APTA | Passenger Transport Express
February 6, 2009

News Headlines

Senate Economic Recovery Bill Funding for Public Transit Still Unclear

At press time, the Senate was still in session, debating the economic recovery bill. The amount for public transportation funding and high speed and intercity rail is still unclear.

To help keep track of the stimulus bill and its possible amendments, APTA offers a valuable resource, the new economic recovery section of the APTA web site.

FTA Advises Advance Steps for Systems to Qualify for Stimulus Funding

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and APTA are urging public transit agencies to take specific steps now to ensure projects meet the requirements for receiving funding from the forthcoming stimulus bill.  In addition, FTA has taken the unprecedented step of offering its initial interpretations of the various provisions in the pending bills in advance of passage.

Timing of contracts and other actions taken to spend stimulus dollars will be a crucial element of the final legislation.  The bill will most likely require transit systems to "obligate" at least one half of the funds within 90 days of apportionment.  FTA is working to define just what actions will start the clock and what actions will constitute obligation. Be prepared for whatever actions are necessary in those first 90 days by referring to APTA's web site and by reviewing FTA's recommended immediate actions.

Vice President Biden, Secretary LaHood Visit Rail Station, Urge Funding for Public Transit

Vice President Biden, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley yesterday visited a Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) station, where the vice president urged Congress to provide at least $100 billion for infrastructure, including public transit, in the forthcoming stimulus bill. More details will be available in the February 16 issue of Passenger Transport.

To expedite that funding, Secretary LaHood separately announced the creation of a new Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team to "make sure that DOT’s portion of recovery funding goes out to states and localities as quickly as possible in order to immediately create jobs and strengthen our economy and transportation system," he said in a statement.  The team is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.

Former Mayor Named New Amtrak Board Chair

The former mayor of Maycomb, IL, Thomas C. Carper, has been named chair of the Amtrak Board of Directors. Carper has served on the board since March of 2008.

Save the Date

There is still time for policymakers, transit operators, manufacturers, suppliers, government relations staff, and local coalition members to sign up to attend APTA's 2009 Legislative Conference, March 8-10 in Washington, DC. This year's conference will give participants a unique opportunity to discuss funding requests for Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations to their Congressional representatives.


In the Media

Editorial Roundup

The prospect of stimulus funding for public transportation made the editorial pages of several newspapers recently:

A Washington Post editorial argues that public transportation should receive a significant investment via the stimulus bill -- as does an editorial from the Detroit Free Press.  A New York Times piece notes that just as ridership has hit record highs on systems nationwide, many are being forced to cut service and raise fares. And the Boston Globe makes the case that for public transit to get its due funding, a separate infrastructure bill should be introduced.

On NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) lamented the underfunding of public transit: "The fact is, our transportation system is neglected. You can't move products from here to there as effectively as other places.  We waste countless hours of American productivity on roads that are clogged with traffic because we don't invest in mass transit."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed a local task force's consideration of a VMT tax.

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