By CAP Energy Intern Emily Bischof
This week, President Obama announced the Federal transportation budget for FY2012; demonstrating the administration’s commitment to maintaining and improving the mobility of our nation while creating millions of jobs for Americans, improving accessibility for the most needy, and reducing harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The allocation of $128 billion to the transportation sector for FY 2012, is part of a long term 6 year plan totaling $556 billion worth of investments in the surface transportation network.
The number of jobs the U.S. can create through large investments in transportation depends on how funds are delegated and which modes of transportation are emphasized movingforward. Before the recovery act (ARRA) was passed, studies showed that road repair created 16% more jobs and public transportation created 31% more jobs than investments in new highway construction. Recent reports of the results of ARRA funding show that every $1 billion invested in new high way projects created 2.4 million job-hours while $1 billion invested into public transportation created 4.2 million job-hours.Thus, there is a clear advantage to investing in public transit and improving existing roads, over investments in new highways.
Within the transportation budget request are specific provisions that will ensure public transportation and repair projects will be adequately funded. Of the $128 billion, strong job-creating investments include: a $50 billion boost to current spending for roads, railways and runways in FY2012, $119 billion for transit programs over the next 6 years, and the establishment of a “fix it first” approach towards existing infrastructure. These projects will ensure that the most jobs can be created with the funds available.
In addition, there is a specific allocation of $8 billion in 2012 and $53 billion over six years to reach the President’s goal of providing 80 percent of Americans with convenient access to a passenger rail system, featuring high-speed service, within 25 years, announced last week by Vice President Biden. Investment in High Speed Rail will create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country, especially in some of the hardest hit industries such as construction and manufacturing. In California alone, the construction of the High Speed Rail corridor will create up to 100,000 construction jobs each year the project is being built, with potential for 450,000 additional direct and indirect jobs associated with the rail line over the next 25 years. The 800-mile corridor is part of the US High Speed Rail Association’s plan to build a 17,000 mile cross country network by 2030.
Moreover, public transportation infrastructure on the local level will help activate commerce in areas surrounding new transportation hubs, creating thousands of indirect jobs. Proof of this can be seen in Dallas where in 1996, a 20 mile, 21 station light rail was created. Within the first year after the project was completed retail sales grew 33% in the downtown area versus 3% in the rest of the city.
More than just creating jobs, increases in transportation infrastructure can allow greater accessibility to employment opportunities for the 30% of Americans who do not drive. Studies have shown that accessibility provided by more efficient and reliable public transportation option can significantly reduce the length of time unemployed individuals spend on welfare. In order to maximize the productivity of our workforce we must not only provide enough employment opportunities but we must also ensure that all capable American citizens have access to those jobs.
Equally important, the benefits of investing in cleaner public transportation reach beyond the number of jobs that will be created. Decreased Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), resulting from increased use of public transportation and higher incidence of walking and biking will also have dramatic impacts on CO2 emissions. On average, the use of public transportation leads to a 45% decrease in CO2 emissions per passenger mile as compared to private vehicles. Similarly, according to the California High-Speed Rail Authority the use of high speed rail uses only …“ the energy of an airplane and …• the energy of a commuter automobile trip. This would lead to predicted annual CO2 emissions reductions of 6.8 billion lbs. by 2030.
Reducing dependence on private motor vehicles will also create indirect health benefits in the form of increased physical activity and lower obesity rates, lower rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases due to decreased levels of air pollutants from vehicle emissions, and a decrease in death and injury from accidents. Some estimates show that reductions in CO2 emissions would save an average of $40 of health care costs per ton. Not only do the economic benefits come from reduced health care costs, but a stronger healthier population will lead to a more productive work force.
The President’s budget request on Monday signified the administration’s recognition of the power that the transportation industry holds for rejuvenating our economy and providing jobs to thousands of unemployed Americans. Today, as our economy struggles to recover from one of the biggest recessions since The Great Depressionwe can turn to our transportation infrastructure to revitalize and refuel economic prosperity in the United States. We must invest in improving our 21st century infrastructure while developing new transportation technologies that will drive our economy into the future. In an era of constrained budgets and fiscal responsibility, it is necessary to invest our limited funds into projects that will reap maximum benefits.
– Emily Bischof, CAP Energy Intern