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Federal Transportation Bill

More Proof That L.A. Isn’t Getting Its Fair Share of Stimulus and Other Federal Funds

1:20 PM PST on January 21, 2010

The U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report
this week with some dire conclusions for the nation's cities: Even the
payroll growth that many prognosticators anticipate this year won't
make a dent in double-digit urban unemployment. Half of the 363 biggest
metro areas won't return to their pre-recession jobs levels until 2013
or beyond.

economies_cities.png(Chart: US Conf. of Mayors)

All
this despite the fact that those 363 cities accounted for 90 percent of
the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) last year and 86 percent of all
jobs.

Looking at the chart at right, the weight of urban
contributions is even clearer: the most economically vibrant U.S. city,
New York, had a higher productivity rate in 2008 than all but 10
foreign nations.

Going further down this list (to rankings not pictured at right), the transportation contrasts become clearer.

The United Arab Emirates, where Dubai just opened a $7 billion subway line, has a lower GDP than Miami, where transit cuts are a fact of life. Singapore, which boasts a vast rail network, has a lower GDP than Detroit, the only major U.S. city without rapid transit.

Still,
as diverting as it may be to compare American cities to their
international counterparts, the domestic struggle for better urban
transportation planning has less to do with overseas competition and
more to do with entrenched bureaucracy.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told the mayors' group today that he understands the complaints from metro areas that federal stimulus money was siphoned off by state-level politicking and failed to reach cities in sufficient proportions.

"Congress
wanted the money out the door within 120 days," LaHood said. "The only
way you can do that is through these relationships we have with the
[state DOTs]."

To better meet urban needs in a jobs bill that
"will be structured pretty much the same way the current one is,"
LaHood added, he is pressing
for a larger infusion for TIGER, the stimulus' merit-based grant
program where metro areas can apply directly for federal transport aid.

"It's
the one way that cities can have direct access to the money without
going through anyone else," he explained to the mayors.

Still,
the heartening prospects of extra TIGER money may not salve the
transportation funding gaps developing in many large cities. The
mayors' group reported that of the 85 biggest metro areas, 35 are
dealing with double-digit unemployment and getting proportionately less
transportation aid from the state DOT than they contribute to the state
economically.

Among those cities getting super-shortchanged: Los Angeles, Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Chicago -- and Portland.

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