October 23, 2014

Congressmen announce public transportation caucus

bus_frontU.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) announced May 23 the formation of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus aimed at addressing issues facing the country’s public transportation systems, including rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and traditional bus service.

The bipartisan Caucus will provide a forum for members of Congress to engage in constructive dialogue on the challenges and needs of mass transit agencies across the country as increasing demand and decreasing funding are putting unprecedented pressure on America’s public transportation systems.

Both Lipinski and Grimm were endorsed by the SMART Transportation Division prior to the 2012 congressional elections.

“Many SMART Transportation Division members are employed by the country’s public transportation systems, from Los Angeles Metro to the Long Island Rail Road, from Philadelphia’s SEPTA to Charlotte’s CATS system. We fully support Reps. Lipinksi and Grimm in this effort and appreciate their understanding of the importance of public transportation,” SMART Transportation Division President Mike Futhey said.

“Public transportation is vital to people from all walks of life in communities all across northeastern Illinois. Buses, trains, and light rail that run safely and reliably reduce congestion on our roads, improve travel times across all modes, cut down on air pollution, and make our communities more attractive places to live, work, and own businesses,” said Lipinski, who sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “Maintaining and improving our public transportation systems must be a part of the solution to creating jobs at home and ensuring our competitiveness in the global marketplace. I look forward to joining Congressman Grimm in calling attention to these issues as co-chair of the new Congressional Public Transportation Caucus.”

“New York City has the largest public transit system in the nation – transporting millions of commuters each day by bus, rail, and ferry,” Grimm said. “A strong public transport system is crucial to our economy and our livelihood, which is why it must be maintained and updated to meet growing demand and ensure the highest levels of safety. Unfortunately, there is currently a gap between where our public transportation infrastructure needs to be and where it is today, which is why this caucus is so important. As co-chair of the Congressional Public Transportation Caucus, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on solutions that will improve our aging public transportation system and bring it well into the 21st century.”

The America Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), in its annual report card on America’s infrastructure, gave the country’s transit infrastructure a “D” grade. Yet the impact from investing in our public transportation infrastructure would be substantial, not just for improving safety and reliability, but for creating jobs.

According to a release from Lipinski’s office, every dollar spent on transit generates an economic return of at least four to one.

For every $1 billion of capital spending on transit, 24,000 jobs are created, according to a report by the Economic Development Research Group. Additionally, transit has been shown to increase nearby property values and relieve the economic costs and pollution caused by traffic congestion.

“Transit is a key component of America’s transportation system, which is the backbone for the country’s economy,” said Joe Costello, Executive Director of the Northeastern Illinois Regional Transportation Authority and founding member of the transit advocacy group Getting America to Work. “We appreciate the leadership of Congressmen Lipinski and Grimm in creating this caucus to focus more national attention on this critical need.”