Local transit systems can now use federal grant funds to help pay for rising fuel costs following the signing into law of a reform authored by U.S. Rep. John Carter (R-TX31). The Carter proposal was included in HR 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which has now become law.
"In a time of very partisan politics in which very little can be agreed upon, I am pleased that we were able to pass this commonsense reform into law," says Carter. "Now our local public transportation systems are free to make the call on using a portion of their Section 5307 federal grants to offset rising fuel costs instead of just acquiring new equipment and infrastructure. That equates to more jobs and routes for hard-pressed transit systems, which is good for public transportation and our overall economy."
"The more flexibility our local transit systems have with regard to how they can use these federal funds, the better", says Temple City Manager David Blackburn. "While I appreciate the federal nature of these funds, I also appreciate those at the federal level, like Congressman Carter, who recognize that our local decision-making processes are in a much better position than Washington to decide where and how the monies should be spent."
"The use of 5307 funds for fuel will provide the City of Round Rock with more flexibility to develop fiscally responsible solutions to meet the challenges of ever increasing fuel costs and the higher demands for public transportation", according to David Bartels, planning and programs administrator for the City. "At a minimum, the use of 5307 funds for fuel may allow the City to maintain current levels of service as fuel costs rise."
Since 2009 fuel costs have risen from $1.79 a gallon to as high as $4, forcing over 80% of the nation's transit systems to cut their services and layoff hundreds of bus operators. The cost of fuel can be between 5-10% of the operating budget of a transit system.
The final version of the Carter reform which became law on November 18 allows transit systems to use up to 4% of their allowances under the 5307 program for fuel costs, while capping the total amount of program funds used for fuel costs to $100 million nationwide. The Carter amendment was originally included in the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Act that became part of H.R. 2112. The measure has zero cost to the federal treasury, and is budget neutral.