Transit industry wants $11B annual funding increase

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is recommending that Congress increase its funding of transit systems in the U.S. by $11.5 billion per year. 

The association announced on Tuesday at its annual conference in Washington, D.C., that it was proposing that Congress approve $100.4 billion in new public transportation spending when the current funding for road and transit projects runs out this fall. 

The current congressional surface transportation bill is scheduled to expire in September, and the trust fund that pays for most of its infrastructure initiatives is projected to go bankrupt as soon as August. 

APTA President Michael Melaniphy said the funding for transit systems should be increased in the new round of transportation funding that Congress is debating now. 

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Melaniphy said in a statement that the transit association’s budget proposal was a “multi-modal plan we are recommending fosters community growth by driving economic development and revitalizes neighborhoods. 

“Increasing investment in public transportation and roads is essential for growing our economy in the U.S. and remaining competitive in a global economy,” Melaniphy said.

The proposal to increase transit funding comes on the heels of a report released by the APTA on Tuesday that showed public transportation ridership in 2013 was at its highest levels since 1956

Transit systems currently get about 20 percent of the money that is collected by the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal gas tax, which is used to fill most of the federal Highway Trust Fund’s coffers. 

Congress established a transit account within the Highway Trust Fund in the early 1980s. 

Revenue collection from the gas tax has struggled to keep pace with infrastructure needs as cars become more fuel efficient and Americans drive less often. 

The gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and the gap between receipts from the fuel levy and transportation spending has grown to nearly $20 billion per year since then. 

The gas tax brings in about $34 billion per year, but the current transportation bill includes more than $50 billion in infrastructure spending. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected it would take $100 billion in revenue to provide enough money for a new six-year transportation bill, which is the length advocates say is necessary, after Congress only approved a two-year measure in 2012 that is already expiring this year. 

Leaders in both parties have suggested using revenue from closing tax loopholes to close the shortfall.

The APTA’s Melaniphy said transit systems should share in the increase if overall transportation funding goes up later this year.

“Investment in public transportation infrastructure drives growth,” Melaniphy said. “It attracts development while increasing property values. It connects employers to employees, restaurants to diners, landlords to renters, and families to local stores. It provides a vital connection for people from all walks of life.”