Posts Tagged ‘public transit’

Biden Budget Proposal Would Boost Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in 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.

DOT Report Urges Greater Accessibility

January 18, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation is calling for improved accessibility to stations and new rail cars, for Amtrak, other rail passenger operators, and transit systems.

The recommendations are part of a draft Strategic Plan on Accessible Transportation released last week.

The report addresses the need for better access for people with disabilities for all forms of transportation, noting that a 2018 report estimated that 25.5 million Americans experience a travel-limiting disability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for those with disabilities to have access to transportation to connect to essential services, DOT said.

The report will be used to guide the agency’s work in the 2021-25 federal fiscal years. Public comment on the report is being accepted through Feb. 16.

Transit Service Resumes at North Carolina Station

December 16, 2020

North Carolina-based Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation has resumed its Route 5 Service from the Amtrak station in High Point to Winston Salem.

An Amtrak service advisory said the Authority also provides on-demand service operating for Route 1 and 3 Monday through Saturday to and from High Point and Winston Salem for passengers who did not book in advance on Route 5.

Call 336-883-7278 for PART schedule information.

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.

Congress Eyes Stop Gap Funding Bill That is Expected to Extend FAST Act for a Year

September 17, 2020

Congress is expected to take up next week a continuing resolution that would enable the federal government to stay open past the expiration of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The bill is also expected to contain a one-year extension of the surface transportation law, known as the FAST Act, which also expires at the end of this month.

News reports from Washington have indicated that the length of time the continuing resolution would cover has yet to be determined.

Some members of the House and Senate have favored a mid-December expiration date while some Democrats have pushed for an expiration date of next February.

Leadership of both parties is said to be in favor of a one-year extension of the FAST Act and neither party wants to see a government shutdown.

Extension of the FAST Act would be needed to continue payments to Amtrak, public transit and highway fuel tax money for road construction projects.

Some transportation trade groups have sought to use the extension of the FAST Act as an opportunity to increase the amount of money authorized for transportation programs.

A coalition led by the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, and the American Public Transportation Association is seeking $37 billion and $32 billion, respectively.

The Rail Passengers Association has called for Amtrak to receive $5 billion.

Although the House earlier approved on a mostly party line vote a spending plan for fiscal year 2021, the Senate has not acted and has yet to even release its spending proposals.

The House also approved its version of a new surface transportation authorization bill, but the Senate has not acted on its own proposal.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have called for a “clean” CR that extends spending at fiscal year 2020 levels but generally excludes non-appropriations provisions.

That might appear to rule out an extension of the FAST Act, but lawmakers have noted that they are willing to extend authorizations for critical programs that are expiring this fall.

The Office of Management and Budget has sent Congress a list of more than 60 such expiring programs, two of which involve health care.

Pelosi told reporters on Sept. 10 that a continuing resolution would not include any COVID-19 pandemic emergency funding.

If that stands, it would mean including such funding for Amtrak, public transit and other transportation-related programs will fall by the wayside although it could be considered in a separate pandemic aid relief bill.

Action on such legislation has stalled amid partisan bickering with Senate and House leaders on both sides have signaled that emergency pandemic relief is unlikely to be approved before the November elections.

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.

Amtrak, Transit to Get Aid in Stimulus Package

March 26, 2020

Aid to Amtrak and public transit agencies was part of a $2 trillion stimulus bill approved Wednesday by the U.S. Senate.

The intercity rail passenger carrier is to get $1.018 billion of which $526 million is for the national network, $492 million is for the Northeast Corridor, and $239 million is for state-supported routes.

The amount matches what Amtrak President Richard Anderson has said the carrier expects to lose in the current federal fiscal year due to a dramatic drop in ridership and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public transit agencies are slated to receive $25 billion operating expenses. The bill waives a requirement that transit agencies use their own funds to receive federal assistance.

Another $25 billion was awarded for transit infrastructure grants to be doled out based on fiscal 2020 allocations in four areas: Urbanized Area Formula Grants; Nonurbanized Area Formula Grants; State of Good Repair; and High Density and Growing States.

The stimulus bill now moves to the House, which is expected to vote on it on Friday morning.

USA Today reported that House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland expected his chamber to approve the bill on a voice vote before sending it to President Donald Trump.

Stimulus Bill Would Give Amtrak $1B, Transit $20B

March 24, 2020

Amtrak would get $1 billion and public transit agencies would receive $20 billion under a $2 trillion stimulus bill making its way through Congress the Rail Passengers Association reported.

The public transit aid would be broken down to $16 billion for urban transit systems and $4 billion for rural transit agencies.

Amtrak’s funding would be allocated at $492 million for the Northeast Corridor state-supported services and $526 million for the national network.

RPA said news reports indicate that as a condition of receiving aid Amtrak would be required to recognize unions, maintain worker benefits and provide unemployment assistance.

The money is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.