Public transit agencies across the country are being hit extremely hard by the economic downturn, especially at a time when ridership is at an all-time high. Here in the Bay Area, the problem is compounded by the loss of 55 million dollars of State Transit Assistance funds in the California state budget. As a result, every single agency faces massive shortfalls, with Muni, Bart, AC Transit, VTA, and others raising fares and cutting service to cover million dollar deficits. In fact, Caltrain will likely become the first agency to declare a fiscal emergency, allowing it to cut service and raise fares without an environmental review.
With 85 agencies cutting service, this is the beginning of a nationwide crisis. Yet, while the federal government has given the automobile industry 17+ billion with the potential for more in the future, public transit has recieved nothing. Nobody has put a figure to the shortfall, but I’d speculate that if you provided funds to cover one years worth of a shortfall, it would be around one billion.
Maybe its just me, but one billion for a years worth of support to agencies which reduce our emissions and oil use, provide mobility for millions of carless Americans, and help foster more livable communities sounds a lot better than 17 billion for a couple month toward an industry which has gone out of its way to perpetuate our dependence on oil and has provided no practical means to become a viable company geared toward the public interest. One thing is for sure: the 2009-2010 fiscal year will be one of the toughest for public transit agencies in recent memory.