Tuesday, February 14, 2012

MARTA: Federal transportation bill is bad, bad news

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 2:24 PM

OK, those aren't the transit agency's exact words. But you know what they mean.

MARTA this morning told Georgia's congressional delegation — via the always festive "urging resolution" — that the transit agency opposes a provision of H.R. 7, the $260 billion surface transportation bill that's making its way through Congress. The provision that's raised the ire of MARTA and transit supporters — and many editorial boards — eliminates dedicated funding to public transportation and instead directs the cash to roads. Set asides for pedestrian and bike projects were also gutted. Via MARTA:

Since the Reagan administration in 1983, nearly half of all public transportation funding has been provided from the federal motor fuels tax dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund. This funding structure has successfully provided highway and transit programs with secure, dedicated revenues and has allowed public transit systems around the country to create jobs and foster economic growth.

Under H.R. 7, however, public transit funding would receive a one-time appropriation with no funding for public transportation after 2016. This would create deep uncertainty for MARTA as well as other transit service providers in metro Atlanta including the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Cobb Community Transit and Gwinnett County Transit. Scores of local transit systems in Georgia could also be adversely affected.

The loss of a dedicated revenue source would likely result in decreases in future federal funding to MARTA, which would force reductions in our transit service levels and seriously hamper future prospects for expansion.



Transit agency officials say federal cash makes up for 10 percent of the system's operating costs and 22 percent of its capital-improvement program.

Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta, has joined several other lawmakers, including some Republicans, to cut the elimination of transit funding from the bill and dedicate $40 billion to supporting public transportation. (In all honesty, the bill, which is becoming severely bloated with unrelated amendments involving oil drilling, needs a makeover. Plus, the Congressional Budget Office says it'll likely bankrupt the nation's the highway trust fund. Pretty much everyone hates the legislation.

Wanna tell your congressman to mothball the choo-choos and buses? Or maybe you'd like to keep funding public transit? Then contact your representatives and senators.

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