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Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

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Location: Washington, DC


TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT: A LEGACY FOR USERS -- (House of Representatives - March 10, 2005)

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AMENDMENT NO. 8 OFFERED BY MR. PITTS

Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, under current law, when an urbanized area exceeds 200,000 in population, the transit system serving the area not only receives less Federal transit funding, but also loses their flexibility to use Federal transit funds to meet unique local transit needs.

The 2000 Census was the first census carried out under this law, and we are now seeing the consequences of this law, which uses an arbitrary and outdated threshold that was really first established and used in the 1950s.

Today it is hurting our Nation's most thriving communities. Fifty-two small transit systems across the Nation and the communities they serve face a financial crisis that they are not equipped to handle. That means more than 11 million people across the country will have their public transit service affected.

These systems will have to cut routes and raise fares in the hope of making ends meet. But for most, even that will not be enough. This will hurt passengers who rely on transit, workers who need to get to their jobs, elderly who need to get to the grocery store or pharmacy and, in my district, particularly the Amish, who rely on transit because it is against their religion to owns cars.

We need to give these transit systems time to find alternative funding solutions at the State and local levels. My amendment allows these small transit systems, only 52 of them, to have flexibility in using 50 percent of their Federal transit funds through the year 2007 and then reduces that 25 percent for 2008 and 2009.

This is the least we can do for these systems that are servicing some of the healthiest growing communities across the country.

Two systems in my districts, Red Rose Transit and BARTA in Reading are facing a financial crisis because of this law. We should not punish healthy systems in growing communities.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the chairman's support for holding these systems harmless over the past couple of years. However, due to the uncertainty surrounding this year and the transportation programs throughout the country, these small systems have not been able to find local solutions. We need more time, and I urge Members to support the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, the extensions we have had are only 6 months at a time. We have had a couple of those. We would like to extend to the end of the authorization period.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Neugebauer).

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, let me just say, again, this is not asking for more money; it is flexibility, and it is a phased-down flexibility to soften the blow on the small transit system and provide them more time to find alternative solutions to the funding crises they face. There are some 52 systems, many represented by Members from the other side of the aisle.

I urge support for the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, certainly there is a concern among those metropolitan areas whose population has grown significantly since the 2000 Census, and they are seeking more flexibility for the use of funds on their Federal transit formula grant to use those dollars for operating assistance. But to extend the flexibility beyond the 5 years, as we have provided in TEA-LU, would undermine the statutory formulas.

It might benefit some areas, the pending amendment might benefit some areas, but would inflict a fairness issue upon other areas, to indicate that statutory formula that we use to apportion funds using most recent census data is no longer applicable for a certain area.

The amendment as offered would create confusion and would create unfairness among users, among other transit systems across the country.

Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. OBERSTAR. I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, as a point of clarification, it is my understanding that what is in TEA-LU only extends the flexibility to 2005. What mine does is just extends it to end of the authorization.

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