The Carter administration has failed to provide enough money in proposed legislation to meet the transportation needs of the nation's cities, officials of the American Public Transit Association (APTA) charged yesterday.

Louis Gambacinni, APTA vice president for public affair, and Theodore C. Lutz, chairman of APTA's legislative committee made the charge yesterday as about 300 APTA members gathered here to lobby for increased federal assistance to operate and expand mass transit projects. APTA represents most of the public transit systems in the United States.

Gambacinni, who is also general manager of the commuter rail tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, praised the general drift of the administration's legislative proposal. It would put mass transit matching fund formulas on an equal basis with those for highways.

However, Gambacinni said, the amount of money proposed for new construction or rehabilitation of transit systems "represents real regression" from present funding levels. The total is about the same as in current bills, Gambacinni said, but that means there is "no protection from inflation."

Lutz, general manager of Washington's, Metro, said the administration proposal contains so little money that it would effectively block new starts among cities seeking rail systems. That is because federal commitments to cities with existing systems would use most of the money. The administration proposal calls for $1 billion in rail funding for next year.

Four cities - Honolulu, San Juan, Los Angeles and Detroit - are in advanced stages of planning rail systems. About "12 to 20" other cities are considering some kind of rail system, according to Richard S. Page, chief of the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration.

Sen. Harrison A. William Jr. (D-N.J.), sponsor of a bill that would significantly increase aid to transit, told APTA delegates that "we clearly are in a more promising situation" this year. His bill was laid aside last year.

Gambacinni also said that APTA favors a mass transit trust fund, similar to the highway trust fund, to guarantee long-term federal expenditures for transit projects.

Such a proposal is backed by Rep. James J. Howard (D-N.J.), chairman of the surface transportation subcommittee of the House Public Works Committee.Howard said yesterday he hopes money for a trust fund could come from the wellhead tax that is part of the energy bill currently stalled in conference.

Howard said he supported higher funding levels for transit and encouraged APTA delegates to work on their congressmen. "Don't take anybody for granted," he said.