Petey’s asked me a couple of times if the Second Avenue Subway project in New York shouldn’t qualify as a stimulus-eligible shovel-ready project. I think the issue here is that the project is too shovel-ready and the funding and work is already in place. And I think you can’t just do it faster because of the limited supply of tunneling machines — they’re trying to minimize “cut and cover” construction since this is a very built-up area, and the equipment for this kind of boring isn’t something you can pick up at a hardware store. But if that’s wrong, then, yes, this is definitely the kind of thing that deserves to be in line ahead of new highway construction in terms of infrastructure money.
Still, I mostly don’t have a problem with there not being huge new transit construction in a stimulus bill. New need to reform the overall infrastructure policy for the long run, not just for an economic emergency. But what really does deserve hefty stimulus funding is transit operating expenses which would be both fast-acting, progressive in distributional impact, environmentally sound, and high-multiplier. What’s more, unlike new construction it’s the kind of thing you could phase out relatively easily when it becomes unnecessary.