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February 10, 2012 | 10 Comments

U.S. House of Representatives Considers Elimination of Dedicated Federal Funding for Public Transit: What It Means for St. Louis and What You Can Do

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Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider a bill that proposes dramatic and potentially damaging changes to public transit funding.

The New York Times called it “A Terrible Transportation Bill” and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “it’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”

The proposed bill calls for the elimination of dedicated funding from the Highway Trust Fund for public transit, replacing it with a one-time allocation that runs out completely in 2016.  This proposal would eliminate a reliable, long-term financing mechanism for public transit that was first established under President Reagan in 1983 with the federal Highway Transportation Bill, SAFETEA-LU (this bill expires March 31, 2012).

This has disastrous implications for public transit planning and growth in the United States, including the St. Louis region.  The proposed House bill will impair Metro’s ability to carry out major capital projects, including construction, vehicle purchasing, and maintenance.  Also, the St. Louis region is currently exploring the introduction of new services into the transit system, and long-range federal partnership is a key component of helping the community realize this growth.  Federal investment in public transit helps keep people in St. Louis connected to jobs, and federal dollars help us maintain and grow the region’s transit infrastructure. 

Here is what you can do to help continue public transit growth in the St. Louis region.  Contact these local representatives and let them know you are opposed to the elimination of a dedicated funding source for public transit, and you are opposed to an unstable future of transit growth:

Congressman William Lacy Clay
314-383-5240

Congressman Todd Akin
314-590-0029

Congressman Russ Carnahan
314-962-1523

Congressman John Shimkus
618-344-3065

Congressman Jerry Costello
618-397-8833

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also has setup an online form that allows you to send an email to your representative:

Email Your Representative

The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on this bill next week.  Your calls and emails are needed immediately.

This proposed change in federal funding for public transit will have a profound negative impact on the growth of transit in the St. Louis region.  Your voice could make the difference for the future of public transit in St. Louis and across the country.

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10 thoughts on “U.S. House of Representatives Considers Elimination of Dedicated Federal Funding for Public Transit: What It Means for St. Louis and What You Can Do”

  1. Robert says:

    metro never listens to its customers so why should we listen to metro

    1. Courtney says:

      I’m sorry you feel that way, Robert. What would you like to hear from you and your concerns?

  2. Robert says:

    the growth of transit in the Saint Louis region? what growth? since 2007 there has been more cuts than growth. In 2009 the moving transit forward plan was released it mentioned the following

    Immediate Action Steps
    ✦✦ Restore MetroBus, MetroLink, and Metro Call-A-Ride service
    ✦✦ Begin planning and engineering for first MetroLink extension
    ✦✦ Begin planning and engineering for first Bus Rapid Transit route
    ■■ Short-Range (1-5 Years)
    ✦✦ Continue planning and engineering for first MetroLink extension
    ✦✦ Construct and operate first Bus Rapid Transit route
    ✦✦ Plan, construct, and operate second Bus Rapid Transit route
    ✦✦ Begin passenger amenities and technology program

    2 1/2 years later NONE of this has happened and in fact I’ve heard nothing about it since then. it seems to me metro lied just to get voter support just to get the tax revenue

    1. Courtney says:

      Robert, I can work with our Chief of Planning and System Development Jessica Mefford-Miller to answer you most completely, but right now we have applied for and received notification for planning the first of our BRT corridors, have restored service across the board (and yes, there have been service adjustments since then. We simply have to adjust service to match the amount of funding that we receive from revenue appropriations from the City, County and State). The passenger amenities and technology program has begun with over 30 new buses, GPS systems being implemented into the bus fleet, bus stop enhancement program (one example, the new shelters and benches at Civic Center). Obviously, it might be a good time to revisit the long-range plan and make sure people understand what we are doing, and how we are progressing. But like all governmental entities, we are working with resources that are available to us. However, we are moving forward.

  3. mike says:

    Courtney,

    I apologize for sounding so pessimistic surrounding the future of our region’s transit, but I do not foresee any potential for growth of transit in our region, as written in your post, even without the Fed’s proposed changes in transit funding. An example of my point is how service was never fully restored even after voters approved Prop A, and actually have experienced some reduction in bus service after Prop A was passed. Metro’s track record so far has spoken for itself.

    In general, the Pols are going to do whatever they want to do regardless what people say, the same way Metro operates; nobody listens except in a few cases when Metro was going around pulling up bus stops. They all talk about changing things for the better, but yet, things remain the same and worse. If the proposed changes by the Feds doesn’t occur, when can we expect to see the growth in our region’s public transit system that Metro keeps promising? Doesn’t it seem strange that this is the first time since Prop A was passed, that growth in our public transit system has even been addressed, now the Fed’s proposed transit funding bill has surfaced?

    I hope that the Fed’s proposal doesn’t occur especially for the sake of those who are public transit dependent. Not only could it have a negative impact on public transit, but it could also have a significantly adverse impact on our general economic growth.

    1. Courtney says:

      Mike, you and I have had many, many conversations on this blog regarding our viewpoints, and I realize that I speak from a more optimistic vantage point than you often do, but I think that we should seek common ground, not consensus. It is a very, very important point for everyone to understand: Metro cannot grow by itself. Public transit expansion would reflect the regional priorities of everyone, from transportation funding and planning at a local level, to state investment, to federal infrastructural priorities. The long-range plan is a guideline, not a promise. It was a guideline for what is possible, but like major investment in this region, the region, as a whole, must make the final say and they determine the resource allocated to every form of transportation, including transit.

      But thank you for your thoughts and concerns, and certainly your passionate interest in transit in St. Louis. Interested parties like yourself keep the conversation on transit in our region moving and dynamic as we all work to create a St. Louis for the present and future.

  4. mike says:

    Service has NOT been fully restored across the board to areas which had previously been served by Metrobus service. The most obvious location is the core area of downtown (east of Tucker Blvd). Instead of a one-step journey for those who used to travel solely by bus into that area, it’s now become a two-step journey where passengers have to inconveniently get off their buses at the Civic Center Station and transfer to other modes of transportation, to complete their journey into the downtown core area, which has added extra time to their travel. There are a few other areas that didn’t get their service restored, even after the voters passed the tax measure. I’m sorry but I can’t buy your claim of bus service being restored across the board.

    Questions:

    1). Are the 30 new buses being used to expand its current fleet to enhance bus service, or are they being used to replace part of an aging fleet?

    2). Will MetroLink service headways ever be restored back to the level that existed prior to the service cuts, if the Fed’s proposed changes in transit funding doesn’t kick in?

  5. mike says:

    Courtney,

    I just received/read your last post after my last comment was being processed and sent. I agree with your concept of what’s necessary for Metro to grow and operate at a level to provide an efficient and viable means of public transit for our region. I very seldom use Metro but I see a lot of people who struggle to use, it especially the most vulnerable ones. I’m just one of many who are frustrated with the system where promises are being made and not lived up to, giving people who rely on these promises a since of false hope; I apologize for my frustrations.

  6. Robert says:

    thanks for the update/response Courtney

  7. RTBones says:

    Like you and Mike, you and I have had multiple conversations with our respective viewpoints. Also, like you and Mike, I really want transit to succeed here. I see a good, reliable transit system as a backbone to growth in the area.

    While I won’t defend the actions of our current federal government when it comes to money – I also don’t see Metro moving forward with anything. I’ve seen route cuts (not removed, just service reduced). I’ve seen schedules change more often than some folks change underwear. I’ve seen regular riders simply give up and find alternate means of transport. I haven’t seen improvement. I see the riders having the same issues they had before the original service cuts now as they did then. The system is difficult to use – and Metro doesn’t seem to understand that, and frankly doesn’t appear to care. Bus service is less than reliable. While I do use it, I also make sure I don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time unless its on the train – and even then I allow for margin, and cab fare to the closest train.

    Mike has already pointed out – as much as Metro would like to think otherwise, service has NOT been fully restored. Everything downtown is done via the Civic Center station, which is a jumbled mess, and there is next to nothing east of Tucker. The 99 is beyond a joke. I don’t necessarily need to see growth, but I would like to see IMPROVEMENT. Make what you have now work. Again, many of the issues Metro has now, they had long before the service cuts. Part of improving service is infrastructure – you know, things like signs and maps. Part of that is advertising – you know, your SYSTEM, and not just the 99 and the 3. How about running to within 5 minutes of schedule? As Mike correctly points out, having to change at Civic Center to get anywhere in the core downtown does nothing but make the system MORE DIFFICULT to use because of the need to change – which isn’t easy to do.

    While I have never been a fan of Metro’s long-range plan, I do understand it is intended to be a guide and not a promise. Metro’s problem is that people don’t see it as that. When you put out a long-range plan, people read it as that is what you intend to do. Given the past fiscal fiasco Metro went through, the fact that the long-range plan appears unaddressed is a sore point. People want to see something for their tax dollars – and I don’t mean the goofy yellow poles on Metrolink platforms. Part of that was restoring (with some revamping) past services. The news flash Metro needs to get is that restoring cut services is not growth, and can only tangentially be called improvement because you are only putting back what was already there. If that is all there is going to be, then you’ll do more than lose riders – you will lose votes.

    I know Metro cannot grow alone. But if Metro wants to grow – and wants help to grow- then it needs to act like it. Provide a quality product.

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