Any attempt to get more taxing authority for transit out of the state legislature is running into the mantra that you can’t raise taxes in a recession. That’s in spite of the short term economic impact of cutting back service: forcing the poorest, who are least inclined to save, to buy gasoline instead of a product that creates more jobs.
Now here’s Yglesias making the medium-term economic growth case for funding transit adequately right now:
Which means that a global recovery could spark a rise in oil prices that hits America specifically very hard and in effect strangles our recovery in the crib. At that point it becomes an open question as to whether we drag the world down with us, in which case the cycle repeats, or if we just get left behind as continued global growth keeps pushing the price up and pinching American consumers harder-and-harder.
The answer, of course, is to take advantage of this period of “output gap” and low Treasury rates to invest in expanded mass transit capacities. But while the stimulus bill does do some good stuff for transit, it’s not even enough to make up for the rate at which state and local governments are curtailing transit services, much less to really leave Americans in a position to ride the bus to the new jobs we’re hoping to see created in 2010.