November 10, 2017
Senate Releases Its Version of Tax Bill

On Nov. 9, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released a description of the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Unfortunately, similar to the House bill (H.R. 1), the Senate version does not address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund or extend the previously expired alternative fuel tax credits that were available to transit agencies operating CNG or LNG fleets.

While legislative text for the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has not been released, it would:

Remove the current tax deduction for employers who help subsidize the cost of commuting for their employees,
thereby creating a possible disincentive for workplaces to offer this critical benefit. It appears, like H.R. 1, to continue the pretax commuter benefit, which allows employees to use pretax dollars to get to work and a payroll tax deduction for employers. (APTA will confirm the continuation of the pretax benefit once text is available.)

Eliminate the advance refundability of municipal bonds, and therefore the ability to take advantage of lower interest rates for a one-time refinance.
The advance refundability contributes significantly to the attractiveness and utility of municipal bonds, which are an important infrastructure financing mechanism.

Retain the use of Private Activity Bonds (PABs), another important infrastructure financing tool. Keeping PABs as a way to attract private-sector investment and encourage public-private partnerships is a positive difference between the Senate and House bills.

APTA has conveyed its concerns in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee. For more information, click here for APTA's Legislative Alert.

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Almost 90 Percent of Ballot Measures Pass in 2017

Voters across the nation approved seven of eight public transit measures on the Nov. 7 ballot, with one result still to be determined, for a total success rate of 87.5 percent for 2017.

The three largest measures are bond issues. In Denver, almost 73 percent of voters approved Referred Question 2A, which supports authorizing the city to issue up to $431 million in general obligation bonds to fund transportation improvements including $55 million to begin the Regional Transportation District’s East Colfax Avenue BRT project and $101 million for road repair projects. This measure is part of a $937 million bond package that passed in its entirety.

Statewide Question 3 in Maine, which received 72 percent of the vote, includes public transit and rail among recipients of $20 million for facilities, equipment and property acquisition, part of a $105 million bond supporting state highways, bridges and culverts at stream crossings.

A $172 million capital project bond in Philadelphia, which includes public transit, passed with 69 percent of the vote.

Almost 74 percent of voters in Athens-Clarke County, GA, approved a new 1 percent sales tax for Transportation-Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects including public transit.

Voters in three other municipalities approved renewals of taxes to support public transit: Grand Rapids, MI, a 12-year renewal of the 1.47-mill tax that supports The Rapid, which received 61 percent of the vote; Mahoning County, OH, where almost 60 percent of voters approved a permanent renewal of a quarter-cent sales tax for the Western Reserve Transit Authority in Youngstown; and Lawrence, KS, where renewal of a .2 percent special sales tax for the city’s public transit service passed with almost 70 percent of the vote.

The outstanding initiative is in Adams County, CO.

DOT Final Rule Adds Testing for Opioids

A U.S. DOT final rule scheduled for publication Nov. 13 will add four prescription opioids to drug tests for safety-sensitive transportation workers effective in January 2018, bringing DOT’s protocol into alignment with one finalized in January 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services. The expanded list includes hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone.

International Rail Forum Scheduled in Washington

Join representatives of rail transit agencies from around the world for the International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) Second Annual International Rail Forum for North America, Dec. 7-8 in Washington, DC.

“Urban Transit as a Business: Adding and Capturing Value” is the theme of this year’s event, hosted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and held in collaboration with APTA and the Canadian Urban Transit Association. Participants will learn and discuss how to position public transit systems as a resource that can leverage commercial opportunities and can generate other funding streams for future investment.

For more information and to register, click here.

Join fellow public transit CEOs at APTA's 2018 Transit CEOs Seminar, Feb. 10-12 in Miami. Topics will include operations, funding, customer services, financing and more. Learn more here.


A Fresh Start, Thanks to Public Transit—A Marine Corps veteran in Monterey, CA, shared how public transportation helped him put his life back together.

Making Transit More Desirable—The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city’s transportation commissioner wants Chicago Transit Authority bus service to become “sexy” to maintain ridership levels.

A Facelift for WMATA Railcars—The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority released a video showing its renovations to some older railcars, including a silver vinyl external overwrap, non-stick flooring instead of carpeting and blue padded seats.

Reaching Out to Millennials—A majority of U.S. mayors surveyed by POLITICO Magazine say public transit, along with affordable housing, are major incentives to attracting and retaining millennials.

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