Roger Lewis's Shaping the City - Stimulating Transit

I am a big fan of Roger Lewis's column that appears every other week in the Washington Post. Yesterday's column: All Aboard: Public Transit Deserves a Big Chunk of Stimulus starts out this way: "The share of President Obama's more than $800 billion economic stimulus package aimed at public transportation seems marginal, and that's a shortsighted approach to spending. Most of the money in the transportation portion is to stimulate work on roads and bridges. Relatively little is aimed at enhancing existing transit or launching new transit projects." I highly recommend reading the whole column.

He goes on to discuss how using stimulus money to fund more roads and bridges may be stimulative but works against the long term goals of redesigning the way we transport goods and people to better serve our society and environment.

I agree with him on almost all points, and definitely agree that our transportation priorities need to shift us to more sustainable models of development and transportation. However, I think our leaders need to be deliberate about how money in the stimulus package is spent. I am not an economist, but my understanding is that the point of the stimulus package is to pump money into the economy in the short term. So insomuch as investments in transit can result in money actually entering the economy in the next 18 months, I am supportive (including putting money into operating expenses, e.g., helping to cover WMATA's budget shortfall this year). But if that money is for more long term investments then, yes, they should probably still be funded, but not as part of the stimulus bill.

[cross posted on Greater Greater Washington]

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