Neal Peirce: Cities and Suburbs Must Collaborate to Expand Transit

As the push for emergency transit funding moves to the Senate, syndicated columnist Neal Peirce pulls back the lens and sees a bright outlook for local rail systems. The key, he says, is whether cities and their suburbs can set up new revenue streams together:

Political reality says few if any state legislatures will enact
statewide taxes to finance metro transit systems. But they can give the
green light to their metro regions to tax themselves. Then it’s up to
regional business and civic leaders, in this increasingly metropolitan
nation, to make a sufficiently compelling case to city and suburban
voters alike. With long commutes increasingly unaffordable, and with
city-suburb antagonisms much milder than in past times, selling
well-conceived regional transit plans should be achievable.

Peirce notes that cities like Denver, Charlotte, Seattle, and even
Houston are taking the initiative to fund transit expansions on their
own.

Streetsbloggers may recall that the question of how much capital spending should come from local revenue streams and how much should come from the feds cropped up repeatedly during the congestion pricing debate. Opponents argued
that more local money for the MTA would tempt Washington to decrease its contribution (while the historical record shows a constant flow from the feds as city and state funds fluctuate).

New York may be far ahead of the cities Peirce names when it comes to existing transit services, but in terms of planning for the future, are we keeping pace?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, I guess one could argue that Minnesota managed to get Washington to replace that bridge. That appears to be the “plan for the future” here, too.

    But all it takes is an earthquake in California to shift all the nation’s resources out of NYC and everywhere else. There is much less sympathy for our unnatural disasters.

  • mfs

    This metropolitan transportation tax has been an extremely contentious issue in my home state of Virginia, which is apparently the new bellwether state. While the taxes that have been proposed for Northern Virginia have mostly been for highways, there is a perpetual battle between Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area vs. the rest of the state over how to equitably tax for transportation. The politics of dedicating such taxes to transit is an even thornier issue.

  • PayingItNow

    In the NY metropolitan area, we already have two such entities — the MTA and the Port Authority. However, New York politics never fail to defeat rational, equitable allocation of resources. We have the structures in place to support regional planning, funding, and implementation, but power just doesn’t work that way in these parts.

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