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June 12, 2009

War Bill Includes Provision to Help Fund Transit Operations

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Members of the U.S. House and Senate are trying to pass their War Bill (via Streetsblog) this week, which will provide supplemental funding for efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But the bill also includes a provision to allow the many struggling transit agencies across the nation to spend 10% of the money they receive in federal capital stimulus funding on operations.  According to the original stipulations of stimulus transit funding, agencies could only spend the approximate $8 billion in stimulus funding on capital projects such as building new rail lines, improving bus transfer centers, purchasing vehicles and repairing tunnels and bridges.  But many transit agencies across the nation lack adequate funding for daily operations, and are forced to implement layoffs, cut service and raise fares at a time when ridership is growing.  The provision could provide some much needed assistance to alleviate some of the squeeze.

St. Louis area U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan has signed on in support of Rep. Pete DeFazio’s (D-OR) provision, and Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill released a statement in May supporting federal assistance for transit operations.

The funding is not a permanent solution, however, to many transit agencies budget deficits, including Metro.  Many agencies, including Metro, will need to seek a more permanent dedicated source of funding to prevent future loss of service and job layoffs.

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2 thoughts on “War Bill Includes Provision to Help Fund Transit Operations”

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    There ain’t no free money in government – it all comes form taxes. We’d be better off sending less in taxes to DC and keeping more money here to support local projects and operations. Plus, the reasoning behind using stimulus funds for capital projects is to both jumpstart the local economy and avoid the cliff Metro faced this year when CMAQ funds went away that were being used to operate the cross-county extension for the first three years! Taxpayers elsewhere are willing to have 1% sales taxes to fund transit; here, the reality is less than a ¼% tax. The reason, fairly or unfairly, is the simple perception that Metro isn’t doing a very good job. Until perceptions are changed, additional local funding will be hard to find.

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