Posts categorized under "Transit Industry News"
The failure to pass new federal transportation authorization legislation is causing problems for some transportation agencies due to uncertainty regarding long-term funding. The current legislation, SAFETEA-LU, expired in September and has been extended by a stop-gap measure to December 18. The White House and Senate leaders had supported an 18-month extension that would push the new multi-year highway and transit bill into 2011, while House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) had wanted to pass new legislation by the end of the calendar year. More recently, a bipartisan group of Senators have called for a six-month extension that would continue current federal spending until June 2010.
A key question is how to pay for the proposed increases in transportation spending. Most lawmakers have resisted calling for an increase in the federal gas tax, but Sec. LaHood recently remarked that a debate in Congress on such an increase is likely.
Meanwhile, Congress may soon consider a jobs creation bill that could include additional transportation spending. James Oberstar now intends to introduce a two-year jobs/infrastructure bill with the aim of front-loading the spending to further stimulate the economy, followed by a four-year transportation bill with major reforms and changes in the way transportation investments are paid for.
One area that is getting increased funding and support is high-speed rail, as $8 billion in stimulus funding will be awarded starting this winter, and as much as $4 billion more could be included in next year's budget. Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, wrote articles this week in the Duluth News Tribune and Winona Daily News arguing that high-speed rail is a key opportunity not just for big cities but also for rural America. He further argues that Congress should provide funding for pilot projects for adopting new transit technologies in rural areas.
Senate Votes to Extend Transportation Funding
The U.S. Senate has voted to extend funding for surface transportation programs until the end of October. The bill would maintain most agency spending at current levels. The House passed a three-month extension of the transportation funding last week. Read more about the story in an article in Logistics Management.
Small Urban and Rural Transit Roundup
The Leader Times newspaper of Kittanning, Pennsylvania recently chronicled the financial difficulties of Town and Country Transit, a rural Pennsylvania transit system. The story provides some lessons for those who want to avoid similar problems. (Leader Times)
A free transit service in northern Idaho is thriving under a unique partnership between the local tribe and local governments. (Spokesman-Review)
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced $4 million in economic development funding for Native American communities, including funding for rural transportation improvements. (USDA)
Public transportation workers are taking steps to try to control the spread of the H1N1 virus. (WMUR)
Local leaders discussed possibilities for funding improvements in rural transit in Arizona. (Sierra Vista Herald)
SAFETEA-LU Set to Expire Soon with Extensions Looming
Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, the current transportation authorization legislation that is set to expire on Sept. 30. House Democrats, including transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) hope to pass new legislation by the end of the year. The Senate has not yet acted, but it seems to favor a much longer 18-month extension, which is also what the White House is calling for, pushing a new deal into 2011.
Funding Announced for Transit Projects to Reduce Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The U.S. DOT announced $100 million in Economic Recovery Act funding for 43 transit agencies on Sept. 21. Transit providers nationwide competed for the $100 million in stimulus funding under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program. The criteria for choosing the winning proposals included reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, return on investment, readiness to implement, applicant capacity, degree of innovation, and national applicability.
Much of the funding went to urban transit agencies, but some went to small urban and rural areas as well. For example, Productive Alternatives/Transit Alternatives of Fergus Falls, MN received $845,000 for a variety of building energy-efficiency upgrades, hybrid vehicle upgrades, wind generator power systems, and the equipment needed to convert cooking oil to a blend with vehicle fuel to operate some of their buses. The Thunder Bay Transportation Authority in Alpena, MI received $2.59 million to replace 4 diesel buses with 4 series plug-in hybrid buses. Data on operating hybrid buses in a non-urban/rural area will also be collected over a two-year span.
A few other small urban areas also received funding. The full list of winning proposals can be seen here.
U.S. Senate Passes Transportation Appropriations Bill
The U.S. Senate passed its version of the FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations today. The legislation permits $122 billion in spending for fiscal year 2010, which the AP reports is a 12% increase over current levels. The NRC reports that this includes $42.5 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $18.1 billion for Section 8 tenant-based vouchers, $11.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, and $15.6 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Senate bill is similar to the version the House passed in July. The NRC detailed the funding levels within the federal transit program in the House bill.
Funding for Rural Transit Down in Minnesota while Demand is on the Rise
Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Olson recently chronicled the struggles being faced by rural transit providers. The story is specific to Minnesota, but likely familiar to others across the country. He reports that demand for service has been increasing due to an aging population and an increase in the number of people unable to afford a personal vehicle. At the same time, however, funding for rural transit services is down. He writes:
No shortage of demand but a definite shortage of money. Already Mn/DOT has cut $400,000 to rural transit providers. Another cut of a million and half dollars is on the horizon.
The cuts take a toll on public transit providers and also some private nonprofits who get state transportation grants.