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Schumer Successfully Persuaded Senators To Create New Bus Funding Program in The FAST Act; New Program Creates A Discretionary Fund That Communities Like Broome County Can Apply To, Allowing Them To Access Funds For Replacing Aging Bus Fleets

Senator Vows To Fight to Deliver Federal Bus Money To The Southern Tier & Upstate NY; Additional Bus Funding Is Win For Upstate Transit Systems That Have Been Struggling To Shoulder The Cost To Replace Aging Fleets In Recent Years; Additional Transportation Money Flowing Nationally, Through Transportation Investment Increases & The Restored 5340 Transit Program, Will Also Benefit Southern Tier Manufacturing

Schumer: New Federal Bus Program Will Help Broome County Bus Riders and Keep B.C. Transit Going for the Long Haul

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a new bus program included in the recently passed transportation bill that will create a new funding stream that can help Broome County replace their outdated bus fleets without raising bus fares. Schumer said that the current B.C. fleet is old and in need of servicing. Schumer said this new program, which was included in the recently passed federal transportation bill, will be funded at an average of $300 million per year for the next five years. In addition, Schumer revealed how he successfully pushed for this program, including many meetings with New York State transportation leaders who had urgent bus funding needs. Schumer said his efforts to help create this new bus program, combined with the successful restoration of the critical 5340 transit program funding, will be a major lift to transit agencies in the Southern Tier and across Upstate New York that have been struggling to shoulder the cost of maintain aging fleets in recent years.

“B.C. Transit’s service is a lifeline for Broome County residents – and this recently passed federal transportation bill now has a grant program that can help it modernize its bus fleet. This major, 5-year transportation bill includes a new bus program that helps transit agencies access the funding they need to replace crumbling bus fleets,” said Schumer. “This bill is a win for our transit agencies, as well as our manufacturers, across the Southern Tier – so I will be fighting tooth and nail to get B.C. Transit and other transit agencies across Upstate NY the funding needed to update their fleets, so Broome County commuters can have a safer, faster and more efficient ride.”

Schumer explained that the 5-year federal transportation bill, the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, recently passed in Congress and provides a total of over $16.3 billion in direct infrastructure spending to NY State over the next five years. That is $1.5 billion more than New York would receive in a flat-funded bill, and amounts to an average annual increase of over $300 million above current spending levels. In addition to this funding increase, under the FAST Act, NY State will see an increase in its relative share of transportation spending compared to other states.

On top of these funding increases, Schumer said the bill includes several major victories that could help improve Upstate NY’s transit systems and overall infrastructure. In particular, Schumer said the FAST Act created a new discretionary program that municipalities can apply to, allowing them to access funds for replacing aging bus fleets. This program will be funded at an average of $300 million per year, each year for the next five years. Schumer made funding this program a priority, following countless meetings with New York State transportation leaders who had urgent bus funding needs.

Schumer said this legislation means Upstate NY municipalities and counties, like Broome County, will soon be able to apply for this federal funding to help replace their outdated bus fleets once the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) formally establishes the federal program and application process. Schumer said this funding stream will be significant for municipalities that are looking to update their fleets for maintenance and safety reasons without raising bus fares for customers. According to Broome County officials, the current bus fleet is old and in severe need of an update. B.C. Transit currently has roughly 45 buses that are used daily for its fixed bus route. However, according to B.C. Transit, half of its buses are beyond their useful life of 12 years and should soon be taken offline. Schumer said if they are not replaced or updated, Broome County bus users could suffer the consequences.

While B.C. Transit has received some funding to bring an additional six buses online over the next five years, the agency still has a capital need of four buses per year, over the next five years, to keep up with demand and the rate of buses being taken offline due to age. According to B.C. Transit, each bus costs approximately $450,000, for total capital need of $9 million over the next five years. Schumer explained that the agency’s total operating budget for 2015 was $12.7 million, with a county contribution of $1.9 million – highlighting the fact that there is an immense financial pressure additional buses can bring to a small agency like B.C. Transit.

Therefore, Schumer vowed to fight to secure funding for Upstate NY transit agencies like Broome County’s B.C. Transit on the heels of the creation of this critical new bus grant program. Schumer said B.C. Transit’s fixed route ridership for 2014 was 2,357,125 people. In 2015, it was 2,260,000. Schumer said these funds could be critical for the millions of riders who utilize the bus system, as B.C. Transit needs to upgrade its aging fleet and bring new buses online soon if it is going to keep up with demand and continue providing safe, quality services to residents and visitors to Broome County.

In addition, Schumer said this new discretionary bus grant program, combined with these overall funding increases and the successful restoration of critical 5340 transit funding, would help manufacturers across the Southern Tier. Schumer said this is because additional transit spending nationwide increase their business and support local workforces, potentially even hiring more employees to keep up with demand. Schumer said this federal bus money, flowing across New York and nationally, will ultimately benefit Southern Tier manufacturing. As part of a proposed transportation bill passed by the House in November, a late amendment was agreed to that completely eliminated the critical 5340 High Density States Program. The elimination of this program would have cost New York State transit agencies roughly $100 million a year. Schumer, who was chosen as transportation bill conferee, made restoring this program, and reversing the proposed cut, a top priority for the conference committee. Following his push, the final transportation bill fully restored the 5340 program, and included an increase of roughly $18.5 million over the next five years for the program.

Schumer’s efforts to help create this new discretionary bus program, combined with the successful restoration of critical 5340 funding, will be a major lift to transit agencies across New York State. The 5340 High Density States funding program is critical to transit agencies across the state and was on the chopping block this year. Schumer fought hard to save it and successfully did so, as many of New York State’s transit agencies rely on this federal funding to help balance their already tight budgets. Schumer explained that this 5340 funding has allowed area transit agencies to operate their regional transportation services for years. Eliminating this direct funding to transit agencies, like the NFTA, RGRTA, CDTA and others in Upstate, would have left those agencies with less funds available for critical maintenance, system upgrades, and to ensure reliable and important service is provide throughout NY State.

Schumer was joined by Debbie Preston, Broome County Executive; Gregory Kilmer, Broome County Commissioner of Public Transportation; Daniel J. Reynolds, Chairman of the Broome County Legislature; and members of the Broome County Legislature’s Public Works and Transportation Committee.

“We want to thank Senator Schumer for his efforts in restoring this critical funding for our B.C. Transit system to ensure we can continue to provide this essential means of transportation to many in our community,” said Broome County Executive Debbie Preston. “We also applaud his efforts to create a program to help municipalities like us replace an aging fleet of busses. We have been replacing busses slowly, but this money could help us purchase modern, safe buses quicker.”