Through the end of 2009, investments by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in public transportation have created almost twice as many jobs per dollar as investments in highways, according to an analysis of federal data by Washington-based Smart Growth America (SGA) and other groups. The most recent data from states shows that every billion dollars spent on public transportation produced 19,299 job-months, compared to 10,493 job-months for every billion spent on highway infrastructure, according to the analysis.

The analysis, in which the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and Boston-based U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) also participated, used data released by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 9. The new data from the states add two months and several billion dollars to previously released data. "States have put more than $22.6 billion of transportation stimulus funds under contract," said SGA President Geoff Anderson. "We've gotten a lot of vital projects for that money — and we've also learned a lot."

The number of jobs created or saved per billion stimulus dollars spent on transportation is rising over time for both public transportation and highways, the three organizations say, but one billion dollars invested in public transportation produces 8,806 more job months than one billion dollars spent on highways, according to the analysis. Public transportation projects create more jobs than road projects because they spend less money on land and more on labor, and because projects are often more complex, whether laying track or manufacturing vehicles, according to SGA. "Not only do public transportation investments create more jobs, more quickly than highways. We now see the advantage growing over time as the stimulus advances," said Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG senior analyst. "If job creation was an Olympic event, public transportation would be laps ahead and gaining. At the one-year mark, it isn't even close."

Also, the Second Quarterly ARRA Economic Impact Report released last month by the President's Council of Economic Advisers showed that public transportation was the top job generator among ARRA clean energy programs.

Read the CNT, SGA, and US PIRG analysis or download the data on which the analysis is based.