Friday, September 19, 2008

Lobby or Chalk

A recent article in St. Louis discusses the want to expand the highly successful Metrolink System. People want it, but the money for expansion has been scarce, especially from the Feds.
And that money, at least historically for big transit projects, comes from familiar coffers: the federal government, which supplied the bulk of funding for previous MetroLink expansions. Plesko said many blame Metro for not wanting to build in Madison County, when in reality it's the lack of federal support preventing it.
Plesko said the Bush administration has severely sliced funding for light rail projects in recent years, forcing cities hungry to expand systems to lobby heavily or chalk up the cash themselves. "If you want federal funds, then you must compete for them. The current administration makes it really hard to get light rail," Plesko said.
I often complain about the federal process and the new starts program because Todd Plesko is right, they are awful. But so are MPOs. They have enormous power to program more money for transit and less for roads than they let on, but people have been so lopsided in focus on automobiles that if you dare take away thier highway money you're the devil.

Yes the feds could help out a lot more than they are and they should (This means you congress, not just the FTA). They should be at the forefront of a national transit movement, especially now. And I honestly don't see how with a wonderful system like Metro in Washington people still can't see the benefits of capital transit investments. They must be rather blind. But we must get more money out of the MPO and somehow fix it so that regions stop spending on the periphery and start spending in the core.


arcady said...

In their way of thinking, there's the transportation budget, and you have to fund that every year in whatever quantity is needed, because it's a basic need. And then there's alternative transportation, which of course is nice thing to have in your area, but it's not a basic necessity like water or power or plain old transportation (meaning cars). We need to change the terms of the debate for the thinking to chage about these issues.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Yeah. I don't think we've come up with a frame to address that yet. We need one though because even the state sucks at giving out money to roads first and stealing transit money.

arcady said...

Part of the problem at the state level is that it's very, very common to use the argument of federal matching funds for whatever road project. It's hard to argue against free money from the feds, but it's an argument that needs to be made. And we certainly should NOT be using that sort of argument to argue in favor of transit projects (or congestion pricing). It's exactly the argument that Robert Moses used to push his highway projects through, and we really, really need to get away from that kind of thinking.