What Does Profitability Mean for Transit?

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’re featuring a post from The Transport Politic, in which he takes up a discussion with Cap’n Transit about what constitutes profitability for a transit system: 

3218634597_6489a80a9f_1.jpgPhoto by network member Rail Life via Flickr.

[T]he meaning of the word "profitable" itself is subjective. We could argue that getting enough revenue to pay for a transit service is profitable if all the money comes from fares, but we could also argue
that a transit service is in the black even if most of its resources come from a devoted tax base, as long as all revenue — fares and devoted taxes — eventually pays for the services a transit system
provides. We have made a decision in our society to subsidize transit; what that actually means is that our government takes some general revenue and diverts it to transportation, rather than relying only on user
fees to cover operation costs. But the rhetoric of our politicians and advocates rarely takes this truth into account.

The question of transit profitability is especially germane given the debate going on over the stimulus bill in the Senate right now. So far, senators have voted to subsidize auto sales via tax breaks, but they won’t move to subsidize operating costs for transit systems that get millions of people to their jobs all around the country.

Also on the network, some good analysis of the hit rail is taking in the stimulus, from California High Speed Rail Blog; and Christof Spieler at the Citizens’ Transportation Coalition in Texas discusses how stimulus abstractions might hit home in his community.

On the lighter side: on his blog, How We Drive, Tom Vanderbilt posted an enlightening video about "The Plight of the North American Biped."

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

To Put Transit on Stronger Footing, Stop Lavish Subsidies for Driving

|
There’s an interesting conversation happening in urbanism circles about how to make transit financially sustainable, going back to a piece in CityLab last June from University of Minnesota professor David Levinson. Levinson made the case for running transit like a public utility, not a government agency. There’s one thing that’s largely missing from these discussions, argues Cap’n Transit, […]

Welcome Back, Streetsblog Chicago!

|
Congratulations to John Greenfield, Steven Vance, and the readers and supporters who enabled Streetsblog Chicago to pull off a rousing comeback and resume regular publication today. At the beginning of the year, budget constraints compelled OpenPlans to sever our relationship with the Chicago team after two years of publication. Right off the bat, John told me […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Menendez Proposes Tax Credit for Transit-Oriented Development

|
New construction projects that are within a half-mile of transit stations and exceeding national energy-efficiency standards would be eligible for a tax credit under legislation introduced yesterday by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the senior member of the Banking Committee’s transit panel. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (Photo: Paterson Online) Menendez’s "green buildings" tax credit is aimed […]

Thursday Job Market

|
Looking to hire a smart, qualified person for a position in transportation planning, engineering, IT, or advocacy? Post a listing on the Streetsblog Jobs Board and reach our national audience of dedicated readers. Looking for a job? Here are the current listings: Executive Director, Walk San Francisco Walk San Francisco seeks a results-driven, experienced nonprofit leader to […]

How to Improve Travel Times and Transit Capacity?

|
Earlier this week, I received a request  in writing from Gary Altman, the Legislative Counsel of the City Council to testify at a hearing on March 1st. The topic of this oversight hearing is: How do we achieve the PlanNYC2030’s Sustainability Goal to Improve Travel Times by Adding Transit Capacity for Millions More Residents, Visitors and Workers? For reference […]