July 19, 2021 - TRA Opinion  -

In a recent news release the Texas Transportation Commission touted that it approved the most funding, ever, for transit projects in the state. The amount? $89 million. And we applaud that.

But let's take the spin out of the news release and look at how Texas continues to spend about 99% of its yearly state transportation dollars on highways, if you remove the massive federal funds that go into the plan.

TxDOT's annual budget is about $7 billion dollars. Taking out the $54,000,000 in federal dollars shoveled to the state, only $35,000,000 in Texas funds were added to "most funding ever for transit". That's about 1/2 of 1 percent of the entire $7 billion annual budget.

While the funds do support needed rural and urban transit services (read that "bus") that cover 41% of the state’s population, it appeared that not a single dollar was allocated to a passenger rail effort. The reason? Our elected and appointed leaders in Austin have NO strategic regional or intercity passenger rail plans.

Texas has not wisely looked at smart passenger rail development over the past decade as many other states have done and now they outshine us. Texas continues to be a 3rd World State in providing passenger rail transportation. Smaller states with smaller population bases and fewer major metropolitan areas continue to expand their passenger rail services be it urban, regional or intercity. If we continue to pour asphalt and concrete on wider and wider highways we will neglect a transportation mode that could prove to be an economic benefit to the many cities and towns that could be served.

Here's the breakdown of state funds for transit (read that "bus") for fiscal year 2022

6 Large urbanized areas (like Brownsville or Conroe-The Woodlands) received $3.5 million
26 Small urbanized areas (like College Station and San Angelo) received $10 million
36 Rural transit districts (like Panhandle or City of Cleburne) got $21.4 million

The breakdown of federal funding for fiscal year 2022 was as follows

36 Rural transit districts (like Central Texas Rural Transit District and Gulf Coast Transit District) received $39.5 million
Small Urban and Rural areas (like City of Longview and Smith County) received $7.3 million
4 Intercity Bus Carriers (such as Autobuses and County of El Paso) got $7.5 million - However, the report showed that intercity bus carrier Greyhound lines did receive $6.8 million in federal CARES Act funding.

The funding includes over $10 million from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act to help transit agencies manage the impacts of COVID-19.