Senators Introduce Bill to Help Transit Agencies Reverse Fare Hikes and Service Cuts

WASHINGTON—(ENEWSPF)—May 25, 2010. Today Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) along with Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill to authorize emergency funding for transit agencies to help reverse fare increases and service cuts.

“While families continue to struggle to make ends meet the last thing we should do is make it harder and more expensive for people to get to work.  This bill will prevent disruptive service cuts and help put money back in the pockets of families when they need it most,” said Chairman Dodd.

State and local governments have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and public transportation systems nationwide are experiencing major budget cuts as a result.  The American Public Transportation Association reports that since January 1, 2009, 84 percent of public transit systems have either raised fares, cut service or are considering those options.

Often service cuts disproportionately affect those with low-incomes, minorities, and seniors.  In many cases people are cut off from accessing their jobs or health care.  And fare increases can have a devastating effect on working families and those on fixed incomes.

Senator Menendez said: “Cutbacks at NJ Transit has made transit service for New Jerseyans more expensive and less accessible. This is a moment in which we should be investing in our public transportation, not undermining it. Emphasizing mass transit helps rebuild our economy through lower commuting costs, new jobs and cleaner air.”

“Nearly two million daily riders and more than 15,000 employees in the Chicago area have been impacted by budget shortfalls caused by the recession,” said Durbin. “Today’s bill will help Chicago and thirteen other transit agencies across Illinois avoid layoffs and prevent drastic service cuts and fare hikes this summer.”

“Mass transit is the very lifeblood of the New York and our ability to rebuild the economy and get people back to work is linked to a fully funded and affordable system,” said Schumer. “In a time of crisis, when funding for mass transit has collapsed and caused severe service cuts, layoffs and looming fare hikes, it is essential that we take strong action to ensure the middle class can afford to use public transit.”

This bill will authorize $2 billion for transit agencies nationwide to help close funding gaps in operating costs.  Transit agencies can use these funds to reduce fare increases and restore services that were cut after January 2009 or to prevent future service cuts or fare increases through September 2011.  Agencies that have not increased rates or cut services and do not plan to do so may use the funds for infrastructure improvements.

“This measure will provide critical relief to New Jersey’s commuters and transit riders across the country when they need it most.  Investing in transit will help stem fare hikes and improve service so that working class families can get to work on time and without breaking the bank,” Lautenberg said.

“This bill will help preserve transit jobs and limit service interruptions,” Brown said. “Too many transit agencies have to choose between cutting service, raising fares, or laying-off workers. This bill would ensure that Ohio transit workers can continue to provide the service that so many Ohioans depend on.”

“This is a smart investment that will keep our transit systems operating and keep our economy moving forward,” said Jack Reed.

“Commuters in New York are outraged by the fare hikes and service cuts that are being considered right now,” said Gillibrand. “This emergency funding is badly needed to maintain strong and affordable transit systems that get workers to work, students to school, and keep our economy moving.”

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee is responsible for oversight of our nations’ transit systems.