Bureaucrats and activists have a tendency to pretend they got everything they wanted after big funding bills pass, and I’m never sure why that is. Perhaps it’s that this was a tough vote for politicians, and people don’t want to seem whiny and unappreciative of that. Perhaps they don’t want to depress their core supporters. Whatever the case, it seems like there’s always temptation to say whatever happened is historic or a game-changer.
That is what SEPTA general manager Joe Casey told Christine Fisher about the transit authority’s fortunes in the transportation funding bill that just passed. But if you look at what he says further down the page, it’s clear they got much less than what they need to operate decent service. What will we notice is different with this new money? Basically nothing! SEPTA’s still getting just enough in state and federal transfers not to totally shit the bed, and the Philadelphia region will continue to enjoy subpar-quality transit:
How will people see the impact of the new funding?
That’s going to be difficult. They’ll see some stations, but a lot of stuff they won’t see. They’ll see when we have service interruptions on the Media Line because we’ll be fixing the bridges. They won’t necessarily see the benefit of that, but that’ll preserve the system for years. That’s the difficulty because a lot of our needs are behind the scenes. They’ll certainly see improved reliability on the system from a power standpoint. We won’t be slowing down our service due to slow orders on bridges, but overall it’s going to be a mix. You’re going to have some visible projects and, quite frankly, some projects that aren’t quite as visible [...]
Part of the problem is we’re so far behind on the eight ball. This isn’t all of the sudden. It’s not like we’re spending $600 [million] and all the sudden we have $300 [million]. We’ve been operating on those scarce dollars for years and years and years, while everyone else has invested in new technology and fixing stuff. We’ve been on a short leash if you will, and now we finally have resources, but the first thing we have to do – and I know people want expansions here, expansions here – is fix what we have.