Passenger Transport - March 29, 2010
Michael Parker, right, managing director of Jeffrey A. Parker & Associates, accepts the Transport Financial Adviser of the Year award from Angus Leslie Melville, editor-in-chief of Infrastructure Journal.
On March 15—the same day he addressed the APTA Legislative Conference (see related story)—Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood thanked the members of the National League of Cities (NLC) for their support of federal livability and infrastructure measures at the organization’s annual Congressional City Conference in Washington.
In keeping with NLC’s theme, “The Route Ahead,” LaHood talked about how DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program is “changing the rules of the game” rather than just “awarding winners a pile of money.” He explained: “For the first time, the application process for these discretionary grants allowed cities to apply directly to DOT for funding. And these grants were open to the kind of multimodal projects we simply aren't allowed to fund through our traditional, segmented programs.”
The next step, he said, is to “build on TIGER's success by empowering cities to have more input and control over how federal transportation dollars are spent to support local goals. It just makes sense that local planners know the kinds of outcomes their communities want and need.”
He also described how DOT has broadened its project evaluation criteria to incorporate “a wide range of measures including sustainability, livability, and potential for economic development … three changes that ought to give us all hope for a new era of transportation projects, in cities and suburbs and rural areas alike.”
LaHood emphasized: “America's cities were the incubators of many transportation innovations this past year. From bike boxes at intersections to transit-oriented affordable housing development, our cities have been pioneers."
“I, for one, am looking forward to what they'll show us in the year ahead.”
The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) in Fort Wright, KY, has promoted Deputy General Manager Andrew Aiello to the general manager position, effective March 15. He is the first general manager employed directly by the agency; in the past, the position has been administered through a contract with a transit management company.
Aiello, who has worked for TANK since 2004, succeeds Mary Lou Franzoni, who served as general manager for the past three years under a contract with First Transit Inc.
“The TANK board is pleased to be in a position to have such a committed and talented individual to be assuming the position of general manager,” said board Chair Jean Miller. “Andrew’s consistent approach, knowledge, and dedication to TANK have made him effective in every position that he has held [here]. The board is pleased about the future with Andrew in the driver’s seat.”
Aiello is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and serves on the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments Board of Directors.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Massachusetts DOT Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Mullan nominated Richard A. Davey as the department’s new rail and transit administrator on March 22. In this position, Davey will oversee the commonwealth’s 15 regional transit authorities and Massachusetts DOT’s freight and passenger rail program.
Patrick and Mullan have recommended that Davey also serve as general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston as part of his responsibilities as administrator.
Davey will succeed William Mitchell, acting rail and transit administrator and MBTA general manager, who will resume his role as MBTA’s general counsel.
An experienced rail and transit manager, Davey currently serves as general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, the company that operates and maintains the MBTA’s commuter rail service.
“As we move forward in this next era for transportation reform,” said Davey, “our priorities must be on public safety, customer service and our employees, innovation, and fiscal responsibility.”
Bruce P. DeVito, 61, vice president, rail and transit systems, with Gannett Fleming in New York, died March 2 after a lengthy illness. He oversaw the firm’s efforts at several rail and transit agencies in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
“Bruce distinguished himself throughout the engineering industry as a leader,” said James R. Laurita, vice president and regional/area manager. “He touched the lives of many in the transit industry throughout his illustrious 40-year career.”
Before joining Gannett Fleming, DeVito had a long career as chief engineer with MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), working on major projects including the award-winning Penn Station Renovation and the Holban Hillside Complex Construction Project. He also handled the majority of LIRR’s interface with agencies, local governments, and community groups in capital program matters. He joined the firm as regional director of transit/rail services after retiring from LIRR.
DeVito served Gannett Fleming as a senior project manager for such projects as MTA New York City Transit’s Grand Avenue Bus Depot and Central Maintenance Facility and MTA Metro-North Railroad Croton-Harmon Phase II Design-Build Project. He also worked in an advisory and consulting capacity for the New York City Economic Development Corporation on the Penn Station/Moynihan Feasibility Study and numerous other transit-related projects throughout the metropolitan region.
“With his warm and outgoing personality, he touched the lives of many people in the transit industry,” said Laurita. “His contributions to our firm and industry and his youthful spirit will be greatly missed.”
More than 700 people participated in APTA’s 35th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, on March 14-16, many of whom urged Congress to increase investment in public transit and approve a multi-year authorization bill.
Common themes among the presentations included the success and importance of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the need for a surface transportation authorization bill; the role of public transit in economic growth and environmental awareness efforts; and such safety efforts as the proposed federal rail transit safety measure and the implementation of positive train control.
In addition to featuring Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the administrators of the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railroad Administration respectively—Peter Rogoff and Joseph Szabo—and members of Congress (see related stories), the conference program showcased Congressional staffers, researchers from think tanks, and representatives of other members of the transportation coalition.
Many of the sessions were highly interactive, with long lines forming at the microphones. Some sessions even ran beyond their scheduled close because the interest in the answers from the panelists was so strong.
What follows is coverage of several of the sessions.
All conference photos by Steve Barrett.
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), longtime transit supporter and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, credited APTA members for “the work you have done to lay the foundation for livable communities” when he addressed the APTA Legislative Conference the morning of March 16. He added: “People need to hear what you have to say. What we need is a plan for civic engagement—to muster support from the community in a bad economic situation.”
Regarding the partisan attacks he has seen, Blumenauer said Congress must “call a timeout to rebuild America and get the economy back on track. We have a consensus that we need to go forward and how to do it; now we need to expand our vision.” He also said the extension of SAFETEA-LU through Dec. 31, 2010, included in the HIRE Act—at the time awaiting a Senate vote—“should give us running room” to make refinements to the long-term authorization bill. [Editor’s Note: The Senate approved the bill March 17 by a vote of 68 in favor and 29 opposed. The president signed it the following day.]
Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) gave outspoken support to the need for bipartisanship in public transit-related issues in his remarks.
“There’s no such thing as a Republican road or a Democratic bridge,” said LaTourette, who currently serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Other Agencies and, during the Bush administration, chaired the Railroads Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee. “We need to get the country back on track, renewing and rebuilding America.”
He emphasized the importance of increasing revenues to the Highway Trust Fund, whether through a 10-cent increase in the fuel tax or by shifting from gallons of fuel to vehicle miles traveled. “We need a bipartisan effort on the gas tax,” he continued. “If [T&I Chairman James] Oberstar [(D-MN)] needs them, I’ll get him 50 Republicans. If we’re asked about it later, I’ll say we increased revenues because we had to.”
LaTourette also praised the transportation community for its prompt and efficient use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. He noted that half the jobs created and saved through ARRA came from transportation infrastructure projects, which accounted for just 7 percent of the grants.
Other members of the House and Senate provided their own perspectives on ARRA, transportation authorization, and other topics.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the T&I Highways and Transit Subcommittee, described the essential nature of transportation infrastructure to a community. “The ARRA funds were well spent, creating a lot of jobs,” he said, criticizing people who believe the federal government should have no role in job creation.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, described how American families are facing major challenges in what he called “the worst economy since the Great Depression.”
However, Menendez continued: “This nation sees challenges as an opportunity for growth. We need government investments to get the economy moving.”
In laying out his vision of “a new path—healthier, greener, and more energy-efficient,” Menendez noted that public transportation “is essential, both as a way to create jobs now and to link people to job opportunities.”
Rep. John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of T&I, emphasized his agreement with Oberstar on the need for a six-year transportation authorization bill. Noting that replacing the collapsed bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis/St. Paul took only 437 days, compared with the usual seven to eight years, he called for similar streamlining for public transit projects.
“I’m an advocate of interconnection of all modes. We have to serve people who may have no other way to get around,” Mica said. He cited the example in his home state, where St. Augustine has an intermodal transit station that also connects with Greyhound intercity buses.
Mica concluded by telling the transit professionals: “You’re making a difference in people’s lives—especially the people who have no other options. It’s up to you to tell it like it is, educate Congress and its staffers.”
A March 15 General Session featured Administrators Joseph C. Szabo of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Peter M. Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). APTA President William Millar presided over the session.
Rogoff addressed the successful obligation of 100 percent of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding by March 5, due, he said, in large part to the hard work of everyone at FTA.
Rogoff said FTA is continuing to enhance its livability agenda, with its $280 million urban circulator, streetcar, and bus grants now under review. “Congressman [John W.] Olver [(D-MA)] started the dialogue on this issue with HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] and EPA [the Environmental Protection Agency] during the last administration, which gave us a great start to advance our agendas under new administration,” he said.
In addition, he noted “great strides” in New Starts, with $1.8 billion in six new Full Funding Grant Agreements to be done by the close of 2011. He also said that FTA will ask the industry and stakeholders for their best evaluation processes to streamline moving forward.
Another priority of DOT, said Rogoff, is ensuring that the nation’s transportation infrastructure reaches a state of good repair, “especially in the bus area.”
On authorization, he said the “big challenge is finding the $400 to $500 billion to fund a ‘robust reauthorization bill.’”
Szabo, a fifth-generation railroader who has worked as a yard switchman, road trainman, and conductor, said: “I still have my conductor’s hat and my ticket punch in my office. I never want to get too far away from those roots!”
He spoke on the National Rail Plan, which will be released this summer and will guide states in developing their own rail plans—particularly on safety, livability, and congestion reduction.
Szabo stressed FRA’s excitement about the role of high-speed rail and how it must “integrate seamlessly into commuter rail and transit” to create a truly balanced transportation system. “We envision the $8 billion [provided in ARRA] to be a down payment in a multi-decade partnership with states to improve existing passenger rail lines and create new ones that meet the needs of consumers,” he added.
Szabo discussed new funding opportunities: $50 million of 80/20 matching planning grants for intercity passenger rail and $65 million of 50/50 matching project grants.
He concluded by asking everyone to work together to “achieve America’s rail renaissance and to bring the president’s vision to reality.”
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
“The year 2009 was a whirlwind of activity for high-speed rail, with ARRA [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] providing $8 billion for this program. A few years ago it was nothing, so to go from zero to $8 billion was a rather rapid transformation.”
With those words, moderator Stanley G. Feinsod, chair of the APTA High-Speed & Intercity Rail Legislative Subcommittee; co-chair, Commuter and Intercity Rail Joint Legislative Subcommittee; and passenger rail consultant, Ratp Dev, San Francisco, opened the March 15 APTA Legislative Conference session titled “High-Speed and Commuter Rail.”
“Today when we see the phrase ‘high-speed rail,’ we should be thinking of all passenger options on railroads—a ‘seamless’ system, as FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] Administrator Joe Szabo said,” Feinsod continued. He noted the mandate for positive train control (PTC) in the Rail Safety Act, and called it a “challenging requirement—not from the philosophical and technical idea of having PTC, but from the lack of funding.”
Congressional staff members comprised the panel for this session. Each panelist made a brief presentation; the majority of the session was interactive, with audience questions eliciting at times detailed responses
Melissa Porter, transportation counsel to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, listed the items considered by the committee this year. These included the surface transportation authorization extension through the end of December (“We can use the rest of the year to lay the groundwork and prepare for the reauthorization bill”), freight rail issues, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, the Surface Transportation Board, different job bills, the Transportation Security Administration, and mandated PTC.
Jennifer Esposito, majority staff director of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, noted that the implementation of ARRA has been “the hot topic” with T&I Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN), and that he was “very pleased” with the direction DOT took. She also talked about future field hearings on high-speed rail, reauthorization of the hazardous materials safety program and the rail pipeline, and PTC.
“We support full funding of the PTC grant program. We think $50 million is small, but there was quite a bit of pressure to reduce spending on the bill,” Esposito said, adding that her staff is monitoring the comments coming in concerning the rail safety bill.
Mike Meenan, minority counsel to the same T&I subcommittee, was the third and final presenter. “It’s an exciting time to be involved in rail issues,” he said, terming it “transformative technology.” But he observed that “we’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” Making reference to the numerous transportation-related items the previous presenters had listed, Meenan said: “The enormity of this spread of issues is quite daunting.”
Feinsod led off the Q&A session by noting that the 2015 PTC requirement plans are due April 15, 2010. “Do we have the technology, the capacity, the money? Have we set standards and pace that are a little bit unreasonable?” he asked.
Meenan called the schedule “too aggressive,” adding that “it’s an issue that really needs to be closer looked at.” Esposito termed it a “critical safety issue,” saying that more than 400 accidents would have been prevented over the years if PTC had been implemented.
Porter said she believes that once the railroads file their implementation plans, complete with milestones, “we’ll have a better sense of where we are, and then we’ll get a better sense of whether [the deadline] is ‘meetable’ or ‘unmeetable.’”
The questions focused on four main themes: high-speed rail (and its funding), PTC (its deadline and cost), agency and rail partnerships, and surface transportation authorization. For example, one questioner asked how commuter rail agencies will handle the spectrum owned by freight railroads (for imposition of PTC). Another questioner asked if the T&I Committee would consider a higher authorization level for PTC funding. Esposito responded that they felt the authorization should be higher, and noted that subcommittee Chairwoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) backs a PTC tax credit for the freight railroads.
Echoing the moderator and the panelists, one audience member said: “In the 42 years I’ve been in this business, this is the most optimistic time I’ve ever seen.”
Former DOT Deputy Secretary Mortimer Downey, also in the audience, synthesized the discussion of the $8 billion being a down payment or, as he put it, “the first step of the investment.” He said: “We shouldn’t send the rail program off in its own direction but make it one broad set of transportation options. I think sending the message of bringing them together as soon as we can is the way to go.”
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
Emil H. Frankel, director of transportation policy for the National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), called on U.S. transportation policy to become more performance-driven when he addressed a March 15 session. APTA’s business members sponsored the breakfast session for the eighth year.
Frankel referred to his 2009 report, Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy, in explaining the importance of taking results into account. “Why should the federal government invest in transportation?” he asked. “We must make the case that we’re investing wisely.”
As nationwide unemployment rates remain around 10 percent and many more Americans are underemployed, he said, Congress and the administration must remember that infrastructure programs—such as public transportation—can and do create jobs.
Transportation policy is not like other issues that break down along partisan lines, he said, because different stakeholders may have a variety of opinions as to distribution of funds. For that reason, he said, “we need people, both Democrats and Republicans, drawn from various sectors at the table where transportation policy is made…This is bipartisanship in Washington, DC.”
Joshua Schank, NTPP director of transportation research, presented an overview of the project’s scope. It sets out four bedrock principles—a clear federal role, promotion of performance, mode neutrality, and link to energy and environment—and five proposed goals: economic growth, national connectivity, metropolitan accessibility, energy security and environmental protection, and safety.
Schank laid out a proposed new federal funding structure for transportation, which would take 20 to 30 years to implement. Three quarters of total funds would go to formula preservation programs that include national connectivity, sustaining core assets, essential access, and a performance bonus; the rest would cover competitive capacity expansion programs for improving federal connections and core transportation systems.
In the shorter term, he said, other changes may include the development of data and metrics; an effort to redefine the national transportation system; and plans for a date-certain transition from current per-gallon fuel taxes to national user fees.
By JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications
A panel representing the full diversity of the American transportation industry discussed the pressing need for greater federal investment in public transportation at the 2010 APTA Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.
Peter J. (Jack) Basso, director of program, finance, and management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), opened the March 15 session titled “Expanding the Transit Coalition: Partners in the Authorization Debate.” He lamented the near-insolvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund and noted the precipitous decline in the buying power of the gasoline tax, caused by inflation, since its last increase in 1993.
Basso called for a continued strong federal role in transportation funding, the elimination or stringent limitation of earmarks for transportation programs, as well as policies that support maximum flexibility for financing of transportation projects.
He likened the current era to the introduction of the Interstate Highway System: “We’re in the same position all of us were in 1955-1956—to make history.”
T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), also pointed to a shortfall in federal transportation investment. He said of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA): “Congress did the right thing; they just didn’t do enough of it.”
According to Ruane, the construction industry faces 25 percent unemployment, “the highest of any sector.” Given this stark reality, he continued, the need is critical for Congress to pass full surface transportation authorization this year.
He lauded APTA as a partner in this effort, referring to the “very close, very warm, very professional relationship with APTA over the years” and recounting instances when ARTBA and APTA joined forces to oppose proposals that would have been detrimental to transportation. “You have to continue to tell your story. And you’ve done a very good job—especially in the last 10 years,” said Ruane.
Edward Wytkind, president of AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, which represents 32 transportation unions, spoke on behalf of APTA’s labor-union allies. Public transportation is “a growth industry with unlimited potential,” Wytkind said, and the current partnership between APTA and labor “is the strongest I’ve seen,” adding: “We are fierce advocates of public transportation.” His organization also supports an authorization bill of “at least half a trillion dollars.”
However, finding a politically viable source of increased funding remains a challenge for public transit advocates, Wytkind noted, because when an elected official suggests raising user fees, “there are already TV spots written for the other side,” he said, echoing Basso’s assessment. He called on advocates for public transit to find a bipartisan argument for raising those fees.
He also recommended the full use of Amtrak in the introduction of high- and higher-speed rail in America, well-funded training programs, and a reinvestment in U.S. manufacturing.
Wytkind agreed with Ruane’s assessment of ARRA as effective but limited by the amount of funding it contained—which underscores the urgency for full authorization. “We need to get something done this year,” he said.
Also on the panel was Mariia V. Zimmerman, policy director for Reconnecting America and co-chair of the APTA Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee. She noted that the forthcoming authorization bill holds not only great challenge but also great promise. “Because nothing is probable, anything is possible,” she said. Reconnecting America also supports a bill that includes at least $500 billion.
Zimmerman expressed amazement that surface transportation authorization has become a partisan issue, given that transportation and public transit are supported by business, environmental, social equity, and other advocates spanning a range of political viewpoints.
She specifically asked audience members to support the National Transportation Objectives Act (H.R. 2724, currently in committee), which lists energy security, climate change, state of good repair, and accessibility among the principles that should guide the next authorization bill; the Complete Streets Act (S. 584); the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act (CLEAN-TEA—H.R. 132, introduced last year); and federal support for public transit operating assistance.
“Let’s keep the pressure up,” she said.
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.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), third from right, chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, welcomes APTA officers and transit professionals to Capitol Hill on March 16. From left are APTA First Vice Chair Michael J. Scanlon; APTA Chair M.P. Carter; Greg Evans, a board member of the Lane Transit District (LTD) in Eugene, OR; DeFazio; LTD General Manager Mark Pangborn; and APTA President William Millar.
Benjamin Rosenbaum, second from left, legislative assistant to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), meets with representatives of Daimler Buses, from left: Pat Scully, chief commercial officer; Joanna Foust, legislative director; and Bob Buchanan, consultant.
The livability partnership among three federal agencies—DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—was the focus of a March 15 panel discussion at the APTA Legislative Conference titled “Sustainability and Livability in Transportation: Opportunities for Public Transportation.”
“[Transportation] Secretary [Ray] LaHood considers livable communities to be one of the legacies that we can leave the country,” said Beth Osborne, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy at DOT. She added that staff members of the three agencies meet weekly, noting that some of the participants have working relationships that precede the new partnership by many years.
Osborne said that sustainable development can also be frugal development; for example, the state of Utah has saved $4.5 billion in infrastructure costs over a five-year period by encouraging more dense development.
The need for increased federal investment in clean energy goes hand-in-hand with sustainable development. To that end, panelist Paul Schmid, legislative assistant for Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), expressed his hopes that Carper’s climate change bill, the Clean, Low-Emissions, Affordable New Transportation Equity Act (CLEAN-TEA), would be a priority for Congress this year.
“More people riding transit needs to be part of these issues,” said Mitch Warren, senior policy adviser to the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee specializing in transportation issues. He noted that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s recent testimony before the banking committee may be the first time an EPA administrator has testified at a hearing of that committee.
Marlene Connor, chair of the APTA Intergovernmental Affairs Subcommittee and director of public transportation with Wilbur Smith Associates in Holyoke, MA, moderated the panel.
BY NEAL PEIRCE
WASHINGTON -- Nicknaming a federal grant-in-aid program TIGER may seem an anomaly: Federal disbursements, normally loaded with rules, regulations and complexity, rarely get called bold or ferocious.
But the government’s historic knee-jerk preference for roads gets a nip—maybe a deep bite—in the Transportation Department’s just-announced $1.5 billion in grants to states and cities under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, or TIGER.
As Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood explained to me: “TIGER is our opportunity to say to folks that we know you’re trying to do innovative and creative transportation things that never really fit our official formulas or program silos. This program is your opportunity to show you’re the innovators around the country.”
Each state and local government applicant, in short, had to show how many of the program’s goals it could reach—“shovel-ready” job production that fights recession and rebuilds the economy, safer streets and communities, environmental sustainability (such as reduced carbon emissions), and greater community livability.
There also seems to have been an unwritten factor: to be catalytic, providing the gap financing to move commendable but stalled local projects forward.
The contrast to money channeled routinely to roads—justified, if at all, on reducing congestion—couldn’t have been more dramatic.
A TIGER-supported replacement for a deteriorated interstate bridge over the Arkansas River in Tulsa, for example, won’t just carry cars and trucks but include lanes for bikes and pedestrians, long-distance freight and passenger rail service, and also space for a commuter rail system that might otherwise have to wait a generation to be completed.
Beleaguered Detroit receives $25 million to help the city assemble funds for its first-ever significant transit line—a 3.4-mile light rail line up the central Woodward Avenue spine, seen as a major downtown economic stimulant and way for low-income Detroiters to access the center city.
Whitefish, MT, is awarded $3.5 million to return its main street, now a high-speed truck route, to walkability and a retail-friendly small town character with curb-to-curb reconstruction, modern traffic controls and angled parking.
Then there’s New York City, where Transportation Department officials allocated $83 million in TIGER funds to improvements for Penn Station, now congested with more millions of passengers than it can reasonably handle. They hope the money will be a magic key to break the local political stalemate that has delayed developing a world-class station in the historic Farley Post Office Building across Eighth Avenue.
Where TIGER funds highways, it’s generally for missing links and interchanges. The bigger news is freight. A 2,500-mile “Crescent Corridor” freight rail network from the Gulf Coast to the mid-Atlantic and involving eight states, receives funding. Plus, TIGER invests $100 million in the long-congested Chicago rail hub, a key to efficient delivery of goods nationwide.
It’s true TIGER is covering only 51 projects out of the 1,400 applications (total value $57 billion) it received. But if its “modal split” is a harbinger, future government transportation outlays may differ radically from the past. Just 23 percent of the TIGER projects are roads, compared to 26 percent for transit projects, 19 percent for rail, 7 percent for ports and 25 percent for multimodal facilities.
The tightly competitive TIGER grants process “is a smartly conservative, competitive, outcome-oriented way” to ensure federal transportation dollars actually serve regions’ own planning goals and support communities’ livability as well as mobility. That’s the judgment of Scott Polikov, a Texas town planner and transportation expert and board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism.
Polikov worked with a successful Dallas-area TIGER application to fund a new streetcar line that connects major employment centers, work-force housing, parks and walkable mixed-use neighborhoods as well as existing light and commuter rail lines. Regional cohesion helped win the day, he says, with the North Central Texas Council of Governments—which serves as the designated Metropolitan Planning Council (MPO) for its area—using the TIGER grant lure to pull together local jurisdictions that rarely work well together.
With Congress hard-pressed to find sufficient money for traditional large-scale highway projects, Polikov says the country’s leading MPOs would do well to coalesce for a competitive, less costly federal transportation program modeled on TIGER.
Potentially, state transportation departments, which have “ruled the roost” on dispensing both their own and federal formula-based transportation dollars, might resist that idea. But TIGER lets the cat out of the bag: Why shouldn’t state departments compete, too—especially in big projects with neighboring states, and not just roads but waterways and rail, with goals mixed from mobility to livability to carbon reduction?
The time’s clearly at hand to spend our transportation dollars a lot more smartly. TIGER’s roar: Let competition come first.
Contact Neal Peirce
©2010, The Washington Post Writers Group
BY GLORIA LEONARD, Board Member, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta, GA
On Dec. 18, 2009, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) recognized its 30th anniversary of providing bus and rail service to the region by hosting a Transportation Summit with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) serving as honorary event chair. The event offered MARTA board members the opportunity to honor and thank the visionary leaders, loyal customers, and dedicated employees who have made the system successful for three decades.
MARTA began its first rail operations on the East Line from Avondale Station to Georgia State Station on June 30, 1979. The rail line joined MARTA’s pre-existing bus system.
Additionally, the summit provided a great forum for MARTA board members to “Tell Our Story” to elected officials and community leaders. I had an opportunity to speak with Lewis, the honorary chair, regarding the critical issues facing transit in the Atlanta region and how much we continue to appreciate his support for increased state and federal transit investment.
Lewis has served as a strong advocate for MARTA and transit in our region and continues to work tirelessly at the federal level to secure additional funding for our transit systems. At the Transportation Summit, he spoke about how MARTA contributes significantly to the success of our region and state and how a comprehensive regional system is greatly needed to continue moving us forward. He stated how it is important that the state step up in support of MARTA to send a strong message to the federal government that we are committed to transit. (Currently, MARTA is the only system of its size that does not receive any state funding for operations.)
The evening also featured a roundtable discussion focused on “Realizing the Regional Transit Vision,” which included state Sen. Doug Stoner; Fulton County Commission Chair John H. Eaves; Tad Leithead, current chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) Transportation and Air Quality Committee and incoming chair of the ARC; Georgia DOT Commission Board Member Dana L. Lemon; former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell; and outgoing MARTA Board Chairman Michael Walls.
The discussion highlighted why MARTA and transit matter significantly to the region and state, as well as how to address the serious challenges and opportunities facing transit today, including the critical need for additional funding for transit and transportation. Maria Saporta, Atlanta Business Chronicle columnist and creator and editor of the “SaportaReport,” served as moderator.
The event recognized MARTA’s board members from inception to present; MARTA retirees and employees with 30 years of service; and the tremendous federal support and investment that made transit in the Atlanta region possible. In addition, MARTA unveiled a commemorative quilt and offered a sneak preview of MARTA Moments, a documentary short chronicling the authority’s history and its impact on metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia.
The context: A dramatically changing landscape for public transportation.
The process: Open brainstorming sessions at each major APTA event, countless conference calls with APTA committees, a full membership survey and webinar, and the involvement of every APTA staff member throughout the past year.
The starting point: Where do you want your organization to be in five years, what do you need to do to set it up for success, and how is APTA going to help you get there?
The guiding document: APTA’s TransitVision 2050.
The outcome: A consensus on what APTA needs to focus on.
* Developing an economically sustainable financial structure for the industry;
* Helping environmental sustainability become integral to how the industry functions and what it provides;
* Establishing efficient, safe, and attractive systems and services;
* Attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce able to deliver high-quality performance;
* Ensuring key stakeholders understand how public transportation is essential to social, environmental, and economic quality of life;
* 13 sub-objectives;
* 147 action items; and
* 36 evaluation measures.
The key to success: Putting the action plan into motion with the help of every APTA Committee and the involvement of every APTA member.
To read the full strategic plan, click here.
APTA’s 2010-2014 Strategic Goals
* Economic sustainability
* Environmental sustainability
* Safe and reliable mobility systems
* A quality workforce
* Public transportation: an essential value to all
On March 14, APTA Chair M.P. Carter announced the completion of the voting process for major changes in APTA’s governance and committee structure. APTA’s membership overwhelmingly approved the changes to the bylaws, with nearly 99 percent of the votes received in favor.
The new governance model will affect this year’s nomination and election process, with nominations expected to open in June. Elections will occur in October at the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX; the first new executive committee and board of directors will be seated at the end of the meeting.
The “new” APTA Board of Directors will include the executive committee, the top 20 dues-paying transit agencies, the top 10 dues-paying business members, chairs of approximately 26 designated committees (as determined by the board and the executive committee), and 30 members-at-large.
The position of regional director has been eliminated. Also, committees will no longer dictate selections for particular positions but instead will be encouraged to make recommendations to the nominating committee.
“We believe that these changed bylaws will make APTA even stronger,” Carter said. “I am delighted at the voting results. Our executive committee and board of directors will be invigorated with new voices, which will better equip APTA to maintain its effectiveness as the voice of public transportation as we move forward.”
Among the highlights of this year’s APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference and International Bus Roadeo, May 2-5 in Cleveland, are the first-ever “Walk and Roll” event and the Host Forum being presented by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA).
The purpose of Walk and Roll, part of the 20th-anniversary celebration for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), is to promote public awareness of the local disability community while encouraging exercise and wellness in a single event for everyone.
GCRTA and APTA are partnering with Easter Seals Project ACTION to present this event, which includes a trip through downtown Cleveland along a predetermined and accessible route.
Joyce Eleanor, APTA vice chair-bus and paratransit operations, will preside at the event. Speakers will include APTA President William Millar; Project ACTION Executive Vice President Randy Rutta; APTA Chair M.P. Carter; GCRTA board member Jesse Anderson; and Stephen Albro, senior mobility instructor at the Cleveland Sight Center.
At the Host Forum, GCRTA will share two of its success stories: TransitStat, a management process that has helped the authority manage overtime, preventative maintenance, workers’ compensation, and more while controlling costs; and the downtown trolley and HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit services, which—due to their unique branding—are among the most successful the agency has unveiled.
For more information about the conference, visit the APTA web site.
APTA has received a Silver ADDY award for its “Shaving” radio public service announcement (PSA), part of a campaign produced with PlowShare Group Inc. to raise awareness of the positive impact of public transportation on the environment. The ADDYs® are the advertising industry’s largest competition, attracting more than 50,000 entries every year in local competitions.
The full PSA campaign is available for view and download here. More information is available from Mantill Williams or Mark Neuville.
The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) selected Kris Gandham, associate director of transportation of the East Texas Council of Governments (COG), to receive the Frank J. Lichtanski Scholarship at its meeting during APTA's recent Legislative Conference.
This scholarship enables an individual from a small or medium-sized transit agency to attend one of two annual sessions conducted by the Eno Transportation Foundation’s Center for Transit Leadership.
Gandham has a background in public administration, transportation planning, geographic information systems, and technology. He was sponsored by John O. Hedrick, director of transportation for East Texas COG.
Also, APTF has announced that it will hold this year’s Golf Tournament in October in conjunction with the APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, along with the APTF Gala Reception, instead of during the APTA Rail Conference.
The National Transit Institute (NTI) will conduct a free webinar based on Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 137, Improving Pedestrian and Motorist Safety Along Light Rail Alignments, April 15 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. This is part of a series of webinars being presented by NTI, in cooperation with TCRP and APTA, highlighting specific reports on current topics and trends in the transit industry.
Previous light rail safety research through TCRP reviewed a number of safety systems, identified safety measures, and proposed safety enhancements, but did not provide a systematic approach for the evaluation of current measures. This webinar examines pedestrian and motorist behaviors contributing to light rail transit (LRT) safety and explores mitigating measures available to improve safety along LRT alignments.
Don Cleghorn of HDR | iTRANS, principal investigator for the report, will conduct the webinar, which will include 60 minutes of information about the report findings and 30 minutes dedicated to questions from the audience. Participants will log in to access the graphic content and dial into an audio-teleconference.
Persons wishing to participate in the webinar must register online to receive the login information. More information is available from Greta Ritz.
APTA is partnering with the Alliance to Save Energy’s Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exposition (EE Global), May 10-12 in Washington, DC—both the event program and the “Solutions Showcase” exposition.
Participants in the symposium will attend forums led by corporate executives, senior government officials, and industry experts, selected by an international committee. Executive Dialogue Sessions focus on specific topics that touch upon every end-use sector, while Plenary Sessions offer insights from business, policy, and environmental leaders at the helm of the global energy efficiency movement.
The program also includes the Marketplace of Ideas Poster Sessions, where presenters showcase their best practices and strategies for energy efficiency deployment.
Information on the event is available here. Discounted rates are available for APTA members when they register, using the code “APTA,” and at the showcase by identifying themselves as members.