America’s largest transit agencies have obligated taxpayers to cover billions of dollars in pension and health care costs over the next thirty years. To see just how serious this problem is, the Antiplanner examined the consolidated financial statements for about two dozen of the nation’s largest transit agencies. The results vary widely from agency to agency: some have almost no unfunded obligations, while others appear headed for default or other serious financial problems.
The numbers in the table below are based on the latest financial statements I could obtain for each agency. Mostly this means 2013, but in a few cases they are one or two years older. Most agencies have growing unfunded obligations, so more recent updates are probably worse than shown. Agencies in some large cities, including Baltimore, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Francisco, and Seattle, are operated by other units of government whose financial statements don’t distinguish between unfunded transit obligations and other unfunded obligations. So if your large urban area isn’t on the above list, that’s probably why.