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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

APTA opposed to GOP's call to end federal funding of public transportation


The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is strongly opposed to the Republican Party platform that calls for phasing out federal funding of public transportation, the association announced yesterday.

Adopted by Republicans on Monday, the GOP platform proposes to eliminate mass transit dollars from the federal Highway Trust Fund. One-fifth of the fund's money is spent on mass transit, "an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities," the platform states.

That proposal would "undo more than 30 years of overwhelming support for dedicated federal investment in public transit," APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White said yesterday in a prepared statement.

Since 1983, under President Ronald Reagan, a portion of the federal gas tax revenue has been dedicated to public transit through the Mass Transit Account of the surface transportation legislation, White noted.

"The public transportation industry is currently underfunded," he said. "Having no federal funds would be devastating, not only to the millions of Americans who use public transportation and to the employers who depend on it for their employees, but also for communities of all sizes that need it for a thriving economy and quality of life."

In addition, APTA is opposed to the platform's position against any increase in the federal gas tax. Congress hasn't increased the tax since 1993, "and consequently, its purchasing power has gone down by more than 37 percent," White noted.

In 2013, the annual capital spending on public transit from all levels of government was $17.7 billion, according to White. Of that figure, $7.4 billion came from the federal government. APTA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have determined that an investment of $43 billion for public transportation is necessary to improve system performance and condition, he said.

Also, the Federal Transit Administration has estimated the public transportation system faces a one-time $86 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and replacement needs, White added.

"We need a well-funded transportation system that includes public transportation," he said.

In other public transportation matters, the platform called for Amtrak service in the Northeast Corridor to be turned over to private operators.

"The same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country," the platform states. "We reaffirm our intention to end federal support for boondoggles like California's high-speed train to nowhere."