House leadership making unprecedented assault on public transitFebruary 2, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
Stop the House’s unprecedented assault on public transportation. There are just a few hours left before their vote Friday morning.
Will we be stuck waiting for the bus, or just tossed underneath it?
A key House Committee is threatening to kill three decades of successful investments in mass transit — originally started under President Ronald Reagan — by ending the guarantee for dedicated funding for public transportation, leaving millions of riders already faced with service cuts and fare increases out in the cold.
In a stunning development late last night, House leadership and the Ways and Means committee made a shocking attack on transit that would have huge impacts for the millions of people who depend on public transportation each day.
They proposed putting every public transportation system in immediate peril by eliminating guaranteed funding for the Mass Transit Account and forcing transit to go begging before Congress for general funds each year — all while highway spending continues to be guaranteed with protected funds for half a decade at a time.
This incredible move would roll back 30+ years of bipartisan federal transportation policy and reverse a decision made by President Reagan in the 1980’s to fund our nation’s transit system out of a small share of gas tax revenues. This change would mean no more guarantee of funding each year and no long-term stability for public transportation. States, cities, communities and their transit systems could lose billions.
We released a statement earlier today decrying this unprecedented attack on transit.
“We are deeply concerned that if this measure passes, Americans who use public transportation, or who would like that option in the future, will be thrown under the bus,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “This couldn’t come at a worse time for people who need an affordable, reliable way to get to work, or for employers who need workers.” Corless noted the demand for transit has been rising as the economy slowly recovers and people are using public transportation to get to jobs and to avoid volatile gas prices. Over the course of the five-year transportation program, America’s population will continue to age rapidly, and a growing number of seniors will be looking to transit services maintain their independence.
It’s not just us, though. Even the association of state DOT heads submitted a letter to the committee urging them to reconsider their ill-advised plan.
The Mass Transit Account has been in existence since 1982 and AASHTO has continuously supported this account as a critical component of the Highway Trust Fund. AASHTO has long supported the principle that 20 percent of the gas tax revenues that have been put in place since 1982 be allocated to a dedicated mass transit account. We believe that the two complementary accounts need to be maintained in order to support a well-funded, multimodal transportation system.
We respectfully request that the current Highway Trust Fund structure with its two accounts and respective revenue allocations be retained.
Transit is unquestionably a critical component of our nation’s transportation system, and one that millions of people (or voters, if you’re reading, committee members) depend on each day to get around. More people on transit means less congestion, less pollution, and fewer cars on the road.