Transit union says legislation will impose hidden tax increases on rider with higher fares, less service
Media Contacts: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x254
WASHINGTON, DC - The new federal transportation bill fails mass transit, riders and workers, and will lead to more fare increases and service cuts, a hidden tax increase on riders who can least afford it, says the Amalgamated Transit Union in response to Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP–21) reported out by the congressional conference committee.
“This transportation bill is a death blow to public transportation; it not only does nothing to address the American mass transit crisis, but will make it much worse,” says Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. “It’s actually a tax increasing bill that will impose hidden taxes on commuters and transit riders by raising fares while forcing cash-strapped transit systems to cut more service.”
The bill guts provisions from the bipartisan Senate bill, which would have provided much-needed flexibility for transit systems to use some of their federal funding to keep service on the street and create jobs. Conferees also failed to address the commuter tax credit, which would have provided anyone who takes public transit to work the same much-needed subsidy as those who drive each day.
“Our government is spending $2 billion a week to fight wars and rebuild cities halfway across the world, while Congress lets our own cities and their transit systems get worse by the day,” Hanley continued. “From Pittsburgh to Boston to Detroit to Charleston, 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.”
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. in September, Pittsburgh’s transit authority will cut 46 of its remaining 102 routes (30 percent), ending service after 10 p.m. on all but 13 bus and rail routes. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the beginning of the current recession, more than 85% of transit systems across the U.S. have been forced to cut service or raise fares. Thousands of transit workers have been put out of work.
Meanwhile in 2011, ridership on the nation’s commuter trains and buses hit one of the highest levels in decades, with Americans taking 10.4 billion trips on mass transit – which includes buses, trains, street cars and ferries.
“More and more Americans are relying on public transportation to get to and from work, school, the doctor and other daily tasks and this bill will hit them right in the pocket,” says Hanley. “Congress missed a real opportunity to give transit systems much needed flexibility to use federal assistance to keep service on the street and fares down while creating more jobs.”
Direct investment into transit operations creates jobs and provides infusion into local economies. More than 570 jobs are created for each $10 million invested in the short term. According to American Public Transportation Association (APTA) data, every $1 billion invested in public transportation creates and supports 36,000 American jobs.
In the bill, transit systems serving areas of more than 200,000 people can only use their federal funds for capital expenses such as buying buses and trains and building new stations. With few exceptions they cannot use federal funds for operations. Consequently, many agencies simply don’t have enough funding to maintain essential service while newly purchased transit vehicles sit idly in their lots.
“This bill will not move America ahead for progress, it moves our nation backwards. Americans will hold members of Congress accountable for the effect this bill will have on public transportation,” says Hanley. “We urge Congress not to pass this failed legislation which continues to starve mass transit and further weaken our economic recovery.”
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.