Transportation stakeholders are calling on the Senate to pass increased funding for public transportation

Transit agency officials and lawmakers gathered Wednesday to urge the state Senate to support Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposal to direct an additional 1.75% of state sales tax revenue to public transportation, highlighting the impact it would have across the board. state.

“Access to public transport is an essential element connecting our jobs and quality of life. And here in Pennsylvania, every county is served by public transit, whether it is in a rural town, suburb or metropolitan area,” said Sheila Gombita, executive director of Freedom Transit in Washington County.

Transportation funding is an issue that has historically highlighted the divide between lawmakers in urban and rural parts of Pennsylvania.

Shapiro’s plan to boost transit funding comes after the state’s largest transit agency, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which serves Philadelphia and its suburbs, warned it would be forced to cut service without additional assist from the state.

The proposal would boost the amount of sales tax revenue transferred to the Public Transportation Trust Fund by $283 million. The fund provided nearly $2.5 billion in grants for public transportation systems in the 2023-24 budget.

“So we know that our largest system is facing an immediate crisis. Other transit systems are at a different stage of crisis. We are all heading towards the fiscal cliff, just at different stages. This is a really big deal,” said Richard Farr, legislative chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association and executive director of Rabbit Transit, which serves Cumberland County.

House Democrats voted to enact the Shapiro Transit Funding Plan as an amendment to Senate Bill 654, which allows owners of land where gas and oil are mined or drilled to receive a depletion tax credit. The bill passed on March 20 with a bipartisan vote of 106 to 95, but was not brought to a vote in the Senate by consent.

“We feel tremendous pressure to expand services in various areas, but we don’t have the resources to do so,” Farr said, adding that the association’s goal was to emphasize the importance of transportation to lawmakers who will vote on the funding plan.

State Rep. Maureen Madden (D-Monroe) said that in addition to providing 39,000 jobs statewide and a total economic impact of more than $5 billion, transportation is a lifesaver for older residents, allowing them to lead affluent and dignified lives.

“We’re talking about bringing seniors to the farmers market on Saturday and Sunday — something people have probably done all their lives until they couldn’t drive or circumstances took them elsewhere,” Madden told the Capital-Star.

Madden, who is chairwoman of the House Committee on Aging and Services for Aging, said the state Department of Aging recently completed a health and wellness program in partnership with multiple aging groups. seniors in Pennsylvania. It includes four components focused on improving public transportation across the state to better serve older adults:

  • Providing access to sheltered, comfortable and autonomous transportation options to enable seniors to remain at home, independent and engaged in the community;
  • Improving access to public transportation for people with disabilities by improving compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and employee training;
  • Coordination between transportation stakeholders and local planning authorities to facilitate the development of retirement communities close to crucial services and boost the efficiency and accessibility of rural and suburban transportation systems; AND
  • Recognizing the limitations of established transportation systems by increasing the availability of paratransit and accessible ride-sharing vehicles to serve rural and destitute populations.

“Understanding that we have gaps and we need to fill them, that the lives of our seniors simply don’t go on because they no longer drive or get around as well as they once did – should be important to all of us, whether we sit in the House, Senate, Republican or Democrat,” Madden said.

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