Sudden Public Transport Crisis A Warning For Us


A sudden unexpected public transport crisis in the US - and it’s a warning for us of what can happen with a system that relies heavily on government funding and that funding changes.

Throughout the US,  funding from various state and local governments, a key part of budgets for transit systems, is being massively cut.

So officials are slashing public transport services and raising fares, even though many of those who use public transport may well themselves be stretched for cash because of the economy.

This will result in people throughout the country finding their train or bus route gone, fares more expensive, and services more crowded.

Here are some examples in the big cities, where public transport is heavily used.

  • In New York – where “Save Our Subway” rallies are planned, the city’s transportation board has passed a budget plan that will result in massive cuts.
  • Two NY train lines get axed completely as well as 21 local bus routes, including crosstown routes and night services.
  • An access service for disabled people gets dumped as do free and discounted cards.  Those student discount cards, for half a million people, are especially to help poor kids get to school.
  • San Francisco is raising fares this month – up 27% for a monthly pass.
  • Washington DC is to cut the frequency of train services.
  • Chicago won’t increase fares but will cut out bus routes and lay people off.

The budget shortfalls aren’t pretty. In San Fran, it’s $179m and in New York, its a massive $521m.

There, the transport authority blames the shortfall –which wasn’t forecast - on lower than projected tax revenues and a court decision that gives workers a 11.5% increase over the next three years. At the same time, non-union workers got a 10% reduction in their salaries.

Some New Yorkers say they'll have to walk home or catch the odd cab

Sadly, in tight financial times, and when thousands have lost their job, the number of people using public transport across the US has dropped in the past year.

Numbers nationwide were down 3.8% throughout the year but in the last quarter that drop was 6.1% below the figures for the same quarter in the previous year.

That may have also been partly a result of fare increases in the last part of the year as the budget deficits started to get noticed. Official figures show fares on average rose 17.8% in the last quarter  - a reminder to us in how putting up fares so much can impact the numbers.

We’re bracing for fare increases up to seven per cent for trains, partly as a result of the new government farebox recovery system along with councils taking other budget measures, such as considering  charges for Northern busway park and rides.

But while we may grumble, this is mild compared to the impact of what’s happening in the US at the start of this year.

Let’s hope we never face such a public transport crisis. But it reminds us to stay vigilant.




  1. rtc says:

    When I was last in Chicago there were notices about massive fare increases and services being cut and frequencies being reduced, this will start to happen here very soon once National’s PT budget cuts start filtering down.

  2. Joshua says:

    I geuss you could argue that it wont have much of an effect over here as we still havn’t really developed our public transport system :) ,

    I don’t think any of our politions would be game enough to follow in those footsteps, they would miss alot of their votes.

  3. Matt L says:

    Joshua I don’t think they will be to worried about votes, especially seeing as PT use is so low overall. The risk for us is that the PT network won’t be properly developed and therefore will be hobbled making it harder to use and creating impediments to people using it.


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