Final Stimulus Bill Slaps Transit Riders in the Face

The final tally is in, and we now have a breakdown for transportation funding in the stimulus bill that President Obama will sign, barring some unforeseen turn of the screw. Via Transportation for America:

  • $29 billion for highways and bridges
  • $8.4 billion for transit
  • $8 billion for high-speed rail
  • $1.3 billion for Amtrak

To compare the final transit and rail figures with the House and Senate versions of the bill, check out the table put together by the Transport Politic.

The big news, of course, is the $8 billion for high speed rail, most of which came from out of nowhere. And I'd be quite pleased with that number if it weren't for the meager sum allocated to transit. Of the four categories cited above, transit is the only one to emerge from conference committee without any bump up from the Senate's lowball offer. The endgame went something like this, according to the AP:

In late-stage talks, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pressed for $8 billion to construct high-speed rail lines, quadrupling the amount in the bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday.

Reid's office issued a statement noting that a proposed Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas rail might get a big chunk of the money.

That Presidential muscle could have been flexed to stave off fare hikes and service cuts across the country, giving the economy a very fast-acting stimulus. This last-minute intervention, on the other hand, is more than a little puzzling. Among other headscratchers: How does getting people to the slots an hour faster move us closer to ending sprawl?