NORMAL — This year's Republican national party platform would be "catastrophic" for Connect Transit if implemented, an official said this week.

"They’ve stated that (mass transit) is a local thing and the federal government should not be in the business of public transportation," said Connect Transit General Manager Andrew Johnson. "That would be catastrophic, to say the least."

The platform, which was approved during last week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, spells out the party's priorities and establishes goals for a potential Donald Trump presidency. It refers to mass transit as "an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population."

"I have seen a draft Democratic platform which vaguely talks about increasing investments in public transportation. No specifics. That’s more promising, but we’ll see," Johnson said.

The final Democratic platform, approved this week at that party's convention in Philadelphia, says officials "will make new investments in public transportation," but includes no further details.

Johnson noted he is "not weighing in on any of the candidates" for president, including Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. The president presents a federal budget request each year, but Congress approves the final budget.

Eliminating Connect Transit's federal funding would cut 20 percent of its $14 million budget, Johnson said. That includes grants that helped make its new route map, debuting Aug. 15, possible by matching new local sales tax money.

"It’s not the first time that's been floated. ... This is a little more extreme," he said of slashing public transportation funding. "It just shows that it is so very valuable for us to continue to state our case to our federal delegation and show the value of public transportation."

The American Public Transportation Association, a group that lobbies for more mass transit spending, also condemned the platform change.

"Hundreds of public transportation systems and the communities they serve can point to the huge impact that public transportation has on the national economy and the lives of everyone in all those communities," Johnson said. "The federal government ... is doing a fantastic job of enabling people to get to work, get to school, go shopping and do whatever they need to do."

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh


Staff Writer

Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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