APTA | Passenger Transport Express
September 12, 2008


House and Senate Pass $8 Billion Highway Trust Fund Bailout

Yesterday, the House of Representatives agreed to the Senate-passed version of  H.R. 6532, which transfers $8 billion from the general fund of the Treasury to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund, clearing the measure for the President's signature. The bill changes the effective date of the transfer from September 30 to the date of enactment.  U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters earlier called on Congress to pass this legislation in announcing that the Highway Account was becoming insolvent sooner than expected because of declining gas tax revenues.  The Bush Administration had previously opposed this plan, calling instead for the government to shore up the Highway Account with money borrowed from the Mass Transit Account.



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Senate Holds Hearing on Strengthening Public Transportation

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee heard from public transit industry leaders and advocates at its Tuesday hearing on “Strengthening the Ability of Public Transportation to Reduce Our Dependence on Foreign Oil.”  Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA) chaired the hearing in the absence of Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT).

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) testified in support of public transit as “a win-win-win” for the environment, the economy, and the public. “We must take steps to ensure that our public transit systems keep pace with increased demand without sacrificing service or increasing fares,” she said.  Clinton recently introduced the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act of 2008 in the Senate.  A similar piece of legislation, which authorizes $1.7 billion for transit over two years, previously passed overwhelmingly in the House.

Members of the committee also spoke about the importance of public transportation in helping Americans cope with high fuel costs. “Public transportation can efficiently and effectively transport commuters to and from their destinations, while using less fuel, creating less pollution, and taking a significant amount of stress—and congestion—off our roadways,” said Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL).

APTA President William W. Millar also testified and urged Congress to increase funding for public transportation.

NACTO Releases Platform Focused on SAFETEA-LU Authorization

Top city transportation leaders representing the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) joined Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee this week to call for a renewed federal focus on transportation and new federal transportation priorities and policies. With SAFETEA-LU set to expire in September 2009, NACTO released its latest platform calling for new legislation centered on three principles: fully funding repairs and upgrades for American roads, bridges and mass transit; leading the country in combating energy dependence and climate change; and cutting red tape and bureaucracy to deliver projects more quickly.

According to NACTO President Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, "Congress has an opportunity next year to take us to the next level in transportation policy.  We are looking at a federal program that could be doing a lot more to strengthen cities and save people money on gas by supporting sustainable urban and metropolitan transportation systems.”


Public Transit Ridership Surges in 2nd Quarter

Americans took more than 2.8 billion trips on public transportation in the second quarter of 2008, according to APTA's ridership report, released this week. This is nearly 140 million more trips than from the same time period last year.  While ridership on public transportation continued to climb, rising by 5.2% in this quarter, vehicle miles traveled on our nation's roads continued to decline – by 3.3% according to the Federal Highway Administration, making this the eighth consecutive month of decline.

Light rail percentage of ridership rose the most among all modes, posting a 12.3% increase.  Bus ridership had the second highest increase at 5.1%.  Bus travel in communities of all sizes saw ridership increases; communities with populations ranging from 100,000 to 499,999 experienced a 14% increase. In communities under 100,000, bus ridership increased by 11.1%.  Ridership on commuter rail was up 4.9% nationally.  Heavy rail ridership increased by 4.3%. 

In The Media

APTA’s second quarter ridership figures are out, as is our survey entitled, "Rising Fuel Costs:  Impacts on Transit Ridership and Agency Operations," both of which have generated national press coverage. Below are some of the stories.

USA Today ran an article:  "Transit demands could stress riders."  

In the Wall Street Journal’s lead paragraph: "Momentum is building in Congress to increase funding for public transportation as transit agencies struggle to accommodate.”

Also, Wednesday, APTA President William W. Millar spoke with NPR’s Marketplace for a story titled “Subways and Buses are Packed.” 

California will soon pass a law – the first in the nation – that links greenhouse gas emissions to urban planning.  The measure will make existing and new high-density centers where people live, work, and shop the top priority in receiving local, state, and federal transportation funds.  


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