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Friday, February 19, 2021

State Reps Skindell, Upchurch Introduce Bill to Dramatically Increase Public Transit Funding in Ohio

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2021 at 12:08 PM

click to enlarge Clevelanders for Public Transit rally (7/23/2018). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Clevelanders for Public Transit rally (7/23/2018).

Ohio State Reps. Mike Skindell and Terrence Upchurch have introduced legislation to increase state funding for public transit to $150 million annually. The bill arrives only days after Gov. Mike DeWine proposed cutting such funding to only $7 million, which would represent a 90% decrease from the current funding level of $70 million. 

Lakewood's Skindell said he was discouraged by DeWine's proposed cuts, and said that the Governor didn't seem to understand the importance of public transit for working people across Ohio.

"Our legislation today recognizes that we need to create a transportation system that addresses Ohio’s changing demographics and transportation preferences, links people to jobs and training opportunities, and provides access to businesses and healthcare,” Skindell said in a press release.

Rep. Upchurch, of Cleveland, noted the connection between reduced state funding and higher fares and service cuts at transit systems statewide. (The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is Ohio's largest.)

“Our proposed investment increase in public transit is a historic step forward, but more is needed to address the needs of public transit in Ohio after nearly two decades of under investment,” Upchurch said.

The local advocacy group Clevelanders for Public Transit has long challenged the state's underfunding of transit and has called for a tax-based solution. The $150 million in the Skindell-Upchurch bill would be a mix of State and Federal dollars.

Earlier this week, Cleveland mayoral candidate and outgoing RTA board member Justin Bibb sent a letter to DeWine imploring him to rethink his proposed cuts.

"The availability of reliable public transit is not only a much-needed safety net, it is also critical for those making choices about where to live," Bibb wrote. "As you consider investing $50 million to attract new residents to Ohio, I would suggest, at a minimum, maintaining the State’s current levels of investment in transit. Such investments are proven to drive economic development and quality of life issues."

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