Few Federal Dollars for Public Transit

The New York Times reported Sunday it would cost $77.7 billion to get the nation’s public transit systems into shape, according to a Federal Transit Administration report released last week.

The federal report was primarily about the aging northeast U.S. transportation systems, but it holds significance for California, which is trying to build a high-speed rail system that ultimately will run from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond.

According to the New York Times story on the federal report, “the entire amount spent on rehabilitating and reinvesting in public transit nationwide in 2008 was $12 billion to $13 billion.”

The federal government is unlikely to step in to help strapped city, state and local transit agencies.

The 2009 economic stimulus devoted about $8 billion to the development of high-speed rail but was widely criticized for devoting very little money for rebuilding and repairing existing transit systems.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, introduced a bill in May that would provide $2 billion in emergency money to close gaps in operating costs for public transit systems around the country.

But for the most part it would not apply to capital investment, and its prospects for passage are dim with lawmakers who are already skittish about the budget deficit facing the voters in November.

The California High Speed Rail Authority this month took no action to fix unreliable ridership estimates for the planned California high-speed rail system and its Anaheim-to-Los Angeles link.

And the Orange County Transportation Authority was criticized by a county grand jury last month for allowing local bus service to deteriorate while it focused on expensive buildings, such as the planned Anaheim transit station, and on high speed rail.



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