By Owen Eagan,
Senior Vice President for Transportation, The Saint Consulting Group
The New York Times recently reported that cities missed an opportunity on transportation funding due to politics. Specifically, the Times reported that despite the fact that two-thirds of the population lives in large metropolitan areas, these cities are seeing far less than two-thirds in transportation stimulus money (see Cities Lose Out on Road Funds from Federal Stimulus).
Morris Newman of the California Planning & Development Report says that this is extremely unfortunate as mass transit is the central issue in urban economies, after jobs and housing. In particular, he sees commuter rail expansion as a do-or-die issue in Southern California (see California Planning and Development Report).
The historical benefits of mass transit support Newman’s case.
For instance, one only needs to look to Salt Lake City to see the positive impacts of light rail and commuter rail on the community. Even in the current recession, that city’s downtown is being revitalized by millions of dollars in private sector investment as a result of these new transit systems. This is no surprise as public sector investment in rail transit has been shown to lead to private sector development.
One study commissioned by the American Public Transit Association found that a community gets back $4 for every $1 invested in rail transit. It would be hard to find a better ROI for transportation money.
Owen Eagan is senior vice president for transportation, The Saint Consulting Group, email email@example.com, phone 818-827-7127