APTA | Passenger Transport Express
December 11, 2009

News Headlines

Obama Proposes Increased Infrastructure Investment to Create Jobs

Given the historically high unemployment rate and other economic difficulties facing the nation, the Obama administration is putting great emphasis on job creation. To that end, President Barack Obama on December 8 announced that the administration will, as part of a second "stimulus bill," seek additional investment for infrastructure.

In a speech in Washington, DC, Obama called for investment "beyond what was included in the Recovery Act, to continue modernizing our transportation and communications networks. These are needed public works that engage private sector companies, spurring hiring across the country."

In response to this, Joseph A. Calabrese, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) general manager and CEO, on December 10 testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the jobs that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has supported and created in the Cleveland area. He noted that additional federal investment in transit would likely reduce unemployment even more in the region. Already, ARRA "has resulted in preserving/creating 524 job-months of labor, with 90,686 labor hours, and $2.4 million of payroll invoiced on RTA capital projects. This does not include the bus operator jobs preserved at my agency," Calabrese said.

For more details on this proposal and other legislative news, see the latest APTA Legislative Alert.

House, Senate Agree on FY 2010 Approps for DOT, Other Agencies

On December 8, the House and Senate reached agreement on Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations for DOT and other departments of the federal government. The House approved the omnibus appropriations bill on December 10, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he expects his chamber to pass the bill some time this weekend.

The conference report appropriates $76.96 billion to DOT, of which $10.733 billion will go to FTA. Formula and Bus Grants receive $8.34 billion, and $2 billion will go to New Starts and Small Starts, and $2.5 billion will go to high-speed rail. In addition, $34 million will go to the Rail Line Improvement and Relocation Program, and $50 million is appropriated for the implementation of positive train control.

LaHood Presses for New Rail Transit Safety Law; Millar Urges Inclusion of APTA Rail Transit Safety Standards

Given several recent rail accidents, rail transit safety and the likelihood of federal oversight are receiving significant attention from Congress. On December 10, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood discussed DOT's proposed rail transit safety program in testimony before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. APTA President William Millar also testified, to urge that the safety standards developed over the years by APTA with FTA financial assistance be used in any new safety oversight  program--and to support the idea of federal funding to enable public transit systems to put such programs in place.

If Congress passes the Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, DOT would be authorized to establish and enforce a set of national, mandatory standards for rail transit. A Rail Safety Advisory Committee would guide the creation and enforcement of the standards. Existing authorities could continue their enforcement role under the new regulations, provided they meet federal approval and be financially separate from the agencies they inspect. DOT could appropriate funding to states for the training and employment of rail transit safety inspectors. However, DOT would conduct enforcement for states that opt out of direct enforcement.

Earlier in the week, on December 8, the House of Representatives also took up rail transit safety, through the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, where Millar urged the FTA to use the safety standards developed over the years with FTA financial assistance in any new safety oversight  program. He emphasized that APTA standards have been developed over decades, with experts from multiple stakeholder groups, and have already been paid for by taxpayers.

LaHood Announces High-Speed Rail Manufacturing Expansion

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on December 4 announced that 32 rail manufacturers and suppliers have committed to expanding or beginning operations in the United States if they are chosen by the projects to help build the nation's high-speed rail network. LaHood cited the job-creation potential in the new commercial opportunities that high-speed rail can bring. "Our goal is to develop a national high-speed rail network, create good jobs here in America, and help reinvigorate our manufacturing base," he said at a discussion with business leaders in Washington, DC.

The meeting was attended by APTA rail car manufacturers and APTA President William Millar.

Oklahoma City says 'OK!' to Funding New Public Transit; 2009 Success Rate Rises to 73%

Voters in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, December 8, voted to approve a one-cent sales tax extension, expected to generate $777 million over its lifetime of just under eight years.

The investment will be used to build a streetcar system, sidewalks on major streets and near public facilities, 57 miles of bicycling and walking trails, and possible future rail projects, such as commuter lines and a transit hub.

This success means that in 2009, 8 out of 11 public transit ballot measures were passeda success rate of 73 percent.

Rogoff Addresses APTA Transit Board Members in Webinar

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff reported on his agency’s priorities during a December 9 webinar open to all APTA members, conducted as part of a series for APTA’s transit board members; 59 connection sites participated in the program, moderated by APTA Vice Chair-Transit Board Members Flora Castillo. Rogoff announced that 89 percent of FTA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds are out the door, covering the purchase, replacement, or rehabilitation of approximately 12,000 vehicles and contributing to the creation of more than 16,400 jobs. Rogoff’s other topics included FTA’s State of Good Repair efforts; DOT’s proposed transit safety initiative; streamlining of the New Starts program; and livability and sustainability concerns.

FHWA Head Mendez Speaks at APTA Event

APTA’s latest Transportation Tuesday featured Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  “We serve the public--whether on the highway, public transportation, or walking.  The issue for all of us is to provide a safe system at the end of the day,” Mendez said at the APTA offices in Washington, DC. He added:  “Our goal is to create cleaner, healthier communities where people have transportation choices.”  This was the first time that a FHWA administrator has spoken at the APTA offices.

APTA Members Participate in Copenhagen Climate Conference

Public transit leaders, including APTA members, on December 8 discussed the benefits public transportation brings to climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen. Therese McMillan, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, moderated a DOT-sponsored session titled "Buses, Trains, and Commuter Vans: Reducing Carbon Through U.S. Public Transit." Participants included Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; Fred Hansen, general manager of Tri-Met in Portland, OR; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

APTA Members Urged to Participate in 'Tell Your Story' to Congress

With the national focus on job creation, APTA and the Telling Our Story Task Force will introduce the first Telling Your Story to Congress District Days while members of the U.S. House of Representatives are home on recess.

APTA urges all members to meet with their representatives January 6-8, just before they return to Washington. The timing is critical; Congress is expected to focus on a second economic stimulus bill in January, and it is imperative that funds for public transit be included. In addition, it is also an opportunity to remind Congress of the need for authorization of the surface transportation funding.

APTA Supports Older Driver Safety Awareness Week

APTA is participating in Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 6-12, sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Association. The goal of the event is to increase safety by informing the public that the aging driver has travel options, and to promote understanding of the importance of mobility and transportation to ensure older adults remain active in the community.

Save the Date


With the federal government's major investment in high-speed rail, APTA is partnering with the International Union of Railways to present the International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States. Each regional practicum will focus on best practices and lessons learned from European and Asian systems, through the lens of America’s unique railroad operating environment.

Practicums will be held February 8-9 in Washington, DC; February 9-11 in Chicago; and February 11-13, in Los Angeles.

In the Media

In a victory for Central Florida, the SunRail commuter rail project was approved by the state legislature earlier this week--a success that bodes well for high-speed rail in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

The Associated Press reported that public transportation's beneficial effect on carbon emissions were underscored with a train ride for attendees at the recent Copenhagen climate summit.

The outgoing chairman of Houston Metro, David Wolff, reflected on local funding anomalies, Congressional antipathy, and the challenge of "retrofitting a city for transit," in a story from The Houston Chronicle.

The quiet engines of some new additions to New York Metropolitan Transit Authority bus fleet are getting passengers' attention, as noted in a The New York Times feature.

A railway box built in 1911 has been spared the wrecking ball, the BBC News reported.

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