Voices for Public Transit Speak Out in our Telephone Town Hall
On October 14, Voices for Public Transit held our first-ever telephone town hall, “The Fight for Public Transit Funding.”
The town hall was hosted by Rose Sheridan, Voices for Public Transit Community Leader, and we were joined by Michael Melaniphy, President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association. He brought passion and expertise to his discussion of what’s happening in Washington with the transportation debate—and what’s at stake if Congress fails to act.
If were unable to make our telephone town hall, you can listen to a full audio recording of the event here.
Where We Stand
The good news, according to Melaniphy, is that Congress is on a solid path toward passing a bill. Although he acknowledged that Congress will likely miss the October 29 deadline and pass one more short-term bill, he said, “I feel confident we’re going to see a long-term bill.”
The bad news is that we are long overdue—six years overdue, in fact—for a long-term transportation bill. As Melaniphy detailed, there is a substantial backlog of deferred maintenance that must be addressed, “at least $86 billion in needed bus and rail maintenance alone.”
Melaniphy discussed a number of ways that public transit services will be put in jeopardy without federal support. As many as “66 new public transit projects could be stalled…projects that serve as a catalyst for economic development in every region of our nation.”
On the other hand, we could see large-scale improvements in public transportation if Congress passes a substantial bill with multi-year funding. Most importantly, public transportation could reach more communities and more people. A long-term bill would “mean more public transit in small towns and rural areas, as well as cities and suburbs.”
Throughout the call, Melaniphy repeatedly emphasized that public transit advocates must keep sharing their views with Congress, especially House members, saying: “You’ve got to keep it up…. Give them a story about why it matters to you and your community.”
What We Learned about Voices for Public Transit
A large portion of the telephone town hall was taken up by a Q&A period, with public transit advocates from all around the country asking questions and sharing their stories. Melaniphy fielded questions about the future of high-speed rail, public transit in rural communities, funding sources, and other topics.
An informal poll was also conducted during the town hall, which asked, “How often do you ride public transit?” The results were interesting, showing a great range of use among the Voices for Public Transit community:
- 13% use public transit at least once per week
- 40% use it more than once a week
- 27% use public transit occasionally, but less than once a week
- 20% don’t use public transit at all
These figures underscore the fact that public transit benefits everyone—whether you use it or not.
The Key Takeaway—Call Congress!
The main takeaway from the tele-town hall was clear: NOW is the time for our community to push Congress to reach the finish line on long-term transportation funding. In Melaniphy’s words, we must tell our elected officials that we “expect Congress to put America’s transportation back on track.”
If you missed the town hall, you can call your legislators now and share your views by dialing the Voices for Public Transit Legislative Hotline at (888) 443-5862. When you call the hotline, you’ll receive brief instructions and then you’ll be connected right to the offices of your Members of Congress.
Again, thank you to everyone who participated in our first-ever telephone town hall and helped make it such a success.