U.S. Senate Getting Serious About Transit Stimulus

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 hearing
Tuesday to examine how the government can strengthen mass-transit
options as a way to reduce dependence on imported oil. Meanwhile, House
and Senate leaders debating a new energy bill are considering a range
of incentives and new funding for transit agencies.

On Monday, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said a measure that would provide as much as $2
billion in grants and other funding for public transportation appears
likely to be included in energy legislation that could be voted on next
week. The House has already approved a bill that would provide an
additional $1.7 billion to transit agencies over two years. If Congress
fails to pass a new energy package this month before adjourning for its
election-season recess, a transit-funding boost could still be included
in 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 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 by
APTA, more than 60% of mass-transit systems are considering fare
increases and 35% are considering service cuts. Both findings reflect
the cost pressures from energy prices that are making it hard for
transit officials to maintain service levels at a time when demand is
surging.

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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