We did it! This is huge!
Nearly one year ago, ESTHER and JOSHUA brought together 250 people of faith, religious leaders, and concerned citizens at First English Lutheran Church in Appleton to call for our federal legislators to make a commitment to solve the major funding crisis facing the greater Fox Cities and Green Bay areas. Congressmen Reid Ribble and Tom Petri committed on that day to work for a solution before we would lose up to half of our existing transit service.
Today, a bill was signed into effect that solved the immediate transit crisis...just in the nick of time!
The issue: The 2010 census showed that the Fox Cities and Green Bay regions have grown to a population greater than 200,000 each. According to federal transit funding, transit systems operating in regions with populations over this mark cannot use the allocated funding for operating expenses, only for capital or maintenance expenses. Because Valley Transit and Green Bay Metro is efficient, the majority of its cost is in operations, not capital. This would have meant a loss of up to $1.5 million for each transit system in yearly operational funding, which would lead to massive cuts to service.
What did we do? ESTHER and JOSHUA leaders shared what the potential impact of losing service would mean to seniors, students, people with disabilities, and many others that do not or cannot drive vehicles. Leadership trainings were offered to help those that would be impacted by the loss to begin to take action. We met with our legislators, collected more than 1,000 petitions and delivered them to our legislators, and traveled to Washington DC to share the impact with members of Congress.
Our legislators heard the message. Both Congressmen Petri and Ribble serve on the House Transportation Committee and pushed leadership to include a solution to our transit crisis, an issue that impacts more than 150 other transit systems across the country. Senator Herb Kohl stepped forward to call for a strong language in the senate version of the transportation bill. There were times where we were not confident that a solution would move forward. Because of the persistence of our leaders and elected officials a bill was passed through Congress on June 30th and today, President Obama signed the bill into effect!
What did we win? Transit systems with less than 75 buses running during the busiest part of the day, can use up to 75% of federal assistance for operating expenses. Transit systems that run between 76-100 buses at peak hour can flex up to 50% of funding. This covers both transit systems (Valley Transit runs 20 buses at peak hour) as well as others in Wisconsin.
Thank you! We would like to thank the dedicated leaders on our transportation task force. Thank you to Congressman Petri, Congressman Ribble, and Senator Kohl for fighting for a solution on this issue. Thank you also to the many community leaders and residents that showed your support, reached out to your elected officials, and spoke out at forums and hearings.
We celebrate this huge victory today!! Tomorrow, we will work for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to secure local decision-making and sustainable funding for public transit in the greater Fox Cities.