SEPTA SOLUTION VITAL FOR REGION,
January 31, 2007 – Fixing the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s
(SEPTA) funding problem is vital to the entire region around Philadelphia, and
will require a regional solution under Harrisburg leadership, state Sen. Vince
Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said today.
During a panel discussion at the Pennsylvania Newspaper
Association’s annual government affairs conference, Fumo said transportation
issues will be among the biggest challenges that Governor Rendell and
Legislature will face as they develop the state budget for the 2007-08 fiscal
year and beyond.
“We have to pump significantly more resources into our
highways, bridges and mass transit systems throughout the state,” Fumo said. “It
will require creative funding ideas, it will require political courage, and it
will require bipartisan cooperation.”
Fumo’s main focus will be providing a dependable
long-term funding source that will grow with the economy for mass transit. Tax
code changes have eroded previous state revenue sources since the late 1990s,
and the federal government eliminated operating support about a decade ago. The
result has been a steadily mounting money problem for transit. Last year, the
governor “flexed” $400 million of federal transportation money to keep the
systems running, but that was a short-term fix.
Fumo represents an area covered by the largest transit
system in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the nation. SEPTA, which serves
the five-county region in the southeast, has 75 percent of the state’s public
“One of my top priorities in developing the budget this
year will be guaranteeing SEPTA and the state’s other transit systems a steady
revenue stream,” Fumo said.
“Mass transit is in a sense the lifeline of a regional
economy,” he added. “Workers in both the cities and suburbs rely on it to get to
and from their jobs. That means, by extension, that businesses depend on it,
also. And it impacts non-riders, because without effective mass transit, our
highways would face gridlock. Commuter trips would be longer, cars would burn
more gasoline, and parking would be less available and more expensive.”
Two years ago, Fumo proposed an increase in the realty
transfer tax as the most viable funding source for mass transit. He also
believes revised state funding formulas, updated farebox collection systems,
long-term capital investment, and fare increases, among other things, must be
part of the answer.
Fumo played an important role in solving several
earlier mass transit funding crises. He helped to create the Public
Transportation Assistance Fund in 1991, which was designed to provide about $200
million in dedicated state funding for mass transit. Revisions of tax laws,
especially levies on public utilities in the wake of the state deregulating
electric generation in 1996, cut deeply into those funding sources. In 1997, the
state also dedicated a portion of the sales tax to transit, but the amount is
capped at $75 million and therefore has not recently grown with inflation.
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