How the House Lost Over a Billion Dollars for Buying Buses

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Data analytics company Transit Labs reports that while House Republicans were looking for a re-authorization funding source, Senate Democrats nabbed $1.4 Billion to fund their own pet projects.

The last comprehensive transportation re-authorization was in 2012, when the Democratic Senate and Republican House passed MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). That bill, written almost entirely by the Senate, was passed by the House in just two days because it had been unable to come up with a bill of its own.

This had major consequences for House members and their constituents. Transit Labs ran the numbers, and while the preceding five years had seen roughly $750 million spent annually on fixing buses and buying new ones, MAP-21 cut that funding by over 60 percent.

That’s a loss of $1.4 billion over the last 3 years.

Percentage Decrease in Bus Capital Funding Post MAP-21

Read more: Bus Capital Losses by State: Visualizations and Rankings

Ironically, after all the fuss about how to pay for our collapsing infrastructure — the House got pigeonholed into adopting the Senate’s plan for where the money comes from, and how that money is spent — which decimated the 850 bus systems they represent.

So… Where did the money go?

The money went to fund (for the most part) discretionary rail projects in 16 states, primarily those represented by members of the Senate Democratic Leadership. A third went to 3 states represented by Majority Leader in-waiting Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), then President pro tempore Daniel Inouye (D-HI), and then Chief Deputy Whip Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Another quarter of the money, $327 million, went to DC’s subway system WMATA.

Where the $1.4 Billion in Bus Capital Went

Who was hit the worst?

As the first map showed, bus capital cuts affected just about everyone. Then Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) virtually tied Michigan for most dollars lost, $93 million since 2013. Then Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) lost 86% of the $30 million his state would have earned had funding levels stayed flat under MAP-21.

Here are the five states hit worst by dollars and percentage:





Read the Report: How MAP-21 Slashed Bus Capital to Lower Levels than 1996

The Moral of the Story.

As both chambers head into public hearings next week to examine funding options for the Highway Trust Fund, there’s a lesson here that every legislator should heed:

Surrendering to the oft-repeated mantra that “there is no money” is a losing strategy.

There is no question in Washington’s political establishment that an infrastructure bill has to be passed. Whenever that fairy-tale day does come, those who focused their efforts on getting their constituents a piece of the pie will come out on top.