We recently told you about how the government can affect public transportation in North Texas. From local city councils, to the federal government, public policy shapes how public transportation systems are built and funded across the nation.
Since policy influences the type of public transportation projects our region undertakes, DART will continue to bring you the latest updates on any relevant policy changes.
Federal Policy and Public Transportation
President Trump’s Budget: The president recently released his budget proposal that includes pertinent changes to public transportation funding. Now that the president has submitted a proposed budget to Congress, the House and Senate will commence drafting budget legislation that considers the president’s budget proposal. Once this legislation is drafted, Congress will ultimately vote on a final report that is put before the president for a signature or veto. In the president’s current budget, he has proposed significant cuts for public transportation. Though the budget in its current form is unlikely to pass through Congress, it decreased funds to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant Program (CIG), TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act programs. These cuts may jeopardize transit projects in a large number of states, including Texas. The federal budget is significant to DART because of federal funds the agency is currently pursuing from the CIG program to help fund the D2 Subway. DART will continue to keep you updated on the federal government’s budget, the status of federal funds for public transportation, and any other federal funding options DART may pursue.
State Policy and Public Transportation
Senate Bill 385: The Texas Legislature wrapped up their regular session on May 29. S.B. 385 by Sen. Konni Burton of Fort Worth, which required voter approval from all cities a commuter rail project passes through to use federal funds to build a commuter rail line, did not pass. This legislation would have affected public transportation projects such as DART’s Cotton Belt or the T’s TEX Rail. If the Governor calls the legislature into a special session, Sen. Burton could refile this bill. However, remember the Governor determines the legislature’s agenda during special sessions.
Local Policy and Public Transportation
Dallas Sales Tax Diversion: The Dallas pension fund for police and fire employees is currently in crisis, with the fund having approximately 28 percent of what it needs to pay retirees. In February, several Dallas city council members proposed diverting 1/8th of the one-cent sales tax voters pledged to DART and sending it to the City to pay down some of the pension system’s shortfall. It’s estimated that such a diversion would have cost DART $35 million per year, jeopardizing transit service in Dallas. However, since our last post, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed House Bill 3158 to fix the fund and mitigate losses. This bill does not include utilizing the one-cent sales tax pledged to DART.
Policy can change due to different administrations, amendments, and new information. Since DART must abide by transportation policy on the local, state, and national level, we will continue to bring you updates. Understanding the impacts of transportation policy will allow DART to create the best transportation plans that will drive North Texas forward.