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People are moving back into the hearts of cities. Especially young people. Many corporations are also returning to urban centers

Source: CityLab

Because of this, getting around has become increasingly problematic. The widest boulevards and smallest streets are clogged with cars and trucks; city parking is difficult to find and ever-more expensive. 

Recently, The Economist magazine acclaimed self-driving cars as one “positive scenario” that could “transform transport and urban life” and “change...the world for the better”.  
Are self-driving cars the answer? Or do we have other alternatives that will reduce traffic congestion as well as greenhouse gas emissions?

Effective public transit is an obvious solution, but in too many cities, existing transit systems are decaying. Like so much of America’s aging infrastructure, their repair and maintenance have been long deferred.

New York City operates the nation's largest system, but it is old, operating at capacity, and in need of constant repair. The L line, which carries 400,000 passengers per day, will soon shut down its most used segment for 18 months of vital repairs. Boston's “T”, the nation’s oldest, has recently slashed nighttime hours. The Metro in Washington, D.C, is crumbling, the most basic maintenance underfunded. 
Some cities, however, are moving in the opposite direction—expanding lines or building entirely new systems. Seattle and Los Angeles, ruled for eighty years by the automobile, are creating new ways for citizens to move easily over and under their gridlocked streets. Most interesting, citizens are actually voting to pay new taxes in order to invest in their public transit systems. 
The Sexy Bus Ad.
Midttrafik: The Bus (UK version) [Official]
Case Examples: Seattle and Los Angeles
Seattle's Sound Transit began as a ballot measure in 1996 with buses, commuter rail and plans for light rail. A second ballot measure in 2008 funded further system expansion with an increase of regional sales tax. This year the city opened two new underground light rail stations - one in Capitol Hill and another in the nearby University District. More stations are set to open soon and this Fall the city will vote on a third ballot measure for dramatically more light rail service to highly-populated neighborhoods and suburbs. Relying on new taxes and federal funding, the measure calls for $50 billion to be spent over 25 years. (Sound Transit)
Los Angeles
The nation’s second largest city has long been notorious for its dependence on cars, but an extensive public transit rail system has sprouted over the past 25 years. Its Metro now includes 6 separate rail lines run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which also maintains roads and highways. A 2008 measure to increase sales tax in Los Angeles County to fund more public transit was approved by 2/3 of voters. This fall the MTA is sponsoring another ballot measure (R2) that proposes $120 billion in improvements to the system over the next 40 years, with another half-cent increase in the sales tax. Take a look below to see what public transport looks like in Los Angeles in 2016. 
Metro puts half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects on Nov. ballot 
Los Angeles Times | June 23, 2016
"Metro’s proposal, one of the most ambitious in modern U.S. history, could transform a traffic-choked region that began building a modern rail system decades after other major cities. The expenditure plan calls for several north-south links in a rail network that runs largely east to west. 

The tax, which has no end date, would increase the county’s base sales tax rate to 9.5% and push the rate to 10% in some cities, including Santa Monica and Commerce. If the tax were approved, two cents for every dollar spent in the county would fund transportation improvements. It would require a two-thirds’ vote to pass."

$50B Sound Transit proposal: big taxes, big spending, big plan
The Seattle Times | March 24, 2016
"The plan, released at an agency board meeting Thursday, calls for $50 billion in new projects and services, funded by $27 billion in new tax collections through 2041, along with existing taxes, long-term debt and federal grants.

The debate over light rail is over. We are building a system north, south, east and west,” declared CEO Peter Rogoff. The full network would provide 108 miles of light rail, comparable to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) or the Washington, D.C., Metro system, he said."

"If approved by voters, Sound Transit 3 would boost an average household’s taxes by $400 per year."

Why Subways in the Northeast are so Troubled
The New York Times | May 26, 2016
"As transit officials in Boston, New York and Washington focus on improving the subways, their efforts are being closely watched by planners and business groups who fear economic growth in the region could slow if the systems cannot keep up."

"This month, President Obama tied the Metro’s problems to a broader lack of investment in infrastructure across the country, like the water pipes in Flint, Mich., and crumbling roads and bridges.

The Federal Transit Administration found that public transit systems have a backlog of $86 billion in critical maintenance nationwide. Officials pushed for infrastructure funding on Capitol Hill recently as part of Infrastructure Week, an annual series of events to highlight the issue.“It is just one more example of the underinvestments that have been made,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference. “Look, the D.C. Metro historically has been a great strength of this region. But over time, we underinvested in maintenance and repair.”

L Train Will Shut Down From Manhattan to Brooklyn in ’19 for 18 Months
The New York Times | July 25, 2016
"In New York City, the L line currently handles about 400,000 passenger trips each weekday, with about 225,000 of those riders taking the line under the East River each day and the others traveling within Manhattan or Brooklyn.
During the repairs, the trains will continue to operate in Brooklyn between the Williamsburg and Canarsie neighborhoods, but will not run west of the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn. All five L train stops in Manhattan will close, along with the tunnel."

* PGP Note: That amount of weekday passengers is equal to one quarter of Chicago's daily ridership and about one half of Washington D.C.'s or Boston's.

The L Train Closure: How Will it Affect You?
The New Yorker | August 16, 2016
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The Public Goods Post is a service of the Public Goods Institute, founded by June Sekera, Chair of the Institute and Research Fellow at the Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University.

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