A Big Welcome to the Biden Administration and 117th Congress
Public Transit Needs Renewed Support from Lawmakers
Voices for Public Transit welcomes new and returning members of Congress back to Washington! We are excited to begin working with Congress and the many new faces in the Biden Administration. Thank you for your past—and future—support for public transportation. Communities across the country benefit every day from public transportation, but more must be done to champion this vital, essential service.
Changes in Congress
The 2020 election cycle has come to a close. On Capitol Hill, the biggest change is that the Democratic Party now leads the Senate by the narrowest of margins. The Senate is evenly split 50-50, with any tie-breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris. This means that progress in 2021 on most issues, including public transportation, will require Senators to reach across the aisle and work together to find consensus.
With the change in the Senate, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has become the new chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Senator Brown is a champion for public transit and he strongly supported COVID-19 emergency funding for public transportation last year—and he is expected to be an ally for additional emergency funding in this Congress.
The Urgent Need for Emergency Funding
President Biden has already addressed public transit and the COVID crisis before even being inaugurated. We hope lawmakers will join him in immediately focusing on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Public transportation will continue to play an essential role across the country—and it needs additional emergency funding from Congress as soon as possible.
The 2020 year-end spending bill included $14 billion in emergency funding for public transportation. This emergency investment was desperately needed—but, as this crisis drags on, the impacts multiply and the costs to our communities grow. The pandemic has placed enormous financial strain on public transportation—adding new costs while cutting revenue. Last year’s emergency funding is enabling public transportation to continue operating and provide millions of Americans the ability to get to work, school, grocery stores, and healthcare appointments. But for public transportation to continue aiding communities in the months ahead, additional emergency funding is needed.
The industry is deeply appreciative of President Biden’s recognition of the importance of public transportation for the country, and how critical it is for our economic recovery, as illustrated by the proposed $20 billion in emergency transit funding included in the new Administration’s American Rescue Plan. Our public transportation systems must receive adequate funding so they can help our economy recover in the coming months. We’ll be calling on the new Congress and Administration to work across party lines to make additional emergency funding a priority.
Let’s Pass Infrastructure Legislation
U.S. Secretary of Transportation-designate Pete Buttigieg has said he will advance a bold infrastructure plan that cements public transportation’s central role in keeping our cities running. Buttigieg sees public transportation as part of an infrastructure plan that can help fight climate change, create jobs, and support equity.
The returning chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), a long-time champion of public transit, will likely work closely with Buttigieg to advance infrastructure legislation. Chair DeFazio has helped pass major legislation in support of public transportation in the past and is expected to continue championing public transportation issues. Bold infrastructure and transportation legislation will also have a good chance of passing the Senate under the leadership of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), another key ally for public transportation.
We are hopeful that both parties will join together and collaborate on infrastructure legislation. We must see real progress on our massive infrastructure needs nationwide. In two evenly split houses of Congress, we hope that public transit and infrastructure will be an issue where lawmakers can begin the process of healing by reaching across the aisle. Investing in infrastructure, including public transportation, will improve American’s quality of life as well as create jobs and drive economic growth. It is past time for Congress to invest in American infrastructure.
Voices for Public Transit will be raising our voices to ensure that public transportation is a core part of any infrastructure legislation. We are hopeful that 2021 will mark a turning point that enables more Americans to benefit from public transportation. Stay tuned for updates from Voices for Public Transportation—and get ready to share your support for public transportation with the new Congress.