The fare increases and reductions in public transportation services experienced across the country could have been lessened or prevented by more flexibility in federal funding rules, according to a report from Washington-based Transportation for America (TA) and the Chicago-based Transportation Equity Network (TEN). The report, "Stranded at the Station: The Impact of the Financial Crisis in Public Transportation," also identifies the 10 public transportation systems that are experiencing the highest budget deficits.

"Stranded at the Station" examined 25 public transportation systems and found that historic ridership and service demands, combined with a funding crisis generated by the recession, were compounded by a lack of or limitations on federal transportation funding. "The result is dramatic service cuts and fare increases that are hurting people who are trying to hang onto hard-to-find jobs and who can least afford the added financial strain," said TEN's Chairperson Sarah Mullins in a statement. Both rural and urban communities depend on public transit to sustain a viable workforce and encourage new development and commerce, Mullins said.

Seven systems are facing operating deficits in excess of 10 percent, including those in Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Boston, according to the report. To cope, agencies are lopping off routes, laying off workers and raising fares. Ten of the largest 25 transit agencies are raising fares by more than 13 percent, with San Francisco's Muni contemplating a 33 percent hike, Boston's MTA 20 percent, and DART in Dallas 17 percent.

The report also found that low-income, elderly and minority public transportation riders have been most affected by the higher fares and service cuts, populations that account for nearly 48% of households without a vehicle.

View the entire "Stranded at the Station" report on Transportation for America's Web site.

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