Final Stimulus Bill Slaps Transit Riders in the Face

The final tally is in, and we now have a breakdown for transportation
funding in the stimulus bill that President Obama will sign, barring
some unforeseen turn of the screw. Via Transportation for America:

  • $29 billion for highways and bridges
  • $8.4 billion for transit
  • $8 billion for high-speed rail
  • $1.3 billion for Amtrak

To
compare the final transit and rail figures with the House and Senate
versions of the bill, check out the table put together by the Transport Politic.

The
big news, of course, is that $8 billion for high speed rail, most of
which came from out of nowhere. And I’d be quite pleased with that
number if it weren’t for the meager sum allocated to transit, unchanged
from the Senate’s lowball figure. The endgame went something like this,
according to the AP:

In late-stage talks, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
D-Nev., pressed for $8 billion to construct high-speed rail lines,
quadrupling the amount in the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Reid’s office issued a statement noting that a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas rail might get a big chunk of the money.

That Presidential muscle could have been flexed to stave off fare hikes and service cuts
across the country, giving the economy a very fast-acting stimulus.
This last-minute intervention, on the other hand, is more than a little
puzzling. Among other headscratchers: How does getting people to the
slots an hour faster move us closer to ending sprawl?