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Transportation Policy

U.S. Senate Getting Serious About Transit Stimulus

10:11 AM PDT on September 9, 2008

trans_wsj_1.gifThe Wall Street Journal reports that momentum is building in the Senate for additional federal transit funding:

The Senate banking committee will hold a hearingTuesday to examine how the government can strengthen mass-transitoptions as a way to reduce dependence on imported oil. Meanwhile, Houseand Senate leaders debating a new energy bill are considering a rangeof incentives and new funding for transit agencies.

On Monday, a spokesman for Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid (D., Nev.) said a measure that would provide as much as $2billion in grants and other funding for public transportation appearslikely to be included in energy legislation that could be voted on nextweek. The House has already approved a bill that would provide anadditional $1.7 billion to transit agencies over two years. If Congressfails to pass a new energy package this month before adjourning for itselection-season recess, a transit-funding boost could still be includedin an end-of-session budget resolution.

In other words, it seems there's a good chance that parts of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act will be folded into a broader energy bill. The version that passed the House this June included $237 million for New York City. Nationally, the funding included in the bill would help local transit agencies handle the double whammy of increased ridership and rising fuel costs. The Journal points to a new survey from the American Public Transit Association [pdf] highlighting the need for federal support:

According to a survey of 115 transit agencies being released Tuesday byAPTA, more than 60% of mass-transit systems are considering fareincreases and 35% are considering service cuts. Both findings reflectthe cost pressures from energy prices that are making it hard fortransit officials to maintain service levels at a time when demand issurging.

In
a press release, APTA also revealed that the number of transit trips in
2007 -- 10.3 billion -- reached a 50-year high, noting that vehicle miles traveled declined by 3.3 percent in the second quarter of this year as transit use ramped up.

If you'd like to communicate your support for transit funding to members of the Senate banking committee, here's the list of everyone who sits on it.

Graphic: Wall Street Journal

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