Political operatives with close ties to Senator Chuck Schumer expect the Majority Leader to introduce a $2.1 trillion spending bill during the lame duck Congress dedicated to mass transit construction projects — whether or not the Democrats are ousted from power in the chamber. Schumer is planning for a vote on the spending bill, which is being quietly pushed by the powerful Real Estate Board of New York, just weeks ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Some operatives are calling the strategy “Schumer’s climate plan”, noting that mass transit availability is a far more environmentally friendly approach to carbon reduction than lithium-intensive electric vehicles. Those in Schumer’s inner circle believe that a nationwide expansion of regional mass transit systems could reduce the nation’s carbon footprint by as much as 20% over 10 years — while creating a boom in the construction and real estate industries.
The strategy is not without its critics, who are concerned that additional federal spending could exacerbate inflationary conditions. To address those concerns, Schumer wants the money allocated immediately but not spent until a mandatory 24-month participatory planning and design process has been completed — perhaps in lieu of current environmental review laws that are often cited as preventing new infrastructure development.
“By delaying the start of construction and delaying when these funds will be dispensed, we can avoid having inflationary impacts in the short term while signaling to the market that there will be a need to ramp up supply in the medium term,” an economic advisor explains. “It also gives us ample time and space to plan and innovate.”
Under Schumer’s plan, a federal funding formula would allocate billions of construction dollars to the nation’s 50-largest metropolitan areas — at a rate of about $10 billion for every 1 million residents. The New York City metropolitan area, with a population of more than 23 million, would receive construction capital of more than $235 billion.
The money would be allocated to regional planning boards rather than transit operating authorities. The legislation specifically prevents funding from being spent on anything unrelated to new construction (like operating costs or reconstructing existing infrastructure, for instance). The funds can be used for subway, light rail, regional rail, and monorail projects. High-speed intracity rail will be ineligible for funding,
The legislation will not fund bus purchases, instead focusing on the types of mass transit infrastructure that increase property values.
“This money is not for buses. This is for shovels in the ground — for big projects that will have intergenerational impacts and catalyze a decades-long construction boom fueled by the real estate investment that will result from this type of infrastructure. Subways enable very lucrative high-density development,” he explains. “Mass transit enables the evolution of local real estate markets.”