In a well-intended attempt to try to get people to rethink the “jobs creation” logic of infrastructure spending, a new report from the Transportation Equity Network has released a report that talks about how shifting money from highways to transit—and, in particular, operations—would make more jobs.
The report then goes on to project the potential job creation of a 50% shift in present highway spending to transit for each of the 20 metropolitan areas. The shift would create 1,123,674 new transit jobs over five years, for a net increase of 180,150 jobs — all without a dollar of new spending.
In some ways, this report exemplifies everything that is wrong about the transit dialog. Tons of good intention, but with so much hyperbole that nobody can credit their findings. Even Streetsblog people seem to reading with raised eyebrows, and you are not going to find a more sympathetic audience of people. Transit will, according to this argument, revive local economies. Another unrealistic expectation heaped upon my favorite, already overburdened mode.
So we’ll take money away from highway spending and use it for transit spending based on the jobs created? Not on mobility needs met or customers served….but jobs created. I understand that we are in a recession and “jobs created” is the political currency they want to draw on, but, people, honestly, I need passengers served in the benefits metric, at least tangentially, when we are talking about transit investment. Please?
However, I do respect that they are willing to shake up the “jobs jobs jobs” dialogue to some degree by pointing out that you can and would save jobs by helping agencies deal with their operating deficits. The unchallenged dialogue of “creating jobs” around transit is almost always around capital investment. So we’re building new things while we are cutting operations. It makes little sense. The TEN authors at least try to direct the “jobs jobs jobs” in a direction that it needs to go: asking why the goal of keeping CURRENT drivers and maintenance workers employed is less of a priority than shoveling money into construction to create jobs. Preservation rather than creation. It’s a good issue to take up.
Of course, those existing jobs in operations could also be saved, in theory, by cutting back on transit capital investment, too, just as easily as taking money away from highways, but I am assuming that isn’t quite what these authors want.
But, if operations is the comparison, then let’s get very honest and start opening the options: spending no money at all and given the tax back, putting transit against college stipends for foster kids, dental care for impoverished kids, etc, building local parks and any other of the dozens of worthy things we can do with public money.