Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x254 or 202-487-4990 cell
Washington, DC – The need for a strong, multi-year transportation bill was confirmed today, as the monthly jobs report for April showed 11,000 transit and ground passenger jobs were lost, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).
The Congressional conference committee, charged with reconciling the House and Senate transportation bills, is scheduled to meet May 8 to begin to hash out the legislation. The ATU says the bill must include measures from the Senate bill that help local transit systems maintain service and avoid fare increases in order to create jobs and deal with mass transit crisis.
“This jobs report shows the policy of starving mass transit is crippling America and hurting our nation’s economic recovery,”says Larry Hanley, ATU international president. “It should create a sense of urgency among the members of the Congressional conference committee meeting next week to reconcile House and Senate versions of the transportation bill that change is needed and needed now.”
“It’s way past the time Congress should have faced this problem. Long-term transportation legislation must retain key provisions of the Senate version of the bill that provide transit systems much-needed flexibility to use their federal funds to maintain service and keep fares low.”
“The crisis gets worse by the day. From Pittsburgh, PA, to Everett, WA, to Detroit, MI, to Charleston, SC, more and more transit-dependent Americans are being stranded at bus stops and rail stations as cities implement some of the most severe service cuts and fare increases in history.”
The tenth extension of the transportation funding bill was passed just three weeks ago, after months of bickering among House Republicans failed to produce sufficient support to pass their leadership’s proposed five-year bill, H.R.7, which would have gutted U.S. transportation policy and funding. Meanwhile the Senate passed a bipartisan two-year bill (MAP-21) that provides transit systems much-needed flexibility to use their federal funds to maintain critical service, avoid additional fare increases and help people get to and from their work and other daily tasks.
These job losses come at a time when Americans took over 10.4 billion transit trips last year – the highest in decades. At the same time recession-reduced local tax revenues have forced more than 80 percent of transit agencies to cut service, increase fares and lay off workers. The effects of this crisis are being felt all over the country:
In Detroit, the mayor’s proposal of another round of transit cuts is leading some to question whether the system can survive at all. In Boston, bus, rail, and ferry service will be cut on July 1, and almost all modes of public transportation will become significantly more expensive.
If nothing is done by September 2, Pittsburgh’s transit authority says it will cut 46 of its remaining 102 routes, ending service after 10 p.m. on all but 13 bus and rail routes. There will also be deep reductions in ACCESS, the agency’s nationally-recognized paratransit service that provides 6,000 rides to seniors and persons with disabilities every day.
Significant reductions are expected in South Carolina. Cuts will be made on many routes, and service will be discontinued on Sundays, Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day in Columbia. Transit will be cut by five percent across the board in Charleston.
Things are going from bad to worse in Everett, WA, where Community Transit has cut 40 percent of its service over the last two years. Now, the city’s own Everett Transit has to cut its budget by 10 to 15 percent next year.
Transit in nearby Seattle is preparing for what it calls the biggest package of route changes in its history, cutting thousands of service hours from outlying Seattle neighborhoods so more buses run on busier corridors. Fares will increase by as much as 19 percent in Portland, OR, which also plans to eliminate its free-rail zone.
Service cuts are also expected in Providence and Louisville.
These are only a few examples of the struggle taking place in every major city in the country.
“There’s a real crisis in our nation’s mass transit and the Congressional conference committee has an opportunity to turn this around,” asserts International President Hanley “Concerted action now will contribute greatly to the re-invigoration of our economy, and lead to greener, more livable communities in the United States.”
About the ATU
The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.