Transportation funding

Here is an excerpt from my textbook, The Built Environment and Public Health.  The issue is how we fund mass transit in this country.  Highways are funded as a block grant, more or less.  The issue is how to divide the pot of money and localities don’t have to do much more than spend the cash.  In contrast, we make mass transit go through hoops.  Keep in mind that the gas tax, both local and national, pays only a fraction of the total cost of our roads.  This is not even counting the environmental impacts.  Here is what the textbook says:

Transit funding by the federal government uses a different set of procedures than that for highways. Money for highway construction is distributed using a formula that includes population, land area, and other factors. States and localities more or less get the money from the government by right. The only question is how many total dollars have been set aside in the latest highway bill. In contrast, mass transit is funded by a much more cumbersome process. For example, local transportation authorities have to apply to the federal government in a competitive process. Extensive documentation for the application is required and the application process includes an assessment regarding whether revenues are sufficient to maintain and operate the new transportation infrastructure. Funding for mass transit in recent years has been set at no more than 20% of the total federal transportation construction budget, an increase from earlier decades when funding for mass transit from the federal government was essentially zero. Thus transit funds are much more scarce than highway funds and much more difficult to secure.  Therefore, local governments have to find alternatives to fund capital and maintenance costs of transit.

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