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SGA analysis reveals transportation projects create the most jobs at the lowest cost

Seattle Streetcar Lake Union Park Originally uploaded by paulkimo90

A new analysis of federal stimulus spending confirms what many of us have suspected for months: investment in public transportation gets more people to work, faster, in just about every sense.

The report’s analysis, co-authored by Smart Growth America, the Center for Neighborhood Technology and U.S. PIRG, reveals that during the first ten months of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), investments in public transportation produced twice the jobs per billion dollars as did highway projects.

This is a critical lesson as the Senate takes up a jobs-creation measure passed by the House late last month, based almost entirely on the previous ARRA formula. If the Senate jobs bill were to instead invest equally in public transportation and highways (rather than the uneven split of ARRA), an additional 71,415 job months would be created, equivalent to year-round employment for nearly 6,000 additional workers.  And this could be done without spending a dime more than the House.

It is imperative that Senators utilize this opportunity. As Smart Growth America President Geoff Anderson put it: “If we are serious about creating jobs and bringing about the economic recovery our nation desperately needs, members of the Senate will insist on investing a greater percentage of the transportation funds in public transportation.”

Why do public transportation projects put more people to work dollar-for-dollar? First, public transportation projects invest more in labor than in land acquisition. Second, the projects tend to be more complex, resulting in greater employment diversity in both job numbers and required skills.

Public transportation has also proven itself to be just as “shovel-ready” as roads. Compared to highway infrastructure projects, public transportation projects are spending money at roughly the same rate nationwide.

In addition, every job saved or created for America’s bus drivers, rail operators and station agents is valuable in and of itself. But we often forget public transport does not just provide work, it also gets people to work. Millions of Americas rely on buses and subways each day for employment and essential services, especially during tough times. Investing in public transportation is an investment in their lives and livelihood too.

Read the report for yourself here, or read the full press release.

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  1. Gritty

    8 years ago

    As a planner at a medium-sized MPO, the uneven split of the stimulus funds has been incredibly frustrating to deal with. Although our MPO devoted our FHWA Direct Apportionment funds to bike/ped and transit projects, our state allocated the vast majority of FHWA stimulus funds, did not flex any to transit, used most in our area on repaving of highways which may or may not have needed it, and spent most of the 3% of ARRA STP funds set aside for enhancements on planting flowers by the highway (needless to say they didn’t go over the required minimum 3% for enhancements).

    Additionally, smaller transit systems are really hamstrung by the fact that ARRA funds can’t be used for operating expenses. How is a small city bus system or rural paratransit system supposed to apply for capital funds if they can’t afford to pay drivers for the new buses? Skewed federal priorities have us repaving roads that don’t need it while fewer drivers are driving on them at the same time as we’re cutting well-used transit routes that provide desperately needed job access to low-income workers because we can’t find a source of revenue for the operating expenses. A second stimulus just like the first would be an unmitigated disaster for the future of sustainable transportation.

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