- Published: 07 February 2017
- Written by David Peter Alan
With recent changes in Washington, a new issue appears to taking center stage in discussions about transportation policy. That issue is infrastructure. We, as advocates for better transit, recognize the need for more transit infrastructure to improve capacity, especially capacity on our rail lines. At the same time, the highways that were built as part of the Interstate Highway Frenzy of the 1960s are deteriorating, too. Money from Washington will be scarce, due to the dominance of "fiscal conservatives" in the Republican Party, which now controls the government. That means the competition for infrastructure dollars will be fierce. It will not be easy to compete against highway-building interests and their sponsors, who want to build toll roads that will generate an income stream in the future. Transit is firmly rooted in the public sector, since the private sector got rid of most of it during the latter half of the past century. So we will be doing well if we get enough resources to keep the existing transit network going and add some new elements, like two new rail tunnels and a bridge over the Hackensack River, where the aging Portal Bridge stands today. We may hear that the Trump Administration still favors such large projects as the entire Gateway Project and a full-length extension for the Second Avenue Subway in New York City. If we get that amount of funding, we will take it, but we had better not count on it.
Throughout the discussions about funding, spending and infrastructure in the future, one thing is certain. The riders, and that includes organizations like ours who represent the riders, deserve a genuine "seat at the table" during these decision-making processes. Indeed, it would be impossible to design and build useful projects if we are denied the right to participate to that extent. We are the people who pay for every project, through the taxes and the fares we pay, and we are the people who will use the projects that are built. It is imperative that we have an opportunity to participate fully in every step of the process, as invited participants and not merely as "members of the public" with no recognized standing.
It is time for the members of the business and political communities, who make the decisions about these important projects, to recognize that we have a right to participate, too. Of all the "stakeholders" who have reason to care about our transit, no stakeholders are more important than the riders.