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Public transportation riders across Pennsylvania deserve safe, reliable, affordable, and accessible service. It connects us to jobs, healthcare, and culture, and is essential to people of all abilities and backgtrounds, across the commonwealth. But make no mistake: we need urgent support for transit to be all that it can be.
UPDATE 10/6/23: Late Tuesday evening, the PA House passed HB1219, its much-anticipated budget code bill. Included in the measure is a 2% increase in the allocation of the existing state sales tax to the PA Public Transportation Trust Fund. This increase will mean more funding for all 67 counties across the state to provide critical fixed route and paratransit service, avoiding the draconian cuts to service and fare increases facing transit agencies with the expiration of federal pandemic relief, and opening the door for systems to restore and expand service across the state. The bill now is in the hands of the Senate, where transit riders and transit workers will continue to focus their organizing efforts on fully-funding transit in Pennsylvania. The time is now to fund PA transit.
Ridership on buses, trains, and trolleys hasn't returned to pre-pandemic levels, perceptions of safety are poor, and federal pandemic funding is running out. Agencies across the country are facing major deficits, and SEPTA is no different. Beginning as soon as April, SEPTA projects a structural deficit of $240 million in operations funding, and agencies across the state are in similarly dire straits. Without imminent action, riders could see major service cuts and fare increases.
These issues all sound insurmountable - but the Pennsylvania legislature has the tools to preserve public transit, and access new federal money to expand service at their fingertips.
Earlier this month, Transit Forward Philadelphia testified to the House Transportation Committee, telling them to fund PA transit now. Send a letter to do your part.
Joining the leaders of transit agencies big and small, and representatives from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Center City District. We made a simple case to the committee: transit is the backbone of our social, cultural, and economic welfare in southeastern Pennsylvania. And reliable and frequent service remains the highest priority of riders across demographics.
We're calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to close the operating deficit by increasing the allocation to the Public Transportation Trust Fund by just 2%. And the legislature must pass enabling legislation to allow local governments to raise key local matching funds that would help our transit agencies access new federal funding available through the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Every day we delay brings us closer to service cuts and fare increases, and leaves us less federal funding available from these limited-time investments.
As time goes on, ridership across SEPTA is improving - most notably on weekends, evenings, and weekday afternoons. But for this to continue and the agency to adjust its schedules and routes to match changing travel patterns, we need stable funding and service.
Our press conference in June in Harrisburg was just the beginning. We need the Pennsylvania legislature to provide vital operating dollars, and allow local governments to raise capital dollars to fully fund public transportation in the commonwealth.
Join Transit Forward Philadelphia and Transit for All PA and E-mail your legislators: fund PA transit now!