Where does transit fall this election cycle?

The Missouri Public Transit Association representing transit providers from across Missouri strongly supports funding for transit at the local, state and federal levels.  We urge our elected officials to recognize the local, regional and national importance public transit plays in our cities and this country based on its impact on economic returns, accessibility and the job force.  In Missouri last year, more than 67 million transit rides were provided in both our rural and urban areas by our members offering access to jobs, education and healthcare. In addition, the billions in investment along the permanent transit capital infrastructure like MetroLink and the Kansas City Streetcar and thousands of local jobs in the transit industry cannot be ignored.

The Democratic platform approved last week calls for significant increases in federal spending on roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight lines.  The plan calls for a national infrastructure bank that provides loans and other financial assistance in order to support investments in infrastructure projects.

Capital transit investments have a direct impact on local economies. According to the American Public Transit Association, for every one dollar invested in public transit infrastructure, there is a $4 return for the region.  In St. Louis, Metro has tracked more than $1.8 billion in development within a half mile of its alignment between 2011 and 2014 alone.  That number grows significantly when you look at development since its opening in 1993. In addition,  millions in development has occurred along the Kansas City Streetcar line which just opened for business in May. 

Additionally, public transportation provides access to jobs and healthcare.  In fact, nearly 60 percent of all trips taken are for work commutes according to the American Public Transit Association.  Our providers are serving employers in both the rural and urban communities of the state.

The 2016 Republican platform approved calls for eliminating transit funding programs from the Highway Trust Fund.  The platform calls out public transit as “an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, concentrated in six big cities.”

In addition, the GOP platform proposes eliminating funding for bike-share programs, sidewalk improvements, recreational trails, landscaping, historical renovations, ferry boats, the federal lands access program, scenic byways and education initiatives.

Public transit needs far outpace the current level of funding available.  This year, the funds available under the Bus Capital and No-Lo Emission programs in the FAST-Act are significantly lower than the needs demonstrated through the grantee applications falling short of requests made by more than $1.4 billion. Ensuring a federal funding program for public transit provides security for millions of Americans who use transit for the work commute, for employers who depend on transit for their employees, and cities and towns striving to improve economies and quality of life through transit investment.

“Communities are creating visions for the future with transit at the center of those plans.  According to APTA in 2013, the annual capital spending on public transit – from all levels of government – was $17.7 billion.  Of that figure, $7.4 billion came from the federal government.  Public transit impacts are seen on the national, state and local level, and in fact, funding should be a coordinated effort on the parts of the federal, state and local programs to move our communities forward,” said Kimberly Cella, Executive Director of the Missouri Public Transit Association.