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Critical Program Called High Density States Program Has Been Completely Eliminated in House Transportation Bill; Funds Provide NYS Close To $140M Per Year In Mass Transit Funding 

In 2014, NYS Received Nearly $100M In High Density Funding; The MTA received $71.7M for Service in NYC, LI, & The Hudson Valley; Other System in NYS Received Additional Funding, Including: In The Capital Region, $2.5M; In Central NY, $2M; In Western NY, $3.6M; In The Rochester-Finger Lakes, $2.7M; In The Southern Tier, $1M; In The Hudson Valley, $4.1M; On Long Island, $2.3M; and In The North Country, $475K 

Schumer Vows To Fight Tooth & Nail To Restore Funding Cuts

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his effort to restore mass transit funding cuts passed by the House of Representatives last week. Schumer said that, as a part of the transportation bill passed by the House, an amendment was agreed to that completely defunds a critical mass transit program called the 5340 Program or the High Density States program. This program provides New York and six other high-density states as well as the District of Columbia with millions in additional mass transit funding annually. Specifically, New York and New Jersey combined receive roughly $140 million each year. Schumer said that while the transportation bill that passed the Senate protect these funds, the elimination of these funds that was included in the House bill would be devastating for New York, especially at time when New York’s infrastructure is crumbling and maintenance costs are skyrocketing. That is why Schumer is aggressively urging his colleagues to reverse the cuts and quickly restore this much-needed funding for New York as the House and Senate negotiate the differences between their two bills in conference over the next few weeks, before a final bill is passed into law.  

“The 5340 program provides critical transportation funding to New York State each year and is vital to ensuring our transit agencies, both Upstate and Downstate, have the resources they need to operate and keep passengers safe,” said Schumer. “This proposed cut in funding would deal a devastating blow to transit agencies, particularly at a time when New York’s infrastructure is crumbling and in need of additional funding. That is why I am going to do everything in my power to reverse these cuts and restore the program, which has been a lifeline for New York in years past and should continue to be for years to come.”

In 2005, the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA) was signed into law, which established the Growing States and High Density States Formula Program (49 U.S.C. 5340), or “5340 funding.” According to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), it was created to apportion additional funds to the some of the most congested and transit-dependent Urbanized Areas (UZAs) in the country, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia. However, Schumer explained this funding is currently in jeopardy because the House of Representatives adopted into its six-year transportation bill – the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform (STRRA) Act – an amendment that would eliminate the 5340 program and instead further increase funding for a competitive bus grant program that would be disadvantageous to New York. Schumer said that while increasing the funding for discretionary programs like the bus program is widely supported, doing so by stripping funding away from Northeast states, whose transit systems move millions of people and contribute significantly to the national economy, is the wrong approach to take.

The House bill is also funded at the existing baseline, meaning it provides only a slight increase for inflation. The Senate transportation bill, however, includes a 10 percent increase. Schumer said the House version’s tepid increase in overall appropriations, coupled with the fact that funding has been slashed from the High Density States program and diverted into a separate fund, will result in less real dollars for New York State next year should the House Bill become law. This would have a major impact on transit agencies in New York, like the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that services New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island as well as smaller transit agencies throughout the entire State of New York. 5340 funding is critical to Transit Agencies throughout the State, many of whom rely on the funding to help balance their already tight budgets. Eliminating this direct funding to transit agencies like Centro, the NFTA, RGRTA, and others in Upstate means those agencies will have less funds available for critical maintenance, system upgrades, and to ensure reliable and important service is provide throughout the State. The loss of this funding could also have an indirect impact on other forms of transportation including highway and bridge funding. For example, Schumer said, 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 to reduce the amount of money they spend in other transportation programs to make up for the loss.

Schumer is therefore pledging to work with the Senate and House conferees, who will negotiate the final bill, to immediately restore this funding for the 5340 High Density States program. Schumer said these seven states and the District of Columbia could see funding cut by roughly $1.6 billion over the next six years if this funding is not restored in the final bill that is passed by both the House and Senate. Some transit agencies would see their overall apportionments cut by nearly one-third. Schumer explained that because this funding is calculated based on Urbanized Areas rather than states, New York and New Jersey – which are coupled together in this funding apportionment – could lose an estimated $140 million each year. After receiving this funding, the two states then issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) stating how this funding will be split up. Specifically, New York State stands to lose the roughly $100 million of this $140 million it was set to receive in additional federal transit dollars if this program is not restored at full funding. 

Schumer said these urbanized areas, small and large, across New York State face unparalleled congestion that cannot be addressed by building new highway infrastructure alone, meaning areas Upstate and Downstate will be negatively impacted if this funding is not restored. In 2014, New York State received $94,405,053 from the FTA’s Section 5340 High Density States program:

  • New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley received a combined $71,725,257 in federal funding, through the MTA, under the High Density States program in 2014 (this total includes some limited service to other areas within the UAZ including CT, and NJ).

o   In addition, a number of smaller transit services that also service that region received a combined $9,572,674, under the High Density States Program in 2014.

§  NYCDOT - $4,852,420

§  Westchester - $1,378,314

§  Rockland - $575,871

§  Putnam - $103,846

§  Nassau – $1,567,124

§  Suffolk – $1,095,099

  • The Capital Region received a total of $2,542,667 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Albany-Schenectady, NY – $2,295,369

o   Saratoga Springs, NY – $247,298

  • Central New York received a total of $2,043,375 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Syracuse, NY – $1,590,723

o   Utica, NY – $452,652

  • Western New York received a total of $3,610,734 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Buffalo, NY – $3,610,734

  • The Rochester-Finger Lakes Region received a total of $2,779,973 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Rochester, NY – $2,779,973

  • The Southern Tier received a total of $1,069,849 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Binghamton, NY—PA – $600,545

o   Elmira, NY – $262,279

o   Ithaca, NY – $207,025

  • The North Country received a total of $475,627 in federal funding under the High Density States program in 2014.

o   Glens Falls, NY – $252,480

o   Watertown, NY – $223,147

Schumer said these cuts would be devastating for New York and mass transit overall. Therefore, he is urging his conferees to reject the short-sighted House provision and recede to the Senate position that provides full funding to the 5340 program.