Transit Advocates Launch Call to Action Against Disastrous Trump Budget

Atlanta residents voted to expand MARTA service last fall, but the Trump budget would throw those plans into turmoil. Photo: Scott Ehardt via  Wikimedia Commons
Atlanta residents voted to expand MARTA service last fall, but the Trump budget would throw those plans into turmoil. Photo: Scott Ehardt via Wikimedia Commons

The Trump budget outline released last week could spell disaster for transit.

Atlanta is wondering whether long-overdue projects to fortify the city’s anemic transit system will have to be downsized. In Seattle, federal cuts would jeopardize several projects voters thought they were getting when they approved a massive transit expansion package last fall. Meanwhile, upgrades to Caltrain commuter rail service between San Jose and San Francisco may be cancelled altogether.

The list goes on: Dozens of transit projects across the nation — as well as walking and biking projects that count on funds from the TIGER program — are under threat unless Congress scraps the drastic cuts proposed by the White House.

Transportation for America is urging people who care about walking, biking, and transit to contact their representatives:

After months of promises to invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure, the first official action taken by the Trump administration on the issue is a proposal to eliminate the popular TIGER competitive grant program, cut the funding that helps cities of all sizes build new transit lines, and terminate funding for the long-distance passenger rail lines that rural areas depend on.

Tell your representatives that this proposal is a non-starter and appropriators in Congress should start from scratch.

The competitive TIGER grant program is one of the only ways that local communities of all sizes can directly access federal funds. And unlike the old outdated practice of earmarking, to win this funding, project sponsors have to bring significant local funding to the table and provide evidence of how their project will accomplish numerous goals. The TIGER grant program has brought more than three non-federal dollars to the table for each federal dollar awarded.

Eliminating the funding to support the construction of new public transportation lines and service is a slap in face of the millions of local residents who have raised their own taxes to pay their share. Like the voters in Tempe, AZ, who approved a sales tax 13 years ago that’s been set aside to pair with a future federal grant to build a streetcar. Or the voters last November in Indianapolis, IN, who approved an income tax increase to pay their share of a new bus rapid transit project, and in Atlanta, GA, who approved a sales tax increase in part to add transit to their one-of-a-kind Beltline project.

These local communities and scores of others who are generating their own funds to invest in transit will be left high and dry by this proposal, threatening their ability to satisfy the booming demand from residents and employers alike for well-connected locations served by transit.

More recommended reading today: With Uber testing autonomous vehicle technology in Pittsburgh, Bike PGH surveyed people about how they feel walking and biking on streets with self-driving cars and just published the results. And David Perry explains why the MBTA’s plans to abruptly cut weekend commuter rail service in the Boston region reflects the state’s limited commitment to funding transit.

  • Vooch

    A better strategy would be to call for eliminating all
    subsidies transit, airlines, and motor vehicles

    Arguing along these lines would illuminate the lavish subsidies motor vehicles receive

  • xplosneer

    I’ve found that usually goes like this:

    “Well, I already live like this so you have no right to make it harder on me to live this way ever.”

    It’s not a rational thing; it’s an emotional issue. (Though I would hope it would be a rational argument for politicians, it almost never is, even at city level.)

  • Vooch

    good point – it’s emotional and politicians are terrified of emotional voters.

    By throwing the decision making onto the insurance companies, you redirect the wrath of the voters towards the insurance companies.

    the electeds get off scot free. In fact, they could cynically grandstand about ‘evil thieving insurance companies raising their rates’

  • xplosneer

    “Evil,” pricing insurance relative to the actual risk.

  • Vooch

    Politicians love grandstanding

  • bobfuss

    It’s economic as well. If I spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home based on its location and ease of vehicular access, and then the city comes along and removes or reduces that access, then that’s a taking which has a real, measurable cost to me.

  • bobfuss

    But the issue here is how to compensate for Trump’s decisions. And not blue sky thinking around what ideally we should do if only we had a completely different President and Congress.

  • Vooch

    err – motor vehicles reduce property values

    encouraging active mobility increases property values; usually dramatically.

    besides depending on a crony gov’t subsidy for years and then crying when one has to finally pay full freight is what we call hutzbah in NYC

  • Vooch

    the easiest & fairest method of quickly raising transportation funds at a municipal level is charge market clearing rates for street parking.

    This also increases economic activity in commercial zones because of increased turnover.

    It’s fair because street parking is valuable – giving it away for free is silly.

    Another quick way to raise funds at a county – state level is to privatize highways. Hundreds of billions could be raised.

    plus the black hole of highway maintence would be placed on private enterprise

    finally property tax would be now paid by these businesses

    it’s a compete win-win for all.

    Simple and easy to raise a fortune

  • Drew Levitt

    People love complaining about government picking winners and losers. People tend to be more reluctant to acknowledge that past policies have picked big winners and huge losers. Also to admit that taking no action is tantamount to supporting the status quo.

  • Drew Levitt

    Quote of the year

  • bobfuss

    But in most areas on-street parking is easy and therefore has no value. While where it does have values, there are meters and pay-to-park parking lots

  • Vooch

    maybe in hicksville, curbside car storage is always available.

    In any place, people actually want to live; Boston, SF, Chicago, LA, Manhattan, etc, etc. ; curbside car storage tends to be underpriced.

    Any good that is underprice will always be over consumed.

  • xplosneer

    I invite you to my east bay town where that is absolutely not true.

  • bobfuss

    I already that said that it is true in some areas and not in others. But generally cities are all over squeezing revenue out of anything they can.

  • bobfuss

    Nope, I’m in SF which is about as expensive as anywhere in the US. We have meters extensively in the high-value NE quadrants, and along many popular commercial streets. Many higher-density residential areas have paid permit areas and for-pay parking lots.

    But further out street parking is easy and therefore has no value. And remember that people often choose to buy homes because there is easy, free parking there and, if you mes with that, expect to be voted out of office.

  • Vooch

    you do know that until the 1950s it was illegal to store private property on the street overnight in most US cities.

  • bobfuss

    Not sure that I consider stopping my car outside my own home to be “storing” anything. But with 90% of US households owning and regularly using a vehicle, how do you assess your chances of enforcing a civil action on that premise?

  • RGD

    I am sure that when Mr. Trump came up with this he did not realize that he was writing off the 1/3 or more of 19 year olds in this country w/o a license to drive. That proportion has grown continuously since the 1990’s.

  • Andrew

    Not sure that I consider stopping my car outside my own home to be “storing” anything.

    Regardless of what you consider it, if you are leaving your car unattended for hours at a time, you are storing it.

  • Andrew

    But in most areas on-street parking is easy and therefore has no value.

    If it has no value, then surely you have no grounds to object if it is removed.

    If it has no value, then it fails any cost-benefit analysis in which the cost is greater than zero (and, in fact, there is inevitably a cost to provide a parking space).

    I’m not sure this is the argument you want to make.

  • bobfuss

    Nonsense. It has value to the people who use it, but it doesn’t have value to anyone who is trying to make money out of it.

    The cost to providing on-street parking in the neighborhoods is a sunk cost. That cost was incurred when the decision was made to build the road wide enough to have both traffic lanes and parking lanes. And the cost was freely borne by the voters and taxpayers who considered that a public good was served by people being able to park near their homes, school, shops and places of work.

    Where demand exceeds supply there is a marketable price that can be obtained, which is why we have parking meters in some commercial locations. But that is exception – by default all street parking is free because we as a society have decided that roads are public.

  • bobfuss

    Disagree. That is not the word people routinely use for parking on the street. It is “parking” obviously. You are trying to use a different word to somehow denigrate a normal activity and that’s a little mischievous.

    Technically you could argue I am storing the stuff that is in my car, but it’s not reasonable for me to empty my car every time I park it.

    Roads were built wider specifically to allow people to stop their vehicle at their destination. That decision was made decades ago when the city was being planned out and it’s way to late to change that now. And without on-street parking, hundreds of thousands of SF residents and workers would be massively inconvenienced, and I feel sure that you would not want that.

  • RGD

    Those two things are contradictory. If it really were valued by its users, surely they wouldn’t mind paying for it. If not, they shouldn’t care a dime that if it went away. If they chose to buy homes on the unrealistic premise of guaranteed free street parking in a major metropolitan area, then I’m not sure I feel that sorry for their “woe,” as free parking has never been a right.

  • RGD

    Your car is private property. Parking is, if I were to guess, an old term that comes from the days of horses, when one would put the horse/s in a field to graze sometimes when one wanted to park. Storing is actually a much more appropriate word when one considers that cars don’t do this, rather than parking it. After all, the definition of storing something is putting said thing in a dedicated place while it is not in use, and that is exactly what “parking” is.

    Storing things is normal, but if someone put his/her wardrobe, bookshelves and the like in the middle of a street, most other people would strongly object. Why should it be different for cars?

    Viewed in this light, the idea that the government must build car storage is ridiculous. The government does not build free storage for anything else that we own, except bicycling (although Section 8 and Homeless Shelters could technically be interpreted as storage, people are not private property, and they are not occupying the street because of these programs, and Section 8 doesn’t even provide free housing anyway). But this need not be necessarily built by the government, depending on how the government sets up its laws, nor shall it even really need to be built quite in the way people think: if one is resourceful and the law allows, one can use existing objects on the street to store a bicycle.

    Ten+ bikes can fit into the space of one car. If one charged market rates for storing each, the charging for bike parking might actually not even return enough money to pay for the revenue collection system’s cost of operation anyway. Dutch research has also shown that, as with all bike infrastructure, it has a positive return on investment insofar as the government is concerned anyway, unlike car infrastructure, which at the minimum Dutch and Danish research show generates a net loss for the government, and English research shows a comparatively very weak economic gain (less than 100% extra return for motor vehicle infra vs. 3300-6600% on bike infrastructure as per Sustrans) despite the UK’s downright awful car congestion (essentially, most places (excepting some motorways) there look like London, so far as I can gather from a substantial amount of footage and from what is expressed by many UK citizens and expats alike).

    You don’t expect to live rent free. Why should your car??? There is a quote from someone, I forget who. I believe he was Austrian. He said something along the lines of this: The supreme irony of the car, the supposed champion of the capitalist system, is that it is the only thing that expects to live rent free.

    I don’t think I’ve missed anything. As a side note, if you are reading this thinking that I sound condescending, I apologize, and assure you that that is not my intended tone at all.

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