Passenger Transport - March 2, 2009
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Obama Releases $3.6 Trillion Budget Plan for FY 2010; Includes $72.5 Billion for U.S. DOT
President Obama released his proposed $3.6 trillion federal budget “framework” for Fiscal Years 2010 and beyond on Feb. 26. The specifics of the budget (including all account-level data) are expected to be released in April.
For U.S. DOT, the FY 2010 budget proposes $72.5 billion in discretionary budgetary resources—about $1.8 billion more than the $70.7 billion appropriated in the version of the omnibus FY 2009 appropriations bill passed by the House, or an increase of 2.5 percent.
Highlights of the U.S. DOT budget include four goals, specifically one that calls for increasing funds for public transit. They are:
* A commitment to better target surface transportation spending and options to make the nation’s communities more livable and less congested, such as through road pricing;
* Increased funding for public transit to support commuters, improve air quality, and reduce greenhouse gases;
* Backing for development of high-speed rail networks across the country to link regional population centers; and
* Supporting the Next Generation Air Transportation System to modernize the air traffic control system.
The document states: “The Administration intends to work with the Congress to reform surface transportation programs both to put the system on a sustainable financing path and to make investments in a more sustainable future, enhancing transit options and making our economy more productive and our communities more livable. Further, the nation’s surface transportation system must generate the best investments to reduce congestion and improve safety. To do so, the Administration will emphasize the use of economic analysis and performance measurement in transportation planning. This will ensure that taxpayer dollars are better targeted and spent.”
The budget also proposes a new $1 billion per year appropriation over the next five years for high-speed rail development, to complement the $8 billion “jump-start” in rail funding provided by the economic stimulus law.
The budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security includes a provision to safeguard the nation’s transportation systems through additional resources to bolster critical transportation sectors and by leveraging a user fee to minimize overall costs.
The document is available here.
Obama Promotes Transit to Congress and the Nation
In President Barack Obama’s first address to a Joint Session of Congress (the equivalent of a State of the Union Speech in a non-election year) on Feb. 24, he cited public transportation among his administration’s top priorities.
As he began his discussion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and how it will save or create 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, he said: “More than 90 percent of these jobs will be in the private sector—jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.”
“We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” he said. “The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth.”
In response to the statement, APTA President William W. Millar said: “APTA and all its members were pleased to hear President Obama promote public transportation in his first speech before a Joint Session of Congress. We are delighted that he recognizes the critical role that public transit plays in our nation’s economic well-being.”
Commission Report: Increase Investment at All Levels
All levels of government—federal, state, regional, and local—must increase their financial investment in transportation to overcome the current shortfall, and the federal government must take a strong role in the process.
That was the conclusion of Paying Our Way: A New Framework for Transportation Finance, the report released Feb. 26 in Washington, DC, by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission.
Language in SAFETEA-LU established the commission and charged it with analyzing future highway and transit needs and the finances of the Highway Trust Fund and making recommendations regarding alternative approaches to financing transportation infrastructure. The chair of the 15-member body is Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The report demonstrates that current investment in the nation’s surface transportation system is only about 35 percent of the necessary level. It also calls for immediate restoration of the purchasing power of dedicated revenue for public transportation and other surface transportation investments to 1993 levels, when those sources were last raised, and for the indexing of these revenue sources to account for future inflation.
Current annual capital investment from all sources is $42 billion for public transit and $131 billion for highways, which translates into annual federal transit and highway spending requirements of $19 billion and $59 billion respectively. Using the baseline forecast of average annual Highway Trust Fund revenues of $32 billion, the resulting annual federal investment gap for transit and highways is $46 billion.
The numbers are even higher for improvements to surface transportation, the report states: total annual spending of $49 billion for transit and $165 billion for highways. The associated annual federal funding requirement would be $96 billion for transit and highways combined, leaving an annual federal shortfall of $64 billion.
The commission points out that a 10-cent increase in the per-gallon gas tax equals one-half cent per mile, $5 per month, $9 per household per month, and $109 per year. In the long term, it recommends an eventual shift away from per-gallon fuel taxes to a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax, but not to tie the use of funding to VMT.
The report also includes these recommendations:
* Opposition to any “opt-out” program for states;
* Opposition to any tax of transit tickets or fares;
* Balanced recommendations on public-private practices, citing APTA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials as groups that should develop standards and best practices;
* Support of transit as an eligible use of toll funding; and
* A new federal discretionary financing mechanism for Projects of National Significance using tax credit bonds.
“The report released today by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission is sobering, yet it contains strong recommendations to the Congress,” said APTA President William W. Millar. “It warns of the enormous and growing gap between current transportation revenues and the investment levels needed in the nation’s public transportation and highway systems to restore vibrancy to the American economy….Increased investment in transportation infrastructure can and should be the leading way to re-energize the economy with jobs, productivity, growth, and competitiveness.”
More information on the report is available here.
FY 2009 Omnibus Bill Provides Record $10.23 Billion for Public Transit
By JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications
The long-awaited Fiscal Year 2009 federal budget omnibus bill passed Feb. 25 by the U.S. House of Representatives includes $10.23 billion in new budget authority for public transportation--$740 million more than the FY 2008 budget and an all-time high for transit.
The bill is expected to be considered in the Senate next week.
The funding level in the omnibus is a 7.8 percent increase over FY 2008 for transit funding, but $106 million less than the level authorized in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
The bill passed the House by a vote of 245 to 178.
In 2008, the 110th Congress chose to pass complete FY 2009 funding bills for only three Cabinet departments: Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. The other 12 Cabinet departments—including U.S. DOT—have instead been operating under a continuing resolution that expires March 6.
Therefore, Congress must pass a budget omnibus bill by that date to fund the remaining departments through Sept. 30—which is also when SAFETEA-LU expires.
FY 2009 appropriations for the Federal Transit Administration would total $10.23 billion under the House bill, broken down as follows:
* Formula Programs: $7.37 billion—the full level authorized by SAFETEA-LU for each program, and a growth of more than $430 million from FY 2008 appropriated levels;
* Bus and Bus Facilities Grants: $884 million—$100 million short of the SAFETEA-LU authorized level, but still nearly $61 million more than last year;
* New Starts and Small Starts: $1.81 billion—matching the level authorized in SAFETEA-LU and $240 million above FY 2008 levels; and
* Research Grants: $67 million. The $2.8 million shortfall from the level of funding authorized in SAFETEA-LU is reflected in appropriations for national research programs.
The Omnibus Appropriations Act also includes funding for the following programs:
* Rail Safety: $1.4 million to implement the requirements of the Rail Safety and Improvement Act of 2008;
* Passenger Rail: $90 million for capital assistance to states for intercity passenger rail service, a growth of $60 million from FY 2008 levels; and
* Amtrak: $1.49 billion for operations, capital improvements, and debt service, $165 million more than the amount appropriated in FY 2008.
The above funds are in addition to those included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Blumenauer Plan Calls for Transportation Financing Reforms
By JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a member of the House Ways and Means and Budget committees, convened a discussion with industry leaders on ways to reform infrastructure financing so solvency can be restored to the Highway Trust Fund. Reforms advocated at the Feb. 27 event, held at the National Press Club in Washington, include an increase in the gas tax and an eventual shift to a fee based on Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of per gallon of fuel—a system pioneered in Oregon.
Numerous industry and advocacy leaders joined Blumenauer at the program.
Blumenauer called for an investment of “at least $500-$600 billion over the next six years,” and detailed his strategy for financing transportation infrastructure at $100 billion per year—an amount he called “an appropriate floor.” Citing the widespread support for such investment, not only in the electorate but across nearly all industry groups, he added, “the missing link in the chain of forces leading to this solution is in the political sector.”
Blumenauer’s 10-year strategy for infrastructure financing, A National Plan to Reinvest in America, includes elements of the final report released earlier this week by the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Committee, including an eventual repeal of the gas tax and implementation of a road-use fee based on VMT by 2020. In addition, his plan calls for a per-barrel excise fee to establish a floor price for oil, which would help to stabilize this commodity and maintain motivation for the development of new fuel-saving technologies.
The plan also includes an expansion of funding sources for transportation infrastructure, which possibly may include freight charges, tax credit bonds, and user and vehicle fees.
Another element of Blumenauer’s plan is the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act, co-sponsored by Reps. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH) in the House. This bill would allow for the cap and trade of greenhouse-gas emissions, and would devote 10 percent of the revenues from such auctions to funding public transit, transit-oriented development, and measures to increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Sponsors of this measure in the Senate are Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
APTA President William W. Millar, who spoke at the announcement, said: “I congratulate Congressman Blumenauer for his leadership in beginning a conversation that is always difficult—how to find the revenue to adequately invest in our transportation infrastructure.”
Support for the Blumenauer plan was unanimous among industry and advocacy leaders who spoke at the event, representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, American Institute of Architects, Associated General Contractors of America, Environmental Defense Fund, the National Construction Alliance, Transportation for America, and Association of American Railroads.
FTA Updates Recovery Act Apportionment Guidance
With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the Federal Transit Administration has now posted preliminary information about apportionments (distribution of transportation stimulus funds through formula programs) on its web site.
FTA is not publishing decisions or requirements related to the three discretionary programs identified in the ARRA at this time. These formula apportionment tables will show up in final form when the Federal Register publishes FTA’s notice containing the tables, as well as application instructions for grantees.
The web site offers the following preliminary apportionment tables:
* Appropriations for Grant Programs.
* Transit Capital Assistance and Section 5340 Urbanized Area Apportionments.
* Transit Capital Assistance and Section 5307 Apportionment Formula (Urbanized Areas).
* Formula Grant Program Apportionment Data Unit Values.
* Fixed Guideways Infrastructure Investment Apportionments.
* Fixed Guideways Infrastructure Investment Program Apportionment Formula.
* Transit Capital Assistance and Section 5340 Nonurbanized Apportionments.
Once FTA completes a final quality control review, it will incorporate the final dollar amounts into a notice that appears in the Federal Register.
The $8.4 billion in transit-related ARRA funding includes:
* $6.9 billion for capital projects, distributed as follows:
* $5.44 billion under the Urban formula (Section 5307), not including Transit Intensive Cities Tier.
* $680 million under the Rural formula (Section 5311).
* $680 million under the Growing States and High Density formula (Section 5340).
* $100 million for new discretionary grants.
* $750 million in Fixed Guideway Modernization, allocated to urbanized areas using regular Section 5309 FGM formula, Tiers 1, 2, 3, and part of 4.
* $750 million in Major Capital Investments. FTA will give “priority to projects under construction or able to obligate funds within 150 days.”
* $17 million for Tribal Transit. Competitive solicitation and selection? using existing procedures, capital projects only.
For the purposes of the withdrawal provision, FTA will consider funds obligated on the date of grant award.
Separately, the bill also provides $8 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail, which will be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Light Rail Crews Dig Up the Past in Norfolk, VA
By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
The history of Norfolk, VA, dates back more than 300 years, and surprising amounts of it are hiding just underfoot. That’s what work crews for Hampton Roads Transit are discovering as they excavate downtown sites in preparation for construction of The Tide light rail line.
Along with building foundations and artifacts that turned up in downtown Norfolk, construction workers have unexpectedly found evidence of earlier modes of transportation: railroad timbers and trolley tracks.
City Historian Peggy Haile McPhillips explained that the city began operating horse-drawn trolleys in 1870, and introduced electric trolleys in 1894—not long after Richmond, VA, made history with the first electric-powered streetcar line in 1888. The city abandoned trolley service in 1948, although it maintained operation through World War II to meet the needs of the many military and defense workers who packed the city.
“I can remember in years gone by,” McPhillips said, “when a crew was working on Hampton Boulevard, one of our north-south streets, and the project took a lot longer than they thought because they had to dig out the trolley tracks they had found, just covered over. The construction teams learned to allow for a little extra time with digging.”
Paul Filion, Norfolk’s transportation construction project manager, said he often heard from people who remembered the old trolley service during the neighborhood outreach process for The Tide. He recounted how construction has unearthed evidence of abandoned, capped water lines near City Hall, which may have supported a residential neighborhood, and heavy concrete foundations for old warehouses.
“We’re just touching the surface on downtown excavation,” Filion added.
He also described another confluence between past and present rail construction, where The Tide will run between Norfolk and the Virginia Beach city line along an abandoned rail line previously used by Norfolk Southern. The light rail line will operate on newly installed double track instead of the existing single track, which has not been used in decades and would need extensive maintenance; construction teams also have excavated the wooden rail ties and recycled the old steel rail, he said.
“The footprint for The Tide, for the most part, remains about the same width as the Norfolk Southern line,” Filion said. “We were fortunate to be able to squeeze in a starter rail line without needing numerous property acquisitions.”
McPhillips emphasized that the downtown area has been a crossroads for travelers for centuries. “Norfolk was always a busy port,” she said, “with a lot of people coming here, either on purpose or passing through to somewhere else. There’s a lot of traffic in the downtown area, always was. It’s where people lived until we started expanding into the suburbs; people lived near where they worked. We had a mixture of businesses and homes, with places of entertainment nearby…and it’s still there, underneath your feet.”
UITP to Convene 58th Congress; FTA, APTA Promoting U.S. Firms
The International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) 58th World Congress and concurrent Mobility & City Transport Exhibition will take place June 7-11 in Vienna, Austria. The Federal Transit Administration, working in conjunction with APTA and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service in Vienna, is providing assistance to participating U.S. companies.
They have created a business plan for U.S. participants in the show, which includes elements of business matchmaking, market information, and networking—and extends beyond Austria into central and eastern Europe. CS Vienna will also provide U.S. firms with information about pending public transportation projects in the region.
In addition to promoting the show and the exhibit to U.S. companies in America and Europe, CS Vienna will work with area partner offices to advance the presence of the U.S. exhibitors to likely UITP participants throughout the region. Other activities will include a half-day business seminar for U.S. companies and a reception for approximately 100 invited guests.
The theme of the UITP World Congress is “Public Transport: making the right mobility choices,” which changes the question facing communities from whether to invest in public transportation to selecting which mode is the best option for their needs.
John Inglish, general manager and chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City, will speak at the event, as will more than 100 other individuals representing 36 countries.
Public transportation provides approximately 5.5 million trips each weekday throughout Austria—or 2,084 miles on average per person per year, the largest figure in the European Union. Wiener Linien, the Vienna public transport company, operates a public transport network of 120 lines (including five underground lines, 32 tram lines and 83 bus lines), and 782 underground trains, 527 tram cars and 478 buses that operate with liquefied petroleum gas.
More information is available by contacting FTA’s Rita Daguillard.
Growth Through Exports: Taking the Risk Out of Selling Abroad
By DAN RENBERG, Partner, Arent Fox LLP, Washington, DC
In the challenging economic climate of today, companies need to explore new options to expand sales and reduce risks. Whether you sell products, services, or technologies, domestic demand in 2009 may not be sufficient to meet your revenue targets, which is why international sales may provide additional opportunities for revenue growth by increasing your sales volume or offering the chance to sell the same product at higher margins because of higher demand.
Export Finance Strategies for the Transit Sector
Foreign purchasers of U.S. goods, services, and technology might be attractive sources of new sales, but there is often a perceived disconnect between their willingness to buy and their ability to pay.
During a panel discussion at the 2008 APTA Annual Meeting in San Diego, experts from the transportation and finance sectors joined federal representatives to discuss export finance strategies that APTA members can use to increase their foreign sales.
They stressed that emerging markets in particular are trying to create and expand public transit fleets and embark on new passenger rail projects, and emphasized the critical role of export finance solutions in satisfying the needs of foreign buyers around the globe.
At a time of credit squeezes, fluctuating markets, currency volatility, and declining demand in many sectors, transit industry companies must consider using such export finance tools as those offered by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and some private-sector solutions. These financing products will protect against payment defaults by foreign buyers; reduce the need for substantial up-front cash payments, making U.S. products, services, or technologies more affordable; and provide critical working capital and liquidity to exporting companies.
Ex-Im Bank, which began financing exports in 1934 during the Great Depression, has operated as an independent federal agency since 1945. It has financed more than $450 billion in U.S. exports, including such infrastructure projects such as highways, airports, and public transportation (buses, subways, and rail).
Filling the Credit Gap
Ex-Im Bank and private export financing solutions can help you fill the credit gap that has emerged in recent months. Foreign buyers may be interested in your clean fuel buses, engineering services, farecard collection machines, or brake pads, but they may seek help to finance their purchases or you may need additional working capital to fulfill a contract.
Gary Mendell, founder of Meridian Finance Group in Los Angeles, said: “Companies in less developed markets face scarce capital, limited access to hard currency, and high interest rates, making it difficult or impossible to import without payment terms, but exporters/lenders face greater risk of defaults.” He cited typical export credit risks including customer bankruptcy or insolvency; slow payments and other cash flow problems for the buyer; general economic conditions, expropriation, and other political risks; currency fluctuations; and changes in foreign governments, policies, and regulations.
Possible solutions from Ex-Im Bank include working capital loan guarantees (pre-export financing) where you need help in fulfilling an export contract, and buyer financing options that include direct loans to foreign buyers, loan guarantees, and export credit insurance. The private sector also offers export credit insurance options.
Generating Working Capital for an Export Transaction
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Ex-Im Bank offer working capital financing that involves a guarantee of a bank loan to a creditworthy U.S. company that needs help fulfilling its export sales orders and to generate immediate cash.
Under this program, exporters can use the loan proceeds to pay for raw materials, equipment, supplies, labor, and overhead to produce goods and/or provide services for export and to purchase finished products for export as well. This process requires no minimum and maximum transaction amounts, and Ex-Im Bank will typically guarantee 90 percent of the bank loan—including principal and interest—making the loan far more attractive to U.S. commercial bankers.
Cash or Credit: Helping a Buyer Afford Your Price
You can help your foreign buyer afford its purchases by using Ex-Im Bank loans, loan guarantees, or credit insurance. Ex-Im Bank prefers to guarantee loans made by banks located in the U.S. in support of exports of goods, services, and technologies, with the commercial bank applying for the guarantee of its loan to a foreign borrower.
Usually, the loan guarantee will cover 100 percent of the principal and interest remaining after the buyer makes a 15 percent cash down payment. The repayment terms vary based on the borrower’s financial, industry, and country conditions, and certain international agreements among governments. The lender sets the interest rate and Ex-Im Bank adds an up-front fee to cover some of its exposure. Essentially, the exporter receives payment from the commercial lender as soon at it has shipped its product(s), provided its services, or transmitted its technology (in the case of software).
This federal agency demonstrated its global reach a few years ago when it helped Tanzania’s East African Line Ltd. purchase three buses for intercity transportation from Blue Bird of Macon, GA, for $327,000, guaranteeing a Riggs National Bank loan that had a five-year repayment period.
The Role of Insurance
You can buy insurance if you don’t have total confidence that your buyer will pay. Ex-Im Bank insurance has allowed U.S. bus manufacturers to sell in markets such as Ghana and Cameroon and exporters of used buses to sell into markets like Mexico without fear of nonpayment by the foreign buyer.
Both Ex-Im Bank and private-sector credit insurance options are available, with many qualified insurance brokers who specialize in this kind of insurance: Ex-Im Bank’s web site maintains a list of current active brokers by state. Short-term insurance, usually less than 180 days, permits you to extend competitive credit terms (open account, net 90 days, for example) while minimizing risks. Effectively, it is like health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, or car insurance, since you purchase a policy to cover the risk of loss. In this case, it would be the failure of the buyer to pay for what you have sold it.
Ex-Im Bank requires that products must have at least 51 percent U.S. content and eligible services must be performed by U.S.-based personnel, whereas the private sector does not mandate those requirements.
Export credit insurance insures shipments (including where letters of credit are used) and usually covers 95 percent of commercial losses based on insolvency, bankruptcy, and default; political losses because of war or revolution; cancellation of an import or export license; and currency inconvertibility. The insurance premium an applicant/exporter pays will vary by the risk of the foreign buyer and the amount of the export.
Reducing Risk in Africa, Mexico, and China
Allan Silver of North American Bus Industries Inc. noted ways to mitigate export finance risk, including requiring a larger down payment; offering a shorter term; providing greater frequency of payments, front-loaded payment schedules, or letters of credit; and using “cross-border experts” such as Ex-Im Bank and multilateral agencies (International Finance Corporation/World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency).
Silver described a transaction in which the sovereign government of a sub-Saharan nation committed to purchasing 1,000 transit buses for $159 million, including freight and spares, with repayment expected to take five to 10 years from the delivery of the last 100 buses. NABI weighed three options, including Ex-Im Bank, which offered to guarantee payment fully and offered seven-year terms, with 85 percent covered at a rate of 8 percent, and a private insurer that offered competitive terms.
Another example: Ex-Im Bank financing helped Cubic Corporation sell $5 million of entry/exit gates and ticket vending machines to Sistema de Transporte Collectivo Metrorrey in Monterrey, Mexico, for three light rail lines and more than 50 stations. In this transaction, the buyer financed 85 percent of the contract price at five-to-seven-year terms, with a commercial bank also financing the 15 percent cash down payment.
Similarly, Cubic has used Ex-Im Bank loans to extend credit terms to the transit systems in Shanghai and Guangzhou, China, which purchased high-tech fare collection gates and ticket vending machines. The agencies purchased the fare equipment on 10-year terms with pricing designed to match export finance offered by competitors in other nations whose own Ex-Im Bank-like agencies made concessionary terms available.
More Tools for Your Toolbox
Ex-Im Bank’s leadership and staff have been modifying the agency’s policies to help exporters weather the challenging economic conditions. Late last year, then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson announced an agreement with his Chinese counterpart to increase the availability of trade finance between the two nations by $38 billion, relying in part on the U.S. Ex-Im Bank to make available an additional $12 billion in short, medium, and long-term trade finance for U.S. exporters trying to sell into China.
Earlier in 2008, Ex-Im Bank created new internal authority to approve requests for up to $2.9 billion in insurance cover involving letters of credit issued by 11 Korean financial institutions, after learning from banks and brokers that instability in the Korean market had led to a significant gap in commercial capacity to support letters of credit issued by those institutions.
The agency also modified its Working Capital loan guarantee product, which is of particular use to small business exporters, including making such loans available for the first time to companies that produce goods or services that are sold to U.S. companies and are subsequently exported. Previously, a working capital loan guarantee could only help a company that was directly exporting.
The Bottom Line
While the market continues to sort itself out in the first half of 2009, consider exploring international sales opportunities and familiarizing yourself with the export finance opportunities available from private sector institutions and U.S. government institutions like Ex-Im Bank and the SBA. Others in the transit sector have done so for years and it is at times like this, when there is a heightened risk of nonpayment, that the financial products offered by these entities can help solve the trade finance gap, stimulate critically needed exports, and help your company preserve and create new jobs.
Editor’s Note: For more information, contact the Export-Import Bank or the author.
COMTO Sponsors Summit on Transportation and the Economy
On March 5, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials will sponsor a summit examining the impact of the $900 billion economic stimulus legislation recently signed by President Obama. The law firm Patton Boggs LLP will host the event at its offices, 2550 M St. N.W., Washington, DC.
Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist and the first African American to run a national presidential campaign, will be the keynote speaker. APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., and APTA President William W. Millar are among the many presenters.
“The time to overhaul the nation’s transportation systems and create jobs is now,” said COMTO National Chair Shirley A. DeLibero. “These are historic times for the transportation industry and we must speak with one voice to help revitalize our economy,” she continued. “We need fresh ideas.”
For more information, contact Ramonica D.M. Moore.
Simpson, Little, Nagaraja Form Spartan Solutions
Three former federal transportation and transit industry officials have formed Spartan Solutions Inc. to provide comprehensive strategic advisory services to private industry, state transportation departments, and transit operators.
The partners are James S. Simpson, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration from August 2006 to November 2008; Sherry Little, FTA deputy administrator and acting administrator from February 2007 to January 2009; and Mysore Nagaraja, most recently president of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Capital Construction Company.
The new venture will help public and private sector clients seeking to participate in major capital transportation projects obtained through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to navigate such complexities as initial policy and planning considerations, financing and risk assessment, engineering, contracting, procurement, and the construction and operation of infrastructure projects nationwide.
Tampa’s HART Provides ‘Super’ Service on Game Day; in Pittsburgh, A Winning Game Plan for Steelers Celebration
When the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals met at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, for Super Bowl XLIII, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit was standing by to provide a record number of rides. Most of these were on the TECO Line Streetcar System, which provided more than 45,000 rides during Super Bowl weekend, compared with 2,500 on a regular Saturday or 1,200 on an average weekday.
The TECO Line serves Tampa’s Ybor City historic district, where Fox Sports taped its program The Best Damn Sports Show, Period, as part of Super Bowl festivities.
While HART did not operate shuttles to the game because of the federal charter service regulations enacted last year, it did extend its hours of service on the streetcar line and rubber-wheel trolleys. Also, several hundred riders traveled from downtown Tampa to the stadium on HART’s local bus Route 7, which operated longer than usual hours on game day and carried about 100 more riders than on an average Sunday.
Immediately after the Steelers’ claimed their Super Bowl win, the Port Authority of Allegheny County began planning for the team’s victory parade back in Pittsburgh.
Originally, city and county leaders had considered skipping a parade, keeping in mind the horrendous traffic problems in 2006 that nearly brought the city to a halt following the team’s last Super Bowl victory. At the eleventh hour, however, they went with the parade, but implemented tricter guidelines and a significant amount of help from Port Authority.
After discussing several options for the parade route, Port Authority Assistant Manager of Road Operations Chuck Rompala’s suggestion of using the agency’s Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway as a starting point for the parade was chosen. He also proposed that Port Authority schedule extra bus and rail service for an estimated 350,000 Steelers fans.
One more critical detail: The authority held responsibility for transporting the “black and gold” players, their families, coaches, and even owner Dan Rooney, to the parade. Appropriately, it used six gold buses to carry the six-time Super Bowl champs from the team’s South Side practice facility.
A Conversation with HART's David Armijo: Part 2 of 2
By DOUG EADIE
In my last column, I shared points that David Armijo, chief executive officer of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, made over the course of our recent half-day meeting, touching on strategic issues facing HART and critical CEO attributes and skills. This column continues the dialogue.
Doug: David, you mentioned stakeholder relations as one of your top CEO priorities. Would you expand on this facet of your work?
David: I’d be happy to, Doug; there’s no area of my work that is closer to my heart.
First, let’s talk about who these stakeholders are. They’re groups of people, organizations, and sometimes even individuals that it makes good sense to develop and manage a relationship with because of the stakes involved, including such things as political support, money, and collaboration.
The public at large in Tampa Bay, including all residents, not just our riders, are HART’s – and my – pre-eminent stakeholders. So I spend a lot of my time out in the community, speaking to civic groups and meeting with the media, making sure that our vision and strategies for the future and the good work we’re doing here in Tampa Bay are widely understood and appreciated. Of course, I share this diplomatic role with the HART board, but that doesn’t mean that I can expect my board members, who are, after all, unpaid volunteers with many other demands, to match my effort as HART’s ambassador-in-chief.
Internally, the board of directors is one of my highest-priority stakeholders, of course, and I’ve also got to be very visible to, and communicate effectively with, staff – and with the union as well, which I really do view as part of the HART team. Naturally, we have our differences now and then, but I refuse to treat the union as an adversary.
I take my internal diplomatic role very seriously. For example, I make a point of participating in frequent staff roundtables at our various locations, and the $30 gift card we gave to all employees last Christmas, while it wasn’t a huge bonus by any means, was really appreciated.
As far as specific external stakeholders are concerned, we’ve significantly upgraded our working relationship with the state of Florida by establishing a full-time legislative relations function, and we’ve cemented an especially close working relationship with the mayor of Tampa, Pam Iorio, who is an outspoken, and very influential, proponent of HART’s establishing light rail service. Pam hasn’t agreed with us on every issue, naturally; for example, she’s expressed strong reservations about Bus Rapid Transit development, seeing it as drawing attention away from light rail. But her strong, consistent advocacy for public transportation in Tampa Bay makes her a highly valued partner, and we pay really close attention to keeping our working relationship with Pam close, positive, and productive.
Doug: Tell me about your relationship with the HART Board of Directors, starting with what you consider the board’s greatest strengths as HART’s governing body.
David: My board has been consistently encouraging and supportive during my first 18 months as HART’s CEO, and I’ve been able to use the group as a powerful sounding board for testing ideas and possible initiatives. I’d say that, as a governing body, my board deserves kudos for its strategic decision-making, especially framing a vision for the future.
You should know, Doug, that I treat my board as a precious asset and critical partner in leading HART. I’ve made sure that the board plays a creative, proactive role in making strategic decisions through our upgraded agency planning process, and I’m currently working with the board chair to launch a systematic board development initiative, involving our holding a full-fledged strategic planning retreat, updating the board’s governing role and functions, and modernizing the board’s committee structure.
I’ve also taken a number of steps to improve communication with the board. For example, I meet regularly with individual board members and have instituted a weekly email update and a news blast to ensure that they’re never caught off guard by developments.
Doug: What do you find most satisfying in your CEO role, and, flipping the coin over, what do you find least satisfying?
David: I absolutely love the decision-making dimension of being HART’s CEO. I relish the opportunity to play a leading role, with my board, in making the kind of high-impact strategic and operational decisions that make a significant difference in the community. I wake up every morning keenly aware that we at HART are in a position to play a key role in helping Tampa Bay realize its tremendous promise as a metropolitan superstar of the future.
I’m a positive thinker, so I don’t like to focus on the downside. However, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I don’t find very enjoyable or satisfying having to deal with employees whose performance is sub-par. This just comes with the CEO turf, and I’d be doing HART a disservice if I failed to address underperforming employees, so I don’t waffle in dealing with underperformers. But like that part of my CEO role? No way.
Doug: Well, David, knowing that you prefer focusing on the positive, I’ll risk asking you this final question: What mistake have you made since becoming CEO of HART that has taught you a valuable lesson?
David: Actually, Doug, I consider mistakes a valuable part of growing, just so long as you act on the lessons they teach. One of mine that comes to mind has to do with our streetcar line. Shortly after arriving on the scene at HART, I learned that the line was in such bad shape financially that immediate action was needed to avert a fiscal catastrophe. I was right about the issue, but I got ahead of the streetcar board in attempting to resolve the problem. Everything turned out OK, but I found myself having to backtrack in building understanding and support. The lesson I learned? Communicate, communicate, communicate; involve, involve, involve! You can’t go it alone as a CEO, not for long, anyway.
Doug Eadie is president & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company.
Oberstar, Mica, Blumenauer Headline APTA Legislative Conference; LaHood to Speak Monday Afternoon
“The essential ingredient of politics is timing,” declared former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. This is certainly the case for APTA’s 34th Annual Legislative Conference, to be held at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington.
With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorizing billions for public transit and high speed rail, with SAFETEA-LU expiring Sept. 30, and with a new authorization on the horizon, the timing could not be better.
Members attending this conference will hear from such featured speakers as the chair and ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: the committee chair, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), will address the Opening General Session on Monday morning, March 9, and the ranking member, Rep. John Mica (R-FL), will join longtime public transit supporter Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) on Tuesday, March 10. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will address the conference at 1:45 p.m. March 9.
Prior to the opening of the conference, a March 7 breakfast session will provide all APTA members with an opportunity to help develop the association’s next multi-year strategic plan. The weekend’s activities also will include numerous committee meetings; the March 8 “Welcome to Washington” session featuring Norman Ornstein, a commentator and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute; and the Welcoming Reception that evening at the majestic National Building Museum, featuring the Green Community exhibit sponsored by APTA.
Patrick McCrory, mayor of Charlotte, NC, will address a sit-down breakfast briefing on Monday morning, March 9; APTA’s business members are sponsoring this event—“The ‘Insider’ Perspective for the Transit Industry.”
Oberstar joins APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., and APTA President William W. Millar for welcoming remarks at the Opening General Session on the theme “What’s Ahead for Transit—New Opportunities in 2009.”
Directly following that assembly, members will hear representatives of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Transportation for America, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Community Transportation Association of America, and the Amalgamated Transit Union discuss “Expanding the Transit Coalition: Partners in the Authorization Debate.” For a lighter look at legislation and politics, the Capitol Steps will again bring their brand of musical political satire to the Monday luncheon.
The rest of the May 9 schedule will include sessions with representatives of U.S. DOT and key Congressional staff, followed by three concurrent sessions focusing on effective legislative advocacy; climate change, sustainability, energy policy, and public transportation; and commuter and high-speed intercity passenger rail issues.
Tuesday morning, March 10, beginning with a full breakfast, will focus on presentations by members of Congress including Mica and Blumenauer,. The rest of the day is available for conference participants to visit Capitol Hill.
At 5:30 p.m. that day, APTA and ATU will jointly sponsor a reception for lawmakers and their staff members in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building.
APTA Committee Approves Security and Emergency Preparedness Plan
Recent worldwide terrorist attacks on transportation systems have created a climate of heightened risk and security awareness. The inherently open and easily accessible nature of transit systems, coupled with this heightened state of alert, has in turn greatly increased the importance of security throughout the transit industry. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have recognized and responded to this increased importance by placing their own emphasis on transit security.
Within this context, the APTA Security Standards Policy and Planning Committee voted Feb. 19 to approve for publication the Recommended Practice for the Development and Implementation of a Security and Emergency Preparedness Plan (SEPP).
The purpose of an APTA Transit Recommended Practice is to ensure that each transit system achieves a high level of safety for passengers, employees, and the public. The practices develop from discussions among transit systems, manufacturers, consultants, engineers, and general interest groups.
The SEPP establishes formal mechanisms through which a transit agency can develop, implement, and maintain an effective, agency-wide security and emergency preparedness program, working in concert with its safety program. The plan also establishes mechanisms through which an agency and its employees, contractors, passengers, and other personnel can:
* Appropriately identify and report threats and vulnerabilities within its operations to the correct personnel and/or external parties (such as emergency response and law enforcement agencies) so the agency can implement preventive actions to eliminate, control, or minimize their impact;
* Introduce solutions to minimize the transit impacts of natural (e.g., storm, flooding); technological (e.g., power outage); and security-related (e.g., crime, bomb threats, terrorism) calamities;
* Address strikes that may affect the transit agency or its operations;
* Establish security and emergency preparedness program responsibilities and ensure that tasks are assigned, understood, documented, and tracked in an organized and useful manner;
* Implement security policies and procedures that can be measured, audited, and evaluated to determine the effectiveness of its security program; and
* Satisfy local, state and federal requirements and guidelines.
The text of the SEPP has been posted here as an authorized Recommended Practice under the Published Standards.
Register Now for Fare Collection Workshop
APTA reminds fare collection professionals that they still have time to register for the 2009 Fare Collection Workshop, March 16-18 in Houston. This workshop provides everything from basic training to setting fare policy to industry-wide best practices for small and large transit systems alike.
This event is designed with something for everyone involved in the fare collection process: from revenue managers to internal auditors and procurement officers, but also consultants, system integrators, bankcard providers, mobile technology providers and government representatives.
Program highlights include 10 technical sessions on topics such as fare evasion, fare management partnerships, bankcard processing, fare policy, and currency processing; three half-day training seminars; two networking events, including a Texas-style buffet and performance by Keith Urban, courtesy of ACS and LCL Advisors; two technical tours; and one product showcase.
Registration information is available online or by contacting Bill Baum.
Stimulus Funding for Transit: A Long Time Coming
By DONNA AGGAZIO YOUNG, for Passenger Transport
Someone once said, “Success is simple: Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” With our nation facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a “perfect storm” emerged for a successful effort to champion public transportation as a part of the nation’s plan to regain long-term growth and prosperity.
Doing what’s right in the right way at the right time is never a simple or easy task. Throughout 2008, Congress heard the compelling evidence connecting public transportation and a strong economy and responded by laying the groundwork for the law’s transit provisions.
Public transportation’s role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed into law on Feb. 17, marks the new Congress’ and new Administration’s recognition that public transportation projects create jobs quickly.
The path to transit’s inclusion in the ARRA has been a long one, with timely, critical, and consistent information describing unmet needs keeping lawmakers focused on public transportation as a key component of economic recovery.
Making the Case for Investment
A recent APTA survey gave specific examples of how investment can be used quickly for much-needed projects. The survey identified approximately 787 projects worth an estimated $15.9 billion that can be put under contract within 90 days.
These ready-to-go projects would create and sustain more than 440,000 much-needed jobs. Funding for these projects can build new transit facilities, rehabilitate and expand rail lines, and purchase new energy-efficient buses and rail cars. APTA estimated that transit systems could effectively use another $31.9 billion in a slightly longer time frame of 90 days to two years.
U.S. DOT added more credibility to the case for investment with its own estimate that every $1 billion of federal investment in transportation infrastructure, made without a state or local cost share, leads to the creation of approximately 28,000 jobs.
As Congress considered various stimulus-related bills, several other APTA-commissioned reports supported the call for greater investment in public transportation. A September 2008 survey on rising fuel costs[s1] indicated that 63 percent of transit systems had experienced capacity problems during the peak travel period. The survey found insufficient revenue the most common limitation to adding service, with more than half of all agencies reporting declining or stable local and state financial assistance over the last year because of the economic downturn.
Next, APTA’s Transit Savings Report in early February 2009 showed that transit use leads to commuter cost savings. The report found that a person can save an average of $8,481 per year by taking public transportation instead of driving, based on today’s gas prices and the average unreserved parking rate.
APTA also met with Congressional staffers and sent numerous letters to Congressional leadership that cited public transportation’s role in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.[s2]
Journey Brings Obstacles; Congress Takes Action
The road to the current law can be traced back to several bills passed but not enacted in the 110th Congress. An early version of a House stimulus bill, H.R. 7110, offered assistance with capital projects and operating expenses and did not propose funding to be distributed by formula. It failed.
Another bill, H.R. 6899, passed the House in September and sought to provide relief from high fuel costs and make operating costs eligible for funding. The Senate adjourned before taking action.
H.R. 6052, “Saving Energy through Public Transportation Act of 2008,” which passed the House on June 26, 2008, would have authorized $850 million in each of two fiscal year—FY 2008 and FY 2009—to help transit systems cope with rising fuel costs.
The Senate took up the role of public transportation’s ability to reduce American dependence on foreign oil by holding a first-time hearing before the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee in September 2008. At the hearing, APTA President William W. Millar testified that the American public cannot use what it does not have if service is cut when demand is at its highest in the modern era.
The House’s economic recovery bill, H.R. 1—introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) on Dec. 18, 2008—proposed $12 billion for transit, including $2.5 billion for the discretionary New Starts/Small Starts program. The Senate version did not contain a provision for that program. The House bill also called for $2 billion for rail modernization.
After receiving strong bipartisan support for the legislation during floor debate in late January, the House adopted a powerful amendment by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Keith M. Ellison (D-MN), Michael McMahon (D-NY), and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) that added $3 billion in public transportation investment.
The Senate bill offered $8.4 billion for transit, $1.1 billion for intercity passenger rail grants, and an additional $2 billion for high-speed rail. An amendment by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which sought to increase funding for infrastructure provisions of the bill including $5 billion for transit, was defeated by a slim margin.
In letters to both House and Senate conferees, APTA strongly recommended the adoption of the $12 billion level for investment contained in the House version of the bill, which also—in addition to the New Starts/Small Starts investments—included $2 billion for Fixed Guideway Modernization grants included in the House bill.
Stimulus Funding: A New Day for Transit Investment
Of the $8.4 billion in ARRA for public transportation investment, $6.9 billion will be distributed to public transportation systems through the existing formula programs; an additional $1.5 billion will be available as grants for new major projects. The law also provides an additional $9.3 billion for high-speed and intercity passenger rail.
“Distributing the funding by formula gives us a good idea of the amount of money we will receive and can jumpstart what transit can do for the economy versus other industries,” said William Volk, past chair of the APTA Legislative Committee and managing director of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District in Urbana, IL.
Congress also included tax incentives to encourage transit commute benefits at the same levels as parking benefits. Taking effect immediately, the law raised the cap for pre-tax transit benefits to $230 per month.
State Revenue Challenges
In 2008, many transit systems began to face the consequences of reductions in state revenues because of the economic recession. Transit systems in California have been the hardest hit: for example, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) faces a $35 million deficit in FY 2009 and a deficit of $45 million to $55 million in FY 2010.
“To balance its budget, BART has already instituted a selective hiring freeze, and is considering position cuts, service reductions, fare increases, additional parking fees, reduced allocations to capital projects, and use of reserves. These strategies are being considered due to the elimination of all transit assistance from the state and declines in sales tax revenues,” said BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger.
“Replacing the electrical systems at our stations, adding operational flexibility to our rail system with the installation of a crossover in Contra Costa County, and reconfiguring the seating in our rail cars for additional capacity are just a few of the important projects that can go forward with the federal stimulus dollars,” she added.
To keep transit systems informed about the allocation, use, and eligibility of transit-specific ARRA funds, FTA has dedicated a section of its web site to infrastructure implementation, updating it weekly. It will also provide answers to questions submitted from transit systems seeking clarification on all aspects of the law.
“FTA wants to be clear about how and when the money will flow, ensure our grantees understand the new ground rules, and honor President Obama’s commitment for accountability and transparency,” said Matthew J. Welbes, FTA executive director and acting deputy administrator.
Successful implementation depends on successful preparation. To create frequent and open communication within the transit industry, FTA and APTA sponsored a webinar on how to apply for stimulus funds on Feb. 13, four days prior to the bill becoming law. More than 700 public transportation professionals participated and learned details of the application process during the webinar. As of this writing, at least one future webinar is planned once apportionments are published in the Federal Register.
The APTA Legislative Conference, March 8-10 in Washington, DC, will provide another opportunity to learn up-to-date ARRA details and information.
Public transportation rose to the moment to be a part of the nation’s economic future. Playing a part in the most significant economic recovery package in our history, experts suggest, may bode well for the prospect of funding for public transportation in the upcoming authorization or FY 2010 appropriations. Leaders in the transit industry see the potential for growing optimism for stable future funding.
J. Barry Barker, APTA vice chair-government affairs and executive director of the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, KY, summed it up: “How we as good stewards of public dollars use the stimulus funding in the short term will reflect positively in the reauthorization and beyond.”
Navigating That Capitol Hill Maze: Tracking the Legislative Process
By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
The legislative process is the backbone of federal funding for public transportation, but—like a human spine—it’s part of a complicated organism that can’t be understood without help. What follows is a “guided tour” that explains how bills are enacted—in this case, public transit-related bills—and why the process seems at times to take so long.
To begin with, any member of Congress can write a bill on any subject and submit it to the full chamber, which refers the legislation to a specific committee for consideration. Which committee will receive the legislation, though, is less straightforward.
In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers authorizing legislation for transportation, which includes public transit. The Ways and Means Committee oversees transit financing, including the Highway Trust Fund and commuter benefits, and the House Appropriations Committee takes care of apportioning funds. The appropriations bill that includes U.S. DOT also covers the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while the Department of Homeland Security has its own appropriations bill, which includes transit security.
The situation is even more dispersed in the Senate. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee covers public transit; the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee oversees highways; and the Commerce Committee has responsibility for passenger and freight rail, including intercity rail. The Senate Appropriations Committee takes care of transportation appropriations, but the Highway Trust Fund is in the purview of the Senate Finance Committee.
Climate change legislation, which may have a transit component, relies on yet another set of Congressional committees, primarily the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate EPW.
The Administration launches the legislative process for major bills such as budgets and the pending six-year transportation authorization bill by submitting its version of the legislation to Congress. Congress rarely enacts the Administration’s bill without making changes.
Members of Congress introduce a large number of bills, many of which never progress beyond consideration by a committee or subcommittee. Legislators need a reason to move a specific bill, such as funding specific needs or dealing with a particular problem.
In general, the process goes like this:
A member of Congress introduces a bill to the full House or Senate, which assigns the bill to the committee of jurisdiction.
The legislation receives consideration first in a subcommittee, then in the full committee. Along the way, senior committee staff plan hearings on topics related to the issues covered in the bill; they receive input from members of the committee, consult with interested organizations, and ultimately invite witnesses to testify.
The subcommittees incorporate information obtained during the hearings as they prepare draft legislation for the full committee. Separate bills on similar topics may make their way through the House and Senate at the same time, each with its own schedule for hearings, committee meetings, and procedural votes.
Subcommittee members “mark up” (amend) the draft bill until the majority agrees to submit the revised bill to the parent full committee, which then holds its own mark-up session. The full committee may insert entire new sections to the bill, even to the point of preparing a completely different version.
If components of the legislation fall under the jurisdiction of another committee, it goes there after passing the primary committee by majority vote. After the committees finish their oversight, the bill is then “reported out” to the full chamber of its respective body of Congress.
The full House and Senate debate, amend, and vote on their respective surface transportation bills, after which a conference committee is formed to reconcile differences between the two and arrive at a mutually acceptable compromise.
Once the conference committee agrees on a final version of the bill, it is returned to each body of Congress for final passage. The full House and Senate must vote on conference bills in their entirety, exactly as presented by the conferees. When the conference bill has passed both houses, it goes to the president for signature.
Planning a House Hearing
Jim Berard, director of communications for the House T&I Committee, explained the ins and outs of preparing for a committee hearing—a process that can take a month or longer.
The planning process begins with the housekeeping issues, he explained. When is the next Congressional recess? What other hearings are already on the schedule? Are the committee chairman and specific witnesses only available at certain times?
“Congressional staffers have to familiarize themselves with the particular issue, the people who would be best to testify, when planning a hearing,” Berard said. He noted cases where the staff has “a ready-made witness list,” such as a Feb. 24 hearing of the T&I Aviation Subcommittee regarding the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. The subcommittee heard from crew members on the flight, an air traffic controller who talked to them during the incident, and representatives of regulatory and professional organizations.
Witnesses submit their written testimony before the hearing, so all members of the committee can receive copies. The text of the written testimony appears on the committee’s web site following the hearing.
Justin Harclerode, communications director for the committee’s Republican staff and members, noted that most hearings are related to an issue rather than a specific piece of legislation. “For example,” he said, “the committee may hold a hearing on ways to finance highway and transit projects as opposed to a hearing on the transportation authorization bill.”
Berard also pointed out that a bill need not be considered dead if it is left in committee; it may be reintroduced in a slightly different form, often following discussion among members of the committee.
“Very often, bills that don’t survive on their own get incorporated into larger bills along the way,” he said of the enactment process. “The overwhelming majority of legislation dies in subcommittee. The way the process is set up, the legislation is immediately referred to at least one committee, then to a subcommittee of jurisdiction. Often the bill goes nowhere.”
He pointed out that the legislative system, as involved as it is, dates back to the early days of the nation. “As inefficient as it may sometimes seem, that’s the process that was designed by the framers of the Constitution. They wanted to make sure only the bills that had the most support could make it through the entire process,” he said.
Visiting Capitol Hill: What You Should Know for Successful Advocacy
How can APTA’s citizen lobbyists make the most of their time in Washington during the Legislative Conference? Here are just a few suggestions from people who have significant experience “in the trenches.”
* Concentrate on members of Congress from your home state. “All politics is local,” as the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill said. Legislators—regardless of committee assignments—will be most receptive to hearing from their voting constituents. Make those individuals your first port of call. If you have time, add in other decision-making members who do not depend on your vote.
* Personalize your visit. Explain the direct benefits your project will have to residents of the legislator’s district and state. For example, describe how service improvements will allow a faster commute for constituents, or how added station accessibility will make transit more available to more residents. Business members can stress the number of jobs this project will create in the district and state. Just tell your story.
* Talk to the right person. Identify the staff member responsible for transportation issues before the visit—and make your appointment in advance. By looking forward, you won’t have to waste your time, hoping the staffer can make room for you on the schedule. Also, it is to your advantage to speak with the person most likely to have a background in your specific issue or project.
* Be honest. This is the highest priority—you can’t be effective if people don’t trust you. Competent Congressional staffers will frequently ask an array of questions—all fair but some touchy. Just be prepared to answer honestly and fairly. If the staffer raises any concerns, respond immediately by stating your commitment to dealing with them.
* Be specific. Don’t just say: “Our transit agency needs more money.” Instead, provide details of specific ready-to-go projects that will be funded from the stimulus package. Tell them what you need, then listen to what they say they can provide. To make such a conversation work, you must know and understand what they’re talking about, which leads to . . .
* Do your homework. Before going to the Hill, make sure you are familiar with the issues. You’ll reach maximum effectiveness if you are fluent not only with your agency’s situation but also with what Congress can do to help find a solution. In other words, the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
* Anticipate questions—and prepare answers. Before you set foot in one Congressional office, take the time back home to prepare for the visit by thinking through your questions and answers, even rehearsing your approach with a colleague.
* Keep the visit brief and focused. Your visit to a Congressional office will be most effective if you speak simply yet specifically, saying: “This is who I am, this is what my organization needs, and here are the facts.” Most veteran advocates recommend staying no more than five minutes. At the start of the meeting, thank the legislator (or staffer) for his or her previous support. Bring concise, to-the-point materials to distribute in the office before you leave. Nothing voluminous. Nothing hard to read. Think user-friendly, with limited text, charts, and graphs.
* Be patient. Building a relationship takes time.
* Be on time. Arrive promptly for your appointment.
* Stay focused. Stay on point when making your presentation.
* Understand the legislator’s position. A member of Congress has to deal with many competing interests and requests for funding and assistance. Even the best legislator has to balance these requests and determine which ones take precedence. Recognize these political realities when making a request.
* Follow up. Take the time to send a thank-you note after your visit. Courtesy can make a difference.
Energy Independence and Climate Change: Public Transportation’s Critical Role
By JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications
With the arrival of a new Congress and a new Administration, energy independence and climate change are at the forefront of the nation’s agenda. New legislation and regulatory actions are likely to come soon—developments that will have a major impact on public transportation.
While many Americans realize that the nation has become more dependent on foreign oil in the past few decades, they may not realize just how much public transportation reduces that dependence. Nor do they understand by how much foreign oil imports could be reduced if public transit ridership were to undergo a steady—and significant—long-term increase.
About 36 percent of America’s oil came from foreign sources in 1975—a figure that increased to 58 percent by 2007! The U.S. imported almost five billion barrels of crude oil and oil products in 2007; more than 40 percent (2.2 billion barrels) came from members of the OPEC cartel, such as Saudi Arabia (532 million barrels) and Venezuela (almost 500 million barrels).
But public transportation is making great strides toward reducing this dependence. For example, households located near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles each year, saving 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline. This is equal to nearly 40 percent of the gasoline the U.S. refines from Saudi oil.
Most mainstream scientists accept that the emission of carbon into the atmosphere causes climate change—and public transit contributes substantially to limiting carbon emissions. To illustrate, an individual commuter who switches to public transit from driving a car reduces his or her annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4,800 pounds per year. In addition, communities that invest in transit reduce carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons each year.
To put the latter amount in perspective, consider this: to equal this savings in carbon emissions, New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Denver, and Atlanta combined would all have to stop using electricity.
Just as a continued increase in public transit ridership will demonstrably increase energy independence, it also will have a dramatic benefit on carbon emissions.
A new APTA paper, Changing the Way America Moves: Creating a More Robust Economy, a Smaller Carbon Footprint, and Energy Independence, notes that a slow but steady increase in transit use (5.5 percent) would, by 2020, save the U.S. an additional 4.5 billion gallons of fuel per year and an additional 46 million metric tons of carbon emissions per year. By 2050, this increase would help public transportation save the nation more than 48.1 billion gallons of fuel per year—more than the amount of gasoline refined from the oil the U.S. imports from OPEC countries—and cut annual carbon emissions by 449.2 million metric tons, well over one-third the carbon emissions from the gasoline used for transportation purposes today.
Lawmakers have made many attempts to address both energy independence and climate change through various bills introduced in the last decade. Among the most recent and noteworthy was the Warner-Lieberman bill, formally America’s Climate Security Act of 2007.
This bill, which would have restricted how much carbon corporations could emit and let them trade credits based on their emission limit, aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent from 2005 levels by 2050 and raise $6.7 trillion over the course of four decades through the auctioning of carbon credits. Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass the Senate, nor did a number of other bills related to energy and climate change that were also were put forth in the 109th and 110th Congresses.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has laid out a list of principles she wants to see in any forthcoming climate change bill, including an effort to reduce emissions “to levels guided by science” and set targets that are “certain and enforceable.” Such legislation must also:
* Maintain state and local anti-warming efforts;
* Use a market-based system, such as cap-and-trade, rather than a carbon tax;
* Use proceeds from the sales of emissions permits for a variety of uses, such as support for consumers, governments, businesses, and workers (presumably to help offset higher energy prices under the system); investments in alternative energy; and preserving wildlife and ecosystems threatened by warming; and
* Ensure a “level global playing field . . . so that countries contribute their fair share to the international effort to combat global warming.”
In addition, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at a hearing last month that he plans to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation before the Memorial Day recess in late May.
Carbon Emissions Regulation
Such legislative plans could be accelerated by expected forthcoming actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions.
Nearly two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Massachusetts v. E.P.A., that the agency must determine whether carbon emissions pose a threat to human health and welfare; EPA may announce its findings on April 2, the anniversary of the ruling. Moreover, the new EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, has indicated the agency will review the Bush Administration’s ruling that the agency would not regulate emissions from new coal-burning power plants.
Impact on Public Transportation
The new focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions can only help public transit by emphasizing two major benefits the industry brings, which in turn will direct positive attention to every system.
This emphasis on public transit’s impact on the environment will also remind the public and elected officials of its unique role in moving the nation toward a solution to these vexing problems.
Rail Transit Systems Approve Hours of Service Limitations for Train Operators
Sometimes change happens in a logical manner. Sometimes it needs a push. In this case, it took two major precipitating accidents to effect a significant change in hours of service for rail transit operators.
The National Transportation Safety Board found operator fatigue to be a contributing factor to those and other rail transit accidents and, as a result, issued a finding to the Federal Transit Administration and the individual transit agencies involved in the accidents to adopt limitations on the working hours of train operators. Specifically, the NTSB recommended that train operators be provided the opportunity to obtain eight consecutive hours of uninterrupted rest between work shifts.
Lack of Regulatory Mandate
Congress provided the charter to other agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration, to mandate regulations they deem necessary—and those agencies, and more, have long limited the working hours of vehicle operators in commuter rail, aviation, long-haul trucking, and the maritime industries. So while the NTSB’s finding addressed the Federal Transit Administration, the FTA is not a regulatory agency and does not have the authority to regulate train operator working hours. So the FTA turned to APTA’s standards program.
Working off an NTSB finding to limit those hours, APTA’s Policy and Planning Committee assigned the development of an Hours of Service standard to the Rail Operating Practices Committee, chaired by Gerald Francis, deputy general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Over a period of more than 18 months, that committee met to hammer out compromises that would be accepted.
“We developed a white paper that looked at what other transportation industries do, at the regulations in aviation, commercial trucking, and maritime—and modeled our standard on that,” said Christopher Wallgren, vice president of Philadelphia-based Transportation Resource Associates and one of two co-facilitators for this project. “Plus we looked at research at how long people can work and how much rest they need,” he added.
The NTSB’s finding related only to train operators, so that is where the committee focused. The resulting voluntary standard allows train operators to work a maximum straight shift of 14 hours or a split shift of a total of 16 hours duration, provided they have at least two hours’ break. The work shift must be followed by a minimum of 10 hours off before the operator can work another shift. In addition, to work through labor contracts and negotiations, the standard allows for an implementation period of five years.
“What makes me happiest about the standard,” said Wallgren, “is that we had very active involvement from small and medium and large-size rail transit systems. They helped to make this a strong standard that everyone can live with—and that participation should help with implementation.”
There may be some concerns about the reduction of overtime, said Charles Dziduch, WMATA’s line service director and a member of the committee, but he believes that “that’s something we’ll be able to work our way through.”
He stated that there will be a need to have more operators, so that when they write their schedules, “it will be a priority of management to make sure they have fully staffed ranks, because that then reduces the need for overtime.” This standard will have to be negotiated with the unions, but as Dziduch observed, “it will mean a more rested operator—he will be more alert and less likely to have fatigued-related incidents.”
Impact of Standard
“We’re just starting as an industry to recognize that fatigue is a factor that needs to be addressed,” said General Manager Al Fazio of New Jersey Transit Corporation’s River Line, another committee member. Calling the standard “beneficial” for the industry, he pointed out that “it’s rare when fatigue isn’t at least a contributor, if not the primary cause, when you look at the history of events and accidents. The highest benefit is in the reduction of risk, of catastrophic events, so it benefits the industry across the board.”
Experts commented that the standard will improve employee attentiveness and decision-making abilities, particularly at the end of shifts where people have worked very long hours. It will also make fatigue an issue that needs to be noted in incident investigation.
“This wasn’t an issue that came up before,” said Wallgren. “There wasn’t hard data out there. It wasn’t as if there was a check-off list on accident inspections, i.e., was this person tired? Now that it’s a standard, it will have to be looked at,” he added.
“It’s a very worthwhile standard,” said Dziduch. “I think it will help the industry be safer.”
The approved standard is available for download here.
Rizzo Dies; MBTA Paratransit Expert
Robert P. Rizzo Jr., 60, manager, paratransit contract operations, for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, died suddenly Feb. 17 at his home in Marshfield, MA.
Rizzo was a history and civics teacher in Boston whose transportation career began in 1974, when he was named to the Boston Public Schools Superintendent’s Desegregation Implementation Team as a transportation supervisor and later assistant director of school transportation. He joined the MBTA in 1987 as supervisor of The RIDE paratransit program, and was promoted to assistant manager in 1994 and to his most recent post in 2000.
He was a member of the APTA Access Committee and worked with the Transit Cooperative Research Program.
“Bob dedicated more than 21 years of his life to the MBTA and was one of the most professional and caring individuals I’ve ever met in public life,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas. “He took great pride in the fact that, not only was he delivering service that was getting people where they wanted to go, he was doing it in a kind and compassionate way.”
Elonzo Hill Dies; Vice Chair of Metra Board
Elonzo (Lonnie) Hill, 71, a longtime employee of the Chicago Transit Authority who joined the board of the Metra commuter rail system following his retirement, died Feb. 18 after battling colon cancer.
Hill began his 37-year career at CTA as a bus operator in 1961, progressing through the ranks to serve as executive vice president for service delivery from 1991 until he retired in 1997. During that period, he oversaw the reconstruction of CTA’s Green Line rapid transit service and the opening and operation of the Orange Line to Midway Airport.
The suburban members of the Cook County Board appointed him to the Metra board in 2003, and he was unanimously elected vice chair of the board in 2006.
“The experience Lonnie brought to the table was unparalleled in Metra’s history,” said Metro Executive Director Philip Pagano. “He will be missed as the vice chairman of the board and as a friend.”
He was president of Elonzo Hill Inc., a consulting firm specializing in transportation and pension fund investments.
Hill was also active in APTA, serving on several committees and chairing the APTA International Bus Roadeo Committee from 1987 to 1989.