BRU Joins National Effort to Raise Federal Funds for Transit Operations

7_22_09_BRU.jpgFor more images from today’s efforts by the BRU, visit the LA Streetsblog Flickr Page

The Bus Rider’s Union gathered signatures outside of the Wilshire-Western Subway stop this morning, joining advocates around the country in building support for Federal Legislation H.R. 2746, which would allow transit agencies to spend more of their federal funds on day-to-day operations. Nationally, efforts were organized by Transit Riders for Public Transportation (TRPT) a national coalition focused on bringing "environmental justice and civil rights priorities to the upcoming federal surface transportation act."

Transit agencies are still reeling from declining tax revenues brought on by the recession, with fare hikes and service cuts on tap in dozens of cities. The stimulus bill has provided little help. An amendment to fund transit operations was shot down back in January.

In the Bay Area, advocates staged a mock funeral for bus service because there is a 15-30% service cut proposal being discussed by local bus carriers. In Chicago advocates held a rally and press conference in front of a local Congressional leader’s office while West Harlem Environmental Action in New York sponsored a call drive to Congressmen throughout the Big Apple.

While the BRU and other groups are rallying in support of H.R. 2746, there’s little chance the legislation will become law on its own. Instead, the bill is a "marker" that could eventually be incorporated into the House transportation bill currently being pushed by a bi-partisan coalition in the House Transportation Committee.

For more coverage of today’s efforts across the country, check out this post by NYC Streetsblogs’ Ben Fried. For more on the BRU’s efforts, their press release is available after the jump.

$500 Billion Transit Bill Must Include Funds to Operate Transit Systems in Crisis

Transit Advocates Urge Congressional Leaders in a National Day of Action

On Wednesday, July 22, the Bus Riders Union will be part of a national day of action by the Transit Riders for Public Transportation national campaign to call on Congress to restore federal funding for transit operations that includes transit advocates, civil rights and environmental justice organizations throughout the country. Advocates including Chicago, San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Portland will be calling on their congressional representatives.

The BRU will be at the northeast corner of Wilshire and Western leading a mass education drive highlighting the connection between the need for transit operation funding is related to the service cuts threatening millions of transit riders across the country including bus riders in Los Angeles. With giant banners, call booths and petitions the BRU will be encouraging scores of residents and bus riders to call the Southern California Congressmembers and President Obama to support a greater share for operations funding . The goal of the nationwide coordinated events is to influence the debate over the authorization of the $500 billion Federal Surface Transportation Authorization Act (FSTAA) slated to dedicate roughly 80% of the funding to highways, freeways and roads, while providing only 20% to mass transit. Advocates and transit riders will hold press conferences, rallies, phone-banking drives, and street theater encouraging thousands to call on their congressional representatives to dedicate at least 50 percent of all transit funds in the bill to operate transit systems in response to the crisis across the country.

Nationwide Transit Crisis

Across the United States, major cities and regions are facing massive cuts in transit services, raising fares and implementing regressive measures to make up for declining tax revenues and government support. These cuts hit the most vulnerable communities, predominately low-income and people of color, escalating already-existing economic burdens. The numbers are stark. New York Metro raised fares early this year, while Oakland’s bus operator, AC Transit, announced proposed cuts in service ranging from 15-30% despite a fare increase that went into affect earlier this month. Los Angeles MTA has proposed fare increases for the next 30 years along with the elimination of 120,000 hours of bus service. Portland’s TriMet implemented service cuts in May that eliminated weeknight transit service.

Supporting H.R. 2746 as First Immediate Action

As a major first step towards restoring federal support for transit operations, advocates will urge constituents and bus riders in various congressional districts to call on their Congressional Representatives to co-sponsor the H.R. 2746 (Rep. Carnahan – MO). The marker bill would allow transit agencies in urbanized areas of over 1 million to use up to 30% of their federal transit capital funds for operations, and grant even more flexibility for smaller urbanized areas. In contrast, the FSTA currently allows only 5% of federal transit capital funds to be used for operation in large urbanized areas.

New Opportunities to Improve the Environment

The U.S. must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% over the next twenty years if it is to meet the goal of achieving a 90% cut in emissions by 2050. Congress has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create first class transit systems and dramatically curb emissions with the passage the FSTAA. As a first step, the bill must preserve the integrity of our current transit systems and provide the funding to operate them at full capacity.

The TRPT campaign calls on the Obama Administration and Congress to break with the last two decades of favoring toxic highway expansion by making massive investments in a clean-fuel, world-class transportation systems that meet both the needs of transit riders and international emissions-reduction targets.

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