Home Transit Safety American Public Transportation Association US light rail funding: the Tiger loses its stripes

US light rail funding: the Tiger loses its stripes

Written by Jonny Dearden


US president Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the 2018 financial year made grim reading for transit advocates, with plans to scrap popular federal funding programmes for public transport projects.

Jonny Dearden, market researcher for IRJ Pro, assesses the potential impact on light rail projects.

If there was any doubt about US president Donald Trump’s intentions to defund federal transit investment programmes, his proposed budget for the 2018 financial year brought his position on public transport funding into sharp focus. With a 13% ($US 2.4bn) cut in the Department of Transportation’s budget, key grant funding programmes are now in the firing line, clouding the prospects for urban rail development in many US cities.

Proposals to scrap the popular Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (Tiger) scheme and phase out the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant (CIG) programme would radically alter the landscape for public transport funding.

The Tiger grant programme was established as part of the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra source of funding for transport projects. Tiger grants have often been used in circumstances where it has not been possible to raise significant match funding. The proposed budget estimates that scrapping the programme would save $US 499m annually.

CIG is the FTA’s primary grant programme for funding major capital transit investments, including light rail projects. The Trump budget proposes an allocation of $US 1.2bn for CIG. This would be sufficient to cover all existing Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs), but is $US 549m below the level authorised for the programme in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (Fast) act. This cut means there will be insufficient funds to issue any further grants for new or small start projects. According to a press release issued on July 11 by the American Public Transportation Association (Apta), 54 projects are currently in the CIG rating process. Cumulatively these projects account for $US 38bn in new investment, 800,000 jobs and $US 90bn in economic output nationally.

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