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MASS TRANSIT

Is it boom or bust of US mass transit in the '80s? Monitor correspondent Paul Van Slambrouck explores the challenges for public transportation, and how they are being met, in a four-part series.

Reaching an ever-growing number of far-flung commuters from the suburbs and beyond may be impractical for conventional bus and rail systems. Creative solutions, like ride-sharing, van-pooling, dial-a-ride, and other "paratransit" services now being tried around the nation, hold more hope than expensive new technology.

With inflation, especially rising energy costs, pinching paychecks, a growing number of Americans are willing to leave cars at home and give the bus or train a try.

Ironically, in the economics of public transit, more riders means a bigger, not smaller, budget deficit. As the recent transit shutdown in metropolitan Boston showed, many systems already are walking a fiscal tightrope.

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