March 29, 2010
Check out the classifieds for job opportunities including a general manager, a director of paratransit, and a regional president with a management firm!
|COVERAGE OF 2010 LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE
Hill Staffers Provide an Inside View
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
APTA Legislative Conference participants got the inside word from Congressional committee staffers from both sides of the aisle during a March 15 “View from the Hill” session. J. Barry Barker, APTA vice chair-government affairs, served as moderator.
Amy Scarton, majority counsel for the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, pointed out the “remarkable tasks” the public transit industry has achieved in the past year.
Regarding implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), she said: “You guys did such a great job in submitting your forms. You achieved an unparalleled victory over the highway sector: 99 percent of projects funded in the first year of ARRA, or more than 14,000 brand new investments that would not have happened without the Recovery Act and your action.”
Scarton also reported on the positive impact the Build America Bonds program will have on public transportation, the removal of limits in New Starts program criteria, and plans for the upcoming transportation authorization bill.
“It really is a new day for transit,” she said. The extension of SAFETEA-LU through Dec. 31, 2010—pending at the time she spoke—would allow transit stakeholders to explain what they don’t want and why, and go into detail about what provisions they do want.
Joyce Rose, minority staff director for the House T&I Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, gave a different perspective. She noted that Rep. John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the full committee, opposes the Obama administration’s proposed new federal rail transit safety program on the grounds that safety concerns for specific transit agencies are inherently a local issue.
“I think there is room to develop some kind of standards” on rail safety, Rose said, but added that she thinks state safety oversight agencies should have jurisdiction in the matter.
Mitch Warren, senior policy advisor to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, mentioned the $19.5 billion being transferred from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.
“We understand the importance of investing in public transportation,” he said. “The question is, how to fund it? This is a significant issue to address.”
Shannon Hines, minority senior professional staff member for the Senate Banking Committee, noting the “fair amount of progress” in the discussion of transportation issues, told the audience: “We welcome a dialogue with you for a new approach.”
Kate Hallahan, a clerk with the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, pointed out that public transit got a modest increase in funding in Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations while other projects received cuts. She said she supports federal support so transit agencies can build their capacity, adding that public transit professionals “have a great story to tell.”