With the great majority of subway construction funding coming from federal sources, subways have been historically well supported in construction and equipment purchase phases of development, but have experienced long-term operational and maintenance funding deficits in nearly every case. Overestimation of fare income and ridership on mass transportation systems has led to constant balancing and shifting of state and local tax-based financing, as well as, reductions in service on most public transportation systems in the U.S.
The nearly complete inversion of funding commitments to mass transit from the 85% federal-15% local contributions of the 1980’s, to the current 20% federal-80% local funding obligations of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (LACMTA) and Los Angeles County taxpayers has shifted transportation funding sources and obligations to a taxpayer base less and less able to support the massive growth and waste that regional transportation authorities have burdened local governments and taxpayers with for the next 20-30 years.
Until transportation planners and authorities can demonstrate some level of cost effectiveness and long-term efficiency in the development and operation of specific mass transportation systems, the general benefits of such systems should be reconsidered and reprioritized. Dependence on ever-increasing streams of public tax revenue as the sole source of long-term financial support for public transportation systems is proving to be an unsustainable economic condition, which is growing more difficult to justify, given the limited benefit such systems provide to local communities and government authorities.