Four days after SEPTA released its "doomsday plan" outlining drastic service cuts the transit system will need to undertake if additional funding is not allocated, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called on Congress to "begin work on a long-term transportation bill that could increase funds and provide more certainty to SEPTA," according to a release from Casey's office.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, which provided billions in surface transportation funding, was signed by President Barack Obama in July 2012 and will expire in about a year, leading to a series of short-term extension bills that have plunged transit agencies like SEPTA into uncertainty regarding their future funding outlook.
Casey is urging the federal government to instead develop and pass a long-term reauthorization bill financed by the Highway Trust Fund, which itself is underfunded and will become insolvent by 2015 if no action is taken.
"Public transit is a major part of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s economy and it’s essential that SEPTA has the resources it needs to continue to provide safe and reliable transportation," Casey said in a statement.
"Careening from one short-term transportation bill to another has increased uncertainty for agencies like SEPTA. Congress should begin work now on a long-term transportation bill that allows public agencies to plan into the future. A comprehensive and long-term approach to transportation can create jobs and improve economic growth."
The release notes SEPTA's total ridership in 2012 hit a 23-year record with 339.3 million passenger trips, representing a growth of 40 million trips since 2006.
Casey sent a letter urging action to members of the Senate committees on finance and on environment and public works, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
"As transit agencies face shrinking contributions from states and municipalities, we need to provide consistent federal funding," he wrote.
"Failure to do so could result in cuts to routes that commuters depend upon and, ultimately, job losses."
He noted SEPTA relies on formula funding from the Moving Ahead for Progress act to cover more than half of its capital budget and needs steady investment from the federal government to maintain the agency's infrastructure and replace outdated buses and rail cars.
"A series of extensions of MAP-21 would only cause further uncertainty to transit agencies like SEPTA," he concluded.
"I look forward to working with you to develop and pass a long-term reauthorization bill."