- By Dan Veaner
"I don't know how much you know about our local transportation system," Pryor said. "It's a good one. For a city and county of our size it's considered to be the best in the nation. Right now there is a proposal before Congress that would change the way TCAT and public transportation systems across the country are funded."
H.R. 3864, also known as the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Financing Act of 2012, was introduced by Michigan Congressman Dave Camp on February 9th. It extends the expenditure authority for the Highway Trust Fund through September 30, 2016, and extends current excise tax rates on motor fuels, heavy highway vehicles and highway tires, and the use tax on heavy vehicles through September 30, 2018. It also appropriates Alaskan energy leasing monies to the Highway Trust Fund, and terminates the authority for transfers of motor fuel tax revenues to the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
That fund will be renamed the 'Alternative Transportation Account' and will receive a one-time appropriation. TCAT Communications And Marketing Manager Patty Poist says that with no funding designated for public transportation after 2016, the bill would create deep uncertainty for TCAT if it is passed into law.
"I am not trying to take away from the need to improve our infrastructure here in the United States," Pryor told council members. "We certainly need to restore the standards we expect of our highway system and all the other roads and bridges that need to be repaired. But if public transportation has to compete with all these other funding streams, it's not going to be able to plan adequately for the future."
Federal funding accounts for about 12 percent of TCAT’s annual operating budget or nearly $1.4 million. In addition, federal funding is critical to TCAT’s capital budget and accounts for 80 percent of all bus purchases. Federal dollars are also crucial to Gadabout Transportation Services, which provides paratransit services in Tompkins County via a contract with TCAT.
Pryor noted that TCAT excels at collecting statistics that they use to respond to bus route needs in the community, as well as to plan for maintenance and bus replacement. She said that uncertain funding will make it very difficult for TCAT to continue its long term planning.
She said that the impact to Lansing could be significant. Route 36, which stops in South Lansing en route to Lansingville had 1871 riders last year, and Route 37, which goes to North Lansing via Warren Road to Asbury Road to Triphammer, carried 24,896 passengers.
"Route 37 comes by Woodsedge and is one of the main ways residents there use to get around Lansing, and to go down town," pryer said. "So this really is an issue that effects people in rural parts of the community as well as people down town."
Pryor offered to put together a packet of information and asked the board to pass a resolution that the Town Board would send to Congressional representatives, asking them not to change the way public transportation is funded.
"I know a number of people who use the transit system," said Miller. "And I've had some emails asking that we write to our congressmen, but a resolution will be even better."