Will public transit survive Trump's infrastructure plan?

Now that Donald Trump is in office, we can expect his administration's budget proposal within the coming weeks. What that will look like is – befitting these times – uncertain, but we know the president wants to put people to work fixing our country's infrastructure. The Democrats want that, too. Trump's infrastructure plan, however, could be a disaster for transit, an idea Next City explores.

If reports are correct, Trump's team is taking recommendations from the Heritage Foundation into serious consideration. Called the " Blueprint for Balance," the group's proposed budget would completely phase out the Federal Transit Authority and end federal funding for a number of other transit programs. Without FTA grants, transit agencies will find themselves underfunded and reliant on local governments to find the money elsewhere. The Heritage Foundation makes the argument that Americans "choose to travel in automobiles in overwhelming numbers." This budget proposal would only expand the number of people who "choose" to drive.

Ahead of any official budget from the Trump administration, Democrats released their own infrastructure plan. It's pretty vague, with few details to inspire confidence. It would put $50 billion toward rail infrastructure, another $130 billion for better public transit, and still $200 billion more for the country's "most critical and transformative transportation projects." Funds to pay for it would come from closing tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.

But while the Democrats' plan seems more hopeful than realistic (at least considering the current political landscape), it's a place to start negotiating with potential allies across the aisle. Ultimately, Congress has to pass a proposed budget, and certain Republicans can be convinced that transit is important to their constituencies. Some of the more severe cuts could be amended, if transit's history of bipartisan support holds up. This should be interesting to watch and see how it plays out.

Suppose transit does lose most of its federal funding, though. Elaine Chao, who has been confirmed as Secretary of Transportation, has a suggestion for funding infrastructure: partnerships between public and private entities. Depending on how things turn out, this may be the only option for states and municipalities. After all, says Chao, "we all know that the government doesn't have the resources to deliver it all."

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