It’s clear from their words that officials within the Obama Administration are well aware of the funding crisis facing local transit authorities. Across the country, vital agencies are short billions of dollars for necessary maintenance, repairs and upgrades, and yet, dollars trickle out of Washington at a snail’s pace. It’s easier and more palatable for the government to spend billions bailing out the auto industry than it is for them to invest in transit operations.
If the Obama Administration has its way — a long shot for sure — that tied could turn. In comments yesterday at the American Public Transportation Association meeting, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said that he wants to see transit agencies stem their economic tide. “We are trying to deal with all those challenges at once,” he said. “Not just maintenance but also on expansion, also to provide increased formula funds.”
Rogoff spoke at length about the age of American transit networks and the need to modernize. “There are power substation facilities serving the SEPTA system that have equipment in it dating from the 19-teens and 20’s. Thank heaven they overbuilt those systems back in the 20’s because they actually have been able to endure and serve the service,” he said. “But it is, sometimes it is rather spooky when you see how many tens of thousands of daily commuters that are dependent on the continuing reliability of systems that are approaching 50, 60, 70 years-old in some of these cities. That’s why we really want to surge forward with the investment because some of those systems are going to have to be replaced you cannot keep milking them along another half century.”