SoCal public transportation leaders push for federal funding

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- After 25 years as a bus driver in Orange County, Mary Blum says demand and ridership has never been greater.

"You take millions of cars off the streets and put people on buses, and it affects everybody's life," Blum said.

She joined regional transportation agencies and elected officials in Long Beach Thursday morning to urge Congress to pass a long-term federal bill that would support public transportation and infrastructure improvements for highways.

After multiple extensions, the current funding bill, originally signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, expires on May 31.

"If in fact somebody knows how much money they're getting each and every month, they can adequately plan," Long Beach Transit's Deputy CEO Debra Johnson said.

Congress will likely extend the bill, but without a five- to eight-year proposal, transportation leaders say it will be incredibly difficult to plan.

"We are in a precarious position right now, because we do not know how much money we are getting from month-to-month, year-to-year," Johnson said.

"When you buy buses or build transportation projects, you need to know that you're going to have a funding source that is stable and that you can rely on, so you can plan for those projects," Orange County Transportation Authority CEO Darrell Johnson said. "Starting and stopping is expensive to the taxpayer and it's not helpful to get the project out there."

Blum believes any cuts to federal funding or significant delays in authorizing a long-term bill would ultimately hurt riders.

"It's going to cause people to wait longer for the buses, because they're going to get busier, because they're going to cut routes, they're going to cut service times. It wouldn't be good," she said.
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