Passenger Transport - December 4, 2015
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House, Senate Approve Five-Year, Fully-Funded Surface Transportation Bill; FAST Act: First Long-Term Bill in a Decade

Both the House and Senate voted Dec. 3 to approve the five-year, $281 billion fully-funded surface transportation authorization bill titled “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” (FAST) Act.

The vote totals were 359-65 in the House and 83-16 in the Senate. President Obama was expected to sign the legislation today as Passenger Transport went to press.

"Last night, Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a transportation bill that will help us build on America's progress by growing our economy and creating more good jobs for our middle class," Obama said in a statement. "I look forward to signing this bill right away, so that we can put Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and transit systems."

Overall, funding for public transit increases by more than 10 percent in the first year and by almost 18 percent over five years. It authorizes $61 billion over the five years for public transportation and also includes a rail title that authorizes funding for intercity passenger rail grants and Amtrak.

“This is a great day for America,” said APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. “On behalf of the 1,500 APTA member organizations, I commend Congress for its bipartisan leadership in passing this long-term FAST Act. This legislation is critical for Americans across the country who take 35 million trips on public transportation each day, equating to 10.8 billion trips annually.” 

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “As the first long-term surface transportation bill in 10 years, the significance of this legislation cannot be overstated. This is excellent news for America’s public transportation systems, their riders and the small, medium and large communities they serve. A well-funded, long-term surface transportation authorization is critical to the economic competitiveness and prosperity of our nation’s communities. To sum it up, wherever public transportation goes, community grows.”

McCall and Melaniphy thanked the APTA membership for all their work, persistence and advocacy in making this legislation a reality.

In the bus and bus facilities program, the FAST Act increases funding and creates a new program of competitive grants. Overall, it increases bus and bus facilities funding from $427.8 million in 2015 to $695.8 million in 2016 and to $808.7 million in 2020. The competitive bus grant program, which includes $55 million annually for no/low emissions buses, would grow from $268 million in 2016 to $344 million by 2020.

The agreement increases the urban formula program by less than 2 percent in 2016 and by 10.6 percent over the life of the bill. It also grows the State of Good Repair program by almost 16 percent in the first year and almost 24 percent over the life of the bill.

The measure also increases funding for the New Starts program from $1.9 billion in 2015 to $2.3 billion in 2016, with flat funding in subsequent years. It also provides modest growth in the current Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities program.

The legislation retains language, which APTA opposed, that increases the domestic content requirement for rolling stock under FTA Buy America rules. The bill increases domestic content from the current 60 percent to 65 percent in 2018 and to 70 percent in 2020.

The agreement also provides $199 million for implementation of PTC systems by commuter railroads.

Find details on the 1,300-page bill here and in APTA’s Legislative Alerts.

Blumenauer Addresses APTA High-Speed Rail Policy Forum

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a longtime supporter of high-speed rail and other public transit and sustainability initiatives, addressed a Dec. 2 APTA High-Speed Rail Policy Forum, “Getting to the Tipping Point for High-Speed Rail in the U.S.: The Role of Federal Government in High-Speed and Intercity Rail Development,” at APTA’s offices in Washington, DC.

Blumenauer, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a vice chair of the Congressional Bicameral Caucus on High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail and chairs the Livable Communities Task Force. In a statement, he said that to develop a 21st-century intercity transportation system, the U.S. must invest in high-speed rail to allow the population to move quickly and inexpensively across the country.

APTA hosted the forum as part of an ongoing discussion of the role of the federal government in planning, funding and leading efforts for high-speed rail corridors and services. Currently, states and regions throughout the U.S. are taking the lead in developing high-speed rail projects.

The program focused on discussions of next steps APTA can take to move the high-speed rail agenda forward at the federal level. This forum is a follow-up to a fall 2014 meeting on the topic, “What will be the tipping point for a national high-performance passenger rail plan and program?”

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall, a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees, welcomed participants to the forum at the opening session. Peter Gertler, chair of the APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, reported on the committee’s activities and highlights, while committee Vice Chair Albrecht P. (Al) Engel explained the background and context for the “tipping point” idea.

In addition to Blumenauer’s remarks and the opening panel, the day-long agenda featured three panel discussions and a final session, “Top Priorities and Next Steps,” moderated by transportation consultant Eric C. Peterson. Session topics and panelists included the following:

Planning and Environmental Clearance: Dominic Spaethling, chair, APTA High-Speed and Intercity Rail Programs Subcommittee, moderator; panelists, David Valenstein, chief, environmental and corridor planning division, FRA; Shaun McCabe, vice president, engineering, Texas Central Partners; David J. Carol, senior vice president, market leader, high-speed rail and railroads, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff; and Peter A. Peyser Jr., principal, Peyser Associates LLC.

Funding and Finance of Intercity and High-Speed Rail Systems: Sharon Greene, co-chair, High-Speed and Intercity Rail Finance Subcommittee, moderator; panelists, Melissa L. Porter, principal legal officer and advisor to the administrator, FRA; Marc-Andre Roy, vice president North America, CPCS; Jodie Misiak, director, project development, Build America Transportation Investment Center, DOT; and Laurene Mahon, managing director/global head of infrastructure finance, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Leadership and Governance: Engel, moderator; panelists, Stephen J. Gardner, executive vice president, Northeast Corridor business development, Amtrak; Darrell Johnson, chair, High-Speed Rail and Intercity Passenger Rail Regional Corridors Subcommittee; Matthew Kelly, professional staff member, Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and Emily Stock, manager of rail planning, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Polls Say It’s Time for HSR
The forum referenced the survey High-Speed Rail in America 2015, conducted for APTA by TechnoMetrica, which found that 63 percent of Americans would be likely to use high-speed rail if it were currently available. That figure rises to 67 percent when respondents took into account the costs and time-saving benefits of high-speed rail.

A subsequent APTA survey conducted by ORC International showed that more than seven in 10 people across all age groups and political affiliations support increased federal funding for public transportation systems that serve communities of all sizes. To see both surveys, visit the APTA website.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer spoke at the Dec. 2 APTA High-Speed Rail Policy Forum in Washington, DC.

Photos by Steve Barrett Photography

Panelists at the opening session of the high-speed rail forum, from left: APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall; Peter Gertler, chair, APTA High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee; and Al Engel, vice chair of the committee.


Welcome to APTA's New Home!

APTA welcomed the public transit community and guests to its new Washington, DC, offices at a gala open house Dec. 2. Top photo: Visitors enjoyed food and drink as they explored the new 11th-floor conference space, connected by an internal staircase with the APTA staff offices on the 12th floor. Bottom photo: APTA President  & CEO Michael Melaniphy, right, greeted Joseph Alexander, president, Alexander Group, in front of the interactive Hall of Fame display, which displayed information about Alexander from his 2008 induction into the APTA Hall of Fame.
Photos by Steve Barrett Photography

Members of the APTA Board of Directors--led by Chair Valarie J. McCall, Vice Chair Doran Barnes and Secretary-Treasurer Kim Green, with President & CEO Michael Melaniphy--cut the ribbon to dedicate APTA's new offices.
Photo by Mitchell Wood

Collaboration Task Force Meets

The APTA Task Force on Member Collaboration, created by APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall at the October Annual Meeting when she began her term, met for the first time in early December to prepare its agenda, explore new opportunities and plan specific activities to strengthen collaboration throughout APTA. The task force is led by three co-chairs representing three specific groups of APTA members (agencies, businesses and agency board members). Attending the meeting are, from left, APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes; task force co-chair Patrick Scully, chair, Business Member Board of Governors; McCall; co-chair Ann August, outgoing chief executive officer, Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority; and co-chair David Stackrow, chair, Transit Board Members Committee, and board chair, Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY. The task force also includes 15 members—five individuals from the three groups—of whom nine attended the meeting. They are Huelon Harrison, Fred Daniels, Chuck Wochele, Keith Parker, Jeff Wharton, Beverly Silas, Joe Calabrese, Paul Skoutelas and Anthony Giancola. The task force was one of several APTA committees and groups that convened this week.

Photo by Steve Barrett Photography

Metra Launches Express to Tinley Park

Tinley Park Mayor David Seaman, left, and Metra Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno hold up a T-shirt celebrating the kickoff of Metra’s new evening rush hour express on the Rock Island Line to the Tinley Park/80th Avenue Station on Nov. 30. The new service reduces travel time from Chicago’s Loop to south suburban Tinley Park to 33 minutes and will help ease overcrowding on some trains while providing express service to the line’s busiest station.

Anderson, Acting CEO, Valley Metro

Valley Metro in Phoenix has named Eric Anderson, transportation director with the Maricopa Association of Governments, its acting chief executive officer following the departure of Steve Banta.

The boards that oversee Valley Metro's bus and light rail service--respectively, the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority and Valley Metro Rail boards of directors--plan to announce an interim CEO at their joint meeting Dec. 17.

Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus To Be Applauded in Paris; Agency Cited for Eco-Friendly Efforts

As Passenger Transport went to press, Santa Monica, CA, Mayor Kevin ­McKeown was preparing for a Dec. 4 presentation at the Paris climate summit highlighting the Big Blue Bus’s efforts to move away from fossil fuel use.

The summit, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, is also known as COP21 for the 21st ­Gathering of the Conference of Parties (COP 21).

The project submitted by the city of Santa Monica would convert the Big Blue Bus fleet to run fully on electricity charged by a massive solar array with battery storage at the bus facility. This transition would reduce the city’s emissions by 5,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, equivalent to taking 1,158 vehicles off the road.

“Transit Maintenance Officer Getty Modica and the Maintenance Division team have been instrumental in their commitment to bluer skies by providing the most technologically advanced vehicles and vehicle propulsion systems, vehicle fueling opportunities like RNG [renewable natural gas] and for keeping BBB on the cutting edge of climate change solutions,” said Ed King, transit director. “Our entire team is committed toward environmental leadership and electric transit vehicles will drive us and our customers towards a cleaner and greener future.”

Big Blue Bus, a signatory to the APTA Sustainability Commitment, has taken numerous steps away from fossil fuels. The agency is one of the first U.S. public transit agencies to convert its fleet to RNG from landfill-generated methane and to use the latest technology to provide emission-free transportation.

McKeown will make his presentation at a special pavilion that showcases the Transformative Actions Program, which calls on local governments to submit the most ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive projects with the potential to transform the lives of their citizens within the next 10 years.

Santa Monica’s project is one of more than 120 from 88 cities and regions in 42 countries. Find details here.

Walk Score: New York Best U.S. Public Transit City in 2016

New York City is the best U.S. city for public transit, according to the 2016 Transit Score ranking released by Walk Score, a subsidiary of the real estate brokerage firm Redfin.

The city’s Transit Score, 84.1, is 2.9 points above its 2014 ranking because this year the Metropolitan Transportation Authority launched the extension of its 7 subway line to the far west side of Manhattan. According to Walk Score, a place with a Transit Score in the 70 to 89 range has excellent ­public transit.

Rounding out the rest of the top five U.S. cities are San Francisco, 80.4 points; Boston, 74.4; Washington, DC, 70.6; and Philadelphia, 66.8. Walk Score has expanded its 2016 Transit Score ratings to include a total of 350 U.S. cities and more than 10,000 neighborhoods.

Rankings are determined by summing the relative “usefulness” of public transit (bus, subway, light rail, ferry and so on) routes near a given location. Usefulness is defined as the distance to the nearest stop on the route, the frequency of the route and type of route (with twice as much weight given to heavy/light rail than to bus service).

Find the full report here.

JTA's First Coast Flyer Arrives Dec. 7

As Passenger Transport went to press, the Jacksonville (FL) Transportation Authority was preparing for the Dec. 7 launch of its first BRT service, the First Coast Flyer “Green Line.” The 9.4-mile line, which replaces an existing bus route, will feature direct, high-frequency service, 18 branded stations, complimentary Wi-Fi, a park-and-ride lot and real-time bus arrival information. When all five phases of the First Coast Flyer project are complete in 2019, the system will be the largest BRT system in the Southeast, covering 57 miles.

L.A. County 'On Tap': Farecard Provides Seamless Connections

Los Angeles County’s TAP fare collection network is now the largest seamless transportation system in the nation, with all 26 of the county’s public ­transit agencies accepting TAP as a universal fare medium and allowing transfers among all providers.

"The milestone is significant because it shows how far we have come to create a seamless regional transportation system,” said Los Angeles Metro Board Chair and L.A. County Super­visor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “You can now use your TAP card to get all the way from Lancaster to Long Beach. No more fumbling in your pockets or purse for change.”

TAP is a fare collection system featuring a smart card with a computer chip embedded within the plastic card. A new TAP card has an expected life of 10 years and can be reloaded and reused.

TAP is the largest smart-card system in North America, with more than 23 million transactions and $14.5 million in passes sold every month.


APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall at CUTA Conference, Board Meeting; Says Collaboration Is Key to Success

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall represented the association and its members at the recent Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) 2015 Fall Conference and Trans-Expo in Montréal, where she stressed the value of collaboration to public transportation.

In her remarks before CUTA Chair Daniel Bergeron and the CUTA board, McCall greeted the attendees in French and then explained why she is focused on collaboration as APTA chair. “Public transportation’s successful future depends on working with groups and individuals outside the world of transit,” she said.

Referring to the value of public sector partnerships, McCall cited the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Regional Councils as groups that can help public transit systems gain support, increase funding and implement innovative ideas. “These organizations are natural allies of our industry,” she said. McCall is chief of government and international affairs for the city of Cleveland.

McCall praised CUTA President and CEO Patrick Leclerc for his efforts to ­continue the good relationship between CUTA and APTA. (The partnership was a catalyst for the first APTA-CUTA International Practicum on Innovative Transit Funding and Finance involving more than 150 transit professionals and a follow-up study mission to Stockholm, Munich and London last year.) “These types of collaborative successes ought to guide our alliance in the coming year,” she said.

The event attracted more than 750 attendees from North America and Europe, including 120 exhibitors. The trade show, Canada’s largest public transit and bus exhibition, was visited by McCall and other senior industry leaders, public officials and stakeholders. It featured 60,000 square feet of products, vehicles and services displayed by manufacturers and suppliers from around the world.

During the conference, McCall participated in a meeting of CUTA’s communications and public affairs committee, telling the group that its work is vital to the future of public transportation because “it defines how people perceive what we do to connect them to what they need … to what they want … and what they aspire to achieve.”

McCall, a board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and former chair of the APTA Transit Board Members Committee, also met with CUTA’s transit board members committee to emphasize the value that diverse public transit board members bring to the industry. “Your input is critical to the vitality of public transit agencies,” she told the committee.

Patrick Scully, chair of the APTA ­Business Member Board of Governors and executive vice president of sales and marketing at Motor Coach Industries, also attended the event.

McCall underscored Scully’s representation of APTA business members by highlighting examples of collaboration between the public and private sectors, especially on integrated mobility issues, noting that public transit systems partner with manufacturers and on-demand ride businesses, car-sharing and bike-sharing networks and companies like Google.

 APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall takes the wheel at CUTA's recent conference and trade show.

APTA Wins National Award

APTA and two of its partners, Frank. Strategic ­Marketing and National Trade Productions, have been selected ­winners in the 2015 “Art of the Show” competition conducted by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).

APTA won for its EXPO 2014 Exhibitor Prospectus, which received the top score in the category designated for exhibit sales brochure/prospectus (single piece) for trade shows with more than 200,000 net square feet. The prospectus was featured in IAEE’s Art of the Show gallery during its Dec. 1-3 annual meeting and exhibition.

365 Days of Public Transportation

APTA has released its 2016 calendar featuring photos of member public transportation agencies that portray passengers, large-scale events, maintenance operations and stations in various scenarios and settings and illustrating diverse modes.

The calendar also features APTA’s conference schedule, 12 interesting and noteworthy “did you know” facts about public transportation, U.S. holidays and transit-related special events including Dump the Pump Day, National Public Transportation Career Day and Earth Day.

APTA mails one free copy of the calendar to the primary contact at all member organizations and to all committee members, but a limited supply is available for additional distribution on a first-come, first-served basis. For details, contact Stephen Kendrick.


Denver RTD Integrates PTC in Commuter Rail Line to Airport

Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has begun testing PTC technology on its University of Colorado A Line, which will provide commuter rail service between Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport when it opens in April.

“Safety is RTD’s number one priority and PTC is literally life-saving,” said RTD Interim General Manager and Chief Executive Officer David Genova. “This technology will keep train operators from reaching unsafe speeds along the rail line. It is an important tool for preventing train-to-train collisions, trains unsafely crossing rail switches and unsafe operations near maintenance workers on the alignment.”

RTD said it is the first U.S. public transit system to integrate PTC technology in the actual construction of a rail system. It will use the technology on other commuter rail lines being constructed as part of the FasTracks project.

DOE Report Focuses on VelociRFTA's CNG Use

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently released a report focusing on the implementation of a compressed natural gas-powered bus fleet as part of operating the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s VelociRFTA BRT service in Aspen, CO.

The report, Developing a Natural Gas-Powered Bus Rapid Transit Service: A Case Study, examines VelociRFTA’s operation with 22 CNG buses in a service area with extreme winter weather and altitudes close to 8,000 feet. VelociRFTA also was the first rural BRT system in the U.S.

Author George Mitchell looks at the unique environment of RFTA for BRT as a resort community with widespread commuting from neighboring towns, the decision process to include CNG fueling in the project, unforeseen difficulties encountered in the operation of CNG buses, public perception, cost comparison to competing fuels and considerations for indoor fueling facilities and project funding.

The report is available here.

APTA Members Receive Operation Lifesaver Grants

Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) has awarded $148,500 in grants to eight rail public transit agencies in seven states—all APTA members—for public awareness and safety education projects.

The grant recipients are the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Los Angeles; Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, Petaluma, CA; Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; Metro Transit, Minneapolis; KC Streetcar Authority, Kansas City, MO; TriMet, Portland, OR; Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Houston; and Hampton Roads Transit, Hampton, VA.

The agencies and local OLI programs will collaborate on projects using OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!” campaign to increase public awareness of rail transit surroundings and help people pay attention in potentially dangerous situations.

The grants are funded by FTA. “FTA strongly supports more innovative rail transit safety awareness outreach efforts to educate the communities where these systems operate,” said Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “Whether as a passenger or walking, riding or driving near the tracks, safety must be everyone’s top priority‎."‎

APTA is a partner of OLI.

BART's Railcars on the Road

The first new railcar in the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s (BART) Fleet of the Future is getting prepped for a cross-country journey on a flatbed truck from the Bombardier Transit Corporation plant in Plattsburgh, NY, to BART’s test tracks.

'Taking the A Train' for Billy Strayhorn's Centennial

Vintage subway cars returned to service Nov. 29 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Strayhorn, composer of Duke Ellington’s theme song “Take the A Train.” MTA Arts & Design, Music Under New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center and the New York Transit Museum teamed up to host the special “nostalgia train” trip on the line, from 145th Street to 59th Street-Columbus Circle, with jazz performances on board. Strayhorn composed “Take the A Train” in 1939, inspired by Ellington’s directions to Harlem. By 1939, the A Line had been in service for seven years.

Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Industry Briefs

Metrolink Gets State Funding for Locomotives — The South Coast Air Quality Management District Governing Board in the Los Angeles area has approved $22.85 million for Metrolink commuter rail from the state’s Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program, which funds cleaner-than-required engines and equipment. The award will help fund up to 20 additional new Tier 4 passenger locomotives, which reduce particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 85 percent compared to current Tier 0 locomotive engines.

Md. MTA Opens Park-and-Ride — The Maryland Transit Administration opened a new commuter bus park-and-ride in Waldorf, MD, on Dec. 1. The $10.5 million lot includes parking for 550 vehicles with ADA-compliant spaces and a bus access loop with adjacent shelters, sidewalks and lighting. Environmentally-friendly “pervious” (porous) concrete pavers allow rainwater to pass through the parking surface instead of running directly into drains. Beneath the pervious material, water can seep slowly into the ground and filter naturally, reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that enter the Chesapeake Bay through tributaries.

Cummins Ships First QSK95 Engine for Rail — Cummins Inc. recently shipped its first production 95-liter, 16-cylinder QSK95 engine built to a rail specification to the Siemens manufacturing facility in Sacramento, CA, for installation in a Charger locomotive. The Charger diesel-electric passenger locomotive will be part of a five-state, 35-unit initial order with the Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington DOTs.

TransitCenter Awards Grants — TransitCenter, a foundation dedicated to improving urban mobility, recently awarded nine grants totaling $838,700 to organizations contributing original work to the field. Project topics include co-creative planning of transit corridors, which will pilot methods of engaging the public in transportation planning; training seminars for local officials and public transit agency staff to apply the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ upcoming Design Guidelines for Transit Streets (also commissioned in part by TransitCenter); and short films documenting interesting programs at public transit agencies around the country.

BART’s New Tech Training — The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has launched an innovative training program in partnership with Bay Area community colleges and local workforce investment boards to provide up to 100 students with the technical knowledge to pursue transit-related careers, including careers at BART. The program, called Transit Career Ladders Training, will promote transportation careers in low-income areas, unemployed and underemployed communities and among minorities, veterans and women; it is funded by a $750,000 FTA Ladders of Opportunity grant.

DART First State’s New Route for Amazon Employees — DART First State has seen impressive ridership growth on its new route between Wilmington and Middletown, DE, scheduled to meet the shift times of Amazon employees and serve a Walmart Supercenter. The route carried approximately 150 people in its first week but provided nearly 1,000 rides by the sixth week.

HART, Local College ‘Green-Up’ — The Environmental and Sustainability Management Program of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, recently created a partnership with students at St. Petersburg College’s College of Business. Seniors enrolled in the college’s Sustainability Management Degree curriculum must complete a 16-week sustainability improvement project before graduation; HART invites the students to apply the theories and concepts they’ve learned to real-world environmental initiatives at HART, which the agency will use for future green initiatives.

Remembering Rosa Parks, 60 Years Later; Public Transit Commemorates its Role in Historic Action

Dec. 1 was the 60th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL, leading to a bus boycott and a new phase of the civil rights movement. APTA presented Parks with its first Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. Parks died in 2005. Here are a few examples of the many public transit agencies who commemorated the day in 1955 when an African-American woman took center stage by refusing to move to the back of the bus.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) spoke at a Nov. 30 Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) event with other officials, including DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas. "We cannot overstate the significance of [Parks'] simple and brave act. Her decision to keep her seat reminds all of us to focus on the larger issues of equality, opportunity and hope for the future," Thomas said. On Dec. 1, DART placed "reserved" signs on the front seats of more than 500 buses to honor Parks' decision to take a stand simply by taking a seat.

Yolobus in Woodland, CA, also recognized Parks' achievement with signs on the front seats of its buses reading: "Seat Reserved. In honor of Rosa Parks on the 60th anniversary of her courageous acts that changed the path toward civil rights on December 1, 1955."

Photo courtesy of Yolo County Transportation District

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) in Providence commemorated the anniversary with signs designed by Cristy Raposo. senior marketing coordinator, that appeared on the digital boards on RIPTA buses, on large screens at the Kennedy Plaze transit hub and on the agency's website. The Rosa Parks Human Rights Committee in Rhode Island provided the photo wreathed in black flowers


Who Pays for Roads? How the "Users Pay" Myth Gets in the Way of Solving America's Transportation Problems


Many Americans believe that drivers pay the full cost of the roads they use through gas taxes and other user fees. That has never been true, and it is less true now than at any other point in modern times.

Today, general taxes paid by all taxpayers cover nearly as much of the cost of building and maintaining highways as the gas tax and other fees paid by drivers. The purchasing power of gasoline taxes has declined as a result of inflation, improved vehicle fuel economy, and the recent stagnation in driving. As a result, so-called “user fees” cover a shrinking share of transportation costs.

The time has come for policy-makers to recognize something that has been true for years, but is especially true today: we all pay for America’s roads. …

Roads Don’t Pay For Themselves
Nearly as much of the cost of building and maintaining highways now comes from general taxes such as income and sales taxes (plus additional federal debt) as comes from gasoline taxes or other “user fees” on drivers. General taxes accounted for $69 billion of highway spending in 2012.

Roads pay for themselves less and less over time. In the 1960s and early 1970s, gas taxes and other fees on drivers covered more than 70 percent of the costs of highway construction and maintenance. The share of transportation costs covered by gasoline taxes is likely to continue to decline as a result of inflation, more fuel-efficient cars, and slower growth in driving.

All of Us Bear the Costs
Aside from gas taxes and individuals’ expenditures for their own driving, U.S. households bear on average an additional burden of more than $1,100 per year in taxes and other costs imposed by driving. Including:

An estimated $597 per U.S. household per year in general tax revenue dedicated to road construction and repair.

Between $199 and $675 per household per year in additional tax subsidies for driving, such as the sales tax exemption for gasoline purchases in many states and the federal income tax exclusion for commuter parking benefits.

An estimated $216 per year in government expenditures made necessary by vehicle crashes, not counting additional, uncompensated damages to victims and property.

Approximately $93 to $360 per household in costs related to air pollution-induced health damage.

Non-User Tax Dollars
Governments spend more non-user tax dollars on highways than on transit, bicycling, walking and passenger rail travel, combined.

Transit ($43.3 billion in government capital and operating funding), bicycling and pedestrian programs ($821 million in federal funding), and passenger rail ($1.8 billion in government funding) all receive less direct taxpayer support than highways.

Paying a Fair Share
People who walk and bicycle pay their fair share for use of the transportation system.

Most walking and bicycling takes place on local streets and roads that are primarily paid for through property taxes and other general local taxes.

Walking and bicycling inflict virtually no damage on roads and streets, and take up only a tiny fraction of the road space occupied by vehicles. ­Bicyclists and pedestrians likely pay far more in general taxes to facilitate the use of local roads and streets by drivers than they receive in benefits from state and federal infrastructure investment paid for through the gas tax.

We Are Multimodal
Americans lead increasingly multimodal lives. Most are not “drivers” or “non-drivers” but people who use a variety of modes and pay for transportation in a variety of ways.

Roughly two-thirds of American ­drivers also bicycle, walk or use public transit during the course of a given week, with young people more likely to be multimodal than older generations.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it is appropriate to use gasoline tax revenue to support public transportation. And several recent opinion polls suggest that Americans believe that the nation should give greater priority to transit, bicycling and walking in transportation spending.

Finding Solutions
Solving the transportation funding crisis may or may not require higher gas taxes. It certainly requires policy-makers to use fresh thinking. They can begin by taking three steps:

(1) Recognize the reality that all Americans now bear the cost of roads by making transportation policy choices based on which investments deliver the most benefits for the public, regardless of mode. The needs of Americans who mainly ride transit, bicycle, walk or use other transportation services should bear no less weight than the needs of automobiles in transportation decision-making.

(2) Treat revenue sources and investment decisions as separate. Transportation agencies have often prioritized new highways of dubious merit over pressing maintenance and repair projects, as well as important investments in transit and other modes of transportation. By subjecting all transportation spending to rigorous evaluation and prioritization—regardless of the source of revenue—public officials can ensure that taxpayer money is spent most effectively.

(3) Move toward a sensible pricing system for transportation. Taxes on drivers have been seen primarily as a way to raise money for transportation. But they can fill a more important purpose by being used to recoup some of the costs drivers impose on society and improve the efficiency of the transportation system.

Congestion pricing, parking ­pricing, pollution-based charges and similar charges can encourage transportation choices that deliver the greatest benefits to or impose the least costs on society—even if every penny of revenue from those fees is returned to taxpayers or used for purposes other than transportation.

This Commentary is the executive summary of Who Pays for Roads?, a new report from Frontier Group. Find the report here. Dutzik and Weissman are with the Frontier Group; Baxandall was with U.S. PIRG ­Education Fund at the time of publication. © 2015 Frontier Group. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

"Commentary” features points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Banta to Step Down as Valley Metro CEO

PHOENIX—Steve Banta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro since 2010, has announced that he will step down from that post in January. During his tenure, Valley Metro transitioned from a construction agency to an operating agency.

For APTA, Banta is vice chair of the Leadership APTA Committee and a member of several other committees.

John Manzi
ST. EUSTACHE, QC—Nova Bus announces the hiring of John Manzi as regional sales manager for the East Coast. Manzi has more than 30 years experience in the public transportation industry, most recently as eastern regional transit sales manager for a major transmission manufacturer.

Beverley Miller
BURNSVILLE, MN—Beverley Miller, executive director of the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA), recently received the Distinguished Career Award from the Minnesota Public Transit Association.
Miller is MVTA’s first and only executive director, joining the agency in 1990. Earlier she was administrator of SouthWest Transit, Eden Prairie, MN, and transit manager for Glendale, AZ.

William (Bill) Barringer, Jo Strang, Steven Neubauer

WASHINGTON—The Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) Board of Directors has re-elected William (Bill) Barringer, railroad consultant and former director of grade crossing safety at Norfolk Southern Corporation, its chairman.

Jo Strang, vice president for regulatory affairs at the American Short Line and Regional Railroads Association, was elected vice chairman, succeeding Clyde J. Hart Jr., who is stepping down from the OLI board after nine years’ service. Steven Neubauer, director, institutional safety for BNSF Railway Company, was re-elected secretary treasurer.
John Perry
LONDON, UK—Mott MacDonald has appointed John Perry its group practice manager for transportation. He has more than 35 years experience in transport design, management development and research and has been business development director for Mott MacDonald for the past five years.

Jeanne Miller

JACKSONVILLE, FL—Jeanne Miller, executive director of the Jacksonville Civic Council, has joined the Jacksonville Transportation Authority Board of Directors, appointed by Mayor Lenny Curry. She succeeds Allison Korman Shelton, the city’s director of intergovernmental affairs.