$36,000,000,000 for Corn. $0 for Transit.

7_25_08_aaron_2.jpgThe House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would provide emergency funding to local transit systems facing simultaneous increases in ridership and fuel costs. The legislation is now stalled in the Senate. The Bush Administration has made clear their distaste for funding mass transit operating costs. They say they don’t want local transit systems to become dependent on federal subsidies. Meanwhile, when it comes to subsidizing Midwestern farmers and the operating costs of America’s fleet of private motor vehicles… well, here’s how Michael Daly of the Daily News summed it up in his column yesterday:

New York City has long sent the feds billions more in taxes each year than we get back in services. To give you an idea of one place the money goes, here is what the
feds gave corn farmers to tend their fields in a two-year period: $36
billion.

Here is what we got to run the subway: 0

The feds have been reasonable when it comes to helping out with big
projects like the new subway and train tunnels that never get done.
But, we get not a penny toward the day-to-day cost of transporting 4
million straphangers.

I interviewed Larry Hanley a couple of weeks ago. He’s the former Staten Island bus driver (famous for getting up in Rudy Giuliani’s grill, among other things) who now serves as a Vice President of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Negotiating contracts across the Northeast, Hanley is seeing smaller transit systems in places like Lancaster, PA and Albany, NY cutting service and increasing fares at a time when they are also experiencing record increases in ridership.

With New Yorkers facing a pair of fare hikes and a deteriorating transit system, Hanley is arguing that federal funding in mass transit is an investment in local economies, green jobs, the environment and national defense. "We’ve got a Saudi Arabia’s worth of energy savings beneath the streets of New York City," Hanley said. "It’s called the subway."

Photo: Crowded bus in Champaign-Urbana by Benchilada on Flickr.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Op/Ed: A Quick-Fix to L.A.’s Mass Transit: Bring Back the Trolleybuses!

|
[smooth=id:17; width:600; height:200; timed:true; arrows:true; carousel:true; links:true; info:true; align:center; frames:true; delay:9000; transition:crossfade; open:false; text:Thumbnails;] Images of trolley buses from around the world, collected by Alexander Friedman. Los Angeles is the 2nd largest city in the United States., both in population and size, and is still notorious for its “car culture.” Unlike other major world cities, […]

Streetsblog Interview: Steve Hymon

|
Hymon, Second from the Left, Joins Sue Doyle in Talking to Richard Katz and Asm. Feuer Does anyone really need me to write an introduction for an interview with Steve Hymon? If so, I’ll be brief. He’s the transportation writer for the Los Angeles Times, making him one of the five most read transportation writers […]

What Factors Are Causing Metro’s Declining Ridership? What Next?

|
In my circles, there has been a lot of discussion swirling around Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times article, Billions spent, but fewer people are using public transportation in Southern California, by Laura Nelson and Dan Weikel. The Times’ authors cast a disparaging light on recent downturns in ridership: “Despite a $9-billion investment in new light rail […]