Public transportation may finally be back in style in America: ridership is way up, and Obama's recently-passed stimulus package includes massive funds for mass transit and rail. Despite this, cash-strapped cities and states and are cutting back on the public transport services they provide.
A new PBS series called "Blueprint America" poses the question: How will the billions provided for mass transit in the stimulus package be spent? Will serious projects be funded, or will the states funnel the cash into pet projects and pork?To answer the question, PBS travels to North Carolina, where Charlotte's Republican Mayor Pat McCrory eagerly shows off his city's new light rail. While it required a public investment of some half a million dollars (and was, according to McCrory, a very tough sell), the mayor likes it because it has stimulated economic growth and created new business opportunities in his city.
Meanwhile, North Carolina's Department of Transportation has a reputation for being little more than a rubber stamp for new roads, and doing little to evaluate transportation projects according to objective criteria. In fact, the board charged with approving new transportation projects in the state has not rejected a project plan in 15 years. However, North Carolina has a new governor who has set out to reform the state's transportation system.
Will states make responsible, sustainable investments with the stimulus funds, or dump them into a barrel of pork? Is there any national vision for sustainable transportation or just a patchwork of isolated projects?
"Stimulus Roadblock?" is a sincere attempt to figure out how infrastructure stimulus will translate into spending on the ground. Also, check out the rest of the series at Blueprint America's website.