WASHINGTON – Transit leaders from across the country rallied in Farragut Square Tuesday morning, urging Congress to provide adequate funding for transit systems as lawmakers debate a comprehensive transportation bill.
The rally took place with a backdrop of chants like “no funding no bus, no funding no train,” and “public transportation is patriotic.”
“Transit costs too much, and at some point the jurisdictional governments and the federal government have to realize that and establish some dedicated funding for transit so that we don’t have to keep begging to keep trains moving,” said Jackie Jeter, head of Amalgamated Transit Union local 689 – Metro’s largest union.
With respect to Metro eyeing fare hikes, Jeter said transit systems all across the country can’t keep balancing their budget shortfalls on the backs of riders. She urges Congress to step up.
“The proper amount of funding is not put into (these systems) nationwide,” she said.
Metro has said high pensions and benefit costs are the largest contributors to the current budget gap. Jeter however disputes that claim saying those benefits were promised to union workers and the budget gap stems from years of under investment in Metro’s pension and benefit program.
As far as the current transportation bill being debated on Capitol Hill, there has been talk of stripping some funding for transit systems across the country.
“If we do not get funding for transit, we are going to go back to the horse and buggy days,” Jeter told the rally.