SCHUMER, KATKO ANNOUNCE, FOLLOWING THEIR PUSH, SENATE & HOUSE LEADERS HAVE AGREED TO RESTORE CRITICAL 5340 TRANSIT PROGRAM FUNDING – SCHUMER & KATKO SUCCESSFULLY FOUGHT A PROVISION THAT WOULD HAVE SLASHED PROGRAM FUNDING & COSTUPSTATE & DOWNSTATE TRANSIT AGENCIES NEARLY $100M PER YEAR
Schumer & Katko Say Final Transportation Bill Will Include Full Funding of Critical 5340 Program Funds & Provide NYS Close To $100M Per Year In Mass Transit Funding; Centro Stood To Lose $2 Million Per Year Over Next 6 Years if Proposed Cut Was Not Reversed
Not Only Did Schumer & Katko Restore 5340 Program That Was Initially Eliminated, The Two Also Secured an $18.5 Million Increase in 5340 Funding Over the Next 5 Years
Schumer, Katko: Centro Funding Is Safe
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congressman John Katko today announced that, following their push, the joint House and Senate Transportation Conference Committee has agreed to include the full restoration funding to the critical 5340 High Density States Program in the final transportation bill set to be voted on later this week. The Senator and Congressman explained that, as a part of the proposed transportation bill passed by the House a few weeks ago, a late amendment was agreed to that completely eliminated the 5340 Program. The elimination of this program would have cost New York State transit agencies roughly $100 million a year and specifically would have cost the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Centro) nearly $2 million per year. Schumer and Katko, who were both chosen as transportation bill conferees, made restoring this program, and reversing the proposed cut, a top priority for the conference committee. Schumer and Katko announced today that following their push, the final transportation bill will fully restore the 5340 program and as a result Centro will no longer face these devastating cuts. On top of that, the program will see an increase of roughly $18.5 million over the next five years.
“As conferees, Congressman Katko and I were able to not only restore, but even increase, the funding the critical 5340 program receives. This is great news for Upstate New York and a major victory for Central New York in particular – because it means we have protected the critical $12 million in transportation funding Centro was set to receive over the next six years. With this funding, Centro will be able to continue operating its bus service across four counties and keeping its 11 million annual passengers safe,” said Senator Schumer. “Centro’s service has been a lifeline for Central New Yorkers and a driver of the local economy for a generation – and this deal will ensure it can continue humming as that economic engine for Central New York in the years to come.”
“Both Senator Schumer and I recognize that Centro provides critical transportation services to individuals and families across Central New York and that it is vital to our regional economy,” said U.S. Rep. John Katko. “That's why restoring transit funding for Centro was our top priority going into conference, and I'm happy to join Senator Schumer today in announcing that our advocacy has been successful.”
Schumer and Katko called this a significant victory for Upstate New York and the Central New York region in particular. They explained that this funding has allowed Centro to operate its bus service throughout the Central NY region over the years. Centro covers Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Oswego Counties and provided over 11 million rides to residents and visitors in Central NY in 2014. In 2014 alone, Central New York received a total of $2,043,375 in federal funding under the 5340 program. Centro also employs approximately 630 residents in the four-county area and contributes roughly $30 million to the local economy through its payroll. Schumer and Katko said this service and local jobs could have been threatened if Centro was not provided the roughly $2 million in funding it anticipated it would receive in 2016 to operate this bus service.
Schumer and Katko said the elimination of this program would have been disastrous for Centro’s ridership and the Central NY economy as a whole. This service is a lifeline for the community, as it brings people to work, school and city centers every day. In addition to the millions of customers for whom it provides bus services annually, it also partners with the Syracuse City School District, Syracuse University (through its connective corridor) and LeMoyne College to bring students downtown and to school. Centro’s Call-a-Bus service also provides roughly 175,000 rides to persons with disabilities. Finally, roughly 80 percent of Centro’s riders do not own a car, and approximately 75 percent earn less than $30,000 annually. As a result, Schumer and Katko vowed to fight any provision that would have resulted in a reduction of this affordable bus service. The Senator and Congressman said, if left unchanged, these funding cuts could have been devastating for Central NY, especially at time when New York’s infrastructure is crumbling and maintenance costs are skyrocketing.
As conferees helping negotiate the differences between the House and Senate bills before the final transportation legislation is passed into law, Schumer and Katko successfully led the effort to protect this critical funding to Centro and many other Upstate NY transit agencies. In addition, under the deal reached in conference, funding for the 5340 Program will grow each year. Schumer and Katko said this means that, in addition to restoring the nearly $1.3 billion in 5340 funding for the next five years, there will also be a $18.5 million increase in 5340 funds over the next five years. Under current law, the 5340 Program is funded at $262,950,000 per year. By year five of the proposed transportation bill, this funding will reach $269,364,074. The Senator and Congressman said these increased funding levels also come in addition to the creation of a new $1.5 billion discretionary bus program – roughly $300 million a year – which Upstate NY transit agencies will be eligible to apply to, in an effort to replace aging bus fleets. Schumer and Katko said this means the 5340 and the discretionary bus program – which initially was set to receive the redirected 5340 funds – will both be allowed to grow and help transit agencies across the country.
This cut would have come at a time when the local community has been urging Centro to add more buses and routes to its services in order to accommodate for more students. That is because, right now, students in the Syracuse City School District who live within the 1.5- to 2-mile radius of the school are required to walk to and from school each day because Centro does not have enough buses to provide for students inside this zone. Local parents and neighborhood advocates say this jeopardizes student safety. However, the option of adding buses or routes would have bene taken off the table completely if Centro did not have enough funds to operate current services in the first place.
This 5340 funding is critical to transit agencies across the state, many of whom rely on this federal funding to help balance their already tight budgets. Eliminating this direct funding to transit agencies like Centro, the NFTA, RGRTA, 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. The loss of this funding could have had an indirect impact on other forms of transportation as well, including highway and bridge funding. For example, if a smaller mass transit agency in Upstate New York runs into financial trouble because of the loss of this funding and needs to be made whole by the state, New York State might have had to reduce the amount of money they spend in other transportation programs to make up for the loss.
Schumer and Katko have long fought to keep Centro’s services affordable and a viable service for Central NY riders. Specifically, in 2010, Schumer helped secure roughly $8 million in federal funding that allowed Centro to purchase 43 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses. This has allowed Cento to save on fuel costs, as an equivalent gallon of natural gas costs up to 50 percent less than a gallon of diesel. Centro’s Onondaga County fleet – 102 buses in total – is the only Upstate NY transit fleet to run off of CNG. Schumer is also currently pushing his colleagues to extend the alternative fuel tax credit, which saves Centro over $500,000 a year on its CNG purchases. This tax credit expired at the end of last year. Schumer supported the retroactive reinstatement and extension of this tax credit in the Senate Finance Committee markup of the Tax Increase Prevention Act. This legislation would reinstate and extend through 2016 the $0.50 per gallon alternative fuel tax credit and alternative fuel mixture credit.
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