We here at Abogo are big fans of public transportation and think it deserves much more funding than it historically gets. Transit saves people money, helps the environment, reduces road rage, and gives people more time to read or check out their feeds on the way to work. What’s not to love?
Transportation funding for highway and transit programs are determined every five to six years at the federal level through a transportation authorization bill. The latest reauthorization of this bill is way overdue. Rather than make decisions about a new reauthorization, Congress has fallen into a pattern of extending the status quo again and again. Although there have been a few bills in Congress in the past months, the 535 legislators at the Capitol again fell short of passing a comprehensive bill. Instead, another extension was pushed through both the chambers, extending funds through March 2012.
John Mica, the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is the person to get a transportation reauthorization rolling since the whole process begins in his committee. Mica, who represents the Seventh District in Florida, has been in Congress for 18 years, but is relatively new to this post. Since taking the wheel in January 2011, he has taken steps to get the transportation reauthorization proposal moving. He introduced a proposal in July that would provide $230 billion over six years—about a 30 percent cut from current levels. Many were underwhelmed with this proposal, claiming that American infrastructure is crumbling and desperately needs more, not less investment. But Mica pointed out that he was bound by the House budget marks proposed by Paul Ryan (R-WI).
We decided to take a look at the transportation costs in Rep. Mica’s district to see if his constituents could benefit from increased investment in transit.
First up: Daytona Beach. This city is well known across the United States for the Daytona 500, Biketoberfest, and being one of the few ocean beaches in the world where driving a car is permitted. With an estimated eight million visitors a year, the city is a booming tourist hotspot. Are the residents of the home-town of NASCAR car-dependent?
Let’s take a look at what a typical household could expect in transportation costs per month:
Given the current average gas price of $3.35/gallon in the region, an average household could expect to spend $836/month on transportation costs. This number is relatively low in the region. Daytona Beach has a well-rounded bus system, Votran, that serves both residents and tourists efficiently. Votran serves the entire county, so residents can take buses to cities as far as Orlando. This option of transit is very inexpensive—only $40 for a monthly pass.
Furthermore, the city has a terrific grid system and compact development that facilitates walking, bike riding, and other forms of personal transportation. Walkscore gives the city a score of 95/100 in downtown areas near the beach, which makes it “extremely walkable.” The typically mild ocean climate further promotes people-powered forms of transportation.
The second city visited in Mica’s district is Orange City, Florida. The city is well known for its proximity to Blue Spring State Park, known for spectacular natural wildlife, including a large population of manatees.
Being much different in both design and population density, Orange City is has very different transportation costs compared to Daytona Beach.
Despite having the same gas prices as Daytona Beach, Orange City households can expect to pay more than $300 extra per month. Why is this city, which is less than 30 miles away from Daytona Beach, experiencing such high transportation costs?
Residents of Orange City have little public transportation options. A Votran bus line runs through the city center, yet it is primarily for inter-city transportation. This option doesn’t help residents who are looking to run local errands. Moreover, Orange City is given a shockingly low score [er1] of 0/100 by Walkscore, placing it in the “car-dependent” category. Local businesses are few and far between, making walking impractical. Given these two factors, Orange City residents are very car dependent. Cars with better fuel efficiency and practicing more fuel-efficient driving are two ways in which residents can expect to best lower transportation costs.
What they could really use is more transportation options.Investments in alternatives to driving, especially more comprehensive bus lines, could certainly aid in lowering transportation costs of households in both cities. Rep. Mica’s constituents would benefit from the household costs savings that increased investment in transportation infrastructure would bring.
Do either of these cities have similar costs to the ones in your area? What are some of the reasons for this? Are you tracking the Transportation Reauthorization Bill? What do you think about it?