Durbin, Senators Introduce Bill to Help Transit Agencies Reverse Fare Hikes and Service Cuts

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in introducing a bill to authorize emergency funding for transit agencies to help reverse fare increases and service cuts.

“Nearly two million daily riders and more than 15,000 employees in the Chicago area have been impacted by budget shortfalls caused by the recession,” said Durbin.  “Today’s bill will help Chicago and thirteen other transit agencies across Illinois avoid layoffs and prevent drastic service cuts and fare hikes this summer.”

State and local governments have been hit hard by the downturn in the economy and public transportation systems nationwide are experiencing major budget cuts as a result.  The American Public Transportation Association reports that since January 1, 2009, 84 percent of public transit systems have either raised fares, cut service or are considering those options.

Often service cuts disproportionately affect those with low-incomes, minorities, and seniors.  In many cases people are cut off from accessing their jobs or health care.  And fare increases can have a devastating effect on working families and those on fixed incomes.

This bill will authorize $2 billion for transit agencies nationwide to help close funding gaps in operating costs.  Transit agencies can use these funds to reduce fare increases and restore services that were cut after January 2009 or to prevent future service cuts or fare increases through September 2011.  Agencies that have not increased rates or cut services and do not plan to do so may use the funds for infrastructure improvements.