Advocating for Public Transportation (Goal 12)

June 24, 2011

Achieving Long-term, Inflation Sensitive, Dedicated and Predictable Funding for SEPTA

Like many other transit agencies across the nation, SEPTA faces major budget challenges due to declining government funding and the sheer expanse and age of SEPTA's infrastructure. While SEPTA recovers nearly one-half of its operating costs from passenger revenue and additional revenue sources including advertising, naming rights, sales of scrap material, and other investments, the Authority depends on government assistance for the remainder of its operating budget and for its entire capital budget.

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Transportation Advisory Committee (PA TAC) noted that continued underfunding of the Commonwealth's transportation assets has prevented public transportation agencies like SEPTA from making long-overdue investments in its infrastructure. Similarly, the Federal Transit Administration released a pair of studies on the state of the nation's transit infrastructure. The 2009 Rail Modernization Study highlights the estimated $50 billion state of good repair backlog facing seven of the oldest and largest rail transit systems while the National State of Good Repair Assessment (2010) takes a broader look at all transit system assets nationwide and identifies a $77.7 billion infrastructure repair deficit. SEPTA estimates its current state of good repair needs to be $4.2 billion.

A key component of Pennsylvania Act 44 (2007) was the conversion of Interstate 80 to a toll road, which was ultimately denied by the Federal Highway Administration, reducing SEPTA's annual capital budget by approximately $110 million or roughly 25 percent. With allocations from the Pennsylvania Transportation Trust Fund frozen at current levels, capital construction funds are further constrained by the continued uncertainty of federal surface transportation reauthorization. Expiring on September 30, 2009, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) is currently operating under its seventh continuing resolution (through September 30, 2011), extending funding for transportation programs at FY 2009 levels. The lingering ambiguity of future federal transit funding coupled with the multiple, inconsistent continuing resolutions makes long-range planning and investment challenging and further exacerbates system-wide asset improvement efforts.

Without a sustainable funding source, SEPTA's annual capital budget - $311 million in FY 2012 - will remain inadequate to address existing infrastructure needs let alone normal replacement or even nominal system expansion.

SEPTA continues to partner with other Pennsylvania transportation providers and stakeholders in pursuit of comprehensive and sustainable funding at the state and federal level. Our partners in this effort in the Commonwealth are the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association (PPTA) and the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition; national partners include the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Metropolitan Rail Discussion Group (MRDG).

What's Next

With that, we've completed our description of the twelve goals that make up SEPTA's Sustainability Plan. But developing a plan is only the first step. Next week, we'll shift gears to a description of SEPTA's strategy to implement its program of initiatives designed to enhance sustainability at SEPTA and throughout its service region.

Next Week: SEPTA's Approach to Sustainability Management