Advocating for a Transpo Bill That Keeps Transit Riders Moving

transit_map.jpgLarge cities continue to grapple with big gaps in their transit budgets. Graphic: Transit Riders for Public Transportation.

Advocates in cities across the country are mobilizing today to support increased federal funding for transit service. Transit Riders for Public Transportation
(TRPT) a national coalition focused on bringing "environmental justice
and civil rights priorities to the upcoming federal surface
transportation act," is calling on representatives in the House to
co-sponsor H.R. 2746, which would allow transit agencies to spend more of their federal funds on day-to-day operations.

Transit agencies are still reeling from declining tax revenues brought on by the recession, with fare hikes and service cuts on tap in dozens of cities. The stimulus bill has provided little help. An amendment to fund transit operations was shot down back in January.

H.R.
2746, sponsored by Rep. Russ Carnahan, a Democrat from St. Louis, would
allow transit agencies in large cities like New York to spend up to 30
percent of their federal funding on operations. For cities with less
than a million residents, the percentage would be higher. By
comparison, representative James Oberstar’s draft transportation bill
would limit the amount agencies in large cities can spend on operations
to five percent.

"[Five percent] falls far too short to
cover the magnitude and depth of the transit operation crisis happening
across the country," said James Burke of West Harlem Environmental
Action (WEACT), one of TRPT’s members in New York City. Transit
agencies are currently permitted to spend 10 percent of their stimulus
funds to keep trains and buses running (thanks to a rider attached to
the latest war funding bill), and they still have yawning gaps in their operating budgets.

H.R.
2746 is a "marker" that could eventually be incorporated into the House
transportation bill. It has 42 co-sponsors, with Michael McMahon and
Anthony Weiner the only representatives from the five boroughs to have
signed on so far. To gain more support in the House, WEACT and other
local advocates are targeting the New York City delegation, especially
Transportation and Infrastucture Committee member Jerrold Nadler, whose
voice carries a lot of weight on transit issues.