APTA | Passenger Transport Express
  May 1, 2009

News Headlines

Transit Systems on Alert With Swine Flu Outbreak

In response to the current outbreak of swine influenza (H1N1), public transit systems are encouraging customers and employees to take normal health procedures while riding or working on public transit.  In addition, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and APTA are referring systems to the Transit Sector Pandemic Flu document in the event the current outbreak worsens. FTA has also directed public transit systems to review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s information on the outbreak. APTA President William W. Millar said in a statement: "People should continue to ride public transportation.  Buses and trains are as safe as any other public area."

Special Session at APTA Bus Conference on Swine Flu

At the APTA 2009 Bus and Paratransit Conference in Seattle, a special session focusing on the swine flu outbreak will be held Monday from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. in the Sheraton Seattle Issaquah Room (Level 3).  Representatives from FTA and local health officials will participate.

FY 2010 Budget Resolution Passes House, Senate

A compromise version of the basic framework for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget passed both houses of Congress on April 29. The resolution "provides a solid foundation for the surface transportation authorization act," House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) said in a statement.

"This is a promising start in the process of making crucial investments in public transportation," said APTA President William W. Millar. "We look forward to working with Congress and the Administration as the new authorization bill is crafted."

Total surface transportation investment in the bill is $324 billion, the amount originally stipulated in the House version. This means the House T&I Committee will start the authorization process with approximately $80 million more than would have been available under the Senate’s version of the bill.

Rep. Oberstar emphasized that the resolution "establishes a reserve fund to allow this base allocation of $324 billion to be adjusted upward as necessary to accommodate higher funding levels to the extent they can be supported by the Highway Trust Fund."

Senate Confirms Szabo as FRA Administrator

The Senate has confirmed Joseph Szabo as the new administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. Szabo has worked for Chicago Metra, as well as Illinois Central Railroad.

New Report Notes Public Transitís Job Creation Effects, Economic Boon

At a hearing of the House T&I Committee on economic stimulus on April 29, APTA released its report Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: An Update. It finds that every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports 30,000 jobs and that two-thirds of jobs created with capital investment in public transit replace lost blue-collar jobs with “green jobs.”

J. Barry Barker, executive director of the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) in Louisville, KY, cited the report in his testimony. “Based on these projections, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provides $8.4 billion for public transportation projects, will create approximately 252,000 jobs for Americans and help transit systems meet the steadily growing demand for public transit services,” Barker said.

He pointed to the ARRA-supported investments already underway in the Louisville region, including construction of a LEED-certified maintenance annex, acquisition of 10 hybrid electric buses, re-roofing of a 200,000 square-foot bus barn, rehabilitation of TARC’s satellite bus storage building, construction of a 1,200-kilowatt emergency generation facility, and preventive maintenance.

At the hearing, Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) noted both the speed with which public transit systems and businesses have used the funds and the economic benefit these investments have already produced. At the end of March, 1,380 highway and transit projects totaling $6.4 billion had been put out to bid, he said. Of the 364 projects already under contract, work on 263 had already begun. These projects have resulted in more than 1,250 workers getting back on the job.

FTA Issues Grant Guidance for TIGGER Program; Deadline May 29

The FTA has published guidance and grant application instructions for the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Grant Program.  Through ARRA, Congress made $100 million available to public transit agencies for capital investments to assist in reducing energy consumption and/or greenhouse gas emissions.  Examples of these investments include replacement of existing buses with more energy efficient models (hybrid, fuel cell), conversion to more efficient control technology vehicles and construction or rehabilitation of transit system facilities.  Grants may range from $2 million to $25 million, and transit systems may apply together to reach minimum funding threshold requirements.  The application deadline for this program is May 29, 2009. 

Oberstar Praises New Report Documenting Transit Investment Need

At an event on Capitol Hill on April 24, Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) joined representatives from APTA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in calling attention to the need for greater transportation investments, as noted in a new report.

The Bottom Line Report, commissioned by AASHTO and APTA, notes that much greater funding for transportation will be necessary in the next authorization bill. To achieve a doubling of public transit ridership in 20 years, transit funding will need to increase to $59 billion per year from all levels of government, the report notes.

APTA is advocating that the new bill include $123 billion for public transit over the six-year authorization period - beginning with $12 billion the first year and increasing to $30 billion in the last year.

"AASHTO and APTA have really done it right," Rep. Oberstar said. He emphasized that he expects to have the new authorization bill out of the committee by June, with a floor vote soon to follow. "We’re not going to have 11 extensions," he said. "We’re not going to let opportunists or delay in the other body think that they can contemplate an extension of time."

He said his committee will release its initial report on authorization in the next couple of weeks.

LaHood Affirms Transitís Importance in Senate Commerce Hearing

At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on April 28, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood gave some insight into what the future holds for authorization. Committee Chairman Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) noted that "highways alone cannot meet the needs of the future"—a point the secretary echoed in his response. "The transportation policies of the past cannot take us into the future," LaHood said. "We have to make [people] get out of their cars ... and use mass transit." He noted that the Administration will not offer its own authorization bill but will provide overarching principles that it hopes Congress will adopt. "We’re going to leave the funding mechanisms up to Congress," Sec. LaHood said.

FTA Issues Interim Guidance, FY 2009 Apportionments

The Office of Management and Budget has issued its interim final guidance on reporting, registration and FTA apportionments for FY 2009. For both, members can look to APTA’s SAFETEA-LU Rulemaking and Notices web page. In addition, FTA published in the Federal Register on April 27 apportionments for FY 2009.

FTA Sends Rail Modernization Report to Congress

The FTA sent its Rail Modernization Study to Congress on April 30. It reports that more than one-third of public transit agencies’ assets are in marginal or poor condition. It also notes that if assets are allowed to remain in service beyond their expected useful life, there is an estimated state of good repair (SGR) backlog of roughly $50 billion for the agencies under consideration.  The report notes that even though the dollar amount of federal capital funding during the study period increased, some systems’ share of modernization funds actually declined as new non-rail fixed-guideway systems entered the program.  The report offers four options as solutions: changes to funding formulas, new funding sources, technical support, and capital asset reporting.

Save the Date: Rail Conference June 14-18

APTA's 2009 Rail Conference in Chicago will provide attendees with the most comprehensive learning and networking experience possible. The conference includes a complete slate of technical sessions relevant to the operation, management and maintenance of rail and fixed guideway systems.

In the Media

WTVT-13 in Tampa Bay, FL, reported that thanks to public transit, a car-free commute may soon be a possibility in the region.

The Milwaukee Business Journal featured an article on a new web site promoting an eventual rail link between Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul, created by a group of citizen advocates.

Detroit's WWJ Newsradio 950 reported on an event combining pancakes, politics, and public transportation.

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