DC: Congress Kicks Commuters Down the Road Again

Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), released the following statement in response to the extension of funding for the transportation bill.

“Anxious to escape Washington for August recess, Congress has already buried its head in the sand at the beach and taken the coward’s way out by putting a Band-Aid on a hemorrhage, and failing to pass a robust six-year transportation bill that will fix the crisis of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and public transit systems.

“Instead of facing the transportation equivalent of a government shutdown, Congress has approved a temporary fix to fund the Highway Trust Fund and put off making any tough decisions until next year.  This ongoing game of “kick the commuter down the road”, marks the fifth time since 2008 that Congress has passed a short-term extension of the bill.    

“Congress continues to drive the Highway Trust Fund and public transit right into the ground.  With the last transportation bill, Congress cut capital funds set aside exclusively for bus and bus facilities by 50 percent – hanging commuters out to dry even as ridership hit record levels.  

“At the same time the federal government continues to shift the money meant for essential urban bus transportation to vanity streetcar projects.  These streetcars, most of which are set in tourist areas, have taken money away from real public transit, resulting in bus routes being cut and leaving those who rely on it each and every day to get to work, school, the doctor, and other essential destinations stranded. 

“The erosion of public transit systems by cuts in service across the country has reached absurd levels. In Alabama, for example, bus service has become so crippled that transit operators are now picking up passengers in their own vehicles to get riders where they need to be.  

“What we need is a real, long-term funding bill that will set our nation’s transportation system back on the right track. It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to stop the bickering and infighting and find their way to common ground. The current dysfunctional atmosphere on Capitol Hill has paralyzed the process and fails the real people who count on safe and reliable transit systems.”