Funding flexibility
3:48 pm
Thu October 13, 2011

More flexibility recommended for transit money

A Democratic Congressman from Missouri has proposed giving transit agencies across the country more flexibility in how they spend federal transit dollars.

Rep. Russ Carnahan says despite millions of dollars from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the stimulus bill), more than 85 percent of transit systems across the country had to cut service, raise fares, or both - even as more and more people came to rely on transit.

That, Carnahan says, is because the federal money has to go toward capital purchases like new buses.

His bill would allow agencies to use that money for operating expenses instead, given certain economic conditions.

"There's no reason why we should be spending money buying new buses with one pot of money where the pot of money to operate buses is not even big enough to keep the buses running," Carnahan said.

Scott Bogren with the Community Transportation Association of America called it a common-sense solution to funding problems that are plaguing mass transit systems across the country.

"This provides the opportunity for systems to avoid getting caught in the very negative spiral where you lose ridership, you raise fares, you cut service, you lose more ridership," Bogren said.

Carnahan says the measure has wide bipartisan support, but acknowledges there may not be enough time to get it through a bitterly divided Congress.