On Tuesday, more than 700 public transportation leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to move forward quickly on federal legislation that will invest in public transportation to support and create jobs.
“First on the agenda is the passage of the HIRE Act in the Senate this week,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President William Millar, who welcomed the U.S. public transit leaders. “The HIRE Act will do two things: release the funding for public transportation in the 2010 appropriations bill and extend the deadline for the federal surface transportation legislation until December 31, 2010.”
Since the last federal surface transportation act expired last fall, Congress has been granting short-term extensions. The current extension is scheduled to expire March 28.
Public transportation leaders are also calling on their congressional leaders to pass another economic stimulus jobs bill this year that invests in public transportation and includes flexibility for operating funding for public transit systems. This legislation is urgently needed, not only to maintain public transit service, but to avoid the loss of American jobs. For every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital and operations, 36,000 jobs are created.
“Public transportation riders across the country are paying higher fares and seeing their services reduced or eliminated because of this severe economic recession,” said J. Barry Barker, APTA vice chair, government affairs, and executive director, Transit Authority of River City in Kentucky. "For the tens of millions of Americans who ride public transportation and for the millions of Americans who are seeking employment, we need Congress to act quickly to pass legislation that invests in public transportation."
While the HIRE Act and another jobs bill are much needed stop-gap measures, APTA is calling on Congress to approve a robust, multi-year bill so that public transportation systems can plan for the future. APTA is calling for $123 billion in investment over six years for public transportation to double ridership in 20 years, and $50 billion for high-speed rail.
“Although the short-term measures are welcomed and very helpful, they are not a substitute for a new, long-term, transportation legislation that will create and support good “green” jobs and build a world-class, 21st century, multi-modal transportation system,” said Millar. “The longer we wait for a new multi-year transportation bill, the less public transit systems and public transit businesses can support and create American jobs. Passing a long-term transportation authorization bill will be the best thing for public transportation and will also help our country’s economic recovery.”