The elections last month saved the funding for transportation infrastructure in California when the politically motivated Proposition 6 went down in defeat, preserving funding for a big part of our industry.
It’s going to be important for us to stay alert and aware of how that funding gets spent. Yes, there was a laundry list of types of construction work to be funded, largely separated into two buckets—road/bridge repair and transit including funding for operations of light rail and buses as well as some construction.
But here’s the thing. There is not a transit system in the entire U.S. that does not operate without government subsidies. We’re keeping an eye on local governments, who are prone to take money from one bucket, put it in another and then use the money freed up in the shuffle to keep spending more on transit, both construction and operations.
This issue is not just a California problem, but one that echoes throughout the whole country. Schlomo ‘Solly’ Angel, is a professor at New York University (NYU) and advisor to the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
So when Professor Angel observes that across the United States that “the great majority of jobs—3 out of 4 of them—is dispersed outside employment centers, including the central business district, and is beyond walking or biking distance.” — Published in Science Direct, 2016.
Professor Angel’s scholarly language boils down to this—give the opportunity, local government plops their chips down on transit headed downtown—in the real world we go to work, school and everywhere else by car.
Which makes the relentless public policy and media assault on the private car a strange thing. For the majority of workers in dispersed urban locations, the motor vehicle offers door-to-door convenience, it is available “on demand,” it is comfortable, and, as long as it uses fossil fuel, quite affordable. As a transport choice, it also generates substantial government revenues via taxes (fuel excise, registration fees, etc.) compared with public transport which consumes a great deal more in subsidies than it generates via the fare box.
While government planners and environmentalists blame congestion on the car, they also need to accept that more people trying to get around on the same road space is – mathematically and inevitably – going to mean more congestion.
With the Engineering Contractors’ Association emphasis on local, we’ll keep our eyes on local planning and budget efforts especially those dealing with SB1 funding.
By Wes May ECA Executive Director Email: [email protected]