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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Budget Cuts Would Hit Critical Public Transit Projects

Congress is still deciding what to do about public transportation funding in the next federal budget. It looks like we will see some funding cuts, even if they are not as severe as those the White House initially proposed. So what do potential funding cuts mean for public transit systems across the nation? Today, we zero in on key programs that could be cut—and how communities would be hurt.

Keeping the TIGER Program Alive

President Trump proposed entirely eliminating the highly popular, competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Since 2009, the TIGER program has helped improve and transform transportation in American communities of every size.

Over seven rounds of funding, the TIGER program has provided nearly $4.6 billion for 420 projects in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. TIGER grants make a real difference in people’s lives:

  • In Cleveland, Ohio, a $12.5 million TIGER grant enabled the Regional Transit Authority to build an important new rail station. This investment has helped attract additional private investment in the area, stimulating economic development and connecting people to nearby community resources, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • In Omaha, Nebraska, a $15 million TIGER grant enabled the city to launch a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line, bringing mobility options to a corridor where a significant portion of residents have no access to a car.
  • In Brownsville, Texas, a $10 million TIGER grant is enabling the region to improve and expand bus service, as well as make other transportation improvements. Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) praised the TIGER award, saying improvements “will have far-reaching impacts on not only Brownsville, but the entire coastal region.”

Project by project, public transit improves mobility, drives economic development, helps communities connect, and enhances people’s lives. The TIGER program could enable more communities to make progress—but not if it is severely reduced or eliminated by draconian budget cuts.

Sustaining Capital Investment Grants

The budget also proposed phasing out the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program. More than fifty critical public transit projects funded in part through the CIG program are already in the development or engineering stages. States and cities have committed their own funds to these projects, with the expectation of federal funding support. Cutting funds for projects already in process will negatively impact these communities’ public transit systems and wallets. Here are some CIG projects that might be affected:

  • Indianapolis, Indiana, voters recently supported new local funding for public transit, but the proposed cuts to the federal CIG program would leave a shortage of $75 million in the region’s plan to electrify and improve its bus rapid transit (BRT) system. CIG cuts would also jeopardize BRT improvements in several other regions.
  • In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a planned streetcar line is slated to connect the State Capitol complex to downtown and Louisiana State University. The project could be scaled back or falter without sufficient CIG funding.
  • In Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona, rail and streetcar projects respectively could also falter because of CIG cuts. These projects are needed to help address increasingly heavy traffic in this region.

The above examples are just a small snapshot of what’s at stake. TIGER and CIG funding cuts directly hurt public transit, but they will also translate into reduced access to jobs, education, and services, which carry huge implications for the overall economic and societal health of affected communities.

Americans will suffer if Congress turns its back on our nation’s historic commitment to public transportation. The good news is, it seems our lawmakers in Congress are hearing this message. The question is, will they remain firm in their support of public transportation when push comes to shove in the federal budget debate this fall?

Stay tuned and stay involved to help us shore up congressional support.