Twin Cities lag on transit spending

Justin Horwath

 

Until the weather went south, a walk around campus made the place look like a paradise of alternative modes of transit. Racks were brimming with bikes, buses abounded, and neon-bright Nice Ride stations dotted the landscape. We wrote about Nice Ride’s successes and the Twin Cities transit landscape in a recent editorial. But according to a recent University of Missouri study of mass transit spending in the U.S.’s major metropolitan areas, the Twin Cities ranks among the most miserly. Which is to say: a relatively small proportion of our transportation spending (26 percent) goes toward mass transit. In New York City, by way of contrast, that number is 75 percent.

We get around all right in our cars, sure, but there’s another thing: the Missouri study also identifies mass transit as an incredibly powerful job-creation engine, both locally and nationally.  They credit the imminent Central Corridor Light Rail Project, for instance, with creating 22,765 jobs locally. They also argue that shifting 50 percent of Twin Cities road spending to mass transit would create a net gain of 6319 jobs; a similar shift in all 20 metropolitan areas included in the study would net 180,150 jobs. Mass transit is a smart investment in the U.S. economy, even without quantifying environmental and other benefits. With national unemployment around 10 percent, transit projects deserve a look.