A coalition of trade associations, labor unions and environmental groups on Monday urged Democratic leaders to allocate an additional $10 billion for public transit in the party’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill.
That’s the amount of transit funding that was cut out of the final $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, the groups wrote in letters to congressional leaders and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“The bipartisan group of senators and the White House agreed to boost transit funding by $49 billion in the deal they proudly touted,” Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, said in a statement Monday. “But they dropped $10 billion, abandoning their own deal for no reason.”
“Now it is up to the House to restore this funding which will be essential to getting people back to jobs and to essential services and addressing our climate goals.”
The coalition of 45 groups also urged Congress to provide “significant, dedicated funding” for high-speed rail, a measure that was notably excluded from the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“Investing in public transit and high-speed rail will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality and public health, and help transform our nation’s transportation network for a sustainable future,” Paul Skoutelas, president of the American Public Transportation Association, said in a statement.
Transit advocates have long lamented that the federal government doesn’t invest enough in public transit. Those frustrations intensified when the Senate passed an infrastructure bill that largely ignored House Democrats’ $715 billion transportation measure passed in July, which spent more on public transit and enacted far more aggressive climate, safety and racial equity rules.
The coalition is pitching the Biden administration on its own pledge to address climate change and the damage it does to marginalized communities, promising that investments in public transit will drastically reduce emissions.
“Transportation is the largest source of climate-disrupting emissions in the U.S., and a major source of air pollution, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. But Congress has the power to change that. All communities deserve access to clean and reliable mobility options,” Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz said in a statement.
Transit advocates will be competing with other interest groups for funding as Democratic lawmakers work out the details of their reconciliation package. The size of the bill is expected to shrink from its initial $3.5 trillion price tag amid concerns from moderate Democrats and aggressive lobbying from business interests.