At Grade Rail-Public Funding

Review and analysis of a recently completed at grade rail system can provide context, and serve as a case study, or reference point, from which to view the ongoing planning, construction and operations of  mass transportation systems development.  With virtually all financial support of at grade rail system planning, construction and operation provided by government entities, primarily federal government agencies, the flow of funding should be predictable and consistent.  However, political wrangling over the public funding revenues has often resulted in less than adequate funding for existing and proposed systems.  Increasing costs of mass transit systems (using older technologies) have resulted in a need many times greater than the ability of public funding to provide the service.  The current list of proposed mass transit systems in Southern California is projected out thirty years for implementation and is not feasible under the current funding proposals.  The public subsidies required for existing and systems proposed for construction in the near future alone will exceed the available anticipated revenue.  Other difficulties that may occur relative to financial support tend to result from overestimation of annual fare revenues or underestimation of maintenance and operational expenses. Shifting of funding to cover deficits may be unwieldy within the multiple levels of funding bureaucracy, and can cause service levels to be altered or distorted or in some cases terminated.

It can be ironic, indeed, to see cuts or curtailment of rail services over short term cash flow deficiencies, after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent building the facilities and purchasing rolling stock and system equipment. Funding and financial support for existing and proposed at grade rail service should, therefore, be planned and scheduled prior to spending public funding for implementation of proposed new systems.

In summary, adequate public funding of mass transit systems under the current procedures is no longer financially feasible and other fiscal solutions and transit technologies should be considered.


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