Early this month, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced that 72 transportation projects in 46 states and the District of Columbia will receive a total of $600 million in federal TIGER—Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery—grants.
This total represents a significant federal investment in a broad range of transportation projects, including public transportation. But this dollar figure represents less than 7 percent of total grant requests, which totaled $9.5 billion. While the TIGER program—launched in 2009 as part of the federal economic stimulus program—has been highly successful – winning broad bipartisan praise -- it simply cannot meet the funding needs of communities seeking to improve public transportation.
Public Transportation Highlights
TIGER grant awards are split among highway, public transit, maritime, and rail projects. For this round, Secretary Foxx said he sought “projects that will make people’s lives easier and connect them to jobs and other opportunities.” Highlights of public transportation projects include:
- Bus Rapid Transit—Omaha, Nebraska, Richmond, Virginia, and Washoe County (Reno-Sparks), Nevada, each received a TIGER grant to develop bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, which will extend public transportation options into communities whose residents often do not own or have access to private vehicles. For many communities, BRT is an affordable, flexible option for public transportation. Read more about BRT systems.
- Public Transit Station Improvements—Some public transit systems are not meeting their full potential because of inadequate stations. New TIGER grants will enable improvements at stations in Boston, St. Louis, and other cities. Improvements at Boston’s Ruggles Station will help connect commuters with jobs being created as a result of new development near the station.
- Streetcars—TIGER grants for streetcar systems will help revitalize city centers in Providence, Rhode Island, and Detroit, Michigan.
The Value—and Shortcomings—of the TIGER Program
Helping to transform how local transportation projects receive funding, since 2009, the TIGER program has provided $4.1 billion to local communities. During that time, total requests for funding have exceeded $124 billion as communities clamor for transportation investment that will improve their local economies and the quality of life.
The results of the TIGER program can be seen across the nation—in new and enhanced public transportation systems, as well as improved roadways, traffic management, and intermodal transportation. TIGER grants have reached every state, DC, and Puerto Rico, and 117 grants have been awarded to projects in rural and tribal communities.
In announcing the latest round of TIGER grants in a blog post, Secretary Foxx bluntly acknowledged the impact of insufficient funding, writing, “[We] have a huge infrastructure deficit in this country, made worse by Congress’s failure to pass a long-term transportation bill. Americans everywhere are seeing their opportunities limited by this inaction.” We couldn’t agree more—that’s why Voices for Public Transit will be repeatedly demanding action from Congress in the months ahead.