Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In
Transit Advocacy

Brookings: Feds Should Stop Giving Transit Projects the Run-Around

10:53 AM PDT on September 18, 2008

Americans are moving to areas with better transit access, but their options are limited.

Via Dave Roberts at Grist, this congressional testimony from Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution [PDF]
is a must-read for anyone interested in how the country can reduce
dependence on cars and fossil fuels. High gas prices and soaring
transit ridership have exposed the shortcomings of local transit
systems, Puentes reports: 54 of the nation's 100 largest metro areas
have weak bus systems and no rail service. The federal funding
mechanism is a major culprit:

Onereason the metropolitan transportation system -- which should serve asthe connective tissue within and between metropolitan areas -- iswoefully incomplete, is due to flaws in federal policy.

Federaltransportation policy has long favored highway building over transitinvestments. Transit projects are evaluated and funded differently thanhighways. The pot of available federal transit funding is so small thatthe federal government oversees a competitive process for new transitfunding, requiring multiple hypercompetitive bureaucratic reviews thatdemonstrate a project's cost-effectiveness. Funding is also subject toannual congressional appropriations. Highways do not undergo the samelevel of scrutiny or funding uncertainty. Also, while highwaystypically receive up to 80 percent of federal funds (and 90 percent forimprovements and maintenance), new transit projects' federalcontribution is often less than half of the project cost.

Takentogether, these biases ensure that state transportation policy pursuedunder federal law works against many metropolitan areas' efforts tomaintain modern and integrated transportation networks.

Puentes delivered his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, which has been considering emergency funding for local transit agencies.
Read the whole thing for a good overview of how transportation and
land-use policies can be improved as we approach the renewal of the
huge five-year federal transportation bill.

Graphic: Brookings Institution

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Los Angeles

SGV Connect 121: El Monte and South El Monte, with ActiveSGV and Libros Monte

Podcast features ActiveSGV's David Diaz on various multimodal/complete streets projects - and Pedro Gonzales on Libros Monte and Mt. SAC's El Centro: Latinx Student Program

February 20, 2024

This Week In Livable Streets

CicLAvia, Metro lower 710 Freeway widening plan, C Line construction, Alternative Traffic Enforcement at Transportation Committee, street racing, and more

February 20, 2024

Two Thoughts on Measure HLA and How Hard Some City Leaders Are Fighting Against Safer Streets

Ballooning HLA cost estimates are hard to take seriously - for example, the CAO forecasts that unprotected bike lanes will cost $1.76 million dollars per mile

February 17, 2024
See all posts