Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Francisco face lesser upkeep deficits and economic costs, but the six case studies amount to an overall $36 billion in repair needs and $74 billion in economic losses if the upkeep is not accomplished ($38 billion net loss).

The total $90 billion upkeep deficit in major US public transit systems (it includes bus fleets) and the case studies were outlined in an article in the online professional newsletter Curbed and reposted in Streetsblog USA.