SEPTA is among a growing number of public transportation agencies facing major budget challenges due to declining government funding, according to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).
APTA’s report, “Impact of the Recession on Public Transportation Agencies,” shows that 84 percent of public transit systems are taking or considering drastic action due to budget deficits, including raising fares, reducing service and laying off employees.
In addition, the survey found 54 percent of transit systems have been forced to cut their capital budgets, which has a severe negative impact on efforts to launch new initiatives and keep systems in a state of good repair. This is the major challenge SEPTA faces for Fiscal Year 2011, which begins July 1, 2010.
A number of projects vital to SEPTA and its riders will become budget casualties without full funding under Act 44, the state law passed in 2007 to create a dedicated source for transportation funding throughout Pennsylvania. A key component of Act 44 is the conversion of Interstate 80 to a toll road. These tolls would generate money to help the state pay for the upkeep of I-80, and free up other funding for transportation agencies such as SEPTA. The Federal Highway Administration is still reviewing Pennsylvania’s I-80 toll application.
If I-80 tolling is not approved, SEPTA will be forced to cut $110 million – more than 25 percent – of its capital budget for Fiscal Year 2011. This would force the authority to delay or altogether abandon efforts to install new payment technology, renovate the City Hall Station and implement Elwyn-to-Wawa service. SEPTA would also lack funds for a number of much-needed repairs, improvements and renovations throughout the system.
SEPTA is following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission by proposing modest fare increase, which is expected to generate an additional 6 percent in revenue for operating expenses. And, even without full funding under Act 44, SEPTA has no immediate plans to cut service for its customers.
However, just like other public transit agencies dealing with funding shortages this year, SEPTA is bracing for long-term pain.
“Public transportation is experiencing a funding crisis and it is negatively impacting the millions of riders who depend on public transportation every day,” said APTA President William Millar. “As bad as things are today, more drastic service cuts, fare increases, layoffs, and deferred capital projects will occur if this problem is not addressed.”
To see APTA’s full report, visit www.apta.com.