The Department of Transportation announced half a billion dollars worth of TIGER grants last week. While some of these projects may be worthwhile, others are clearly wasted.
TIGER, which stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, was created by Congress in 2009 to help the nation recover from the Great Recession. Since that recession is supposed to be long over, the Trump administration wants to abolish the program. But members of Congress want to keep it because they see it as a form of pork barrel.
The good news is that none of this year’s TIGER grants are going for streetcars. One is supporting a bus-rapid transit project in Atlanta and a couple more are supporting transit centers in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Immokalee, Florida. Such infrastructure improvements are wasteful, especially when the money could be spent on repairing existing transit infrastructure (in Atlanta) or operating more frequent service (in the other two cities). The Atlanta BRT project is particularly questionable because it wasn’t on either the city’s or the transit agency’s lists of funding priorities; as one local web site says, the $12.6 million for this project is “a lot of money for a route that no one has heard of before and that never saw any public engagement.” Continue reading