Transit Stimulus Bill Needs Co-Sponsors in Senate

allentown_bus.jpgTwo weeks ago, Hillary Clinton introduced a bill in the Senate to provide emergency funds for local transit agencies. Since then, the rest of the delegation from New York and New Jersey appears to have lined up behind the legislation. "We believe that Senators Schumer, Lautenberg, and Menendez support it," says Larry Hanley of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which helped to push the bill forward in both chambers of Congress (the House passed it in June). That leaves 56 votes to achieve a filibuster-proof Senate majority.

The problems that the bill addresses are not confined to two states. News of service cuts and fare hikes keeps pouring in from places as far-flung as San Diego, Corpus Christi, Cleveland, and Burlington. All are getting squeezed by fuel costs while handling ridership surges as great as 35 percent or higher. 

Keeping service running smoothly while new riders switch to transit is not solely the concern of one party, either. Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio just directed a $1.5 million earmark to Dayton’s transit agency, saying "it is critical that we continue to make our public transportation systems more efficient and accessible."

Securing funds through national legislation rather than piecemeal earmarks will send a stronger message: Better transportation choices can provide relief for people hit hard by high gas prices. Discussion of this bill, say transit advocates, will help set the tone as debate ramps up about next year’s national transportation funding package.

The Senate Banking Committee, which is considering the bill, needs to hear from people who support it, says Hanley. "We need 60 Senators ready by Labor Day to return to the Senate and insist on transit stimulus."

Photo of a bus boarding in Allentown, PA: Allentown Morning Call

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I’m surprised this posting has drawn no responses yet. Silly me. If this was a posting about a fare increase, even one only within the range of the producer price index increases published by the BLS, there would have been a hundred. Go figure.

  • When you guys post news articles about legislation, you really need to provide the bill’s number or even a link to some external source for the news item. I’ve tried searching the Thomas site and am unable to find any bill matching this description from Clinton. Throw us a bone here please. 😉

  • Larry Hanley
  • Larry Hanley
  • Brian Decker

    Here’s what I just wrote to my Senator. Feel free to tweak it and send something similar to your own:

    Dear Senator Casey,

    I write to urge your support of H.R. 6052, the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act, which was passed by the House, was introduced to the Senate by Senator Clinton, and has now been referred to your Banking Committee.

    As you are aware, the economy, in particular the rising price of gas, has made many citizens take a second look at transit. Ridership is up nearly everywhere, including Southeastern Pennsylvania. Yet transit agencies across the country, still reeling from years of budget cuts and low ridership, remain faced with hard choices regarding cutting service. This bill would provide agencies in the nation’s metro areas with, not only relief to stave off those cuts, but also capital to expand service, making it a more attractive choice to those caught between painful fuel prices and no good transit option. H.R. 6052 is no more a subsidy to public transportation than highway bills are subsidies for the nation’s drivers–but unlike the latter, H.R. 6052 does not create perverse incentives for congestion, land use, and environmental destruction.

    Let’s view this energy crisis as an opportunity to expand the options of Americans looking for a way to get to work each day, and let’s create more jobs in transit while we’re at it. I strongly urge you to do everything in your power to ensure the referral to the floor and ultimate passage of the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008.

    Regards,

    Brian Decker

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