Public Transit Expansion in the United States

I’ve recently become more interested in public transit systems. In some large metropolitan areas like New York City, Chicago, and Washington D.C., it’s perfectly common for residents to ditch their personal vehicle to rely solely on public options for their commute. I’m curious, though, about how expanding cities and tourist centers deal with the growing need for effective public transportation.

Funding, developing, building, staffing, and maintaining rail systems is a serious undertaking. When using public dollars to accomplish such goals, it seems as if everyone has an opinion.
When accidents happen, like train derailments or bus collisions, who ends up holding the bill? Information found from The Law Office of William J. Luse website mentions that bus accidents are often caused by driver fatigue, lack of bus maintenance, and inclement weather. Growing cities have no shortage of these factors.

Thus far in my research, I’ve found that the answers to these questions vary depending on the city and state of the particular rail or bus system. For example, the New York Metro Transit Authority is not a completely public entity. Rather, the NYMTA is classified as a public benefit corporation. There are components to this structuring that are governed by the public, however, there are also components which act as a private corporation. The MTA also isn’t subjected to the same regulations that public agencies are.

Growing Cities and Tourist Destinations

Los Angeles has long since been known for its terrible traffic and lack of options for commuters. However, in the November 2018 elections, Los Angeles residents voted to pass a $120 billion plan to expand rail routes by 100 miles and invest in more buses.

Both Austin and Nashville, though far less populated than Los Angeles have seen a population boom in the last five years. The growing population of both cities has left city officials and planners looking for both cost-effective and sensible solutions to deal with traffic and encourage continued growth. Though both have modest bus systems, it has proven difficult to pass legislation passing more comprehensive public transportation options, like expansive rail systems.

Of course, private companies, many of which are based out of Silicon Valley, have swooped in to offer quick private solutions like Lyft, Uber, Bird, and Lime. Cities and municipalities have had a complicated relationship with these companies. On one hand, they help solve a portion of the traffic congestion problem, on the other hand, these private companies have proven to be resistant to city regulation.

An interesting case for public transportation is Vail, Colorado. Many tourists visit Vail in the winter to take advantage of skiing. These visitors often have very little need for transit options as many of the resorts rest right at the base of the mountain. However, anyone who chooses to hop on a bus does so without paying any kind of toll or purchasing a ticket. The bus system is funded completely from tax dollars.