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Opinion: Prioritizing transit would deliver jobs

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As we examine Missouri’s economic future, it’s important to realize funds to develop infrastructure are key. Now is the time for our newly elected state leaders to commit to developing and implementing a total transportation package that includes investment in public transit.

Investments in transit drive economic growth – improving access to opportunity, attracting talent and creating thousands of jobs. Unfortunately, our state is currently spending just 17 cents per capita on transit, and that’s not enough to keep Missouri moving forward. [Editor’s note: Comparatively, among the eight states surrounding Missouri most spend in the $2-$3 range per capita on transit, according to a 2014 report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Arkansas is the closest on the low side at $1.20 per capita.]

Growth and development patterns are greatly impacted by our decisions on how and where to invest in our transportation infrastructure. For example, public transit dollars invested in mature communities are playing a key role in urban revitalization and redevelopment. This can be seen in Kansas City, where more than $1.7 billion in development has occurred along the recently opened streetcar alignment. Meanwhile, in rural communities, investment in transit is providing greater access to jobs, education and quality health care.

At this time, Missouri transit purveyors provide more than 67 million trips annually. But as these providers deal with the effects of chronic underinvestment in capital assets and infrastructure improvements, many are being forced to drastically cut back on services they offer, leaving residents without access to critical employment, educational and health care services.

Missouri residents need well-resourced, well-operated transit options, and our newly elected leaders have the opportunity to help secure the future of both the state’s public transit system and its bottom line.

—Kimberly Cella, executive director, Missouri Public Transit Association

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