The Missouri Public Transit Association believes now is the time to make the case for transit funding in Missouri. The facts show investment in transit increases access to jobs, education and health care; creates development opportunities; and provides reinvestment in disadvantaged areas of the state. However, Missouri’s record for funding transit is dismal.
Missouri ranks 44th in public transportation funding among the 50 states, spending a mere 9 cents per capita on public transportation funding. Yet people in literally every county in Missouri rely on public transportation for access to medical care, school, jobs and other essential services.
Our state is one of just a few that has public transportation in every county – whether via an OATS or Southeast Missouri Transit Service bus, Metro Transit, The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, or one of the many other providers operating in Missouri. Collectively, they employ thousands of individuals across the state in both urban and rural communities.
But last year, Missouri public transportation providers received little more than $500,000 for transit operations from the state. That’s $500,000 split among 34 different transit providers. Consequently, when it comes time to apply for federal matching grants, Missouri communities have nothing to offer as a match.
That’s rather short-sighted, considering that according to the American Public Transit Association, for every dollar invested in transit projects there is a $4 return for the state. The positive impact of investment in our transit system can be seen statewide, with the opening of the Kansas City Streetcar on May 6, the Loop Trolley in St. Louis under construction, and OATS celebrating 45 years of service in our rural and urban communities.
So why bring this up now? Over and over again, we hear from legislators at the state Capitol that they don’t hear from their constituents that transit is important. We can change that. There is a new long-term federal transportation bill in place, the FAST Act. It contains funding for transit – however, that funding comes with a required 50:50 match, another reason to fill the state funding hole.
You can help.
Contact your state senator or representative, Governor Nixon and MoDOT director Patrick McKenna and let them know it is imperative they support a long-term strategy for funding transit and total transportation.
Join the Missouri Public Transit Association in Jefferson City on March 16 for Transportation Day.
The economic future of the State of Missouri is in the hands of our elected officials. We must remind them that funding for public transit is critical if our individual communities, and our state overall, are to expand and grow.
Kimberly Cella is executive director of Citizens for Modern Transit, and recently also became executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association (MPTA). MPTA provides a unified voice for public and specialized transportation providers in Missouri and works toward elevating the status of public transit as a national priority.
The St. Louis American © March 2016