To: Senator James Jeffords, Chairman
& Members of the Committee on Environment & Public Works
From: Patricia Crocker, Executive Director
Cc: All Members Date: August 19, 2002
Subject: Testimony on Transportation Funding
Attached is testimony that I would like to present on Wednesday, August 21, 2002 at the hearing in Vermont. Unfortunately, I received a copy of a letter to Rep. Pembroke third hand late on Thursday and did not receive any direct notice of the meeting; therefore, my testimony is of necessity brief.
Thanks for the opportunity to present this information.
We are very grateful for the interest and the other members of your committee have taken in rural public transportation.
Across the nation, the low level of Federal budgetary support for rural public transportation is an ongoing problem. Population-based Federal 5311 formula funds are minimal in Vermont. The lack of financial support is particularly acute in its impact on the disabled, low-wage workers (often single parents) who must not only seek job related transportation, but also work out the logistics of getting children to and from childcare, and our elder population who can no longer drive their own vehicles. Many of our citizens most in need of services and economic opportunities are dispersed into communities where housing costs are more affordable. Thus, the need for adequate transportation that provides mobility and access to goods and services is more acute in our rural areas yet this need is overlooked in favor of a strategy that is focused primary on alleviating congestion.
In Vermont, the Job Access and Reverse Commute funding has provided the first opportunity for expansion of services in nearly four years. The funding that you have provided in an annual earmark has been central to providing community bus service to areas previously underserved and in some cases forms the locus of service for an entire community, i.e. Middlebury. Although this initiative has targeted a need for transportation for low wageworkers, it has provided additional and expanded service that has been of benefit to the entire community, including disabled and the independent elderly who choose not to be involved in “programmatic services.” The program has been successful in meeting these broad community needs.
Vermont’s Federal formula appropriation 5310 funding for transportation for the disabled and elderly persons is also minimal. The program, essentially a capital program is used in Vermont for both vehicle purchases and for the purchase of services through public transportation operations. Although the State Agency of Transportation has flexed a significant amount of funds to enhance the 5310 program, many needs continue to be unmet. And the opportunity to use funds for vehicle purchases is often passed over because neither human service nor non-profit transit organization can meet the requirement for 10% match.
Because the Federal formula provides so little funding, much of our additional revenue is obtained through the use of Federal STP funds. This puts all public transportation services in direct competition for the same funds that are used for roadway projects. The State public bus transportation budget for FY 2003 is about $13 MM dollars. This represents just 4% of the entire state transportation budget.
Solving the problem of inadequate public transportation in rural areas will require new funding and new rules that will enhance coordination of services to benefit the entire community and that will eliminate rules that arbitrarily restrict services by groups such as the elderly, the disabled or welfare-to-work clients, and school children. A funding program that offered the opportunity to serve a variety of community needs rather than discrete groups has the greatest potential for efficiently and effectively meeting the broad demand and to further the public policy objective of maximizing public investments in transportation systems.
We understand that Senator Baucus has or will introduce a bill to provide a $5 million dollar state minimum for all 5311 programs, a $5 million dollar minimum for small urban systems (50,000 – 200,000 population) and a $1 million dollar minimum for the 5310 program and provisions that would allow the 5310 program funds to be used for operating expenses. This initiative holds the promise of some much needed federal support for the initiates in rural states like Vermont and will greatly improve our situation as long as they are not used to supplant the limited state funding already committed to this activity.
Finally, I want to thank you and the members of your committee for this opportunity and look forward to working with you as you proceed in the reauthorization process.
Respectfully submitted, Patricia C. Crocker,