Making the Case for Transit Funding in Pennsylvania

As more and more people come to rely on public transit the funding for transit is under threat. The outlook for overall transportation funding is challenging — less money coming from the federal government, a state government facing formidable budget deficits and little local funding, especially in Greater Philadelphia. For transit the outlook is worse — in 2022, the Turnpike’s funding for transit will drop by $400 million. Replacing that funding will require action from a state legislature that is skeptical of funding for transit. We need to build robust support for transit funding from Greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and find more allies across the rest of the state.

The transportation challenges Pennsylvania faces in the coming decades can undermine every effort to increase jobs, address climate change and reduce poverty. There is a national infrastructure crisis — billions of dollars in deferred maintenance and road systems designed for the past rather than for the future. At a time when significant investment is needed, Congress seems unwilling to take action. We need to build the case for strong state support for multimodal transportation and explore creative ways to find more local funds for transportation.

A strong multimodal transportation network, through increased mobility:

  • Creates jobs
  • Saves lives
  • Addresses inequality and can help strengthen transitioning neighborhoods
  • Makes our communities more resilient to climate change
  • Connects communities to each other and improves access to public spaces and civic assets

Planners and policy experts see the need for transportation funding. But we are not making a compelling case to the public. Much like building the case for the Circuit trail network, we need to find ways to communicate a vision for how better transportation will improve the lives of people in Pennsylvania.

Like the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition, we need to bring together a broad coalition. That coalition is best hosted/convened by a neutral party that can recruit a wide range of partners and that is not viewed as a special interest that will gain from transportation funding.

This campaign has a number of elements:

  • Public speakers series
  • Build a coalition and host regular meetings of coalition member groups
  • Develop winning messages
  • Explore potential new funding sources for transportation, especially transit
  • Training of policy ambassadors — from CEOs to community activists — to make the case
  • Building a list of supporters

This transportation campaign will be built on the success and lessons learned of:

  • Next Great City: creating a coalition that articulates a policy agenda and wins support through public events and speaker series
  • Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition: building a coalition that includes industry groups, chambers of commerce, unions and non-traditional partners in health and active transportation
  • Better Bike Share Partnership: engaging neighborhood groups and training community ambassadors
  • The Circuit: creating a decade-long campaign to build support for the vision of a 750-mile trail network that identifies potential new funding sources

Transit funding advocacy should be a high priority because:

  • Turnpike transit funding drops $400 million in 2022
  • Ride sharing and autonomous vehicles can help or hurt transit and we need to figure out policies that increase mobility for all

We can no longer predict when transportation funding legislation will be taken up. Building a network of advocates takes years. The new normal is that we may have only weeks to gear up for legislation. We don’t know when we will need a network but when the storm hits we need to be prepared.