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How should the federal government fund public transportation?

Feb. 13, 2012

By Jeremy Quattlebaum, Student Voices staff writer

For many Americans, taking public transportation to and from work is a part of their daily routine. Buses, trolleys, trains and subways shuttle people from one place to another. While the routes may not be changing, legislation being debated in the House of Representatives could change the way the federal government funds public transportation.

Called the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, the legislation would take the existing funding source for public transportation – money raised through taxes on gasoline – and instead fund mass transit with a onetime $40 billion deposit into a public transportation fund. The revenue from the gasoline tax would instead be given to states to finance infrastructure projects like road construction and repairs.

Now, infrastructure projects such as expanding highways and building bridges are handled by the states, with the federal government doling out money to them through piecemeal measures.

And while the gasoline tax would give infrastructure projects much-needed cash, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the tax money from gasoline will be shrinking because cars are becoming more fuel-efficient and the costs of infrastructure projects will be increasing.

The bill’s supporters say it will create construction jobs by using tax dollars to pay for infrastructure projects and it will reduce the burden of mass transit that federal government has incurred.

“Job creation is the number one priority for voters across the United States. This bill gives state governments a long-term funding stream that will put Americans back to work by improving our nation’s highway and transit systems,” Rep. John J. Duncan (R., Tenn.) said.

While both parties support job creation through infrastructure improvements, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act has many detractors.

“It weakens safety protections, cuts programs designed to maintain our existing roads and bridges, fails to respond to the American public’s demand for transportation choices, short-circuits local decision-making, rolls back important environmental and labor protections, and doesn’t enhance investments that are needed to repair crumbling infrastructure and create jobs,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Groups like the American Public Transportation Association, the retiree group AARP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have all signed a letter in opposition to the bill. “This change will make it impossible for public transit systems across the country to plan for the future,” said the letter, adding that the bill does not identify a source for the $40 billion.

What do you think?

How should the federal government pay for public transportation and infrastructure improvements? Should tax money raised through gasoline taxes pay for public transportation or infrastructure? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Montgomery TX
Daniel H
Mr. Metzger MHS
I think the way that it is all set up to raise the money would be a good idea, but they are right about the taxing on gas going down because of the more fuel efficient cars. Coming back to reality though, it wont be anytime soon until everyone is driving those types of cars. some people say it doesn't matter what is taxed but i say it does. not everything is heavly depended on like gas, therefore it gives us more money to pay for public transportation. i think they should go ahead with this idea.

The federal government should provide the funds for public transportation and infrastructure improvements. It was part of Clay's American system. Money should be raised through the use of taxes. It does not really matter what is taxed.

Sidney, MT
Courtney Anderson
Mr. Faulhaber / Sidney High School
I think federal government should fund public transportation. With as much money as they make from gas and oil, they should be able to give a little back to the people who don't make as much and possibly need help.

Porterville, CA
I think that the federal government should pay for infrastructure improvements and the state and local government should pay of its public transportation. Money raised from gasoline taxes should pay for public transportation.

Porterville, CA
I do not believe federal government should pay for public transportation. I believe depending on the city transportation should be left up to the city or state. In my city we have public transportation with little people using the transportation. So the city should cut down on the busses and create more vehicles that will take people in the same route but use a smaller bus to help save money.

Taylor G.
Public transportation, in my opinion should be more focused on mass transit instead of cars. My main point being the sheer amount of space highways take up. A local highway project in my city is tearing down whole sections of businesses, which take away money from the community. The people for the highway project will say that this is not true and that the more people outside commuting from other cities will bring revenue to the city. This is counter productive if you take in the time it takes that person to commute to another city, the cost of transportation in their car maintenance and gasoline, not to mention the space the highway has taken away from businesses. Also, the highway itself requires maintenance, costing more money. The federal government, if to improve public roads/ transportation, should raise money through gasoline tax. If raised through taxing gasoline, gas prices will become artificially higher through the tax, theoretically causing people to buy less gasoline, limit their commute, or change how they commute. This is desirable if we wish our infrastructure to become more efficient as well as keeping public use of gasoline limited.

benson, AZ
abdulla nagi
sorensen/benson high
i think it is a good idea for government to help pay for public transportation. Its important for people that don't have vehicles and rely on public transportaion to get to and from work. If the government funds transportation I beleive that is also a great job creator for our country that willl give the economy a needed boost.

Irving, TX
It should be left alone. Supporters of the bill may be correct in saying that it will create jobs, but the American Public Transportation Association is correct too. 40 billion dollars is a whole lot of money, and if the transportation is already running and there isn't many complications then it shouldn't be fixed. If it isn't broken, don't fix it. More jobs should be created, but not in a place where there isn't a need to. Creating more highways and transit systems isn't a necessity in my opinion, jobs could be created in other fields. The Congressional Budget office does have a point in saying that tax money accumulated from gasoline will be going down, since cars are being made to use less gasoline, and there are several people choosing the alternative of not using their car as much as they used to. Tax money should not be raised through gasoline taxes, it should be taken from other things, gasoline prices are going up like crazy, and it's just making people stress out even more, and think twice about using their car to drive around.

Benson, AZ
Emily Fortman
Public transportation is important, but I don't think it will create as many jobs as the government thinks. It should be left alone, because in turn that would lower the amount of cars being sold, which would put more people out of a job, than people receiving the benefits of the transportation system. It's not a win win its a lose lose situation. No one wins.

Benson / AZ
Mr. Sorenson / Benson High School
i agree with chace. it helps and can cause less polution because many people are using one vehicle the a hundred using their personal vehicle.

Benson AZ
Mr. Sorensen
I say we leave it as it is. Public transportation is helping. One bus may create the same amount of pollution as three cars but one buss can carry sixty people, not a dozen. Besides, not every one has or can afford a private vehicle. The public transportation system should remain as is. With out it ,any will be unable to commute to work or to school. If all the funding is sent to state projects the public transportation services will loose their funding, or at least a large portion of it. with out it many people will be trapped in a vicious circle.

Mr. Sorenson
the way the federal government should handle transportation is by making more subways or drop the gasoline prices because more people arent going to pay for over price transportation.

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