Transit Funding for PA: Organizational Sign-on Letter

Pennsylvania's public transit funding is in jeopardy.

Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) and the Philly Transit Riders Union (TRU) are calling on Governor Wolf and PA legislators to prevent the PA Turnpike from eliminating their transit funding obligation without a progressive alternative funding source in place.

If you represent an organization that cares about public transit in PA, we want your organization sign on to this letter.

  • Review the letter below.
  • Reach out to to if there are questions.
  • Type your organization's name in the "Organization" field as you'd like it to appear in the letter.

Deadline: Thursday, May 7th


Dear Governor Wolf and the PA Senate and House Appropriations and Transportation Committee Members,

Public transit is a public utility, and an essential extension of our healthcare and food systems. The COVID-19 crisis has brought into stark relief the need for public transit systems to be considered essential services and as a necessary aspect of our healthcare and food system infrastructure. Public transit moves front line workers in our food and healthcare industries to their critical jobs -- nurses, grocery and pharmacy clerks, hospital environmental service workers, pharmacy technicians, food warehouse workers.

We the undersigned stakeholders and community organizations would like to respond to recent news reports and legislation proposing the discharge of the Turnpike responsibility to fulfill its transit funding obligations under Act 89. These reckless proposals would impact residents in every county across the State. Defunding transit would bring our state economy to a grinding halt and diminish access to critical needs like food and healthcare at a moment when both are precarious. The CARES Act COVID-19 transit funding was provided with the intention of ensuring the safety and viability of our mass transit during this crisis, and under no circumstances should it be used to justify dismantling our state funding mechanisms.

While Act 89 was an imperfect solution to the lack of dedicated funding to transit, it was nonetheless a heroic bi-partisan effort that provided stability for our Cities and rural communities and kept our statewide economy moving. That $450 Million annual Turnpike obligation does not step down until 2023. Our state legislators cannot allow for a reduction or for the elimination of those payments until an equivalent or greater dedicated state transit funding source is identified.

The federal government has responded to this crisis with bold action, directing emergency stimulus funds to transit agencies so that they can continue operating as economic engines of our states. Our federal legislators have recognized that maintaining the sustainability of our transit systems is paramount to both surviving the pandemic and ensuring a path forward to recovery. This CARES Act transit funding should under no circumstances be considered a viable substitute or stopgap for the state funding obligation, and must not be co-opted to address Turnpike shortfalls. The feds have done their part, now the onus is on our state.

Our state legislators need to rise to the urgency of this moment. This cannot be done by following the path set forth by Senator Kim Ward’s legislation or Representative Lori Mizgorski’s legislation, which would defund our state’s public transit systems with no plan for reliable, long-term replacement. Representative Mizgorski’s proposals are particularly egregious as she is a Board Member of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, with a responsibility to keep the transit agency financially solvent so that it can fully serve its riders and our regional economy. Her transit-riding constituents deserve better. PA residents deserve better. She and other legislators must take proactive steps to ensure public transit can continue to serve our state economy.

Pat Deon, Chairman of the Board of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, is also a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioner, which places him in a uniquely compromised position. Chairman-Commissioner Deon must recognize that extricating the Turnpike from its financial obligations cannot be prioritized ahead of the critical mass transit systems that riders across the state count on every day.

If under this worst case scenario, the Turnpike reduces its transit payment obligation, then we propose that the Motor License Fund cover the shortfall. The Motor License Fund was intended to ensure the safety and viability of our state transportation system. However, over the past seven years, the State Police have siphoned billions of dollars from this fund. Annually, they have taken nearly twice as much money as the Turnpike funding that is allocated to mass transit. There is broad, bi-partisan agreement that the Motor License Fund is not the appropriate mechanism to fund the state police, particularly because their allotment far exceeds the amount needed to pay for the state troops which patrol our highways. Now is the moment for that change.

With this letter, we implore Pennsylvania Legislators to take innovative, equitable approaches to establish dedicated, long-term funding for public transit.


Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Philly Transit Riders Union

[see the full list of signatories here]

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