Our country’s underinvested infrastructure is not a secret—but some weeks it’s more obvious than others. This is one of those weeks. Transit failures of our nation’s largest subway systems and continued dissatisfaction with surface transportation infrastructure makes Americans more willing to invest.
Tuesday’s derailment of the NYC subway was a brutal wakeup call for how much we rely on infrastructure, and how easily disruptions to it can affect our lives. While the derailment was ultimately blamed on human error, the incident brings to light a series of issues with our nation’s transit in general. The NYC subway, the largest system in the country, has had many recent incidents of malfunction and underperformance due to aging equipment and outdated systems.
The D.C. metro may even rival the NYC subway in malfunction, having been dubbed the “worst in the world.” The Metro has been so problematic lately that they even released an official apology after causing major delays on the most heavily traveled line. Metro’s backlog of technical issues calls for a level of maintenance and repair that will increasingly interrupt the flow of ridership, creating a cycle of infrastructure tension and user frustration. The New York subway and D.C. metro serve as unfortunate models of what happens when infrastructure is not properly maintained.
While Transit has the lowest grade in the Report Card, it’s not alone in funding and maintenance challenges. TRIP’s rural road reports shines on the issues facing the transportation network in less populated areas, including in Michigan and South Carolina, demonstrating the unique needs and challenges to get roads in less-populous areas the funding they need to be safe and reliable. Being frank about its challenges, Arkansas took the approach of explaining to citizens that it cannot get the job done with its limited funding, and offered options for increasing investment, in hopes to persuade change. It can take a while for the message of investment to take hold, but more infrastructure owners and users are coming around to it. In a recent survey by the Mineta Transportation Institute, a majority of Americans polled said that they would be willing to pay more at the pump in taxes if the revenue is used for specific transportation purposes. A large majority (83 percent) said that expanding and improving transit services in their states should be a high or medium government priority. A similar mindset prompted A the action of the city of Lorain, Ohio, where they have raised sewer rates because they recognized the need to increase investment to improve the system.
With the potential of a major federal infrastructure bill looming, our nation has the potential to address the first key solution to improve our nation’s infrastructure: investment.