In cities across the country, local governments are making tough choices about how best to manage record transportation deficits. New York’s MTA recently announced a budget shortfall of $800 million, and this past weekend implemented a series of painful service cuts. The cuts have left many across the five boroughs looking for alternatives, and private industry is hoping to take over where the MTA left off. Entrepreneurs like Joel Azumah have opened charter van services running along many of the exact routes of discontinued MTA buses -- in open defiance of orders to cease from the city.
In Philadelphia, SEPTA’s board of directors recently approved the sale of naming rights to one of the city’s subway stations. In a deal to bring in $3.4 million over the course of five years, the city has agreed to change Pattison station to AT&T station and has said that it would consider other deals. Jerry Silverman, a former chair of SEPTA’s citizen advisory committee, warned of where this could potentially lead, “Instead of riding the Broad Street subway from City Hall to Pattison, people might soon take the Coca-Cola Line from Pizza Hut to AT&T."
Service cuts and fare hikes in public transport systems inevitably have a greater impact on low-income people, people of color, older Americans, and the disabled. Our financial crisis is real, but the solution is not forcing vulnerable Americans to navigate a patchwork of for-profit, unregulated transport systems. Investing in public transportation means investing in access to opportunity, green jobs, and energy independence. All those are things we need now more than ever.