February 2009

A Call to Action for Transit

by Frank Di Giacomo, Publisher

There has never been a more critical time to invest in public transportation and intercity and high-speed passenger rail infrastructure. In addition to creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, the proposed legislation would create better work access, reduce road congestion and greenhouse gas emissions and decrease fuel consumption.

Get “ready to go”

According to APTA’s economic recovery survey, almost 800 transit projects worth $15.9 billion are “ready-to-go.” Transit investment can be spent quickly and will immediately create “green” jobs. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion of stimulus investment in transportation infrastructure supports 28,000 jobs. $12 billion in new transit funding would create more than 330,000 new jobs.

APTA submitted three recommendations to Congress regarding proposed infrastructure investments to expand job creation and address critical public transportation system and national inter-city passenger rail needs:

  • Provide no less than $12 billion for public transportation investment in economic recovery.
  • Include at least $2.5 billion, within the total funding for public transportation, for “Transit Energy Assistance” grants or similar authority to address ongoing transit service cuts, fare increases and employee layoffs at transit systems.
  • Increase funding for intercity passenger rail investment to $5 billion, including $3.4 million for high-speed and intercity passenger rail grants to states, as recommended by Chairman Oberstar. (At press time, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the economic recovery bill (H.R. 1), which contained $12 billion for public transportation.)

Making cuts

Despite surges in ridership for public transportation, transit systems have had to cut service, increase fares and lay off employees as a result of declining state and local revenues, as well as increases in fuel costs.

In order for transportation to succeed in having a robust level of funding, it is important for everyone to contact their congressman to let them know that this is a priority. Whether you call their office, or send an e-mail, let them know how important this to your community. Be sure to cite specific examples of “ready-to-go” transit projects and describe how those projects will create jobs quickly.

Use it or lose it

Like transit projects, the industry also needs to be “ready-to-go” when the money does come through. Fifty percent of economic stimulus funds for transportation projects given to states must be obligated within 90 days, according to a recommendation outlined by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. If this requirement is not met, the funds will be redistributed. With those timelines in mind, it is incumbent upon the transit industry to be prepared, so that we live up to our end of the bargain.

Federal transit funding will help rebuild our nation’s transportation infrastructure and jump-start our nation’s economy. We all need to do our part. It’s time to get to work.


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