APTA | Passenger Transport Express
August 7, 2009

News Headlines

FY 2010 THUD Appropriations Markup Passes; Full Vote Postponed

Although the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 30 unanimously passed its markup of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) and Related Agencies appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010, the full Senate has postponed a floor vote on the legislation until Congress returns from recess in September.

The Appropriations Committee markup is largely unchanged from the THUD subcommittee markup. Appropriations for FTA include: $8.3 billion for FTA formula/bus grants; $2.3 billion for New Starts; $150 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA); $100 million for greenhouse gas–reduction grants; and $1.2 billion for high-speed rail. It commits $1.55 billion in combined capital and operations funding for Amtrak.

The House began its summer recess on August 1, and the Senate adjourns today. Both houses will reconvene September 8.

In other legislation, Senate committees working on climate change legislation have been instructed by the Senate leadership to produce their versions of the legislation by the end of September, with the expectation that the Senate would consider it in October.

FTA Disburses $369.5 Million More in ARRA Funds

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced the most recent release of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds—$369.5 million—on July 31. These grants include $20.7 million to Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, for preventive maintenance, equipment such as fareboxes for 144 coaches and a video surveillance system, and construction of a new transit center; $10.6 million to the Interurban Transit Partnership in Grand Rapids, which will allow renovation of the Wealthy Street Operations Center to begin two years ahead of schedule; $3.2 million for the St. Cloud Metropolitan Transit Commission to purchase vehicles including four 35-foot buses and nine 29-foot paratransit vehicles along with stop annunciation and visual systems; and $2.8 million to the Miami-Dade Transit Agency for refurbishment of a Metromover station and Metrorail track and installation of a Wi-Fi demonstration project.

APTA Chair, Members Testify Before Senate on Rail Modernization

On August 4, APTA Chair Beverly Scott, general manager/CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and several other heads of APTA member public transit systems joined Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff in testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on the need for more federal investment in rail modernization.

“It’s really an issue of balance and additional funding,” Scott said. Given the expanding population, she said, public transit systems must expand. At the same time, “we cannot let that [happen] at the risk of not running safe systems.” Scott called for more federal investment in state of good repair and capital expansion.

WMATA General Manager John Catoe cited several areas of capital need in his system. “Our capital needs over the next 10 years total more than $11.4 billion,” he said. This investment is needed to replace aging rail cars and 100 buses annually, and to repair leaking tunnels, crumbling platforms, and malfunctioning elevators and escalators, Catoe said, noting that his system is not unique in this need. “There is clearly ample demand from many transit systems for additional federal support to sustain the safety and reliability of their systems,” he said.  “The work that we have done to keep transit systems in a state of good repair might not be exciting to hear about, but without it, service and safety will suffer.”

Also testifying were Chicago Transit Authority Chair Carole Brown and New Jersey Executive Director Transit Richard Sarles.

LaHood to Convene Panel on Driver Distractions; APTA Group Creating Standards

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced he will convene a panel to address the problem of text messaging and cellphone use by drivers. The panel will include senior transportation officials, safety advocates, and representatives from Congress, law enforcement, and academia.

The announcement followed Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-NY) introduction of a bill that would withhold 25 percent of transportation funding from states lacking laws against texting while driving. The Avoiding Life Endangering and Reckless Texting (ALERT) Act is cosponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); and Kay Hagan (D-NC).

APTA’s Standards Development Bus Safety Working Group is developing two voluntary standards that public transit systems may adopt to address operator distraction on bus or rail vehicles.

Save the Date

Register now for the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting, October 4-7 in Orlando. This year's event features a Products & Services Showcase with the latest innovations for our industryas well as sessions on New Starts, the upcoming surface transportation authorization bill, and much more. Discounts on travel and activities are available for APTA members.

In the Media

APTA President William Millar participated in the National Journal Expert Blog on Transportation this week.

A New York Times editorial urged the Congress to make a large investment in high-speed rail.

The Associated Press discussed how transit systems deal with bicycles left behind on buses.

A business columnist for the LA Times told American Public Media’s Marketplace about his recent experiences with the Japanese public transportation system.

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