Public transit leaders from across the country spoke out at a press briefing on Monday to strongly oppose the President's deep cuts to public transit in the Administration's fiscal year 2019 proposed budget. If fully implemented, these cuts would put at risk 800,000 jobs, including 502,000 construction and related jobs; and an additional 300,000 longer term jobs associated with economic productivity, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
CEOs of local public transit agencies participating in the event were from Jacksonville, Fla.; Seattle; Pittsburgh; Indianapolis; Albany, N.Y.; Denver; and Washington, DC.
"The proposed budget cuts to public transit will affect accessibility for millions of Americans across the nation that rely on our bus and rail systems to get to and from jobs, healthcare and education," said APTA Chair and Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. "Without this funding, projects that rely on Capital Investment Grants will not be implemented and communities will suffer."
Overall, these proposed cuts would result in a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output, according to an analysis “The Economic Implications of Proposed Public Transit Capital Funding Cuts” that was prepared by the Economic Development Research Group for APTA. The Administration offered cuts to crucial programs that fund public transit infrastructure to pay for their proposed infrastructure plan.
"Cutting investments in America's public transit infrastructure to fund an infrastructure initiative is like robbing Peter to pay Paul," said APTA President/CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. "However, we are encouraged that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support increased investments in public transit that will boost our economy and the quality of life in our local communities. We are calling on Congress to reject these budget cuts."
The Administration proposes cuts to the Capital Investment Grants (CIG), Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program (TIGER), Amtrak, and the local DC metro's budget in its fiscal year 2019 proposed budget. The cuts to the CIG program will put 53 public transit new start projects at risk. The projects total $51.7 billion in investments in America's public transit infrastructure.
These projects also have local and state funds committed with the expectation that the federal government will fulfill its financial obligations promised in the 2015 Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by bipartisan votes of 83 to 16 in the U.S. Senate and 359-65 in the House of Representatives.
"Federal funding is critical to the safety and reliability of our transit system, which supports a million trips each weekday here in the nation's capital," said Paul J. Wiedefeld, CEO of Washington Metro. "At a time when many of our nation's transit systems are falling dangerously behind on maintenance due to funding challenges, we need more investment, not less."
Public transit leaders discussed the community and economic impact of these proposed cuts to local public transit projects and how they leverage new federal investments in public transit infrastructure.
"Puget Sound taxpayers have done their part to keep commuters and our economy moving by adopting the most ambitious transit expansion program in the nation. They reasonably expect the continuation of the longtime federal funding partnership that is needed to complete transit extensions on time and accommodate the 1.2 million new jobs that we know are coming to the region in the years ahead,” said Peter Rogoff, president/CEO of Seattle’s Sound Transit. “Local funds are set to pay for more than 60 percent of extending light rail to the City of Lynnwood and 75 percent to reach the City of Federal Way. We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to get these projects built."
"In Allegheny County, the Capital Investment Grant would be used to make more efficient connections to Downtown Pittsburgh and neighborhoods that are home to several major hospitals and universities, allowing America's Most Livable City to continue its evolution into a major technology center for our region,” added Katherine Eagan Kelleman, CEO of Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County. “Projects like this are only possible when we leverage federal funding with local dollars, and we greatly appreciate and cherish that support. Ultimately, we will only be successful when we work with all of our partners.