Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
January 28, 2024
Gov. Josh Shapiro plans to propose $282.8 million for public transit in his 2024-25 budget, a 1.75% increase in Pennsylvania’s share of funding toward its mass transit systems, and nearly $1.5 billion in new state funding over the next five years. According to the Inquirer, which first reported the news, that funding will come from an increase in the allocation of sales tax revenue dedicated to supporting transit systems.
“Hundreds of thousands of people across our Commonwealth rely on public transit every day to commute to work, go to school, and get to where they need to go —and Pennsylvanians deserve clean, safe, cost-effective ways to travel throughout our cities and towns,” Shapiro said in a statement. “That’s true all across our Commonwealth, whether you’re traveling to work in Philadelphia on SEPTA or you’re a student in Pittsburgh using PRT to get to school.”
The governor said his administration had worked with local public transit leadership and elected officials over the past several months, to understand what was needed. The proposal will include a “major investment” in SEPTA, which will include “the funding needed to avoid immediate service cuts or fare increases on SEPTA,” and create a more stable funding structure for the transit agency.
“SEPTA has presented plans to address safety and cleanliness throughout their system, and county officials have entertained a willingness to step up to the plate and increase their support,” Shapiro said, items which his administration said were part of the discussions.
The funding announcement for SEPTA comes as the Philadelphia transit agency faces a shortfall that is expected to result in service cuts and fare increases.
“Securing local, state and federal funding is critical to our budget. Without it, service cuts and fare increases across all modes across the entire region are an unfortunate necessity for fiscal year 2025,” SEPTA CEO and general manager Leslie Richards said at a board meeting last Thursday. “SEPTA does not want to make these cuts, especially at a time when ridership is growing. These cuts will mean crowded conditions on transit, more congestion on roadways, and the loss of productivity throughout the region.”
The transit funding proposal is the latest glimpse of Shapiro’s 2024-2025 budget, which he is slated to present to the General Assembly on Feb. 6. On Friday, he announced a sweeping plan to overhaul higher education in Pennsylvania, which included a proposal to reduce tuition at state universities and community colleges for some students to $1,000 per semester.
Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Indiana) said supporting SEPTA’s request for an increase in its state subsidy was “a challenging argument to make” and took a shot at Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Republicans have been trying to remove Krasner from office, blaming him for policies of not prosecuting minor drug possession charges and low level retail theft for a rise in crime. Krasner is suing to overturn a new law that allows the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and pursue criminal charges for crimes committed on SEPTA property in Philadelphia.
“No amount of increased subsidy can restore customer confidence in making use of the network given the raging crime crisis Krasner perpetuates,” Pittman said Monday. He added that all areas of the state “must have a strong and reliable transportation network,” adding that it was “long past time electric vehicles begin to pay their fair share for transportation infrastructure and services before asking taxpayers for more.”
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