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What can be said about the Federal New Starts Fund? Other than explicitly favoring a legacy technology over any and all potential alternatives, contributing to rank partisanship, wasting federal dollars on unneeded projects, and risking lives, it’s a total winner.
The fund doles-out approximately $2B a year in grants to municipalities looking to expand their light rail systems. However, it makes no funding available either for maintenance of existing systems, or for alternative transportation systems, such as buses, which are often cheaper, more efficient, and often safer (I’m ignoring the matter of whether or not local systems should even be federally funded to begin with). As such, city officials — already over-eager for photo-ops of new construction– are further tempted by a huge pile of cash for slick new projects, regardless of whether or not that’s what best serves their constituents. It’s also highly politicized in that having a Democrat representing you on the relevant committee is almost a guarantor of disproportionate funding; the opposite is the case if you’re represented by a Republican.
The Cato Daily Podcast has the full story:
Here in Boston, residents are still smarting from the worst season of delays the MBTA has ever suffered. Service across the entire system was completely shutdown on at least four weekdays last month. On at least two days that it was working — my iPad froze (literally) while I was waiting for a train, the schedule being completely abandoned and no one having the slightest clue as to when the next one would arrive. Obviously, the unprecedented snow is the closest proximate cause, but the T is notoriously behind on maintenance (to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year) and has an incredibly old fleet. Many of the train cars are so old, that the maintenance yard actually has to manufacture repair parts from scratch. The four-story parking garage at Quincy Center is in such bad shape, that it’s been completely shuttered for the last two years ago.
But while everyone in the state is scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to repair the existing system, we’re also receiving $1B in Federal subsidies to help us put a new, 4.7-mile branch on the Green Line. No one else will be able to get to work if it snows again — let alone park their car — but at least the mayors of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Medford will have something to brag about come election time.
On their behalf, thanks America.