Why we need the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act


On Thursday, January 18, 2024, Representative Hank Johnson (GA-04) reintroduced the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act, which would establish a federal funding program for transit operations, providing $20 billion in annual funding over four years ($80 billion) to expand the service of buses and trains. We are joining the National Campaign for Transit Justice, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in support of this bill.

Public transit is essential to communities, local economies, and the lives of millions of people across the country. As they work to deliver frequent and reliable service, transit agencies can use federal funding to repair and maintain their systems and to build out new services—but they can’t use it to help cover the cost of operating their systems, which accounts for two-thirds of a transit agency’s total expenses. Agencies have to turn to local taxes, fares, and fees to cover this gap.

Faced with fiscal cliffs in the years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic plus escalating inflation, many transit agencies have been forced to reduce service rather than focusing on increasing ridership back to—and beyond—pre-pandemic levels. This crisis has demonstrated that the current approach is failing to meet the needs of millions of Americans who rely upon transit to reach their essential destinations.

The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act would modernize transit operations funding by creating a new formula grant program that can be used to make “substantial improvements to transit service.” Furthermore, the bill aims to allot funding for places that need it most, clearly defining funding for areas of persistent poverty and underserved communities—places where transit ridership tends to be highest.

“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

The U.S. relies on public transit to make our economy work. Americans depend on transit to get to where they need to go and help their businesses thrive. The U.S. needs to invest in frequent, reliable, and affordable transit, and the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act is a crucial step forward in achieving this vision.

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