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Legislators, advocates praise new bill HB 1307 to allow PA Counties to expand funding for public transit

An enthusiastic crowd of State Legislators, Transit Agency Representatives, Transit Worker Union Leaders, and Transit Advocates led by Representative Joe Hohenstein, gathered on the steps of the State Capitol for a press conference on the morning of June 20th to promote Hohenstein’s new House Bill HB 1307 that would allow the SEPTA region, Allegheny County, and Lancaster County the option to raise local transit funding to supplement existing state funding for transit. 

“SEPTA has been there for us and now we need to be able to step up and be there for them. The funding flexibility in the local revenue generation is essential to the survival of public transit and public transit is essential to our economic growth. Passing this bill is going to give Philadelphia and surrounding counties the ability to support one of the largest people-moving systems in the country. And our folks in Allegheny County will see the economic benefits from this as well,” said Representative Joe Hohenstein during the press conference. 

The proposed legislation would give these local municipalities the freedom to increase local funding to supplement existing state funding and help solve these challenges. With the wealth of new federal funding available to Pennsylvania through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), it’s critical that we tackle this problem now. These federal funding packages can offer our region billions of dollars, but our transit agencies require additional local matching dollars to qualify for federal funding. Without local matching dollars, cities in other states will be more competitive to the business community and receive greater investment, putting Pennsylvania further behind.

“For SEPTA, it means we could compete for over $2 billion dollars. Otherwise, we will leave that money on the table. Trust me, other state transportation agencies across the country would love to have that money. Our county leaders recognize the importance of mass transit to the economic vitality of their communities and are ready to act to fund these important investments for mass transit. However, in order to close the loop to secure these federal dollars we need the General Assembly to enact new options for matching funds. We want to compete.“ said Leslie Richards, CEO and General Manager of SEPTA.

“The 182nd district in Center City Philadelphia, my district, has more public transit infrastructure than anywhere else in the entire state of Pennsylvania. Because of that our communities are more affordable, more walkable, and for our seniors, it is easier to age in place. All of these things are partially because we have some of the most public transit infrastructure in the entire Commonwealth. It’s time to bring that to the rest of the state,” says Representative Ben Waxman enthusiastically.

This will enable the SEPTA region and Allegheny County to address our aging transportation infrastructure and backlog of capital projects, and with prompt action will provide an avenue for generational investment into our public transit systems through the current federal funding opportunities.

“Transportation is a cornerstone of independence. To make transportation more accessible, it is vital to seniors and people with disabilities, but there is more work to be done. The capital funding option from HB 1307 and HB 902 could help improve our transit system infrastructure and make it more accessible to the people in our community,” says disability advocate Kwanesha Clarke of Liberty Resources/ADAPT.

Enabling local source funding for our PA transit systems has long been one of the key needs to ensure that transit is fully funded in our regions, and is a central demand in the Transit for All PA! platform. It would provide the local match needed to access the unprecedented funding available through the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and advance some truly transformative transit projects to improve transit accessibility, air quality, and economic outcomes in our regions.

Nearly 20 organizations across the state have signed on to a letter supporting HB 1307 and HB 902 and expanded resources for PA transit systems. Read their letter here.

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