Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today that the greater Portland area could lose access to federal funding for operation of the METRO bus service. Under current rules, when an urban area surpasses 200,000 people, federal transit funding can no longer be used for operational expenses of services like METRO.
"Under the current regulations, the Portland area is about to become a 'large urbanized area', but it just doesn't make sense to treat our bus system as if it was in a big city like New York or Chicago," Pingree said.
The U. S. Department of Transportation defines the Portland urban area as stretching from Arundel to Freeport. The latest U. S. Census figures put the population of that region at just over 200,000 people, which the Department of Transportation describes as a "large urbanized area." Pingree is strongly supporting language that could be included in an upcoming highway authorization bill that would carve out an exception for transit systems that operate fewer than 100 buses.
"Without being able to use these federal funds for operating expenses, local taxpayers are going to be on the hook for increased costs," Pingree said. "That sounds like a bad deal to me."
Pingree said she hopes that the highway bill containing that exemption will come up for a vote late this week.