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John Petro

Economic Recovery, Public Investment, and Public Transit

Here are some interesting recent reports that highlight the increasing need for investment in public transit. This report by Reconnecting America looks at the national picture, stating that nearly 400 new rapid transit projects have been proposed since 2004 totaling an investment of $248 billion.

In this report, the New York Plan Association proposes dozens of new transit projects for the region that it deems to be necessary to meet future demand and growth in the next 30-40 years.

Both reports make the link between economic recovery and investment in public transit...

The New York report talks about how these investments can create jobs in the short term and build the capacity needed to continue growth in the long term:

While the recommendations in this report are primarily intended to spur discussion of a longterm investment strategy for sustainable and equitable economic growth, it is also relevant to the immediate challenge of a regional economy that is quickly deteriorating in response to the Wall Street financial crisis. The region has entered a recession of unknown magnitude, and will require an assertive strategy to both contain the damage and rebuild a stronger economy as quickly as possible. A coherent program of staged transit investments can be a foundation of this strategy. Transit projects can provide immediate construction jobs and purchases that can help fill the void left by sharp declines in private construction projects. Especially if Washington adopts an expanded infrastructure program, a well-articulated investment strategy that adds to productive capacity can help build the case for the region’s share of funding and insure that federal funding is spent efficiently. As this capacity comes on line, it will also shape the recovery that emerges and provide for expanded job growth over several business cycles.

The national report takes a more global approach in terms of competitiveness:

The relatively low level of transit investment in the U.S. stands in sharp contrast to funding in other parts of the world. China, for example, is dedicating $88 billion for the construction of 1,062 miles of rail from 2001 through 2015. India has announced it will spend $56 billion to expand its rail system over the next five years. Over the 12-year period covered by the last two federal transportation bills the U.S. dedicated about $19 billion for new construction. Meantime, the United Kingdom is spending $32 billion on just one subway project – the 74-mile Crossrail subway in London, said to be the largest rail construction project in the Northern Hemisphere. When Crossrail connects to the London Underground there will be a total of 327 miles of subway in the city. This compares to 222 miles in New York City and a total of 1,300 miles of heavy rail (including above-ground heavy rail systems like the El in Chicago) across the entire U.S. In Canada, the transit agency in Toronto has proposed spending $50 billion to construct new transit lines by 2025 – more than the U.S. has dedicated for the entire country in a similar time period. Vancouver plans to spend $14 billion by 2020.

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Posted at 1:40 PM, Oct 16, 2008 in Cities | Economy | Employment | Infrastructure | Transporation
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