This morning, we released a report about how MAP-21 cut capital funding for bus fleets by 62%, a total loss of $463 million annually.
Proponents of these changes argue increases in Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Program Grants “Bus Tier” funds, based on bus vehicle revenue miles, make up for the losses to bus capital.
The “Bus Tier” increased by $125 million the first year of MAP-21, and by an additional $45 million the second year, for a total of $170 million. This pales in comparison to the $463 million lost in bus capital.
More importantly, only part of 5307 (and it’s rural equivalent 5311) money goes to capital purchases. In fact, according to the National Transit Database — 47% of 5307 money goes to operating expenses — likely because it is the only formula that permits using federal funds for operating expenses. Of the other half that’s left, only 22% is typically expended on new vehicles.
Of the $170 million increase in 5307 Bus Tier funds, only $19.8 million is likely to fund new buses.
This is what makes 5307 so fundamentally important, because it allows transit agencies much needed operating assistance. Transit agencies are getting squeezed at the state and local level, increasingly relying on 5307 for operating expenses. The 47% figure mentioned earlier was only 34% ten years ago.
$20 million in bus tier bus capital money does nothing to address the $463 million lost.
Ultimately, these losses throttle our growing cities, where more buses would yield the largest benefits for jobs, traffic, and the environment.