Public transit agencies see increased Oklahoma funding

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More than three dozen public transit agencies in Oklahoma will be getting additional state funding, the first increase in 17 years.

Rep. Nicole Miller of Edmond and Sen. John Haste of Broken Arrow, both Republicans said this week in an announcement that Oklahoma Senate Bill 1040 paved the way for what they called “a desperately needed increase” in state transit funding in the state budget.

The two were chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations & Budget Subcommittees for Transportation and worked to secure this first increase of its kind in over 17 years. The $5 million dollar increase will allow state public transit agencies to continue to support Oklahoma residents who rely on transit services for transportation.

The funds will be allocated through the Oklahoma Department of Transportation state revolving fund and will help combat the rising cost of operations, fuel, and vehicles for transit operators statewide.  Public transit serves all 77 counties in Oklahoma and gave over 10 million rides to Oklahoma residents last year.

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“This legislation will help Oklahomans to get to work, to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office and more if they can’t or don’t want to drive,” Haste said. “It serves our entire state, as 99% of Oklahoma residents live near a transit route regardless of if they are in an urban, tribal or a rural area. Additionally, for every dollar invested in public transportation, approximately four dollars in economic returns are generated in our communities.

“The Oklahoma Transit Association brought the urgent need for help with this situation to our attention as their fleets continue to age and the cost of fuel and operations continues to increase,” Haste continued. “We are pleased that we were able to respond and support the 37 Transit Agencies in Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation with these additional funds.”

Miller concurred and added, “A lack of state matching money in the past resulted in Oklahoma leaving an estimated $10 million dollars in federal funding on the table for transit. Coupled with an already aging fleet of vehicles and current lack of access to new vehicles, these funds are needed now more than ever. They will allow our public transit agencies to be competitive for federal dollars and have the tools needed to continue to provide critical services for our residents.”

SB1040 is the overall general appropriations bill that funds core state government services for Fiscal Year 2023. Transit was just a portion of the bill. The measure passed during the regular session of the Legislature this year and took effect without the governor’s signature.

Source: House release