Noting the transit paradox — more and more riders, less and less funding — Richard Fausett of the LA Times has written an excellent piece featuring our own embattled Tri-Rail system. Says Fausett:
The dramatic spike in gas prices that began in 2005 sent Americans flocking to trains, buses and subways, a trend that appears to have held up even as gas prices have dipped. But 2009 could be a year of crisis for the agencies that run them — a time of more riders but much less money.
Some new funding could come as part of House Democrats’ proposed $825-billion stimulus package, which, in its current form, sets aside $9 billion for public transportation. But all of that money would be used for new capital projects, not operating costs. And it is operating budgets — the money agencies need to run the systems they have now — that are getting hammered.
Tri-Rail service cuts are expected to reduce trips from 50 trains a day — the result of a $450 million investment to meet demand ad expand service two years ago — to 20 trains a day. This would not only nullify render the original investment useless, but also discourage a continued growth in ridership. After all, if the train isn’t running when and where you would like it to, who is going to take it? In addition, it will hurt those who depend on the train for their own livelidhood.
For some, the cuts will be an inconvenience, but for others the consequences will be more serious. Lisandra Fonseca, 21, of Miami relies on off-peak and weekend trains to get her to her job at a McDonald’s 30 miles north of home.
If the trains are mothballed, she said, ‘I’d just lose my job.’
As Streetsblog put it last week, stimulus funding may hire construction workers, while thousands of transit employees are fired.
For now it seems we may have lost the battle for adequate stimulus transit funding. However, with the Fed’s 2005 Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: (SAFETEA-LU) up for reauthorization this year, the war has only begun.
Miami may be one of “America’s cleanest cities,” but it certainly is not one of the most bicycle-friendly. This fact was recently recognized in the June 2008 issue of Bicycle Magazine, which bestowed Miami with the dubious distinction of joining Dallas and Memphis as one of the three worst cities in America for bicycling. The excerpt, linked above states the following:
In Miami, the terrain lies pancake-flat and the sun shines bright nearly every day-perfect conditions for cycling. But Miami-Dade County has done little to foster safer streets for bikes, despite the fact that Florida ranks second in the nation in bicycle fatalities and that much of Miami’s poorer population relies on bikes for transportation. The county enacted the Bicycle Facilities Plan in 2001, but it failed to state any specific goals. The city of Miami has no finished lanes, and the only one under construction is less than a mile long. The rest of the county’s lanes are just as short, appearing randomly and disappearing a few blocks later. “We’re so far behind and in the dark with bikes it’s absurd,” bike-shop owner Chris Marshall told the Miami New Times in January. “I’d say we’re stuck in the ’60s, but it’s worse than the ’60s. In the ’60s you could still get around by bike.”
I agree that we are far behind, but the article fails to mention Mayor Diaz’s new Bicycle Advisory Committee, which is working under the umbrella of the Office of Sustainable Initiatives to create a bicycle master plan that dovetails with Miami 21. It’s an uphill battle, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, the City of Boston, another cycling-poor city in which I have lived, repeatedly received similar honors from Bicycling Magazine. However, thanks to an aggressive agenda to improve cycling conditions the city is quickly altering its reputation. Let’s hope Miami is not too far behind.
Video courtesy of pardinus’ Youtube
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