CHART: The Best and Worst States in America for Transit Funding

According to data from the Federal Transit Authority (FTA), the State of Ohio provides some of the least amount of funding for its regional transit authorities of any state in America.

Texas, Georgia and Missouri also provide next to nothing to their various regional transit agencies, but in no other state are transit agencies as reliant on fares and local taxes as they are in the Buckeye State.

When broadening the search to examine transit agencies in the biggest cities across America, it also becomes clear that states like Pennsylvania, Utah and Maryland, Minnesota and Massachusetts invest large amounts of state dollars in transit. Some transit agencies with little state support, however, receive larger sums of money from regional transit taxes and federal aid.

Source of American Transit Funding

Ohio’s three largest metropolitan regions – all with more than two million people – are different in this regard and have the least diverse range of financial support of transit agencies nationwide. For both Columbus and Cleveland, it means that well over 90% of their total revenues come from fares and local tax dollars, while in Cincinnati it is slightly better at 84% thanks to a bit more federal aid.

“In the recession we saw transit service cut while gas prices drove transit demand to record levels,” stated Akshai Singh, an Ohio Sierra Club representative with the advocacy organization Ohio for Transportation Choice. “Roughly all of the state’s public transportation funding now goes to operating rural transit services.”

Honolulu is the only other region in the United States that has 90% or more of its funds coming from just fares and local tax dollars. Cities in other states providing next to nothing also approach this threshold, but do not exceed it as is the case in Ohio.

It recently reported that the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) is one of the best stewards of limited financial resources, when compared to 11 peer agencies across the country. One of the key findings from Agenda 360 report was how little state financial support SORTA receives.

Part of the problem in Ohio is due to state cuts that have reduced funding for public transportation by 83% since 2000. Those cuts have forced transit agencies in the nation’s seventh most populous state to reduce service and increase fares over the past decade.

According to All Aboard Ohio, the state only provides approximately 1% of its transportation budget to transit, while more than 9% of the state’s population lives without a car.

In addition to regional transit, Ohio continues to be one of the most hostile states in terms of inter-city passenger rail. The state remains almost untouched by Amtrak’s national network and boasts the nation’s most densely populated corridor – Cincinnati to Cleveland – without any inter-city passenger rail service.

“When Governor Kasich came to office, the first thing he did was send back $400 million in federal dollars, for the 3C Corridor, on the basis that operations and maintenance would have been too onerous on the state,” Singh concluded. “Today, ODOT is allocating $240 million to build a $331 million, 3.5-mile highway extension through a 40% carless neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side, a staggering $100 million per mile new capacity road, while openly acknowledging they are reducing access for local residents.”

  • Eric Douglas

    As far as rail, Columbus is the largest U.S. city by far with no rail transit and it doesn’t seem to bother them, and Cleveland arguably overbuilt rail to the point of cars sitting at the airport and on the lakefront only being used during large events. BRT is a good neoliberal approach for them. I think before the Enquirer and others keep writing about our regional need for expanded transit, we need to see who the next Gov will be once Kasich is term limited.

    • David Thomas

      Yup, bottom line…elect more Democrats or pro-transit Rebuplicans (if that is such a thing).

    • James Bonsall

      There are definitely pro-transit Republicans out there. I wish there were more though.

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      I wouldn’t say Cleveland overbuilt rail…they just have a terrible line in a bad location and have never really been able to attract large ridership with it.

    • Jake Mecklenborg

      Cleveland’s red line is probably the worst rapid transit line in the country, since it parallels follows a freight railroad line that travels through zero important areas of Cleveland. Building transit lines parallel to freight railroads saves money but rarely achieves any transformative effect because the stations are inevitably located at random places in the city.

    • Jake Mecklenborg

      Cleveland’s BRT sucks. The buses are faster than ordinary buses but the stations, which are often located in islands in the middle of the street, and lane swerves that serve them created an ugly streetscape. People want to be around an attractive streetscape where vehicles travel at slow or moderate speeds, not along a street where buses launch from ugly stations like jets off a carrier deck.

    • Eric Douglas

      What I took from their system was that they had a corridor with a lot of potential that was also wide enough to do the median and BRT lanes. I did like that stations where at intersections rather than mid block and that it seemed traffic naturally diverted to other streets.

  • jasomm

    what “state” is the fund of Washington DC ‘s State funds?

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      WMATA operates in several states, so possibly both Maryland and and Virginia.

      In this analysis I looked at transit for city areas and combined it all. So in Cincinnati’s case I tallied the numbers for both SORTA and TANK. In other regions there may have been only one agency operating in one state, but in some regions (i.e. New York) there are many agencies operating and they cover more than one state.

    • jasomm

      right on… thanks

  • matimal

    Columbus has more than 2 million people?!

    • http://www.UrbanCincy.com/ Randy A. Simes

      The Columbus metropolitan region, yes.

    • Steven Fields

      Combined area, not metro. The metro may get there by 2020.

    • http://zacharyschunn.wix.com/ Zachary Schunn

      City limits or MSA, no. CSA, yes.

  • zschmiez

    Just curious if the Columbus values include the CABS buses that run through arguably the densest and largest population, OSU campus.

    I believe, and it may have changed, that CABS was free, and students paid a subsidized price in fees to ride the city bus as long as they had their ID (maybe thats “Other fees”).

  • http://zacharyschunn.wix.com/ Zachary Schunn

    I’m not sure transit advocates can use “gas prices going up” as an argument. Sure, we all may perceive gas prices spiking, but in reality real prices aren’t much different now than in 2007-08.