On the one hand, urban transit issues are a distraction from the major concerns about inter-city high-speed rail, which is the focus of this blog. On the other hand, the basic confusion between the two is itself a major problem source, as can be seen in the article, below.
25 Senators, all Democrats, want more federal funding for transit. They don't say what kind of transit. Maybe their don't know; maybe their don't care. They should be doing both; i. e., knowing and caring. They should understand the basic difference between urban and region public mass transit/commuter service on the one hand, and inter-city transit on the other.
It's not likely that these Senators are talking about highways, roadways, or airways. They are talking about rail. Inner city, urban rail includes light rail and subways in most cases. Regional rail includes commuter train service. Inter-city rail is "heavy-rail" like Amtrak, or High-Speed Rail.
The real problem with these is less an infrastructure/hardware problem, and more an organizational and management problem. One concern here is that neither our 25 Senators, nor the transit operators themselves understand that distinction. A large component of their persistent failures stem from those managerial misunderstandings.
It certainly isn't understood when it comes to our local Caltrain on the Bay Area Peninsula. Caltrain thinks it's in the railroad (hardware and infrastructure) business when it should understand that it's in the regional people-moving business. The Caltrain responsibility doesn't begin and end at their train stations. They think of themselves as stand-alone, rather than an integrated component of a network.
Regional, Bay Area transit should be managed and coordinated at the Bay Area level, not dozens of individual service operators all competing for the paltry subsidy hand-outs from other operators or local sales tax increments.
But, none of this has anything to do with the inter-city HSR problem.
So long as the confusion exists between a major national need and demand for superior urban and regional transit as a necessity in every mid size to large city in the US, while inter-city high-speed rail is an unnecessary and unaffordable luxury, fund seekers will continue to compete unfairly and stupidly. The government is bent on giving money to the doomed-to-fail HSR, and depriving the metropolitan regions of exactly what most people need and must have; adequate, well-maintained transit.
Inter-city high-speed rail is not "mass transit." It is exclusive and its customer market is highly limited to an affluent minority. Senators and Congress Representatives of both parties should grasp this distinction and get behind urban and regional mass transit funding. This embodies the concept of the greatest good for the greatest number. And, they should drop the obsession for high-speed rail, which serves mostly those who stand to profit from the federally stimulated related industries.
Please note that mostly, these letter signing Senators represent the NorthEastern States, with several exceptions, of course. Also note the absence of both Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. They apparently do know the difference between intra-city and inter-city but are not on record for supporting both equally.
Wouldn't you think that the Democrats would be intra-metropolitan public mass transit advocates for all of us, and oppose HSR as too exclusive for the affluent only? Go figure!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
25 Senators Demand Robust Transit Funding
by Tanya Snyder on June 23, 2011
In a letter to Finance Committee leaders [PDF], 25 senators today urged adequate funding for mass transit in the next transportation authorization bill.
The letter notes that public transportation systems find themselves in a budgetary crisis just as more and more people, driven by $4/gallon gas, are seeking out transportation options.
During the worst economic downturn in recent memory, we must identify new approaches for funding infrastructure projects. A truly long-term and prudent vision for a future transportation network will strengthen the role of public transportation in growing our communities and ensure that new funding strategies do not favor highway spending to the detriment of public transportation spending.
Americans want and deserve transportation options that reflect community priorities and values. At a time when deficit reduction is attracting the full focus of the Congress, we implore the Committee to strengthen the Mass Transit Account’s fair share of funding in the next surface transportation authorization to guarantee that our economic recovery continues and that we can be more self-reliant in meeting our transportation needs.
The letter doesn’t specifically ask for a larger share of surface transportation dollars than the 20 percent mass transit historically is allotted, but they do ask for transit’s share to be strengthened. Apparently, given the challenges implicit in getting 25 senators to agree on anything, that vague language was as specific as they could get.
In a statement on the letter, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chair of the Senate Banking subcommittee with jurisdiction over public transportation, pointed out the need for new transportation revenues — and the fact that the House is going in the opposite direction.
Congress is currently working on reauthorizing the surface transportation bill, which expires on September 30. If spending continues at current levels, the highway account could run out of money next year and the transit account shortly thereafter. The Senate Finance Committee is responsible for funding these accounts. The House of Representatives is currently developing a transportation bill that follows the Ryan Budget’s direction to cut surface transportation funding by 31 percent.
A list of senators signing on to the letter.
•Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
•Dick Durbin (D-IL)
•Charles Schumer (D-NY)
•Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
•Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ)
•Tom Carper (D-DE)
•Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
•Ron Wyden (D-OR)
•Ben Cardin (D-MD)
•Robert Casey (D-PA)
•Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
•Jack Reed (D-RI)
•Michael Bennet (D-CO)
•Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
•Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
•Patty Murray (D-WA)
•Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
•Joe Lieberman (I-CT)
•Tom Udall (D-NM)
•John Kerry (D-MA)
•Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
•Chris Coons (D-DE)
•Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
•Jim Webb (D-VA)
•Mark Warner (D-VA)