Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Danger of Service Cuts

Providing premium transit has done wonders not only for transit agencies bottom line, but for their political capital. It has changed them from a 'social service' agency providing essential services to a few (and so ever vulnerable to cuts) to a 'utility' that requires funding to continue providing a valuable service for many.

Part of the reason for the furor that so often surrounds mode for transit projects is the association of mode with service quality. Neither streetcar nor light rail inherently provide better transit then a bus. But because of the New Starts funding criteria, rail has become associated with service quality.

With recent cuts to TRAX service (It now comes every 20 minutes on Saturday, rather than 15), I worry about further declines in service. New Starts already mandates service levels necessary to receive funding for new projects, but there is already a lot of existing transit. I'm opposed to Federal support for transit operations on principle--I'd rather see the roadway subsidy eliminated than a competing subsidy for transit created. But I expect that any operations support will come at a price--mandatory service standards. I'd be pleased to see that--I'd rather have a few good routes then a lot of bad ones.

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