the feds to the rescue? a call to action from APTA

This national recession has hit transit agencies and the people who use them particularly hard, forcing service cuts and fare increases across the country. DART was no exception.

Usually the feds want to see locals pay to run their own transit agencies, reserving their support for capital projects — that is, spending federal tax dollars on things like buses and buildings, not fuel and drivers’ wages.

But that could change, at least temporarily, with the Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010 that was introduced in Congress yesterday. It proposes $2 billion in “emergency” operating assistance for transit agencies.

The American Public Transportation Association issued the following call to action minutes ago:

May 26, 2010

Legislation Introduced to Provide Emergency Transit Operating Assistance – Urgent Action Needed!

On May 25, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced the “Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010” (S. 3412) which authorizes $2 billion for emergency transit operating assistance for transit systems across the country.  The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).  APTA strongly supports this legislation and urges all members to immediately contact their Senators to urge them to co-sponsor this bill and help work for its immediate passage.

The bill would distribute funds made available to help restore and prevent service reductions and layoffs, or fare increases that occurred due to decreased state and local funding from January 1, 2009  through September 30, 2011.  Under this bill, 80 percent of the funds would be distributed through the Section 5307 Urbanized Area formula program, 10 percent under the 5340 High Density and Growing States formula program, and 10 percent through the 5311 Rural Area formula program.  Transit systems may use the funds to address capital needs if they have not increased fares, cut services, or laid off employees and do not plan to do so in the next year.

The bill’s sponsors hope to attach it as an amendment to any appropriations or economic stimulus legislation that is considered in the Senate in the coming weeks, such as the War and Disaster Supplemental Appropriations bill which is currently being considered on the Senate floor. Therefore, immediate action is needed to generate wide-ranging support for the bill.

To see APTA’s letter in support of the legislation, click here.

And click here for contact information for Iowa’s Congressional delegation.