Public Transit Officials Assail Federal Policy

From Associated Press

Transit officials adopted a resolution Monday condemning a federal transportation policy that they said could put some of them out of business, but some praised its author, Transportation Secretary Samuel K. Skinner.

The American Public Transit Assn., which includes transit officials and suppliers from around the country, urged a federal gasoline tax increase of 7 cents a gallon for mass transit and said that Skinner's policy "fails to set clear, meaningful goals for increased transit use."

The resolution was adopted on a unanimous voice vote by about 500 participants.

However, several officials said that they still had faith in Skinner, whose policy was announced at the White House last week.

"I've lost no confidence in Sam Skinner at all," said Rod Diridon, chairman of California's Santa Clara County Transportation Agency. He blamed the policy's shortcomings on changes made by the White House's Office of Management and Budget and Chief of Staff John H. Sununu.

William Millar, manager of Pittsburgh's transit system, said: "All of us have a boss," referring to the fact that Skinner works for President Bush, who has pledged not to raise taxes. "The boss may be saying something different from what any of us may want to do."

Millar said, however, that the new policy, which would shift more responsibility to local governments and decrease federal support for mass transit, could put people out of work and make it impossible for others to get to work.

Hershel R. Payne, head of transportation for Ft. Worth, Tex., said the "increased flexibility" that the policy would give local governments would mean a reduction in federal assistance. "Many systems may even have to close down" and fares in others could go up 25%, he said.

Neil Peterson, Los Angeles County Transportation Commission director, said the proposals would restrict development of a new transit system in the county and mean even more freeway congestion.

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