Solving Cities

Which states spend most on transit?

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A look at how the transportation spending priorities breakdown at the state level.

The United States spends billions of dollars each year on transportation projects. But what types of infrastructure projects are getting the most attention in states?

In a new 50-state analysis, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign (of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut) dug into the numbers, providing one of the most comprehensive looks at statewide transportation spending. The organization looked at each state's statewide transportation improvement program (STIP), a document that shows a four year financial plan for transportation projects.

Let's take a look at their findings using maps. First, what percentage of the budget goes to transit projects? These are projects that have major impacts on cities.

A majority of states spend more than 8 percent of their budget on transit projects -- from light rail to bus rapid transit. In fact, on average states spend about 20 percent of their federal transportation dollars on transit, according to the organization's report. But with transit comes a need for biking and walking infrastructure (unless a park and ride is available), because not too many transit line will drop you off at your door step. So what percentage of the transportation budgets are spent on bicycle and pedestrian transportation projects? Take a look below:

The map goes pale. There's a major contrast between biking and pedestrian spending and other spending on other transportation projects. On average, states spend about 2 percent of federal transportation money on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

And compared with building brand new roads, bike/ped spending is just a drop in the bucket.

Of the three maps we've seen, spending is clearly highest on new roads. And when you look only at how states spend federal transportation money, new roads account for a larger percentage of spending than transit and bike/ped infrastructure combined (23 percent).

Along with transit, bike/ped, and new roads, the organization also looked at bridge capacity expansion, road maintenance/minor widening, bridge maintenance/replacement, road or bridge project with bicycle/pedestrian components, and safety.

As the report points out, STIP documents provide a good look at statewide transportation priorities, but they aren't the whole story:

Many states use additional financing tools such as public-private partnerships, infrastructure banks, and toll authorities to fund transportation infrastructure. The projects funded by these methods do not have to be reported in a state’s statewide transportation improvement program, though some states may choose to show these projects.

It's not perfect, but for now it's the best we have. Check out this interactive map to see how your state's transportation spending priorities breakdown.

Photo: Flickr/MTAPhotos

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure