Trumping the Transportation Progress Our Cities Need

A Changing Climate Means A Changing Society. The Island Press Urban Resilience Project, Supported By The Kresge Foundation And The JPB Foundation, Is Committed To A Greener, Fairer Future.‚Äč This Post Was Originally Published April 4, 2017 in Governing 

President Trump's proposed budget would be a disaster for the transportation networks that are key to the growth engines of today's economy: cities and their suburbs. Contrary to his often-bleak portrayal of them, cities are a remarkable American success story, contributing 90 percent of the country's economic output and 85 percent of U.S. jobs.

The preliminary federal spending plan would pull the rug out, jettisoning the funding that helps cities build new transit lines, eliminating the program that lets local communities directly access federal transportation funds, and axing a widely popular 42-year-old program that funds infrastructure of all kinds in every congressional district.

This severe approach flies in the face of national trends. Cities across the country are investing in transit, spurring job growth and economic development. More than 12 million people rode the new Green Line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul last year, and the project has generated $5 billion in investment since it opened. Los Angeles' Expo Line has seen record ridership since opening an extension to Santa Monica, with more than 50,000 people hopping the train every day. And Houston's overhaul of its bus network, with a subsequent boost in the number of people riding at all hours, is inspiring the same in other cities, including Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas.

Stopping this progress in its tracks is not just unpopular; it's irresponsible. Yet the White House has proposed to stop funding transit projects through the New Starts and Small Starts program, which matches over $2 billion in local funding for rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit projects every year. Without it, Seattle would be choking on traffic; instead, the city has been able to add 45,000 new downtown jobs, thanks in large part to investments in high-capacity transit.

Trump's budget also envisions eliminating TIGER, a program that is already chronically underfunded, with just 5 percent of eligible projects supported last year. It would also cut off all Community Development Block Grants, without which Portland, Ore., wouldn't have built the first legs of its highly successful streetcar system.

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