Now’s the Time to Save Federal Transit Funding

Amendments to a House spending bill could prevent cuts that would scale back transit projects in several cities.

If Congress proceeds with cuts in the House spending bill, cities including Atlanta may be forced to scale back transit expansion. Photo:  Wikimedia Commons
If Congress proceeds with cuts in the House spending bill, cities including Atlanta may be forced to scale back transit expansion. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It’s been clear since Donald Trump was elected and Republicans hung on to majorities in Congress that federal transit funding is at risk. But a phone call to your representative could protect transit in the current round of budget negotiations.

Eliminating federal transit funding was part of the Republicans’ 2016 platform, and Trump followed up with a similar proposal in his budget outline.

Now it’s up to the legislators in Congress to set real spending policy, and Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports that a push to preserve transit funding in the House could make a real difference this month:

While the Senate largely rejected the Trump administration’s request for cuts to programs like TIGER, new transit construction, and passenger rail programs (read our detailed breakdown of the current House/Senate bills here), the House’s version of the 2018 budget eliminated TIGER funding and reduced the transit capital program down near levels that would only fund transit projects that already have signed funding agreements in hand.

This week the House is scheduled to consider their final House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, and there are crucial amendments that could improve the bill by restoring funding for some of these programs — or make the damage far worse.

Here’s the T4A breakdown of where the House spending bill currently stands, without amendments:

spending chart

A number of amendments that could restore transit and TIGER funding in the House budget have been introduced. Transportation for America is urging people to contact their House reps and tell them to support transit funding.

If transit funding is not restored to baseline levels, projects like Indianapolis’s Red Line bus rapid transit and Atlanta’s MARTA expansion would likely have to be scaled back.

More recommended reading today: Urban Milwaukee reports that Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers hate the city’s streetcar plans, but there’s not much they can do to stop it. And City Observatory critiques D.C.’s designation as a “LEED Platinum” city.

  • Vooch

    I honestly think a better path for advocates will be to argue for eliminating all subsidies.

    especially those for mass motoring 🙂

  • Larry Littlefield

    But then Republican voting areas wouldn’t get their fair share of money collected in the cities! (Probably, in their mind, something like 100 percent).

  • Vooch

    LOL

    so true

  • kev4321

    Republicans are against subsidies — for anyone else! The fact is the automobile is the perfect technology for extracting huge sums of money from the public. Transportation is a guaranteed market for fossil fuels, a source of monthly payments and lucrative highway contracts, and the key to suburban consumerism. The motor vehicle transportation monopoly must be protected and extended. Freedom is choosing which car to pay for, and the sheeple love it.

  • Vooch

    true – but why not flip the narrative ? they are against subsidies in principle.

  • kev4321

    Because the R rhetoric is a smokescreen. Cars are popular largely because they are highly subsidized while the subsidies are studiously ignored in the narrative. Demand equal subsidies for transit instead of getting into a talking point quagmire. The argument of “toll roads for everyone” does not fly, but there is no harm in pointing out that it should be the R position.

  • Vooch

    agreed with your first point, however disagree with your second.

    I believe if we argue ‘no subsidies for anything’ it will bring out the narrative on subsidies for mass motoring.

    It also leverages off the Trump narrative ‘public-private infrastructure’ BS. Which we all know is a scheme for Goldman & Blackstone to toll interstates.

    Until Suburbanites recognize mass motoring is lavishly subsidized, Transit will just get crumbs and always be begging for those crumbs.

  • Gary Arpon

    Did you know that Denver’s Regional Transportation District is using flagmen at crossing gates for their commuter rail lines? I think that is a GREAT way to increase employment while building out unused infrastructure! The technology is simply not available to make railroad crossing gates work automatically AND safely….even though I have seen it done before….?

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