Policy group advocates for Alabama to use ARPA funds for public transit

Alabama Arise is encouraging the state to invest American Rescue Plan Act funding into public transportation. Bennian / Shutterstock.com

One Alabama policy group is encouraging the state to invest more funding into public transportation.

Alabama Arise published its study, “Alabama’s Road To a Better Public Transportation Future,” and is encouraging state officials to invest its remaining $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding into public transit to create a stronger economy while advancing racial equity and connecting everyone in the state.

“We have had a priority to fund public transportation for probably 30 years in Alabama,” Robyn Hyden, executive director of Alabama Arise, told The Center Square in an exclusive interview. “Our biggest barrier is that Alabama constitutionally blocks using gas tax fund money for public transportation.”

The policy group, according to the study, shows that aging residents, those with disabilities, and low-income individuals and families would benefit from an investment into the state’s Public Transportation Trust Fund, which was created in 2018.

Alabama Arise, according to the study, conducted a poll of Alabama residents in 42 of the state’s 67 counties showing that if the state did spend the money on public transit, it would allow barriers to public transit to be removed.

According to the study, of the people surveyed by Arise, only 1 in 300 use public transit to commute to and from their place of employment. Plus, the study shows that Alabama is one of three states, the others being Hawaii and Nevada, where state money is not put into public transportation.

The study also shows that Alabama has a constitutional amendment on the books dating back to 1952 that prevents the use of funds garnered through the gas tax or license fees to be spent on public transportation within the Department of Transportation.

“There have been attempts to repeal that amendment, but, obviously, they want the gas tax money to build roads and bridges,” Hyden said. “If you look around surrounding southern states, the gas tax is funding public transportation.”

Arise, according to the study, reports that federal funding received throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan act, have infused temporary cash into the system but those funds won’t last forever. The group is calling for more funding to be allocated to public transit in the state.

By providing more funding, according to the study, the additional funding into the public transit system would allow for hiring more drivers, adding more routes, and extending the hours of operation for the system.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.