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Mass Transit “Missing in Action” in Jobs Debate

January 9, 2012

NEW YORK - The GOP presidential contenders spend lots of time talking about job creation, but there's one job generator vital to many New Yorkers that is not getting much play: mass transit. Veronica Vanterpool with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign says for every billion dollars of capital investment in mass transit, about 24,000 jobs are created.

She says local ridership is up, but federal and state funding is down. She is surprised the issue is not getting more attention in a nation that is hungry for work.

"That sort of investment is a boon, for both the economy and the environment, and transit generates a tremendous amount of jobs."

Vanterpool says it isn't just Republicans running for president who are giving the issue short shrift. She notes that New York's Democratic governor spent almost an hour talking about job creation in his State of the State address, but did not mention mass transit.

President Obama has made transit infrastructure investment a vital part of his economic recovery plan, according to "City Limits" reporter Melanie Lefkowitz. She predicts the party that ends up winning the White House will likely have a major impact on the future of mass transit spending in New York.

"I think the difference comes in how it should be paid for. President Obama has been supportive of direct funding, whereas the Republican point of view is more that these things should be paid for through partnerships with the private sector and loans."

Lefkowitz says the Obama administration has steered nearly $200 million to New York for transit projects like Phase One of the Penn Station renovation. She says another big chunk of federal money will be needed to finish the job.

"There's still a shortfall of several hundred million dollars. It's not clear where that's going to come from, and that's one of the things that will be directly impacted by the election. They need that money to go forward, and they would need it secured within the next couple of years, to be able to work continuously."

Lefkowitz says the congressional elections also could have a major effect on tri-state transit riders, because Congress makes some of the biggest choices about allocating federal funding.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY