U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Mike Rounds, Tammy Baldwin Introduce Bipartisan Plan to Invest in Rural Public Transit

WASHINGTON, D.C. [08/17/20]—U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) recently introduced bipartisan legislation to improve public transportation in certain rural communities across the country. Specifically, the Investments in Rural Transit Act would increase the federal contribution for operating assistance in rural areas with high transit dependency.

The Federal Transit Administration provides grants to support rural public transportation, but it can be difficult for certain rural communities to provide the necessary local contribution to qualify for assistance.

“High-quality, reliable public transit systems are important for Minnesotans who count on them to get to work, school, the doctor and more,” said Sen. Smith. “This legislation will support rural public transit in communities that need it most. Thanks to the public transit workers in Minnesota for all that you do for our community. Please stay safe and healthy.”

“Rural transit plays an important role in the lives of many South Dakotans,” said Sen. Rounds. “For those who don’t own a car or cannot drive, rural transit provides a way to get to work, attend medical appointments and visit friends and family. As a large, rural state, our transit operators often have to drive long distances. Our legislation would allow transit operators in extreme need to receive a higher federal share of operating assistance so they can continue to provide necessary services to residents.”

In Wisconsin and across the country, limited public transportation options in our rural communities can often be a significant barrier for folks getting to work, going to the store, seeing the doctor, and more,” said Sen. Baldwin. “Reliable transit needs support now more than ever, and our bipartisan legislation is about investing in innovative and efficient public transportation so workers and families in our rural communities can get to job hubs, health care services and other important destinations, and keep our Made in Wisconsin economy moving forward.”

The Investments in Rural Transit Act would increase the federal share to eighty percent for operating assistance in certain areas with high transit dependency. For a transit project to qualify, it must serve a county that meets one of the following criteria:

  1. An “area of persistent poverty,” defined by the Census as a county in which at least 20% of the population has lived in poverty during the most recent 30-year period.
  2. A county with many older Americans, where at least 25% of residents are over the age of sixty five.
  3. A county with healthcare shortages, defined as a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).
  4. A county with low population density, defined as having no more than 20 people per square mile, based on Census data. 

The Investments in Rural Transit Act is endorsed by the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), National League of Cities (NLC), Association of Minnesota Counties, League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Public Transit Association and the Minnesota Transportation Alliance.

You can read a summary of the bill here.