AASHTO Journal

Public Transit Group Makes Case for Part of Trump’s Infrastructure Investment Plan

The American Public Transportation Association has launched a campaign to get President Trump and Congress to include major transit funding in their pending $1 trillion infrastructure investment package, saying they could create millions of jobs by directing a large part of it into mass transit system upgrades.

APTA said directing $200 billion of that investment over 10 years into public transit "could create and sustain 10 million jobs across America," while over 20 years it would contribute $800 billion to the nation's gross domestic product.

The group issued that call before the White House issued its budget blueprint for fiscal 2018, which would end federal funding for "new starts" transit capital projects that don't already have full funding agreements locked in. APTA Acting President Richard White later said the association was "surprised and disappointed" by the budget proposal.

capitol0816.jpgHowever, in its push for a decade of additional investment in the still-developing infrastructure package, APTA said putting an extra $200 billion into transit would have the greatest impact in small and mid-sized communities that rely on bus systems.

"Purchasing new buses and upgrading equipment and facilities will be a game changer" for those areas, APTA said in a news release. "Specifically, nearly 90 percent of public transit trips directly benefit the economy by getting people to work and connecting them to local businesses," it added.

"This additional investment is the key to addressing the nation's aging public transportation infrastructure," said White. "Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows we need to invest nearly $90 billion just to bring our systems into a state of good repair. More than 40 percent of buses and 25 percent of rail train assets are in marginal or poor condition."

"We have an opportunity to bring together a bipartisan effort amongst Congress and the administration to revitalize main street America with smart investments in local public transit," said APTA Chair Doran Barnes. "Public transit's role in getting people to work and bringing customers to businesses results in the far-reaching economic impact of this investment. This, coupled with our extensive supply chain, provides for manufacturing jobs in small, mid-size and large communities."

APTA said that as Congress moves forward with a new infrastructure initiative the association is urging the Trump administration and Congress "to dramatically increase the current investment levels in support of the nation's public transportation and intercity passenger rail systems."  

The group wrote Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao March 7 to press for full funding in the next budget year of transit programs Congress authorized in 2015 in the five-year Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, and to tell her that every dollar invested in transit generates about $4 in economic impact.

APTA also made its case in letters this month to the heads of congressional appropriations and tax-writing committees.

In a March 9 letter to the heads of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, APTA pressed lawmakers to "seize the opportunity to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund in a tax reform bill."

The association also urged tax writers "to fully preserve the long-established provisions of federal law that ensure interest earned on municipal bonds continues to be exempt from federal taxation," adding that "this is a vital tool for state and local government public transportation projects and is a cost-effective way to attract private investment in public transportation projects."

APTA also called for extension of the commuter transit tax benefit and permanent treatment of a an alternative fuels tax break that expired Dec. 31, one that benefits many transit systems using buses that run on alternatives to diesel fuel.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to editor@aashtojournal.org.

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