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Congressman Johnson Proposes Transformational Public Transit Bill

$80B to be invested in better serving constituents, families for transportation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Jan. 18, 2024, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), a senior member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, re-introduced the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act, which would authorize $20 billion annually for four years ($80B total) to transit systems for their operating budgets. More than 60 of his colleagues are original cosponsors. 

The bill would provide more frequent service on bus and rail lines, and to prioritize that service to places with existing poor service, disadvantaged communities, and areas of persistent poverty. The funding will be in addition to existing state, local and farebox revenue and will support additional services above and beyond what is currently being provided. Agencies could use funding under this bill to make “substantial improvements to transit service.”

“Transit in our communities is as essential as food on our tables, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads,” said Rep. Johnson. “This kind of funding is a game-changer for Atlanta and communities across the nation. Simply put, people could get to more places in less time using transit. Jobs, schools, and other daily destinations that previously took too long to reach would become more accessible. People would feel less strain on household budgets as their transportation costs shrink. They would have more time to spend with their families as time spent commuting falls.”

The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act would:

•    Authorize $20 billion/year in federal matching funds for public transportation operating expenses associated w/ improving transportation service & increasing transit ridership;
•    Distribute these funds to every recipient of FTA urbanized area and rural area formula funds, proportional to their share of operating costs;
•    Increase the federal share of operating costs rural transit agencies to 80% (matching the federal share these agencies are entitled to for capital projects

According to the Transit Center, a foundation that works to improve public transit in cities across the U.S., in Atlanta alone, its allotment of the $20 billion in annual transit funding could mean a 40 percent gain in service that could vastly improve access to transit that arrives at least every 15 minutes, all day, seven days a week.

In some parts of the city, that would increase the number of jobs reachable within 30 minutes on transit by a factor of eight, it said.

In cities and communities across the country, a federal program to support transit service could yield similar benefits by helping lower families transportation costs, drive economic opportunity and racial equity and reduce greenhouse gases.

Cosponsors include: Adams (NC), Auchincloss (MA), Barragan (CA), Beatty (OH), Bishop (GA), Blumenauer (OR), Blunt Rochester (DE), Bowman (NY), Boyle (PA), Brown (OH), Bush (MO), Cardenas (CA), Carson (IN), Cherfilus-McCormick (FL), Cohen (TN), Davis (IL), DelBene (WA), Espaillat (NY), Evans (PA), Foushee (NC), Frost (FL), Garcia (IL), Garcia (TX), Goldman (NY), Gomez (CA), Grijalva (AZ), Holmes Norton (DC), Huffman (CA), Ivey (MD), Jackson (IL), Jackson Lee (TX), Jayapal (WA), Kamlager Dove (CA), Kristnamoorthi (IL), Lee (CA), Lee (PA), Lynch (MA), McClellan (VA), Meng (NY), Moore (WI), Moulton (MA), Mullin (CA), Nadler (NY), Napolitano (CA), Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Omar (MN), Payne (NJ), Pelosi (CA), Ross (NC), Ruppersberger (MD), Salinas (OR), Sanchez (CA), Schakowsky (IL), Schiff (CA), Stansbury (NM), Titus (NV), Tlaib (MI), Torres (NY), Vargas (CA), Vasquez (NM), Velazquez (NY), Watson Coleman (NJ), Wilson (FL)

The bill is supported by: Sierra Club, Transport Workers Union of America, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, ATU, MTACD, MARTA, T4America, NRDC, National Campaign for Transit Justice, and America Walks, Union of Concerned Scientists.

What stakeholders are saying:

“Getting people to work and providing essential services is the primary purpose of the transportation system, and it fails if it can only do that for people who have the money and ability to drive. With the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act, Rep. Johnson not only offers needed support for increased transit service to connect people with the things they need, but for the high quality, dependable transit service that people require for true access to opportunity.” Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America.

“Better transit builds stronger communities while reducing climate and air pollution from transportation. Access to reliable transportation– by which people can easily travel to their jobs, grocery stores, the doctor and other critical necessities, along with entertainment– is a game changer. The Sierra Club supports this legislation to fund our transit systems like the essential services and climate solutions they are.” Will Anderson, Sierra Club Deputy Legislative Director

“This legislation would dramatically improve the lives of working men and women. It would replace the government’s current transit funding scheme, which is completely asinine and void of common sense. Transit agencies would be able to increase and improve bus and rail service so working communities don’t just survive but thrive.” TWU International President John Samuelsen