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Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Austin Davis visits Pittsburgh amid push to increase public transit funding

Lt. Gov. Austin Davis visits Pittsburgh amid push for public transit funding
Lt. Gov. Austin Davis visits Pittsburgh amid push for public transit funding 02:33

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - $1.5 billion is how much Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro wants to increase state funding for public transportation in the next five years as a part of his budget proposal. 

Millions of that would go towards Pittsburgh Regional Transit, which Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis took a ride on Friday morning. However, there's some criticism that much more money is going to systems on the east side of the state.

"Without transit, our region's economy would come to a screeching halt," Davis said.

Davis said that's the key focus of their investments in transportation.

A little more than $280 million would go towards public transit across the state in the next year. $40 million of that would go to the PRT, but at least half would go to Philadelphia and its suburban counties to help a troubled transit system called SEPTA.

Davis touts the significance of this investment being, the first major new financing in public transit in more than a decade.

"Every system has different needs. Every system has different priorities. Our plan evaluates that and makes investments in that," Davis said.

However, some folks like Senate President Kim Ward of Hempfield told KDKA last month, that the bill they received from the house puts money into a PennDOT trust fund where there is no accountability or formula.

"The governor's proposal would distribute the funds based on a formula based on ridership," a PRT spokesperson said.

SEPTA is the largest in the state with more than 600,000 rides a day, followed by PRT with 100,000 riders.

No matter the amount, PRT CEO Katharine Kelleman looks forward to the opportunities it would allow them to enhance the system.

"This isn't just about people going places, we provide access to jobs, we increase economic activity, and we allow our neighbors to live independently without the expense, burden, or hassle of owning a car," Kelleman said.

Eventually, they also hope it can provide greater access to more communities.

"We recognize that we need to connect more people with service. This is the first step in that process," Davis said.

State lawmakers have until June 30 to pass the budget. Statewide distribution for future years is still to be determined. 

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