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  #1  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 12:14 AM
Yankeegreat94 Yankeegreat94 is offline
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Why is American public transportation so poorly funded?

From the largest city in America, New York City, the NYC suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey (NJ Transit is the worst in the nation), etc.

Why is public transportation in America so poorly funded?

Yes, I know America is very car-centric and we have been since the 1950s, but why in the 2010s heading into the 2020s, is it so poorly-funded?
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  #2  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 12:19 AM
jg6544 jg6544 is offline
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Because we as a nation don't make it more expensive to operate a car and therefore do not incentivize people to use or pay for public transportation with a few isolated exceptions.
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  #3  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 12:37 AM
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:07 AM
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Originally Posted by SIGSEGV View Post
This. Yep there are many reasons why this is so, but I think gas prices being cheap keeps people in cars in a big way as it is a weekly expense. It's not some hidden thing or a yearly fix, you pay for it upfront all the time. As long as people think they are paying only 35 dollars to drive 300-350 miles(or whatever) they will continue to drive.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:22 AM
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There is little to no market pressure to have good transit in the United States.

Even in New York City, which has, by far, the most extensive mass transit system of any metropolitan area in the United States, most of the lines and stations were built a long time ago. To me, this is a sign that there hasn't been much market pressure for this system to expand and modernize.

And, if this is true in New York City, then it must be true almost everywhere else.

Would love to hear alternative takes on this.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 2:57 AM
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Why are we talking about market pressure in the context of public services planned and mainly funded by governments and public agencies? Just because legacy systems such as much of the NYC subway were created by market conditions many decades ago, what connection does that have to the allocation of public funds for their operation and maintenance today?

One could say that such decisions are affected by political pressure, but that's a totally separate thing from market pressure.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 3:16 AM
accord1999 accord1999 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yankeegreat94 View Post
From the largest city in America, New York City, the NYC suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey (NJ Transit is the worst in the nation), etc.

Why is public transportation in America so poorly funded?

Yes, I know America is very car-centric and we have been since the 1950s, but why in the 2010s heading into the 2020s, is it so poorly-funded?
I don't think they're poorly funded so much as getting very little value for the money spent. Just look at the operating budgets for Valley Metro Rail, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Houston, they're gigantic given how little ridership (and fares) they get. And compare them with a Canadian city like Calgary.

Calgary (metro population <1.5M)



Dallas:

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  #8  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 4:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Nouvellecosse View Post
One could say that such decisions are affected by political pressure, but that's a totally separate thing from market pressure.
Because if we really needed good transit systems in the short term, we would vote for them.

There won't be political pressure for good mass transit systems in the US until gas costs $8/gallon.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 5:04 AM
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Originally Posted by accord1999 View Post
I don't think they're poorly funded so much as getting very little value for the money spent.
Dallas:
That data point does not include DART's non operating revenues collected from sales taxes and federal grants. Here's the full report....
https://www.dart.org/ShareRoot/debtd...cialReport.pdf

Keeping it simple, DART collected $593 million in sales taxes, $98 million from federal grants, and $75 million from fares. Local contribution of revenues amounting to around 85%, Uncle Same contribution around 15%.

https://www.transportation.gov/sites...hts-book_0.pdf
If we take this same ratio nationally, and totaled FTA and FRA allocations from the USDOT in 2018 was all for transit, around $13 billion, here's some math that might surprise you.
15/13 = 85/x, cross multiplying 15x=13 x 85, x = 1105/15 = 73.6667

Yes, local governments and local agencies should have contriibuted around $74 billion for transit, adding the $13 billion Uncle Sam contributed should total around $87 billion for transit in 2018. That's assuming DART's ratios are the same nationally - which I have no idea is true or not.

But the major point I would like to make is that FTA and FRA allocations of around $13 billion does not really reflect what America as a whole is spending on transit. In 2018, per wiki America has 327 million population. some more math: $87 billion / 327 million people = $266 per person could have been spent on transit. That per person, not per rider. In Dallas less than 2% ride public transit. That varies significantly nationally.
I'm not sure how that stacks up world wide - but I do not think it is as low as many think it is, because they are looking at 15% data instead of 100% overlooking and forgetting about the other 85%.
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  #10  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 6:01 AM
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Originally Posted by SFBruin View Post
Because if we really needed good transit systems in the short term, we would vote for them.

There won't be political pressure for good mass transit systems in the US until gas costs $8/gallon.
Unfortunately that's not how these things work. Like, at all. People need health coverage, but there are millions of people who are uninsured in the US. People need safety but there's been little to no progress on gun regulation. Surely you must be familiar with the famous study showing Political decisions aren't based on need, they're based on the policy approach of particular parties and politicians. Sometimes because decisions involve pitting the will of one group of voters against another (for instance, suburban/rural vs urban, rich vs poor, etc.) or because of the influence of lobbyist and special interests (NRA, pharmaceutical industry, insurance providers, farmers, etc.) This article discusses the topic in more detail.

If gas prices were to rise, people may respond in a variety of ways depending on the conditions they're presented with. They may start buying electric or more fuels efficient cars, may use transit more often, or may live closer to work pushing up real estate prices in certain areas. The options they choose will be greatly influenced by government policies. Just like they are now. What, if any, influence their choices have on government policy is uncertain, but what is certain is that it has little relation to market dynamics. As you already pointed out, there is already significant demand for transit in NYC. It's probably already as impractical now for the majority of people to get around there by car as it would be in Dallas with $8 gas prices. Yet the lack of political pressure sufficient to secure new funding proves that political decisions don't work that way.
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  #11  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 6:45 AM
LouisVanDerWright LouisVanDerWright is offline
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Originally Posted by SIGSEGV View Post
This is more of a symptom than a cause. The US is culturally car oriented for a variety of reasons ranging from extreme post war prosperity to it's huge open expanses to nefarious business "strategies" like GMs dismantlement of street car networks.

The fact is America can afford to be car oriented and, in some ways, it's necessary. I just drove to Denver (something I do 3-4 times a year) which is 1000 miles one way. This time my Dad and I went to my sister's house with all of our tools to renovate a big section of it. When you are talking a unified society spread over those distances, mass transits not really doing diddly squat. Obviously it has its uses in dense urban areas and corridors, but the vast vast majority of the United States doesn't fit that bill.

This is like asking why China has all kinds of HSR and the US does not... Well gee, maybe it's got something to do with the fact that China has 1.5 billion people in the same space that the US has 300 million?

Though I gotta say, it's really nice to be able to drive all the way from Chicago to Denver and only pay like $2/gallon for gas. E-85 in Nebraska was as low as $1.85. a few years ago it was headed towards a dollar. I think I saw E-85 at like $1.30 a couple years back when oil prices were tanking.
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  #12  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 6:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Nouvellecosse View Post
Surely you must be familiar with the famous study showing Political decisions aren't based on need, they're based on the policy approach of particular parties and politicians.
I can believe it. I like to think that everything balances out to an equilibrium set roughly by the market, but I guess now you're probably getting the point that it is pointless arguing with a libertarian zealot .

I do think, however, that if there was more market pressure in the United States to build transit systems, then there would be the political will to build better ones. If not, then that would mean that our political system is flawed, which is something that I think has yet to be proven.
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Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 7:17 AM
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Originally Posted by electricron View Post
I'm not sure how that stacks up world wide - but I do not think it is as low as many think it is, because they are looking at 15% data instead of 100% overlooking and forgetting about the other 85%.
I think we're in agreement here. Furthermore, I think the complaint about lack of funding is merely cover for the horrible bang for the buck that current transit spending is getting.

As for comparison with other countries, here's the UK:



About 130 billion passenger-km for £20.4B.

https://assets.publishing.service.go...-summaries.pdf
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  #14  
Old Posted Sep 9, 2019, 7:22 AM
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I do think, however, that if there was more market pressure in the United States to build transit systems, then there would be the political will to build better ones. If not, then that would mean that our political system is flawed, which is something that I think has yet to be proven.
I think, based on the number of white elephant rail projects built or under construction, that there is political pressure to build flashy systems, or systems that go through politically important areas, rather than systems that cater to high ridership areas (or better and more buses when there isn't ridership to justify light rail).
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  #15  
Old Posted Sep 11, 2019, 5:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Yankeegreat94 View Post
From the largest city in America, New York City, the NYC suburbs of Long Island, New Jersey (NJ Transit is the worst in the nation), etc.

Why is public transportation in America so poorly funded?

Yes, I know America is very car-centric and we have been since the 1950s, but why in the 2010s heading into the 2020s, is it so poorly-funded?
It's mostly partisan politics.
This is what President Reagan said about Miami's new $1 Billion dollar Metrorail system back in 1985 :

The cars are clean, air-conditioned and safe, and there are always plenty of seats. Unfortunately, as President Reagan noted earlier this month, the 10-month-old system has too many empty seats.

''In Miami,'' the President told a conference of county officials meeting in Washington, ''the $1 billion subsidy helped build a system that serves less than 10,000 daily riders. That comes to $100,000 per passenger.
It would have been a lot cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.''


Miami is not alone in its problems with financing a rapid transit system. Los Angeles has been planning a $3 billion subway system that has been put in jeopardy by the Reagan budget-cutting efforts.

''The position in the budget is that we can't afford the Los Angeles plan,'' Ralph L. Stanley, Administator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration.

''The issue for the nation is that the Federal Government cannot afford to pay the share of mass transit costs it has carried in the past,'' he added. ''We can't underwrite it all, and there are going to be winners and losers.''

Plans for transit systems in many Sun Belt systems, which are heavily dependent on the automobile, have come under a new scrutiny, Mr. Stanley said, and many have retreated from original costly heavy rail systems that paralleled existing urban highway routes. He mentioned Houston, Orlando, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla., as cities that have been forced to reconsider mass transit plans.

https://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/29/u...py-future.html

Conservatives have never been fond of funding mass transit.
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Old Posted Sep 11, 2019, 7:04 PM
jtown,man jtown,man is online now
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Originally Posted by bobdreamz View Post
It's mostly partisan politics.
This is what President Reagan said about Miami's new $1 Billion dollar Metrorail system back in 1985 :

The cars are clean, air-conditioned and safe, and there are always plenty of seats. Unfortunately, as President Reagan noted earlier this month, the 10-month-old system has too many empty seats.

''In Miami,'' the President told a conference of county officials meeting in Washington, ''the $1 billion subsidy helped build a system that serves less than 10,000 daily riders. That comes to $100,000 per passenger.
It would have been a lot cheaper to buy everyone a limousine.''


Miami is not alone in its problems with financing a rapid transit system. Los Angeles has been planning a $3 billion subway system that has been put in jeopardy by the Reagan budget-cutting efforts.

''The position in the budget is that we can't afford the Los Angeles plan,'' Ralph L. Stanley, Administator of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration.

''The issue for the nation is that the Federal Government cannot afford to pay the share of mass transit costs it has carried in the past,'' he added. ''We can't underwrite it all, and there are going to be winners and losers.''

Plans for transit systems in many Sun Belt systems, which are heavily dependent on the automobile, have come under a new scrutiny, Mr. Stanley said, and many have retreated from original costly heavy rail systems that paralleled existing urban highway routes. He mentioned Houston, Orlando, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla., as cities that have been forced to reconsider mass transit plans.

https://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/29/u...py-future.html

Conservatives have never been fond of funding mass transit.
Let's not just blame conservatives. Liberals are pretty crappy at this too. It's not like liberals fund transportation(or use it) like people in Tokyo for example. Fact is, public transport isn't used that much in most of America, so throwing money is seen as wasteful, rightly or not.

Hell, even with the 1 trillion dollar stimulus package Obama gave barely any to public transport. One of his biggest blunders in my view.
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  #17  
Old Posted Sep 11, 2019, 7:07 PM
jtown,man jtown,man is online now
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Cuz it might benefit liberals/city folk/brown people in some way.
Why do you guys always add in "brown folks." How about just admitting that it would probably just benefit people in cities, which are usually NOT conservative?

Calling everyone's views you don't like racist doesn't change anything. It just makes you hate others more because now they are...RaCiSt!
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  #18  
Old Posted Sep 12, 2019, 2:22 AM
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Let's not just blame conservatives. Liberals are pretty crappy at this too. It's not like liberals fund transportation(or use it) like people in Tokyo for example. Fact is, public transport isn't used that much in most of America, so throwing money is seen as wasteful, rightly or not.

Hell, even with the 1 trillion dollar stimulus package Obama gave barely any to public transport. One of his biggest blunders in my view.
Do people in Tokyo view public transportation through a political partisan lens though like they do in the US? Let's be honest here since funding mass transit in major cities which are mostly liberal seems to be a thorn in the side of conservatives.
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Old Posted Sep 12, 2019, 9:38 AM
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Let's be honest here since funding mass transit in major cities which are mostly liberal seems to be a thorn in the side of conservatives.
You know, I reread your comment. I think that you're mostly right.
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Last edited by SFBruin; Sep 12, 2019 at 10:51 PM.
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Old Posted Sep 12, 2019, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by bobdreamz View Post
Do people in Tokyo view public transportation through a political partisan lens though like they do in the US? Let's be honest here since funding mass transit in major cities which are mostly liberal seems to be a thorn in the side of conservatives.
Everyone in Tokyo uses transit, so I doubt it's a partisan issue.
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