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New report: Transit service cuts and fare increases devastate cities and towns

Groups urge Gov. Granholm and the Michigan legislature to fully restore public transportation funding in this year’s budget
Sep 7, 2009
Cuts to Detroit’s public transit system and those of other Michigan towns are part of a national epidemic making it harder for families and vulnerable citizens to get to jobs and essential services.

A report released today (http://environmentalcouncil.org/mecReports/Stranded-at-the-station.pdf) by the Michigan Environmental Council, MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength), and Transportation Riders United shows that outdated federal regulations are putting strain on local transit agencies around the country. The results are layoffs, draconian service cuts and fare increases at a time when Americans desperately need jobs and affordable transportation.

The report was sponsored by Transportation for America and the Transportation Equity Network and released by the trio of local groups. Those groups called on Gov. Jennifer Granholm to secure a public transportation funding source and support restoration of funding for train and bus services that the State House and Senate has cut; and on the state’s Congressional delegation to support H.R. 2746 which allows public transit agencies greater flexibility in using part of their federal funds for operating expenses.

"Michigan transit systems have been dealing with shortfalls in state funding for several budget cycles. Because of this, several agencies have already increased local fares while also passing local millage increases. If things don’t change, I believe we will see this trend continue as the number of new riders remains high and demand is at record levels,” said Clark Harder, executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association.

Transit problems are compounded in many Michigan cities where economic pressures are magnified. Detroit, for example, is facing potentially severe service cuts to a number of the bus system’s routes, including the elimination of Sunday service. The Michigan systems with top proposed fare increases include: Ann Arbor, Berrien County, and the Detroit Metro Area (SMART).

Maintaining existing transit lines and keeping fare increases to a minimum is essential for both rural and urban communities to sustain a workforce and encourage new development and commerce.

“The employment picture in Michigan is bleak enough without cutting the public transit lifelines that connect Michiganders to their jobs,” said Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. “This report is further proof that we need to hold the line here to preserve those jobs.”

The cuts fall disproportionately on racial minority groups and the elderly, who make up nearly 48 percent of households without vehicles. Further cuts will have devastating impacts on their access to schools, social services and jobs. “Public transit is the only way that many hard working people in our urban neighborhoods and communities of color have to get to and from jobs they need to support families,” said Ponsella Hardaway, executive director of MOSES. “We must not, as a state and a society, turn our backs on them.”

Additionally, residents of small towns and rural communities in particular are increasingly stuck without transportation options. Transit agencies are cutting back on rural Michigan service, and Amtrak is poised to halt rail service in many small communities.

“Let’s get serious about Michigan’s economic recovery and fund our existing rail and bus services which connect our communities to each other and workers to their jobs,” said Tim Fischer, deputy policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council.

The upcoming transportation authorization is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create the safe, clean and smart transportation system necessary to move America forward. Congress is considering legislation that cuts the red tape preventing local transit agencies from spending transportation funds on maintaining service and keeping fares affordable.

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ABOUT TRANSPORTATION FOR AMERICA (T4AMERICA) Transportation for America is a broad coalition of housing, environmental, equal opportunity, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations focused on creating a 21st century national transportation program. The coalition’s goal is to build a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play by aligning national, state and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. www.t4america.org
Contact
Tim Fischer, Michigan Environmental Council: 734-255-9206
Megan Owens, Transportation Riders United: 248-259-2439
Ponsella Hardaway, MOSES: 313.549.0422
RELATED TOPICS: transportation policy
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