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June 4, 2009

The Congestion Paradox: Less cars, less money for transit

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Congestion Trends, 2007-2008 (Wall Street Journal)

Congestion Trends, 2007-2008 (Wall Street Journal)

As the economy slumps, there are fewer and fewer cars on the road as people drive less to reach jobs, goods and services.  It in turn means, of course, a reduction in congestion in major cities.   While such a decrease may seem like a dream for automobile commuters, its a quandry for transit agencies dependent on fuel tax, road and bridge tolls and sales tax to fund transportation projects.  Just as the demand for public transit is at a 50-year high, agencies are scrambling to find money as auto-dependent revenues decline.  Here’s the paradox: less cars on the road, the less money for public transit.

The article highlights how other industries suffer as well: taxis, rental car service, drive-thru restaurants – all whom provide sales tax revenue.  Transportation agencies will have to struggle in the next few years to provide funding solutions as more Americans alter their transportation habits.

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