Communities Urge Congress: “Don’t X Out Transit”

Yesterday, transit advocates in more than two dozen cities around the country held rallies to urge Congress to maintain funding for public transportation. The “Don’t X Out Transit” events brought attention to the massive cuts in service and fare hikes that have besieged U.S. transit agencies, and made it clear that the 30 percent funding cut in the House transportation bill would be a death blow to many systems.

Yesterday's "Don't X Out Transit" rally in Los Angeles. Photo: Crystal McMillan / Bus Riders Union

The American Public Transportation Association collected testimonials from a variety of transit organizations nationwide, explaining what such a deep cut would mean to their service:

A 30 percent cut would probably eliminate our service. Under the present political environment a 30 percent loss in federal support is just another nail in the coffin.

- Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority, Hammond, IN

If our 5307 funding were cut by 30 percent, it would amount to a loss of about $360,000. About the only way this can be made up without additional revenues is to eliminate all holiday service and Saturday service (we have never operated on Sundays). Our paratransit service would also no longer operate on holidays and Saturdays… Of course, with these cuts we would also have to lay off operators and other staff.

- City of Las Cruces RoadRUNNER Transit, Las Cruces, NM

A 30 percent cut in federal funding would mean that we would have to cut up to five of our 17 community routes. Our funding situation is already so precarious that our “neighborhood” routes only run four or five trips a day, Monday through Friday, so any further cutbacks would mean elimination of all service on these routes.

- Centre Area Transportation Authority, State College, PA

We have been able to… boost the frequency of service to no more than 15 minutes between buses from 6am to 9pm Monday thru Friday on our most popular routes resulting in the first 4 months a 15 percent increase in ridership and similar results beginning to occur on the routes feeding those two. Cut funding and we will become a system of hour headways.

- Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY

This proposed 30 percent cut in funding would cause an approximate $7 million reduction in service, which equals almost 1 million revenue miles annually, affecting 3 million passengers. This would cause a loss of approximately 50 jobs within our agency.

- San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, San Diego, CA

Overall, “20,000 fewer buses and trains and paratransit vehicles will be purchased, causing breakdowns and overcrowding,” APTA President Bill Millar said on a telephone call with reporters yesterday. “These proposed cuts would impact a total of 46 major expansion projects in 18 states.”

Already, many transit systems have been cut to the bone. Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley told reporters about the elimination of entire transit systems in Clayton County, Georgia and painful cuts in Albany, New York and Lorain, Ohio, where “buses have been laid up in lots because transit systems don’t have the money to operate them.”

“We’re already in a crisis throughout the United States in transit,” Hanley said, “and Congress’s suggestion that we can take a 30 percent cut in the existing program is preposterous.”

Pat Scully of Daimler Buses testified from the point of view of the leading manufacturer of city transit buses in North America. “We’re manufacturing less and less as each day goes by,” he said.

Scully said the six-year proposal by the House would cost jobs but also said that the constant extensions have hit the industry hard.

“These temporary extensions, and the one-third cut that is proposed in investment spending, do nothing but add indecision and uncertainty for our customers and our markets,” Scully went on. “Indecision and uncertainty have led to reduced order intake for the manufacturing base over the past two years. We are all operating at lower production output and employing fewer people now — without the one-third cut proposed.”