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07/09/2009

Urban underfunding datapoint of the day

Anecdotally (which means that I don’t have any empirical data on this, but it feels this way), transportation spending is second only to defense spending when it comes to waste, inefficiency, and a general syndrome of money going to politically-influential districts rather than where it would make the most sense.

But then the Obama administration started banning earmarks in the stimulus bill and, I thought, leaving decisions on the allocation of funds to an independent central authority rather than to bickering legislators. I was rather surprised, then, to read this:

The stimulus law provided $26.6 billion for highways, bridges and other transportation projects, but left the decision on how to spend most of it to the states.

The results have been predictable: disproportionate amounts of money for roads in the middle of nowhere, while important urban transit projects go unfunded. Seattle, for instance, got none of the first tranche of federal stimulus funds; Charlotte got less than 2% of North Carolina’s.

This is why we need an Urbanist Party: so that city-dwellers can finally punch their weight in politics (Obama is the first president from a city in living memory) and so that local, state and federal government starts paying much more attention to the people who really make any modern economy run.


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