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August 12, 2011

Economic situation feels like a bad movie

by Alex Roman - Also by this author

When I think of the economic situation this country is in, I can't help but to feel like Michael Corleone in "Godfather III" when he says, "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in!"

Remember, it was just some months ago when we as a country started to finally see some light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult recession, but now there is the debt ceiling fight and the possibility of what some economists call a "double dip" recession.

Added to all this economic turmoil is the most divided Congress many could historically recall, with both parties collectively deciding to not work together, and instead, jockey for position for what will be an insane 2012 election.

The biggest hostage of this whole process, besides American lives, though, is the public transportation industry, which continues to work without an authorization bill and is very close to seeing its main funding mechanism run out. If Congress can't figure out issues like keeping the country from grave economic harm for us all, it doesn't seem likely that a simple solution for funding a bill is just down the road.

Remember, while Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL) are hopeful to have their respective bills go through markup sometime in the next two months, there has not been a new funding mechanism found or even mentioned for that matter. This will make it difficult to get a bill done, let alone our worsening financial crisis, which is bound to shrink transportation's piece of the pie.

So I'm wondering, is anybody still hopeful a solution to fund an authorization bill will be reached soon? Or like in "Godfather III," is the whole situation out of whack?

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "'Car-crazed' L.A. welcoming transit, sustainability"  here.

Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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  • Jan van Eck[ August 12th, 2011 @ 10:38am ]

    We are in an economic mess because Washington spends vast sums on military hardware and foreign wars. The problem with hardware is that it is capital intensive. For the new Model 35 Joint Strike Fighter, Congress has spent about $300 billion. For an airplane for which there is no mission, to do combat with a non-existent enemy. Nuclear subs are being built at $4 billion a pop, to shoot at non-existent navies. 10-year wars are fought in mountains against peasants living in caves. Iraq is occupied to keep Shias and Sunnis from slitting each other's throats. Is that our responsibility? Spend $700 billion a year on that folly and don't be surprised you have no coin to run a transit bus. Hey, you elected those chumps.

  • Rodger James Sillars[ August 12th, 2011 @ 1:33pm ]

    A big hunk of the problem is the revenue side (gas tax), which was was never designed to do adequate funding of new infrastructure and on going maintenance. We do not have the revenue to meet current needs and the revenue stream is going away as driving declines and mileage increases. The gas tax has been inherently unfair as the revenues are disproportionately on motorists and not on heavy highway damaging vehicles. (Yes and our buses get exempt and are major sources of damage. While yesterday's technology made a responsible collection system challenging, today we can charge by mile and weight easily with GPS and in motion scales. Non commercial traffic can be collected by an accumulator with no data held on time and place with an audit sample that uses an algorithm to create artificial check verification check points to detect cheating while protecting privacy. All vehicle roads with speed limits over 20 MPH would be added to the tax duplicate and appropriate fees collected from users. These new fees would go half based on valuation to normal sources and the remainder to regional and local bodies to assure pedestrian and bike facilities and basic public transit to provide essential connections for access to highways, rail services and airports. Every place would be guaranteed funding for safe access to schools and community centers regardless of ability to drive. Existing rail lines would have their local tax revenues redistributed as for roads. Air facilities would also be subject to property tax. Road construction and maintenance would become self-supporting and allow for public and /or private operation and pricing that could reflect congestion fees. Transportation programs would have the means to be self supporting without subsidy and a revenue stream to pay for rehabilitation and construction bonds. Regulatory agencies could require deadlines to reach all maintenance to be 95% or more of adequate and get transportation out of ordinary tax p

  • Lewis Ames[ August 12th, 2011 @ 5:31pm ]

    Eric, your concern about the economy is valid and much appreciated, but the risk of further downturn and your role to enhance awareness of potential remedies are understated. Your perspective here does not give voice to the depth of risk for the transit industry and national interest that is far beyond historical norms of stress from a recession. To advocate against this risk requires all of us to realize that the media clichés about this down turn foster a group-think that increases the policy risks we face. As tempting as it may be to echo the premise that there was “light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult recession” that is a sound bite. I work in financial planning in a large urban region and have tracked the major indicators continuously. This recession is so significant and beyond this cable new speak that it is hard to describe but we must say the truth: the previous three years of historical decline in U.S. public agency and private-sector supplier transit industry’s capacity to provide goods and service has stopped only because it has shrunk to levels of a decade or more past and now pauses at edge of whole sale dismantling. It will take a decade to recover if not stopped this year. To say that the "double dip" recession is all but assured defies convention but speaks to the truth of what we are facing. To say Congress is divided, “with both parties collectively deciding to not work together” again churns cable news cliché’s without adding value to our understanding. Say it: a fringe conservative faction has a mission that is anti-governance with the goal to nullify a common-good public realm and abandon the social contracts of public investment and regulatory protection. This speaks to the truth of what we are facing and need to resolve. Do not treat the perpetual diversions about taxes and deferral of the authorization bill as a there-they-go-again, normal partisan debate. Congress is being stopped from keeping the country from grave ec

  • Gildas[ January 22th, 2012 @ 10:21pm ]

    Stellar work there everyone. I'll keep on rediang.


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Janna Starcic

Executive Editor

Alex Roman

Managing Editor

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