The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) has received more than $26 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) to support public transit across the state, Gov. Phil Scott said today.
The $26,772,119 award may be used to pay for 100% of public transit operations and vehicles. Most federal funds for public transit have a 20% or 50% non-federal funds match requirement, which usually comes from State and local resources. The CRRSAA funding will allow AOT to temporarily reduce the State and local funds needed for statewide transit service, allowing for more flexibility and resources to respond to the economic hardships and rebuilding costs associated with the COVID pandemic.
The federal relief funds will be used to address the significant vehicle and facility needs around the state, enabling AOT to replace as many as 30 buses, fund energy-efficient projects, and construct office space in the Rutland region. Operations and payroll are top priorities, and the federal funding will also be used to purchase PPE and sanitize buses.
The federal funding will be welcome to state transportation planners, who will likely be asked by the Legislature to upgrade public transportation. The Transportation Bill, H94, is sponsored by Rep. Curt McCormack (D-Burlington) and co-sponsored by 73 other lawmakers (but no Republicans). The bill would:
– fund free public transportation
– require that new buses be plug-in electric vehicles;
– require certain employers to establish a transportation demand management plan, aimed at reducing commuter traffic (and likely including more reliance on public transportation);
– update Act 250 criteria for transportation.
The House Transportation Committee was scheduled to discuss its public transit budget Tuesday. Most public transportation is funded through municipal and state revenue streams. Free fares for all began during the pandemic, and will continue if H94 passes as written.
Also, a pilot program in Washington County is practicing “on-demand” service. Rather than wait at a bus stop for a scheduled bus to appear, riders call Green Mountain Transit and request door-to-door transportation in smaller GMT vehicles.
On-demand service is seen as a possible alternative to continuing to operate large buses with many unfilled seats due to pandemic restrictions and the trend towards working and shopping at home. Ridership dropped by almost a million due to the pandemic, a Vermont AOT study says.
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