Seattle Bus flickr user dkjdTom Downs of  Citiwire has a great article on the nationwide transit fiscal crunch.  High gas prices, coupled with a sluggish economy, have created a spike in bus ridership all across the U.S., as people have looked for a cheaper way to get to work.  But costs for transit agencies have also gone up; they’re facing the same fuel price increases that the rest of us are.  So just when transit demand is rising, transit is facing budget shortfalls all across the country.  The only choices left for many transit agencies: raise fares; raise taxes; or cut back bus service, at the very moment when it’s most needed.

Quite a dilemma. 

Of course, that’s not the only transportation financing crunch around.  With people driving less, gas tax receipts are cratering—which is drying up the federal highway trust fund.  Apparently, the nation’s governors are lobbying Congress for an emergency appropriation to fill the highway funding gap.

But Downs asks the right question:

Why respond to state highway departments anxious to keep funding roads and bridges, but ignore the compelling immediate needs of the local transit systems and their riders?

I think that’s a smart take.  There’s a real short-term need for bus service that’s every bit as pressing as the long-term need to repair roads & bridges.  The nation’s governors ought to be looking out for both needs, not privileging highway contractors over bus commuters.

  • Photo courtesy of Flickr user dkjd under a Creative Commons license.