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.