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Shifting Existing Transportation Funds from Roads to Transit Could Lead to More Jobs and Require No Extra Spending


A new study by the Transportation Equity Network suggests that metropolitan areas could produce hundreds of thousands of new jobs by simply shifting existing transportation spending from highways to public transit.  The study, entitled More Transit=More Jobs: The Impact of Increasing Funding for Public Transit, examined the use of Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) funds in twenty metropolitan areas of various sizes and found that public transit investments produce nearly 20% more jobs per dollar than road investments.  If these twenty metropolitan areas shifted 50% of their existing highway funds to transit, there would be a net gain of 180,150 jobs over five years without a single dollar of new spending.  Moreover, the majority of these jobs could be created within existing transit systems, as the study also found that investing in transit operations produces about twice as many jobs per $1 billion invested than investing in transit capital projects.

 The researchers base these figures on information gathered from the Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) in place within twenty metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).  They collected information on the total TIP amount and then broke down spending into two categories: roads and public transit.  The average MPO spent 37% of TIP funds on public transit, although the amount varied from a high of 75% in New York City to a low of 15% in St. Louis. 

The researchers then attempted to answer two research questions.  The first examined the effect on jobs of shifting 50% of road spending to transit projects.  They found that such a shift would produce over 1.1 million new transit-related jobs in these twenty metropolitan regions over five years, or 230,522 on an annual basis.  Metropolitan areas that currently spend the least on public transit would see the largest gains.  After controlling for the loss of jobs in highway construction, the net gain would be 180,150 jobs, or 36,000 jobs on an annual basis.  The second question sought to figure out how many jobs would be created if each metropolitan area increased funding on public transit to levels proposed by Transportation for America (T4A) in its recommendations for the next transportation authorization act.  T4A’s proposal calls for increasing the amount spent on public transit by 240% to $158 billion, mostly for operational expenses of existing transit systems.  Under this proposal, the twenty metropolitan areas included in this study would see the creation of 1,291,431 jobs over five years, a net gain of approximately 800,000 new jobs.

 The researchers conclude by stating that all of these new jobs could be created by utilizing existing transportation funds already allocated to MPOs and would not require any additional federal spending.  By simply shifting priority from roads to public transit, metropolitan areas could see economic gains.

The final section of the report contains six case studies of regions with planned transit projects and the estimated number of jobs that will be created upon completion of these new transit routes: St. Louis’s Northside-Southside MetroLink extension, Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Central Corridor light rail line, Honolulu’s Oahu Transit project, Detroit’s M-1 Rail project, Denver’s FasTracks rail project, and Portland’s Milwaukie MAX line.

This report has been added to Best Practices: More Transit = More Jobs: The Impact of Increasing Funding for Public Transit