Progressive Dems Demand $30B for Transit, Deemphasize EVs
8:07 AM PDT on September 13, 2021
Mass transit must be at the center of America's strategy to end climate change — and the next spending package needs to devote at least half our transportation dollars to getting people out of cars and onto public transportation, a coalition of lawmakers says.
In an open letter to top officials in Washington, a coalition of 64 House and Senate Democrats urged their colleagues to devote at least $30 billion of the impending $3.5-trillion budget resolution to public transportation agencies. That amount would restore the $10 billion for transit negotiated out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill — which blue lawmakers hope to pass with GOP support, after which the larger budget measure would be passed by Democrats alone through reconciliation — while also tacking on a whopping additional $20 billion for shared modes.
The authors of the letter said that massive shift has become nothing short of a mandate following a wave of recent climate disasters, citing the destruction of Hurricane Ida, California's unprecedented wildfires, and historic heatwaves in the Pacific Northwest.
And they also specifically noted that electric car adoption alone would not be up to the task of preventing future tragedies.
"We cannot address the climate crisis in reconciliation without strengthening our public transit networks and bringing them into the 21st century," the authors wrote. "While we support additional funding for electric vehicles, studies are clear that electric vehicles alone will not allow the United States to meet its climate goals in transportation. We must expand the use of other modes of transportation, especially public transit."
The signatories also added a specific request that all of the money be sourced from the $60 billion in "allotments that have been assigned to the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committees" under the budget measure's framework — two funds in the still-being-written bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hinted would heavily favor consumer incentives for electric cars.
If the progressives' plea is heard, they're hopeful that the $30 billion boost could help correct for the shortcomings of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which would pump billions in unrestricted funds into road expansion across the country — while also expanding access to opportunity for BIPOC communities destroyed during America's last highway-building sprees.
"We must bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century and begin to undo decades of disinvestment in communities of color,” said Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.), the lead signatory on the letter along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass) and Henry "Hank" Johnson (D-Ga.). "We can’t afford to wait: the transportation sector remains the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and Congress must not lose this unique opportunity to make transformative investments in clean, reliable, and convenient public transportation alternatives."