Senator Chuck Schumer has unveiled an amendment to the Senate stimulus bill that would increase transit funding by $6.5 billion — to $14.9 billion overall. This would direct $2.9 billion more to transit, in total, than the House stimulus bill that passed last week. For the wonks out there, transit funding would break down like so, if the amendment is adopted: $10.4 billion for capital grants, $2 billion for rail modifications, and $2.5 billion for new starts. From the press release issued by Schumer and Congressman Jerrold Nadler:
Schumer and Nadler said the capital pot must grow to reflect out-of-control capital costs for transit systems, “rail mod” is important for aging rail systems, of which New York has many and more money for New Starts is important to projects like East Side Access and 2nd Ave subway, as well as NJ ARC.
This amendment would be a significant improvement over the current bill; we’ll keep you posted on how you can support it. And it’s good to see Schumer, whose standing in his party has grown considerably thanks to his years helming the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, make transit funding an issue in the stimulus debate.
One thing that’s missing here is operating assistance, which got shot down in the House when an amendment proposed by Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio stalled before reaching committee. The additional funding from Schumer’s amendment would ease some pressure on strained transit agencies, but with service cuts looming in dozens of cities across the country, straphangers need more direct assistance to stave of fare hikes and keep their buses and trains running.