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Rail News: Passenger Rail
Don't cut transit off from Highway Trust Fund, APTA's Melaniphy says
Eliminating mass transit funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund would be devastating, American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy said late last week, in response to Republican lawmakers who questioned whether federal gas tax proceeds should be used for transit.
"Such an action would be catastrophic for public transportation systems nationwide and hurt the millions of Americans who use it every day in growing numbers," Melaniphy said in a prepared statement issued a day after the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held its first hearing on surface transportation reauthorization.
During the hearing, some congressmen suggested that the Highway Trust Fund should be spent only on highways. Currently, about 80 percent of the fund goes to highways and the rest to mass transit.
Melaniphy noted there has been bipartisan support for federal investment in public transportation through the gas tax since 1983 under President Ronald Reagan, when gas tax revenue was dedicated to public transportation under the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
"It is important to note that from 1983 on, dedicated revenue for public transit has never been diverted from highway dollars in the Highway Trust Fund," Melaniphy said.
Public transportation use has been increasing in recent years, he noted. In 2013, 10.7 billion trips were taken on public transportation, which was the highest ridership number in 57 years. Also, public transportation is an important economic lifeline for many Americans, since 60 percent of trips on transit are for traveling to and from jobs, he said.
"Now is the time to increase investment in public transportation, not reduce it," Melaniphy said. "The quality of our transportation system and the competitiveness of our country depends on it."
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.