Friday, September 10, 2010

The Argument for “More Transit = More Jobs”

Transportation Equity Network’s (TEN) latest report “More Transit = More Jobs” created quite a stir this past week with commentary ranging from Transportation for America, two fellows at National Resource Defense Council, Streetsblog and a whole host of others via world wide web. Kaid Benfield with NRDC chimes in “People take for granted that “shovel-ready” highway projects create jobs. But investment in public transportation may be even more effective in generating employment.” Streetsblog even boldly titles their article “Report: Investing in Transit Could Create 180,000 Jobs, for Free.” In an era where nothing is free, how does investing in transportation actually create jobs?

TEN’s report first ranks metro areas by percentage of transit spending then proposes shifting 50% of the current highway spending to fund transit projects. New jobs would be created by bolstering the alternative transportation sector and further supported by a new Transportation Authorization Act. TEN’s report concludes with six case studies analyzing: Honolulu, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, St. Louis, Denver, and Portland job creation potential.

On John Horner’s NRDC blog, he supports the new usage of funds and provides this example for the Bay Area improvement.

If the San Francisco Bay Area (which, as a percentage of total transportation spending, already spends above the national average on transit) were to shift 50% of its highway dollars to transit, we'd see a net increase of 23,264 jobs over five years. That's more than 20,000 just by shifting around money we're already committed to spending (i.e. No New Money!).

This is not just about transportation spending. A new study from the Michigan Department of Transportation shows “that for every 10 jobs created in the public transit sector, six additional jobs are created in the rest of the economy.” Sounds like a plan, what next?