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Brown Offers Senate Plan For More Federal Operating Aid to Local Transit

Local transit officials seeking more federal operating aid during lean
budgetary times got a new ally today in Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who
introduced legislation in Congress' upper chamber to give rail and bus
agencies more flexibility to spend funding from Washington on averting
service cuts and layoffs.

photo20080709NationalForum_brown04_280.jpgSen. Sherrod
Brown (D-OH) (Photo: Partnership
for Success

Brown's plan aligns with a House
sponsored by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and endorsed by 95
other Democrats
. At a press event today announcing the Senate bill,
the duo was joined by transit-boosting
Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) and members of the Transportation Equity
Network (TEN),
Transportation for America (T4A),
and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

The Brown-Carnahan measure would allow urban areas -- now barred
from spending federal money on operating, save
for 10 percent
of their stimulus allocations -- to use between 30
percent and one-half of their federal transit grants to defray the cost
of keeping trains and buses running.

The bill also would free up more funding for urban transit agencies
that have demonstrated cuts in carbon emissions after getting anti-pollution
stimulus grants
and those agencies that can increase the amount of
money raised for transit operating using sources other than the farebox.

ATU legislative director Jeff Rosenberg said in an interview that
transit groups believe Brown's seat on the Banking Committee, which has
jurisdiction over rail and bus networks, will put the bill in a good
position as senators prepare
to take up
their version of long-term federal transport

Given the current uncertainty
surrounding the timing of that bill, Rosenberg added that extra transit
operating aid could also move through Congress if the Senate decides to
act on the infrastructure-heavy jobs
that the House passed in December.

"There is a role to play for the federal government to invest in
transit systems to keep service going," Rosenberg said.

The ATU and the Community Transportation Association of America,
which represents an array local transit agencies, have formed a new coalition aimed at
marshaling grassroots support for federal operating aid.

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