METRO Magazine: David Scorey on Making Transit America’s First Choice

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Opportunities can feel few and far between these days, which is exactly why the U.S. must seize the one it was recently handed: a rare chance to give public transportation the makeover that current passengers have long demanded and that which there is a latent demand for by potential passengers.

Public transportation is poised for an unprecedented comeback — one that seemed unfeasible just a few years ago. Pre-pandemic, ridership on America’s buses and subways had been steadily declining. That’s no surprise, given our infrastructure’s state-of-good repair backlogs and network designs that make using public transit in the U.S. feel second compared to other developed countries. But thanks to federal stimulus dollars and the near certainty of additional funding from a landmark infrastructure bill, the U.S. has an opportunity to reimagine and future-proof its transit systems.

The most evident issue facing public transit agencies is depleted revenues as ridership slowly rebounds. Attracting new riders — and retaining them — is no small task and many agencies may be faced with the unenviable option of cutting service to balance budgets. This can create a “death spiral” for transit — a self-fulfilling prophecy that only further chills ridership for years. As the impacts of climate change continue to devastate regions around the world, it’s essential that we reduce our dependence on cars and trucks and expand the menu of mobility options available.