Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KS, introduced a bipartisan bill to the Senate that, if passed, will provide additional funding to public transit in small communities, including Flagstaff.
A similar bill was introduced to the House in early August and was co-sponsored by Arizona Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton. These two bills would provide more money through the Small Transit Intensive Cities Act (STIC), which was established in 2005.
The goal of the program is to increase federal public transit funding for communities with highly-used public transit systems that serve populations between 50,000 and 200,000, as stated by Sen. Sinema’s website. Together, Rep. Stanton’s and Sen. Sinema’s proposed bills would increase funding from 2% to 3% to keep up with the growth and success of the program.
Through the STIC program, communities in Arizona, including Flagstaff, received $1.8 million in 2019, according to a statement from Sen. Sinema.
“Investing in Flagstaff’s public transportation system will create jobs and expand opportunities for the city,” Sen. Sinema said. “I’ll keep partnering with Arizona communities to support critical infrastructure investments.”
Sen. Sinema has introduced various transportation bills that have had positive effects for Arizona throughout her time in the Senate and the House. Most recently, the senator introduced the bipartisan Moving FIRST Act, which, if passed, would enhance and modernize the transportation systems of American cities through the encouragement of innovative technology, according to Sen. Sinema’s website.
Erika Mazza, CEO and general manager of Mountain Line, is no stranger to Sinema’s past and current efforts to improve transportation infrastructure in the state and country.
“Senators Sinema and Moran are two of the leading voices in transportation, and their sponsorship of [STIC] is yet more proof of their continued commitment to transit,” Mazza said in a statement. “I applaud them for introducing this commonsense, bipartisan legislation, and I look forward to working with them on this important issue.”
The prospective increase in funding from the STIC would help counter Mountain Line’s failure to pass Proposition 421 during the 2018 midterm elections. If the legislation passed, Proposition 421 would have created a new tax to support an increased level of bus services in Flagstaff, which would have generated $41 million over 11 years, as stated on the Flagstaff elections website.
Although it is unknown if Sen. Sinema’s funding increase for STIC will reach the president’s desk for signing, Mazza is hopeful the respective funds will help improve transportation.
“This legislation will further reward high-performing small transit systems like Mountain Line with additional funding for achieving the same performance measures as larger systems,” Mazza said. “Transit is about connecting people to their daily lives, and this increased STIC funding proposal affords communities the opportunity to deliver enhanced transit services, thus creating stronger communities.”
Linlin Zhou is an international student from Shanghai, China. Zhou said she uses Mountain Line to get around Flagstaff, just like thousands of other NAU students who rely on public transportation to commute between work, friends, school and entertainment.
“As an international student, I don’t have a car to get around Flagstaff, so Mountain Line is a great and affordable alternative to get around,” Zhou said. “I think it would be great for Mountain Line to increase efficiency with the new funding, because on weekends, I have to wait over an hour for a bus to pick me up at the mall.”
The possibility of Sen. Sinema’s bipartisan STIC funding increase passing anytime soon is unlikely, particularly because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to be a “grim reaper” of progressive policies in the Senate, as reported by CBS News. Although the possibility remains slim, STIC would increase the amount of federal funding for public transportation in Flagstaff by $650,000, according to a statement from Sen. Sinema.