Parity for Mass Transit

The buzz on gas prices has people rethinking the way they travel. USA Today recently reported record breaking public transit ridership based on a study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). For the months of January through March 2008 ridership increased 10% when compared to the same months in 2007. And while many riders are making the switch due to rising fuel prices, many of them stick to public transit for its “service and convenience,” according to Linda Robson of Seattle’s Sound Transit. For riders fortunate enough to live and work near major bus and rail lines, the shift makes a lot of sense.

But how many people really have this good fortune? According to the 2006 US census, only about 1 in 5 households. The logical solution: Make bus and rail lines more extensive. The bleak reality: No one wants to pay for it.

Enviroblog, “Public funds for public transport,” Jorg Etilico, July 3, 2008

Here’s a remarkable fact, from the The Northeast-Midwest Institute: “Highways get approximately $30 billion from the federal government in the Highway Trust Fund alone, while railway funding at best is $1 billion from all sources, for all purposes.”

Now try to image if we could insist on parity– if we spend $30 billion on highways and bridges, then we must also spend $30 billion on mass transit, including Amtrak. We need the jobs, we need the bridges fixed, and we need to change how we use energy. It seems like a no-brainer.

Actually, more personally, I am sick of dealing with airports whenever I want to travel to Louisiana and Texas to see my family. I would be happy to spend a day and a half on a train each way, twice a year, especially if there was a sleeper car and wireless access.

[This note comes from Amanda, at Enviroblog: “One thing — the post’s photo was by Jorg Elitico. The post itself was by our intern Sameem. Sorry for the confusion!”

Thanks! — Ray]

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn’t want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so.

I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com.

I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that ‘at’ symbol] writinginthewild.com

One Thought on “Parity for Mass Transit

  1. Thanks for the link, Ray. I’m with you — I’m much happier taking a 6 hour train ride than the 1 hour plane ride when visiting my family in MA. I’d probably even be willing to take the bus if it didn’t make me sick.

    One thing — the post’s photo was by Jorg Elitico. The post itself was by our intern Sameem. Sorry for the confusion!

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