A Call for Sustainable Transportation Funding
Our Commonwealth is faced with an urgent and on-going transportation funding crisis. State
transit agencies will be forced to make substantial service cuts and sharply raise fares if no
additional funding is forthcoming to cover the combined $93 million deficits they face this fiscal
year--the result of many years of inadequate and undependable state funding. Moreover, as the
recent interim report of the Pennsylvania Commission on Transportation Funding and Reform
indicates, approximately $500 million to $850 million in new funding is needed starting in fiscal
year 2008 for adequate support of an integrated, efficient public transit system and $536 million
to $1.46 billion for necessary repairs and upgrades to our existing highways and bridges. A
viable transportation system is critical to the Commonwealth's and Southwestern Pennsylvania's
prosperity. Thus the lack of long-term, reliable funding threatens our economic competitiveness
and quality of life.
2006 is a critical window of opportunity for the Commonwealth to finally develop and implement
a long-term, reliable funding solution to maintain and expand balanced transportation systems,
including public transportation (bus, rail, and van service for elderly and disabled) serving urban,
suburban, and rural areas of the Commonwealth. Many different options for raising this revenue
have been suggested including: sales, income and realty taxes, gasoline taxes, road tolls, vehicle
registration, license and rental fees and/or bus and trolley fares. The Governor and the General
Assembly have the final responsibility to analyze these options and determine the optimal
solution. Both of these branches of our government should give serious consideration to the
revenue-raising recommendations which the Commission will make.
Several key principles should govern these deliberations. Transportation funding solutions
should be conditioned upon and leveraged to ensure state and regional commitment to these
Predictability and reliability, including automatic inflation adjustment, of funding for
public transportation in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Equity as a major criterion in identification of transit funding sources, recognizing
particularly that transit systems provide a major public service that cannot and should not
be supported primarily by user fares.
Increased public transportation system operation efficiencies and effectiveness, avoiding
solutions that would negatively impact systems currently operating efficiently and
effectively. Some of these reforms would require amendments to state law.
Reforms in the way regions plan and program to better integrate multi-modal and inter-
modal transportation systems, so that they are modernized and coordinated with land-use
planning and economic development investments, including congressional earmarks.
Enhancement of opportunities for safe and efficient pedestrian and bicycle travel, ride-
sharing, and other alternatives to present levels of automobile traffic.
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Increased state and regional investment in and adherence to Maintenance First criteria
(per regional plans and the "Keystone Principles For Growth, Investment & Resource
Conservation") to address the current backlog of highway and bridge repair projects
identified in the current and proposed PennDOT Twelve-Year Programs and Statewide
Transportation Improvement Program and to achieve community redevelopment and
sustainable development objectives to bring local infrastructure to a state of good repair.
Enhanced authority at the regional and local levels to fund transit operations.
Enhanced local commitment to provide match funds to state and federal transportation
Right-sizing the public transportation system for the 10-county region—drawing, for
example, on the recently released "A Regional Strategic Vision for Public Transportation
Serving Southwestern Pennsylvania"—an ambitious vision for the future of transit that
would support growth and connect people to recreation, economic and employment
A failure to act on funding and reforms will be a significant detriment to the Commonwealth’s
economy, the environment, and social equity. While seemingly prudent, short-term fixes
ironically end up costing public transportation agencies more. Moreover, the most recent short-
term fix, in 2005, was intended to provide time for the Commission and state government to
develop and implement a long-term, reliable funding solution.
Without action by the Governor and General Assembly during this opportune window by the end
of 2006, transit systems will face significant service cuts and fare increases that will discourage
ridership and increase the difficulty for many of our most needy citizens to get to jobs, school,
and health care; fewer miles of roads will be resurfaced, the state's bridge crisis will grow worse,
and necessary new roads will not be built. In addition, shut-downs or major cut-backs in our
transit systems would impair our ability to attract federal funding for Pennsylvania projects.
Effective transportation and public transportation systems are the lifeblood of prosperous,
sustainable communities and our region as a whole.
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