Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who Controls your City Transit Agency?

A Map of Philadelphia's Rail System

Today, many city transit agencies are in constant financial crises as they are forced to maintain a transit system to inner city commercial corridors that have been in decline for decades now. With commercial corridors moving away from cities and residential development leap frogging to different highway exits, city transit systems have been unable to provide transit to a constantly moving population. The decline of ridership which has lead to a decline in revenue has left many city transit agencies dependent on the aid of other sources.

When a city transit agency only has a small percentage of its revenue coming from fares generated, the city transit agency has to depend on other sources, such as neighboring suburban counties, to help fund their services. Often times the source that provides the majority of the funding dictates the policy recommendations for that transit agency.

When non-transit planners are making transit agency decisions over regional transit needs, they often times they will put the needs of their constituents over the transit needs of the whole region. So if suburban counties are providing major funding to a city transit agency, they are more likely to push for transit lines (such as light rail or heavy rail) that connect suburban communities to downtown while providing little connection back to the existing transit system or the larger city as a whole.

Situations like these often lead to bad transit planning which often is reflected in transit ridership numbers. The mistakes of bad transit planning, such as spending billions on light rail systems that benefit the few and not the whole has wasted funding, time and energy that could have been used to upgrade the existing system. Such costly mistakes has allowed existing transit systems to deteriorate while making transit agencies maintain suburban costly suburban commuter lines for suburbanites who still preferred to commute by car.

So what is your opinion? Do you live in a metropolitan region where suburban counties dictate transit planning? If you are not sure, ask yourself whether or not your metropolitan region has a well running suburban commuter line system and a deteriorating city transit system.

No comments: