House Bill Makes Connection Between Transit Funding and Gas Price Relief

Here’s an alternative to the "Drill Now!" mantra that doesn’t involve ethanol subsidies or depleting the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Earlier this month, Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced the Transportation and Housing Choices for Gas Price Relief Act [PDF]. Blumenauer’s hometown paper, The Oregonian, calls the measure a "smart bill":

The key word in that title is "relief." The legislation recognizes that financially pinched Americans are turning to public transportation in record numbers, but in too many cities and small towns there’s inadequate access to such transit. Even in places like Portland where transit is abundantly available, it still must be kept affordable.

In addition to provisions for struggling transit agencies, the bill includes measures to boost the supply of housing near transit stations, as well as incentives for transit riders, cyclists, telecommuters and carpoolers.

A story in the Hill today looks at the bill and the advocates lining up behind it:

A new coalition, Transportation for America, www.t4america.org, is starting to lobby to boost funding for transit programs like high-speed rail and federal help to communities that pass zoning laws that reduce the need for workers to commute long distances.

“We should be providing support to states and planning organizations to reduce fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Steven Winkelman, director of the Transportation and Adaptation Programs at the Center for Clean Air Policy.

Now, “with limited travel choices, Americans are left vulnerable to high fuel prices,” Winkelman told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week. The panel examined ways Congress could support the conservation of fuel in response to high fuel costs.

Streetsbloggers may be especially interested in the following provisions of the bill, listed on Blumenauer’s website

  • Equalize the transportation fringe benefit so that those who
    commute by public transportation get as much as those who commute by
    driving.
  • Allow employees to cash-in their parking benefits to spend on other choices that better meet their needs.
  • Extend the same transportation fringe benefits to bike commuters as provided for those who commute by car or transit.

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