Call it a double-edged sword, a perfect storm or—stealing a quote from Charles Dickens—American Public Transportation Association President William Millar describes the state of transit as, “The best of times, the worst of times.” From California to the Carolinas, the acceptance of and desire for transit systems is unprecedented. Voters in November approved more than 20 pro-transit ballot initiatives, most notably Proposition 1B in California that calls for $9.95 billion for a high-speed rail system stretching from Sacramento to San Diego.
But transit owners, designers and builders have no easy task ahead. The “pain at the pump” that helped prompt more Americans to turn to transit also is proving to be a pain for transit providers. “Our members used 6% of their operating budgets on fuel three years ago,” says Millar. “Now it is 11%.” Moreover, sales-tax revenue is down due to the economic crisis.