Presentation by Nathan Musick, an analyst in CBO's Microeconomic Studies Division, to the National Tax Association's 52nd Annual Spring Symposium.
The federal government has long provided significant financial support for public transportation. Federal spending accounted for about one-sixth of the $79 billion in public spending on transit in 2019. During the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government played an even greater role in transit funding. In addition to the government's regular annual financial assistance to transit agencies, lawmakers allocated nearly $70 billion in onetime supplemental funding during 2020 and 2021. About one-third of that amount had been spent as of the end of 2021.
Following the provision of the onetime funding, lawmakers enacted the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Public Law 117-58), which increased the federal government's annual support for public transit through 2026. The law provided about $18 billion annually for public transportation programs from 2022 to 2026, 42 percent more than the amount provided from 2016 to 2021. In addition to that increase in funding designated specifically for public transportation, the IIJA also provided about $13 billion in total funding during the 2022–2026 period for new surface transportation programs, potentially including mass transit.