Money Spent on Public Transit Creates More Jobs
Before working with RenewLV, public transit was just a way of referring to buses, trains and other forms of transportation reserved either for the poor or for the big cities. Although that view may be extremely ignorant and/or naive, it seems to be held by many people not exposed to the reality of public transit. For me, public transit would be great because I would not have to park, worry about break-ins, pay for gas, or find a designated driver on weekends. However, these benefits were outweighed by issues of convenience, flexibility, and the joys of driving.
More recently, after a backpacking trip to Europe, living in the Lehigh Valley, and working for RenewLV, I have learned that public transit is a valuable asset and an essential component for developing sustainable communities. Every day I deal with traffic on Route 22 , 4th street in Bethlehem, and Macarthur Road in Whitehall. This daily experience has decreased my driving enjoyment, my car’s gas efficiency, and my overall morale (it’s amazing how a frustrating commute can yield a frustrating day). On top of all of that, I’m really not sure what is convenient or flexible about sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for thirty minutes when I could have walked or biked to my destination in less time.
Needless to say, I was happy to see that Smart Growth America, U.S. PIRG, and Center for Neighborhood Technology kicked off the New Year with the release of a study showing an impressive link between money spent on public transit and job creation. After all, the more we can add to the “pros” list of public transit, the stronger the case for its implementation.
The latest data on stimulus spending show that funds spent on public transportation were a more effective job creator than stimulus funds spent on highways. In the 10 months since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was signed, investing in public transportation produced twice as many jobs per dollar as investing in roads.
The study explains some of the most urgent funding needs of public transportation including the increased demand around the country. The study also shows the current allocation of money to roads and public transit. According to the study, even in the face of these job results, the governments stimulus spending fails to allocate funds in the most efficient and effective way. This study discusses the ability of investing in public transportation to meet two goals: create jobs directly, and build transportation systems necessary for the future. With the unemployment rate where it is, and with stimulus money being spent in all directions, why not invest in something that will yield long term results towards each of these ends. It certainly seems as though people are becoming more willing to sacrifice the “convenience,” and “flexibility” of cars for the reliability and punctuality of public transit.
2010 is an important year for public transit advocates in the Lehigh Valley. With a transportation feasibility study slated for release early this year (funded jointly by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. and Lehigh and Northampton Counties), the discussion of restoring passenger rail service to the valley will be in full swing. The Smart Growth America study concludes with a recommendation to states.
States should learn from the ARRA experience and use proven strategies to accelerate deployment of projects, learn to partner better with local governments and transit agencies, and select projects that maximize intended impact.
What else should be considered when discussing the pros and cons of public transit? Are there other relationships, similar to the relationship between jobs and public transit, that may be underappreciated or that slip under the radar?
Happy New Year!