These should be heady times for intercity rail and public transit, given the record ridership reported in 2008 and the behavioral shift that resulted from sky-high gasoline prices. But gas prices have fallen back and state and local government are hard pressed to subsidize transit operations in the face of reduced tax revenue and other hardships. The ultimate impact could be a reversal of the trend from the highway to the railway.
From Florida comes a report that Tri-Rail, which carried a record four million passengers last year on its line between West Palm Beach and Miami, may be forced to cut service from 50 to 20 trips a day. This after an investment of $450 million to double track the route and build new stations.
Said one commuter interviewed by the Los Angeles Times: "If it happens, I'm going to be forced to drive. I'm not very happy about that -- but it's an adjustment I'll have to make."
"What's happening in Miami is happening all over the country," said Joe Calabrese, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. "For the layperson, it's very difficult to understand that if ridership is at all-time high levels, how can we be cutting service?"Consequently, the American Public Transportation Association has asked Congressional leaders to add $2.5 billion in transit operating subsidies to the economic stimulus package now being debated. This would be a marked departure from past practice since the federal government has only provided support for capital investments, leaving state and local governments to pickup the losses on rail transit operations.
Unfortunately, it is not likely to make it into law, given Republican opposition to Uncle Sam spending our way out of a recession (They sing a different tune when it comes to tax cuts). If Sen. Kit Bond's remarks are any indication of the GOP position, then why do we even have Republican's in America? Don't they still believe the world is flat?