Public transportation ridership continues to grow; agencies continue to raise fares and cut serviceDecember 8, 2011
By Stephen Lee Davis
|A family on an eastbound MARTA rapid rail train in Atlanta. MARTA has experienced drastic cuts in service over the last 3 years.|
|Take action if you live in one of these Senate Banking Committee states
AL – Sen. Shelby
USA Today covered the news today from the American Public Transportation Association that transit ridership went up another 2 percent nationally in the third quarter, compared to the same period last year.
“We are seeing employment tick up and people are making lifestyle choices,” says Michael Melaniphy, association president. “People think, ‘There must be a better alternative.’ “
This good news comes along with a dose of bad news — the same bad news we’ve been experiencing for the last three or four years. An example from the story:
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which serves the Boston area, is considering fare hikes and service cuts to its 180 bus routes and 17 commuter and subway lines because of a potential $161 million shortfall next year, says Acting General Manager Jonathan Davis. The authority posted record ridership in September and October. Weekday ridership for October increased 3.2% compared with a year earlier.
All across the country, hundreds of transit agencies just like the MBTA are in dire budgetary straits: they’re cutting back on service, laying off workers, and hiking fares. On our interactive map about transit cuts across the country, Alexander in Los Angeles described to us how cuts have affected him:
… I am deeply disappointed by the service cuts. I used to be a regular MTA patron (in Los Angeles), however while the subway and LRT service is more or less OK, the bus service has fallen to a completely unacceptable level. …15-minute headways on some lines turned to 40-minute intervals; this is no exaggeration. I am now back to driving (polluting the air and adding to gridlock, having no other choice…)
Of course, Alexander is somewhat lucky, in that he can afford a car and gas to still make it to work each day. Millions of others depend on public transportation each day without any other options to lean on when their bus starts coming once an hour instead of every 15 minutes.
We talk about this now because a key Senate committee is deciding the fate of public transportation right now. The Senate Banking Committee is writing their portion of the Senate transportation reauthorization and they have jurisdiction over transit.
They need to know that it’s important to give transit agencies the flexibility to use their money not just to buy new buses or railcars but for the operation of those buses and trains. That’s because transit agencies in our larger cities aren’t allowed to use the federal dollars they receive to keep trains and buses running, even in this incredibly difficult time.
Public transportation ridership has been growing three times faster than the US population to reach record highs. Public transit is a driving force in our economy, and we need it now more than ever to help the economy rebound.
So if you live in one of the states listed below or at right, tell your Senators on the Banking Committee to support flexibility for public transportation operations in their draft transportation bill.
(If you don’t live in a Banking Committee state, the action page won’t let you send a message.)
AL – Sen. Shelby
CO – Sen. Bennet
HI – Sen. Akaka
ID – Sen. Crapo
IL – Sen. Kirk
KS – Sen. Moran
LA – Sen. Vitter
MT – Sen. Tester
NC – Sen. Hagan
NE – Sen. Johanns
NJ – Sen. Menendez
NY – Sen. Schumer
OH – Sen. Brown
OR – Sen. Merkley
PA – Sen. Toomey
RI – Sen. Reed
SC – Sen. DeMint
SD – Tim Johnson
TN – Sen. Corker
VA – Sen. Warner
WI – Sen. Kohl