Eight US Senate Democrats introduced legislation yesterday that would provide $2 billion in emergency funding for cash-strapped transit agencies nationwide. The money would pay for transit operations at agencies that made service cuts, fare increases, or layoffs as the result of local or state transportation budget shortfalls that happened after January 1, 2009.

Both King County Metro and Sound Transit would qualify under those criteria. Metro faced a $213 million shortfall in the 2010-2011 biennium, which it closed, in part, by making service cuts and raising fares, and Sound Transit faces a $3.1 billion shortfall over the next 13 years, which has also forced fare hikes.

Geoff Patrick, a spokesman for Sound Transit, called the proposal "very positive" for the agency, especially because the money can be used for operations, not just capital projects. "The eligibility criteria for this program are among the broadest of all transit funding programs." Patrick said he thought both Sound Transit and Metro would be strong candidates for the money. "The bottom line is, we’re going to continue going for as much money as we can get our hands on."

Rochelle Ogershok, a spokeswoman for Metro, said Metro staff were not yet familiar enough with the proposal to comment on it, but that "we always welcome additional federal support to help with ailing transit budgets."
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