Last year alone, Americans took over 10 billion trips on public transit. As transit agencies work to serve the growing demand for public transportation, these agencies are facing shortfalls in state and local revenues and unpredictable fuel prices. This means many transit agencies are being forced to cut services, raise fares, and lay off workers at the worst possible time. With these factors in mind and with public transportation ridership at an all-time high, I reintroduced the Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act today.
Under current law, only transit systems in urbanized areas with populations under 200,000 can use federal funds for operating purposes. The Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act would provide for targeted and temporary flexibility in using federal transit funds by allowing transit systems of all sizes to use some of their formula funds for operations. Furthermore, this legislation would also allow transit systems to use federal funds to maintain service through local control of their funds if they are in the midst of a “crisis” period, which is defined as situations in which an area has an unemployment rate of 7% or higher or national gas prices have risen substantially over at least a 2 month period.
The Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act also creates an incentive program to encourage state and local governments to invest in public transportation. More specifically, this legislation creates a “maintenance of effort” provision, which allows transit agencies to use federal formula funds for operating purposes if they are also consistently financially supported by local agencies. This provision is key to ensuring that state and local governments provide stable, long-term funding for public transportation because their investment will give transit agencies greater flexibility in managing those funds.
This legislation gives transit agencies local control of their federal transit funds, allowing the people who know the needs of the area best to make the decisions, and allowing them to preserve critical service and hold down fares during tough economic times. I am looking forward to moving the bipartisan Local Flexibility for Transit Assistance Act through Congress so local transit agencies can preserve service and rehire workers.
I always appreciate hearing the views of constituents about issues facing Congress. Please feel free to contact my office in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on any matter of concern. I also hope you will find my website, carnahan.house.gov, a useful resource for keeping up with my work in Washington and the St. Louis region, and I welcome you to sign up for my e-newsletter at carnahan.house.gov/updates.