Posts Tagged ‘public transit funding’

Senate Increases Aid for Amtrak, Public Transit

March 9, 2021

The U.S. Senate last Saturday increased COVID-19 relief funding for Amtrak and public transit.

The changes were made during consideration of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 50-49.

The Senate increased by $1.25 billion the funding for public transit over what the House approved on Feb. 27 and also increased the funding for Amtrak over the House-passed levels.

The bill now goes back to the House for further consideration. The House passed a modified version of the legislation providing $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 emergency funding.

Although some senators proposed amendments that would have cut, transferred or removed the aid to public transit, few of those amendments received a roll call vote and note were approved.

However, the Senate did approve an amendment to make 23 public transit programs eligible for federal Capital Investment Grants.

The House is expected to take up the amended version of the bill today and if approved it would go to President Joseph Biden for his signature.

The American Rescue Plan Act includes $1.7 billion for Amtrak. That is a $200 million increase in funding from what the House approved last month.

Under the Senate version of the legislation $970 million will go toward the Northeast Corridor while the national network will receive $730 million.

The bill also provides $285 million to Amtrak “in lieu of commuter rail and state-supported route payments.”

The bill includes $166 million “to restore service on long-distance routes and to recall and manage furloughed employees.”

The breakdown of other public transit funding in the bill includes $26.09 billion for transit systems in urban areas and $317 million for grants in rural areas.

Also approved was $50 million in grants to benefit services for seniors and those with disabilities, $2.21 billion for operating assistance grants  pertaining to addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and $250 million for Small Start projects that are recipients of a CIG allocation or an applicant in the project development phase.

COVID-19 Transportation Aid Levels Proposed

February 9, 2021

Democrats in the House of Representatives have reportedly settled on funding levels for transportation that would be included in a proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

Under the proposal, transit agencies would receive $30 billion, Amtrak would get $1.5 billion, airlines would receive $14 billion and airports would get $8 billion.

The COVID-19 aid funding for transit falls short of the $39.3 billion that transit systems were seeking.

Amtrak funding would nearly match the $1.541 billion that the intercity passenger carrier is seeking from Congress.

However, it exceeds the $20 million that President Joseph Biden had proposed.

Biden’s initial proposal contained no funding for Amtrak or airlines.

A House committee is expected to begin working this week on the COVID-19 pandemic aid proposal.

House Pandemic Bill Has Amtrak, Transit Funding

September 30, 2020

A bill unveiled this week by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives this week contains emergency air for public transit, Amtrak and the airlines.

Although the bill, named the Heroes Act, is expected to get a vote this week, some political observers don’t expect the Senate to vote on it. Instead the Senate might consider its own COVID-19 relief bill.

The House bill contains $2.2 trillion in emergency spending, including $2.4 billion for Amtrak.

Amtrak would receive $1.4 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $1 billion for the national network.

The bill allocates $569 million to help states and commuter rail providers pay Amtrak for state-supported route and commuter rail use of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Public transit would receive $32 billion, which includes $28.5 billion for operating assistance grants.

The American Public Transportation Association said in a statement that under the terms of the House bill the funding for public transit is to be directed to payroll and transit operations.

APTA said the funding, if approved by Congress and President Trump, would when combined with earlier approved CARES Act aid equal 100 percent of agencies’ operating expenses.

Also allocated by the bill is $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants for transit project sponsors with non-federal financial commitments and $10 billion for emergency relief grants for public transit agencies that require additional assistance to maintain operations.

The bill also contains $25 billion for airlines to save jobs through next March.

Airlines have been grabbing headlines in the past couple months by announcing massive layoffs and service cancellations once their CARES Act funding expires today (Sept. 30).

The House bill would extend $3 billion in payroll support for airline contractors as originally approved in March and $300 million to cargo airlines.

It also includes $13.5 billion in economic relief to airports and $75 million to preserve passenger air service for smaller communities.

An earlier House approved COVID-19 emergency aid bill failed to get a Senate vote and talks between the two chambers have broken down over partisan differences, including over the size of another relief bill and who would receive funding.

The latest House emergency relief bill is $1 trillion less than the earlier proposal approved last May.

There is some support among Senate Republicans who control that chamber for granting emergency aid to the airline industry, which in recent days has ramped up its lobbying campaign for more emergency funding as air travel remains in a severe slump.

A Senate bill introduced last week would provide $25.5 billion for passenger air carriers, $300 million for cargo air carriers and $3 billion for contractors.

Political observers have noted that airline aid has gained traction because many lawmakers of both parties and key administration officials fear that the layoffs airlines have signaled will occur in October could rattle an economy that remains in the doldrums.

House Passes Amtrak Funding in Budget Bill

August 1, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved a federal fiscal year budget package that includes $10 billion in funding for Amtrak and $24 billion for public transit.

The legislation includes language that prohibits Amtrak from further furloughs of its work force, directs the intercity rail passenger carrier to maintain daily frequency of service on routes that have it now, and includes a mandate that passengers and employees wear masks on trains, planes, and large transit systems.

The budget bill was approved on a vote of 217 to 197 and now goes to the Senate, which has yet to introduce draft appropriations bills for the next fiscal year which begins on Oct. 1.

The Senate is still trying to approve a COVID-19 pandemic relief package that includes $10 billion in emergency aid for airports but no emergency funding for Amtrak or public transportation.

If the Senate fails to approve an FY2021 budget bill Congress may keep the federal government operating by passing one or more continuing resolutions.

It is unclear at this point what that would mean for Amtrak’s plans to reduce the operation of most long distance passengers trains to tri-weekly on Oct. 1.

House Aid Bill Has Some Transit Funding, But Omits Amtrak Funding, Infrastructure Boost

May 16, 2020

A $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed the House on a largely party line vote on Friday contained some funding for public transit systems but fell well short of what those agencies were seeking.

The legislation, which is opposed by Senate Republicans, also declined to include additional funding for Amtrak that the carrier had sought.

The American Public Transit Association had been seeking $23.8 billion but the House bill allocated just $15.75 billion for transit.

Amtrak had sought $1.63 billion but was shut out. That funding was in addition to the $2.04 billion Amtrak is seeking in its regular grant request for federal fiscal year 2021.

Also omitted from the bill was an infrastructure program that some have been seeking as a pay to kick start the economy.

The House bill, which was named the HEROES Act, is the fourth emergency pandemic funding bill taken up in Congress.

Transit Agencies Seek More Emergency Aid

May 10, 2020

Leaders of 15 public transit agencies have written to Congress seeking additional emergency aid for public transportation.

The letter was signed by the heads of agencies in Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Newark, Oakland (California), Washington, Miami, Atlanta, and San Carlos (California.).

The letter did not specify a dollar amount but in a news release the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York said its estimates show transit agencies in the United States need $32 billion to enable them to get through the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

The Rail Passengers Association said on Friday the American Public Transportation Association wrote a similar letter seeking $23.8 billion in emergency assistance.

That funding would be divided into $19 billion provided through the Emergency Relief Program, which would be distributed proportionally to all public transit agencies with a demonstrated need; and $4.75 billion provided through Urbanized Area Formula Grants, Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Formula Grants; and Rural Area Formula Grants.

There would be no required local of state match of the funding.

The letter from the transit agencies said they need the aid to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and would supplement the $25 billion in emergency aid Congress approved for public transportation in March.

The letter said since that aide was approved, “a fuller picture has emerged of  . . . losses from dedicated transportation revenue streams, such as farebox, sales taxes, motor fuel taxes, tolls, mortgage-related taxes and other user fees.”

The letter said the usual funding sources for public transportation have taken “a massive hit.”

The transit heads said their systems will not be able to support the regions they serve without replenishing those losses.

“Our regions cannot recover without public transportation, and the nation cannot recover without resurgent economies in our regions,” the letter said.

Budget Proposal Slashes Amtrak by More than 50%

February 13, 2020

The Trump administration this week released its federal fiscal year budget proposal and to no one’s surprise it has proposed slashing Amtrak funding by more than half.

The budget proposal also recommends funding cuts to rail-related transportation of nearly $900 million when compared with the last two budget cycles, most of which would be achieved by appropriating less money for federal agencies that oversee rail transportation activities.

For Amtrak, the administration has proposed cutting spending on the Northeast Corridor from $700 million to $325 million.

Support for the long-distance service would fall from $1.3 billion to $611 million with those trains being phased over in the next few years.

The budget document released by the U.S. Department of Transportation calls for funding of a vaguely defined account that is meant to transition long-distance routes into corridor services of between 100 to 500 miles that would be funded in part by state and local governments.

These grants would be known as “National Network Transformation Grants — Long Distance Routes” and would receive $550 million.

Amtrak’s overall funding will decline from $2 billion in the 2020 budget to $1.5 billion in 2021.

The focus on corridor services would be in line with the vision for Amtrak that the carrier’s president, Richard Anderson, and its senior executive vice president, Stephen Gardner, have been talking up for more than a year.

Indeed the DOT budget document uses language similar to that used by Anderson and Gardner in saying that long-distance routes have outlived their usefulness and Amtrak needs to transform into a corridor-oriented operation linking urban centers.

“Long-distance routes continually underperform, suffering from low ridership and large operating losses of roughly half a billion dollars annually,” the DOT budget document states. “Amtrak trains inadequately serve many rural markets while not serving many growing metropolitan areas at all.”

This of course raises the question of whether DOT is parroting Anderson and Gardner or whether the Amtrak executives are mouthing what DOT has told them to say.

DOT said it would release later this year details about the long-distance route transformation program as part of its recommendation for a re-authorization of the FAST Act.

The administration’s budget proposal also recommends $13.2 billion for public transportation, a $303 million increase from the FY2020 enacted level, but would reduce passenger-rail grant programs by $712 million for a total of $1.8 billion.

The budget proposes a 10-year, $810 billion plan for surface transportation reauthorization to replace the FAST Act, which expires Sept. 30. That is $75 billion above the current authorized level.

Public transit would receive $155.4 billion over the next 10 years. The administration stated that it would submit a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization proposal in the coming months, APTA officials said in a legislative update.

The Federal Railroad Administration would receive just under $2 billion compared with nearly $2.8 billion budgeted in 2020.

Transit Needs $232B in Infrastructure Investments

March 23, 2019

America’s public transportation systems need at least $232 billion in investments over the next 10 years in order to bring their infrastructure to a state of good repair, said the American Public Transportation Association.

APTA said it has discussed its findings with congressional staff members attending a legislative conference in Washington.

The study cited a number of sources, including a 2015 U.S. Department of Transportation infrastructure status report that concluded there is a $89.8-billion backlog of spending needed on state of good repair transit projects.

The report also included $51.2-billion in projects awaiting review for funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program.

Other data came from a survey of APTA members, 55 of which named 169 additional projects costing $91 billion.

Public Transportation, Amtrak do Well in Budget Bill

May 3, 2017

A proposed federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 contains funding for public transportation and Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association reported.

Congress is expected to vote on the budge this week to fund the federal government through Sept. 30.

The FY17 omnibus appropriations bill contains $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.

The transit formula grants total is $9.7 million while about $2.4 billion would go toward “New Starts” funding, including $1.5 billion for current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects.

Amtrak would receive a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion.

Also included in the bill is $199 million for positive train control funding authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would receive $68 million; the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program would get $25 million; the Restoration and Enhancement Grants would get $5 million; and the Transit Security Grant program, $88 million.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be funded at $500 million.