Uneasy Rider

July 1, 2011
Facing budget cuts, transit agencies building new rail projects are struggling to make the trains run on time—or at all.

Public transit needs public funding. And that goes way beyond the fare box. Local, state, and federal dollars are the lifeblood of public transportation projects in the United States. But with the country in recovery from the recession and states cutting back programs to close budget holes, support for public transit looks to be grinding to a halt.

There’s an obvious downside for those who rely on public transit to get around, but there’s also a potentially more confounding problem for the nation’s transit agencies. Some of them are right in the middle of expanding or building entirely new projects such as light-rail lines—projects planned during a better economy—or will begin them soon. What only recently seemed to be a set of projects on the path to ribbon cutting have seen transit agencies scrambling to find new sources of funding and to justify projects that had enjoyed wide support.