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September 9, 2020  

For U.S. Transit, “Death Spiral” Shouldn’t Have Been an Option in the First Place

September 9, 2020

A recent article in The Guardian described the “death spiral” looming for public transit in the United States. Country-wide, the pandemic has resulted in a 90% drop in ridership. This has led to cuts in services—which means even less ridership—and higher fares to make up for lost revenue. Higher fares lead to fewer riders…which means more higher fares, more cuts in services, or both. And so on. You see where this is going.

To save public transit, Congress may have to fill a $32 billion funding gap...but no funding package currently exists. Transportation advocates also warn that cuts in services exacerbate a “mobility crisis” that already existed for our cities’ most vulnerable people.

This article prompted a lively conversation on this week’s episode of Upzoned, with host Abby Kinney—an urban planner in Kansas City—and cohost Chuck Marohn, president of Strong Towns. Abby and Chuck discuss why the mortal danger facing public transit was always going to be an option when you overlay a dysfunctional transportation system on a dysfunctional land-use pattern, why public transit is a long-term investment in people, and how the U.S. subsidizes automobiles too. They also discuss whether making the “compassionate argument” may unintentionally undermine transit advocates’ case for public transportation.

Additional Show Notes