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5 Things to Know about Long-term Funding for Public Transit

Congress deserves a big thank you for supporting essential services—including public transportation—in the American Rescue Plan Act. Emergency funding has been provided several times in the last year, but this funding is focused on keeping our transit systems running throughout the pandemic and isn’t part of a long-term solution.

Now we need lawmakers to look past the current crisis and focus on improving our transportation networks for the long term. Congress and the Administration are beginning to discuss major infrastructure legislation. Lawmakers must also tackle transportation funding before the extension of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act expires later this year.

No matter what path Congress follows to help our nation keep moving forward, one central point should guide the debate: public transportation depends on long-term funding to help communities succeed.

5 Key Reasons for Long-term Funding

Long-term public transportation funding provides certainty for communities to move forward with significant public transit projects. Here are five reasons why long-term funding is essential for public transportation:

  1. The Ability to Build Big—Many communities want to embark on bold, forward-looking public transportation projects like expanded rail lines, bus rapid transit (BRT), or a new public transit hub, which can take years to plan and complete. These projects are hard to get off the ground without reliable, long-term federal support.
  2. Launching New Public Transit Systems—Reliable, long-term federal funding can give growing communities the certainty they need to start their own public transportation systems. Public transit benefits communities of all sizes, and federal funding is especially critical in helping smaller systems get their start.
  3. Getting More People Aboard—Public transit is a cornerstone of mobility, and the only transportation option for many people. But millions of Americans lack access to public transit. Long-term funding will enable public transit to expand and close this access gap.
  4. Job Creation—Long-term investments in public transportation will help build back communities with jobs. Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates approximately 50,000 jobs.
  5. Certainty for Funding Partners—Federal funding only pays for a portion of public transportation projects. State and local governments, and sometimes private investors, also contribute. The certainty of long-term federal funding helps win the commitments of these funders.

Before Congress passed the soon-to-expire FAST Act in 2015, lawmakers enacted 36 short-term bills—sometimes with just weeks of funding. This left public transit systems around the country uncertain about their ability to fund new projects, and communities could not plan public transit projects without reliable federal support. We must not let this happen again!

Every American—rural and urban, in red and blue states alike—deserves access to reliable, affordable transportation. We’ll be raising our voices this year to urge Congress to renew their long-term commitment to public transit on behalf of all Americans.

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