December 22, 2017
Tax Reform Bill Signed into Law

President Trump today signed into law the tax reform bill approved by Congress on Wednesday. The bill contains a number of implications for public transportation.

Provisions in the bill include:

  • Maintaining current law on Private Activity Bonds (which the House bill sought to eliminate), thereby preserving an important infrastructure financing mechanism;
  • Eliminating the advance refundability of municipal bonds, a measure APTA and many cities and towns had sought to retain;
  • Preserving public transit commuter benefits up to $255 a month as a non-taxable fringe benefit for employees, but eliminating the ability of employers to deduct the cost of these benefits as a business expense.
The bill also strikes language which would have subjected certain investments by state and local government pension plans to the unrelated business income tax. Eliminating this provision could have reduced investment income by pension systems in which public transit systems participate.

The bill does not address the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, or extend tax credits for alternative fuel use by transit systems, as APTA had urged.

On Wednesday, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced legislation to extend several tax provisions, including the Alternative Fuels Tax Credit and the Alternative Fuels Property (Infrastructure) Credit for 2017 (retroactive) and 2018. This bill will be considered after Congress resumes work on Jan. 3.
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Government Shutdown Averted

Congress passed a Continuing Resolution on Thursday to maintain funding the federal government through Jan. 19, 2018.

Additionally, the House passed a supplemental appropriations bill, H.R. 4667, for disaster assistance for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which includes $269 million for the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program. The Senate, however, will not act on the bill until next year.

For more information, see APTA's latest Legislative Alert.

Investigation into Amtrak Derailment Continues

Preliminary data from the black box of the Amtrak train that derailed near Tacoma, WA, on Monday indicates that the train was traveling approximately 80 miles per hour into a curve rated for 30 miles per hour, reports the NTSB.

Train 501 derailed on the inaugural run of a new route for Amtrak’s Cascades service between Seattle and Portland. Three people were killed and many others injured. The investigation into the incident continues.

Florida, Texas High-Speed Rail Projects Advance

FRA signed last week the Record of Decision for Phase II of the All Aboard Florida (AAF)/Brightline Project and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement review for the Texas Central Railway (TCR) High-Speed Rail Project.

AAF is a private passenger rail service proposed by Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. that would connect Orlando and Miami, with intervening stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. More information can be found here.

The TCR High-Speed Rail Project is a privately funded proposed new passenger rail system that would operate within a fully sealed corridor of roughly 240 miles between Dallas and Houston, with a travel time of approximately 90 minutes. More information can be found here.

“Safe, accessible and efficient regional rail systems are an important component in the transportation networks of many areas,” U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao said. “As proposed, these rail projects would increase travel options and promote economic growth in their regions of the country.”

Public Transit Users Can Save $819 a Month Over Driving

APTA's December Transit Savings Report shows that people who use public transit and live with one car fewer in a two-person household could save an average of $819 a month or $9,823 a year. Click here to see the savings in the top 20 cities with the highest public transit ridership.

Make plans to attend these upcoming APTA events:

Business Member Board of Governors Annual Business Meeting
January 24-26, 2018
Indian Wells, CA

Transit CEOs Seminar
February 10-12, 2018
Miami, FL

Legal Affairs Seminar
February 25-27, 2018
Palm Springs, CA

Marketing & Communications Workshop
February 25-28, 2018
San Francisco, CA

Legislative Conference
March 18-20, 2018
Washington, DC

Transportation's Future More than Just Self-Driving Cars—APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White describes how public transportation systems will complement the advent of driverless automobiles by continuing to serve as high-capacity trunk lines and the backbone of a multimodal transportation system.

Seattle Adds People without Adding Traffic—Seattle shows other U.S. cities how transit can help a growing population get around without an increase in car traffic. The city added about 20,000 new residents in 2016, but traffic volumes didn’t increase at all, reports Streetsblog USA.

MARTA Employee Charity Club Distributes Holiday Toys—New trucks, dolls, games, tablets and bicycles were distributed to more than 3,000 children. MARTA employees raised more than $65,000 to continue the 30-year tradition of providing gifts to well-deserving children.

MCTS Helps Girl Looking to Break World Record—Milwaukee County Transit System employees are helping a Portage, WI, girl in her quest to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most ‘pop tabs’ collected in a year.

METRORail Honors Rail Employee for Heroism—Technician Leang Ear was working when a car struck a safety barrier. Ear, along with a passerby, pulled the driver and passenger to safety before the car became engulfed in flames.


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