A broad coalition of Peninsula community leaders has banded together to urge U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo) to work to oppose provisions of a House bill that would strip key federal funding from public transportation.
House Ways and Means Committee provisions of the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 7) would end long-standing, dedicated funding for the nation’s transit, funds that transit agencies throughout the nation rely upon to maintain equipment and to pay for improvements.
If the bill is approved by Congress, it will eliminate all guaranteed transit funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for the first time in three decades, putting public transportation at risk and threatening to stall the nation’s economic recovery.
A coalition of interests from throughout the Peninsula, including local elected officials, transit district board members, labor, environmentalists and transit advocates, have signed the letter.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill this week.
“This bill would strike a devastating blow to transit funding,” said Adrienne Tissier, chair of the Caltrain Board of Directors. “Funding for public transportation under the Federal Highway Trust Fund was established under Ronald Reagan and it was his promise that transit agencies would be able to rely on these funds to keep their systems running and to build better transit.”
“This was a promise made by President Reagan,” said SamTrans Board Chair Jerry Deal. “Now, the same Republicans who say they are serving in the spirit of Ronald Reagan are preparing to break his promise. They are reneging on Reagan.”
“This is a time when the public is demanding more transit opportunities, when people want to get out of their cars,” said SamTrans Board member Zoe Kersteen-Tucker. “This is exactly the wrong thing to do, the opposite of what Congress should be doing.”
“At a time when the nation is taking its first steps toward financial recovery, it is particularly critical that we continue to invest in public transportation, which so many people depend on it to get to work,” said SamTrans Board member Shirley Harris.
Ridership on Caltrain – a strong indicator of regional job growth - has increased for the last 17 consecutive months.
In 2010, SamTrans used federal funds to purchase 135 new buses, the first addition to its fleet in seven years. The modern vehicles require less maintenance and use the latest clean-diesel technology, which produces far less pollution.
Last year, federal funds were used to help replace SamTrans’ mechanical fare boxes, which had been in service for more than 20 years.
If approved by Congress, the measure will further shrink transit budgets and eliminate one of the few remaining predictable funding sources for preventative maintenance and capital investments to support economic recovery and access to jobs.
Nearly half of all SamTrans riders use the system to get to work and 25 percent of them do not have access to a car.
Public transit systems across the nation are already scaling back service and raising fares due to budget challenges, according to a recent American Public Transportation Association study. The pending congressional action would make public transportation’s financial future much bleaker.