Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposal to add $1.41 billion to state public transit funds over five years — including $39 million a year for Pittsburgh Regional Transit — could face an uphill battle with Senate Republicans.

Shapiro’s proposal Monday to earmark an additional 1.75% of money in the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Trust Fund to provide more money for transit will be part of his budget address Feb. 6. That would provide an extra $282.2 million annually.

Last fall, the state House passed a bill that would have used an additional 2% of the trust fund — about $290 million annually — then tried to implement it through the approval of the tax code that accompanies the state budget. Republicans refused to include that provision.

In a statement Monday, Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, said increasing transit funding would be “a challenging argument to make” since 65% of the money would go to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority around Philadelphia. His caucus has been seeking the ouster of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner because they believe he has been soft on crime, including crimes on public transit.

“Looking at increased investments in public transit requires a closer examination of transportation infrastructure across the commonwealth,” he said. “All areas of our state, rural, suburban and urban, must have a strong and reliable transportation network.”

He encouraged the Legislature to look at other funding sources, including fees for electric vehicle owners who don’t pay the state’s gasoline tax.

In a news release, Shapiro said he has been working for several months with transit officials and political leaders to understand transit needs. Transit agencies haven’t had a funding increase in more than 10 years and could be facing difficult times as extra federal funds awarded during lean ridership in the COVID-19 pandemic are running out.

The proposal would bring about $39 million a year for Pittsburgh Regional, which gets 22% of the funds. The exact amount for SEPTA wasn’t available, but the agency gets 65% of the distribution, and the remaining 13% is divided among smaller agencies across the state.

PRT spokesman Adam Brandolph said in an email the agency would welcome the additional funding because transit is “vitally important to our region.”

“The governor’s proposal would be the first increase to public transit funding in more than a decade,” he said. “It will help ensure Pittsburgh Regional Transit can continue to serve and support Allegheny County.”

Shapiro stressed the importance of public transit to all areas of the state.

“Hundreds of thousands of people across our commonwealth rely on public transit every day to commute to work, go to school and get to where they need to go — and Pennsylvanians deserve clean, safe, cost-effective ways to travel throughout our cities and towns,” he said.

“That’s true all across our commonwealth, whether you’re traveling to work in Philadelphia on SEPTA or you’re a student in Pittsburgh using PRT to get to school. Investing in and improving our public transit systems is a commonsense way to create good-paying jobs, spur economic development and help Pennsylvanians reach their destinations safely.”

As part of the effort to sell the proposal, Shapiro said, SEPTA has made a commitment for improving cleanliness on its system and outlying counties are stepping forward to help with the agency’s financial crunch.

“The governor knows how critical public transit is for Southeastern Pennsylvania, and his proposal would deliver the critical funding we need — providing additional support for SEPTA for the first time in over a decade,” Leslie Richards, SEPTA’s CEO and general manager, said in a news release.

“In these discussions, the governor has also made clear his expectations that we at SEPTA step up to address our community’s serious concerns about cleanliness and safety. We are committed to addressing these concerns so that all SEPTA riders can feel safe as they travel where they need to go.”

Richards told the House Transportation Committee last fall the agency would begin a “death spiral” this year as special federal funds expire.

State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said in an interview that it would be unfair to link transit funding and Philadelphia’s crime problem since criminal incidents on transit account for only about 1% of the city’s crime.

“It’s two different things,” he said. “We have to be mindful of that.”

The Legislature has appointed a special prosecutor to review Krasner’s performance and the agency has increased cameras and security officers, Neilson said, which should be enough to satisfy Republicans and not punish transit riders.

“None of us could live on money from 10 years ago,” he said. “We have to make certain [transit agencies] don’t fail.

“I’m looking forward to vetting the governor’s proposal in the transportation committee and appropriations committee to see what happens.”

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at