Congressman Johnson Proposes Transformational Public Transit Bill

June 8, 2021
Press Release
$80B to be invested in better serving constituents, families for transportation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), a senior member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, introduced the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act (H.R. 3744), which would provide $20 billion annually for four years ($80B total) to transit systems for their operating budgets.

The bill aims to provide more frequent service on bus and rail lines, and to prioritize that service to places with existing poor service, disadvantaged communities and areas of persistent poverty. The funding will be in addition to existing state, local and farebox revenue and will support additional service above and beyond what is currently being provided. Agencies could use funding under this bill to make “substantial improvements to transit service.”

“Transit in our communities is as essential as food on our tables, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads,” said Rep. Johnson. “This kind of funding is a game-changer for Atlanta and communities across the nation. Simply put, people could get to more places in less time using transit. Jobs, schools, and other daily destinations that previously took too long to reach would become more accessible. People would feel less strain on household budgets as their transportation costs shrink. They would have more time to spend with their families as time spent commuting falls.”

“MARTA fully supports the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act introduced by Congressman Hank Johnson and is grateful for the federal government’s recognition of the importance of frequent, equitable service and the expansion of public transit,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “As MARTA embarks on a redesign of the bus network to better serve our communities, and an acceleration of capital projects, this Act provides a much-needed fiscal boost and is a welcome show of support from Congressman Johnson.”

The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act would:

•          Authorize $20 billion annually for FY2023-FY2026;

•          Create a new formula grant program to support the operating costs of public transportation and certain associated capital costs;

•          Require funds must be used for projects that make “substantial improvements to transit service” – that directly boosts frequency of buses, trains and increases routes;

•          Clearly define funding for “Areas of persistent poverty” and “Underserved communities;”

According to Transit Center, a foundation that works to improve public transit in cities across the U.S., in Atlanta alone, $20 billion in annual transit funding could mean a 40 percent gain in service that could vastly improve access to transit that arrives at least every 15 minutes, all day, seven days a week.

In some parts of the city, that would increase the number of jobs reachable within 30 minutes on transit by a factor of eight, it said. In cities and communities across the country, a federal program to support transit service could yield similar benefits by helping lower families transportation costs, drive economic opportunity and racial equity and reduce greenhouse gases.

Cosponsors include: Schakowsky (IL-09), Garcia (IL-04), Huffman (CA-02), Pressley (MA-07), Espaillat (NY-13), Carson (IN-07), Grijalva (AZ-03), Blumenauer (OR-03), McEachin (VA-04), Auchincloss (MA-04), Blunt Rochester (DE), Jayapal (WA-07).

The bill is supported by: Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Transportation for America, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Environment America, Alliance for a Just Society, San Francisco Transit Riders,  Move LA/Move CA, Active Transportation Alliance, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Partnership for Southern Equity, Urban League of Greater Atlanta, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, Transportation Equity Caucus, Center for Disability Rights, Smart Growth America, Madison Area Bus Advocates, Dream Corps Green For All, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Union of Concerned Scientists, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC).

What stakeholders are saying:

“As the transit industry emerges from a sustained period of ridership loss and service reductions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many agencies are considering service network redesigns to increase efficiency and win back ridership,” said Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) Executive Director Scott Bogren. “Rep. Johnson's Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act is perfectly timed to provide both investment and direction in this important effort. The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members support the Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act.”

“The Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act introduced by Congressman Johnson recognizes that building back better means investing in our public transit systems, particularly in transit operations in order to expand service and reach more people with frequent, reliable buses and trains,” said LeeAnn Hall, Director of the National Campaign for Transit Justice. “Transit is a driver of economic growth, a key component of a more environmentally sustainable society, and is the road to equity for disenfranchised communities, rural, urban and suburban. It’s past time that we invest in our public transit systems at the same levels that we invested in our highways, and that starts with funding transit operations.”

“Getting people to work and essential services is the primary purpose of the transportation system, and it fails if it can only do that for people who have the money and ability to drive," said Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America. “With the Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act, Rep. Johnson not only offers needed support for increased transit service to connect people with the things they need, but for the high quality, dependable transit service that real people require for true access to opportunity.”

“Public transit is an essential service in big cities, small towns, and rural counties," said TWU International President John Samuelsen. "Bus and subway operators make our economy run. It is long past time that federal government recognized that fact and supported not just the construction but the operations of these systems everywhere. The Stronger Communities Through Better Transit Act would empower all of our transit agencies to provide better, more frequent service to better serve all of us. The TWU strongly endorses this historic bill because it will grow our economy by better connecting all of us to everywhere we need to go.”

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Date Roll Call Bill Vote
5/20/2021 156 H.R.3237 Yea
5/20/2021 155 H.R.3237 Nay
5/19/2021 154 H.R.3233 Yea
5/19/2021 153 H.RES.414 Yea
5/19/2021 152 H.RES.409 Yea