by Eric Wolf, AMTRAN General ManagerWednesday, November 26, 2008 | Categories:
Congress is debating a new economic stimulus package to jump start the economy. Among the many serious problems facing our country today, America is going to have to tackle the economic security issue of a crumbling public infrastructure. Investment in transportation in general and public transit in particular can begin to address this nation-threatening problem.
Republicans like California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as Democrats like President-elect Barack Obama and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell are advocating a national effort to address re-building America's public infrastructure. For our nation to compete in a global economy, we cannot continue to ignore this problem.
Benefits short & long term
In the short term, jobs are created when government invests in transportation infrastructure like highways and public transit. That is the goal of an economic stimulus package. (And of course, transportation jobs cannot be out-sourced to Bangalore, India.)
However as an additional benefit, improving transportation to move people and goods more efficiently makes our nation more competitive in the long term. Traffic congestion delays and long work commutes are an expensive drag on the economy.
In tough economic times, it is also worth noting that public transportation saves commuter customers $6,200 per year in transportation costs on average.
Ready to go?
For the stimulus package to work, most experts agree that the money needs to be injected into the economy without delay. At the state level, PennDOT has important highway and bridge projects that can be underway quickly. At the national level, the American Public Transportation Association has identified 500 transit projects worth $8 billion that are "ready to go" within 90 days.
As Congress debates an economic stimulus package in the next few weeks, and as they address a new six-year transportation bill in 2009, we urge them to make public transit a higher priority.