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February 18, 2011
President Obama Releases FY 2012 Budget; Includes $556 Billion in Transportation Investment Over Next Six Years

President Obama's 2012 budget recommendation contains significant good news for public transportation investment.  The budget requests $129 billion in funding for the Department of Transportation, including $22.4 billion for public transportation programs and $8 billion for high-speed rail for Fiscal Year 2012.  These increases are part of a proposed $50 billion boost in infrastructure funding to help create jobs and stimulate the economy.  The recommendation must be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

The president's budget request also contains a proposal for a new six-year surface transportation authorization bill (FY 2012-2017) that would significantly increase investment for all surface transportation programs.  The administration's proposal calls for an investment of $119 billion for transit programs (a 128 percent increase over SAFETEA-LU) and $53 billion for a new high-speed rail program over the six-year period. 

It would use a new surface transportation trust fund to finance almost all the programs included in the bill, making spending for those programs mandatory, rather than discretionary.  The budget also calls for restructuring the federal transit program by distributing funds under new program headings and consolidating several existing programs.  The proposal does not provide a revenue mechanism for funding the increased investment.

APTA President William Millar said in a statement: "We applaud President Obama for his leadership and vision in making public transportation and high-speed rail programs a high national priority."

For more details on the budget, see APTA's Legislative Update and the next issue of Passenger Transport.

Funding for "New Starts" Projects
President Obama's proposal recommends a record $3.2 billion for 27 transit construction projects, including $569.3 million for 10 rail and bus rapid transit infrastructure projects, and an additional $1.4 billion for 11 projects recommended but left out of previous budgets, according to the FTA. The 10 projects are located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington.  In addition to transit projects that have not yet been funded, the budget also would provide $835.4 million for the continued funding of seven transit-rail projects already operating or under construction in New York City, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and northern Virginia.

FY 2011 Budget -- Decreased Investment

The House is expected to vote today on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year.  If adopted, the legislation would reduce spending for several transportation programs, including high-speed rail, New Starts, and positive train control.  Once the House passes the bill it will need to negotiate final spending levels for the remainder of the year with the Senate and the Obama administration.  The current CR expires on March 4, but it is expected an additional short-term CR will be required to keep the government running until a deal can be reachedAPTA has strongly opposed these reductions.

APTA Statement on High-Speed Rail

In response to this week's announcement regarding Florida's intent to return federal high-speed rail dollars, APTA released a statement on Feb. 16.  In it, APTA President William Millar noted that 28 states are forging ahead in planning and implementing high-speed and intercity passenger rail improvements.  "These states," he said, "recognize the critical importance of investing to create a modern, intermodal 21st century transportation system to accommodate expected population and economic growth.  This investment is expanding the rail industry in the United States and will lead to hundreds of thousands of much-needed American jobs."  

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Rogoff Issues "Buy America" Dear Colleague Letter

Yesterday, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter M. Rogoff released a "Dear Colleague" letter that asks recipients of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to be held accountable to the American public by using these resources to maximize opportunities to put Americans back to work and to support the country's domestic manufacturing industry.

To support this goal, FTA "will not consider any requests for a public interest waiver of FTA's Buy America regulation for Recovery Act projects."

This letter also announced DOT's new Buy America website, which improves access to business opportunities by posting links to all waiver requests in one centralized location.


Voters in Washington State Split on Transit

Voters in Washington State returned split decisions on Feb. 8.  While voters in Jefferson County approved Proposition 1 by 56 percent to 44 percent, which increased the local sales tax by 0.3 percent to avoid cuts to Sunday bus and dial-a-ride service, those in Pierce County did not approve their own Proposition 1 for a 0.3 percent sales tax increase (45 percent for, 55 percent against).  The sales tax increase was needed just to maintain existing service by Pierce Transit.  A phased in reduction of service hours is therefore expected to begin next fall, with a 35 percent reduction by 2012. 

Peggy Hanson, general manager, Jefferson Transit Authority, said the results "absolutely indicated this community's value of public transportation - that is our message to our community - because it really is a key component of a livable, economically healthy community."

Pierce Transit CEO Lynne Griffith said they will "continue to seek further cost cutting measures, building on the nearly $90 million we've already cut to meet the challenges of this severe economic recession."

Rockefeller Foundation Survey: Support for Investment in Transportation Infrastructure

A just released Rockefeller Foundation survey reveals overwhelming bipartisan support for federal investment in both transportation and infrastructure projects.  Two out of three voters cited improving the country's transportation infrastructure as highly important, while 80 percent believe that federal funding to improve and modernize transportation will boost local economies and create millions of jobs.  For more information on this report, see the next issue of Passenger Transport.


APTA's Legislative Conference is only a few weeks away.  A newly confirmed speaker is Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) who will address attendees at the Monday, March 14 evening session.  For more information, consult the preliminary program.  


New York MTA's smart phone app pilot program in Brooklyn is receiving great review from riders.

By using data on ridership, safety, and government spending, U.S. News has compiled a list of the 10 best cities in the country for public transportation.  Portland, OR, leads the way.

The Stark Area RTA in Canton, OH, served as a unique backdrop for a surprise Valentine's Day marriage proposal.

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