Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Trump Budget Would Hit Ohio Public Transit

March 20, 2017

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget submitted to Congress by the Trump administration would put funding-starved public transportation in Ohio in even more dire straits.

“We’re barely hanging on. It’s just going to make the existing problems even worse,” said Kirt Conrad, president of the Ohio Public Transit Association and CEO of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.

President Donald J. Trump wants to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion, which is 13 percent.

Much of the adverse effect on public transportation could come from cuts to grant programs that benefit public transit systems.

The New Starts program, which was authorized to fund $2.3 billion in new rail or bus-rapid transit lines or to expand existing lines through 2020, was used by Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s HealthLine on Euclid Avenue.

“It [budget cuts] really potentially cuts future transit expansions in the country in general. It’s not just Ohio; in the whole country, public transit is at risk,” Conrad said. “In Ohio, without the federal support, I do not see those expansions.”

Also slated to be cut is the TIGER grant proram, which has also been used to fund transit in Ohio.

TIGER grants have funded rehabilitation of RTA stations, including the Little Italy-University Circle station and the University-Cedar station.

Two TIGER grants awarded in 2016 funded bicycle infrastructure in Cleveland and Akron.

Ohio transportation officials say the state’s transit systems rely on federal funding because Ohio limits the use of gas tax revenue to road projects.

Further squeezing public transit systems is a coming loss of revenue from a Medicaid MCO sale tax, which had been used for transit funding.

Starting in 2019, public transit systems in Ohio will lose $34 annually from that revenue source.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed increasing state funding for public transportation by $10 million to make up part of the slack being left by the loss of the Medicaid MCO sales tax.

“Access to public transit is just getting worse, not better, in Ohio,” Conrad said.

Although the impact of the proposed Trump budget on highway construction and maintenance funding has yet to come into clear focus, transportation officials say that the loss of TIGER grants will have an adverse effect by removing another source of federal funding.

A $125 million TIGER grant helped pay, for example, for the new eastbound span of the George V. Voinovich (Innerbelt Bridge).

The Trump budget would also shift responsibility for air traffic control from the Federal Aviation administration to an independent, non-governmental organization.

Cleveland RTA Official Gets National Honor

March 20, 2017

A Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority official has been named the winner of the 2017 Women Who Move the Nation Award.

Loretta Kirk

Loretta Kirk received the honor from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

Kirk is a 37-year COMTO member who was a member of its national board of directors for 16 years and was chair between 2006-2010. She has held numerous COMTO posts at the national and local levels.

“RTA is proud to congratulate Loretta for her dedication to managing the financial resources of our organization,” said CEO and General Manager Joe Calabrese in a statement. “She also works diligently to advance the concerns for Small Businesses and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and oversees critical functions of our organization that help move us forward. She is a worthy recipient of this award.”

 

NTSB Acting Chairman Named

March 20, 2017

Bella Dinh-Zarr has been named as acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board after the term of incumbent Chairman Christopher Hart expired last week.

Hart remains a member of the five-member board and had served as chairman since March 2015.

He had served as acting chairman for nearly a year before being nominated by the Obama administration to be the permanent chairman.

Dinh-Zarr has served as vice chairman since March 2015. Before joining the NTSB, she served as director of the U.S. Office of the FIA Foundation, an international philanthropy organization that promotes safe and sustainable transportation.
NTSB members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. By law, a board member is designated by the president to be the chairman while another is designated to be the vice chairman for two-year terms.

Trump Budget Would End Essential Air Service

March 20, 2017

It doesn’t get as much attention as Amtrak funding, but the federal government also underwrites airline service to rural regions of the United States.

No cites in Ohio receive funding for essential air service, but the program helps provide service in some neighboring states, including Pennsylvania.

The Trump administration budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 would end all federal funding for essential air service.

The budget proposal said ending the program would save about $175 million a year.

News reports indicate that The Essential Air Service program subsidizes airline flights to 111 communities that would otherwise have no scheduled service and which are at least 210 miles from the nearest hub airport.

About 60 communities in Alaska also receive subsidized air service.

Funding for air service to smaller communities has been around since the post-World War II era, but the current program was put into place in 1978 to preserve service at communities that were likely to lose air service in the wake of airline deregulation.

The program has drawn criticism because not all flights are full and the cost per passenger is high.

As is likely to be the case with the Trump administration plan to cut funding for Amtrak long-distance trains, opposition to the air service cuts are likely to arise in Congress, particularly the Senate, from lawmakers from rural states who have resisted past efforts to kill the air service program.

 

NARP Decries Amtrak, Transit Budget Cuts

March 17, 2017

The National Association of Railroad Passengers said Thursday that the Trump administration budget for Amtrak for the fiscal year 2018 appears to have been adopted from a model proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

The administration described the budget blueprint as a “skinny budget” and it contains few program details.

NARP contends that while President Donald Trump has talked up the need for transportation infrastructure investment, “his administration’s first budget guts infrastructure spending, slashing $2.4 billion from transportation. This will jeopardize mobility for millions of Americans and endanger tens of thousands of American jobs.”

The budget, which must be approved by Congress, would end all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network trains.

NARP said this would leave 23 states, including Ohio, without rail passenger service.

The Trump budget would also cut $499 million from the TIGER grant program, which has been used to advance passenger rail and transit projects and eliminate $2.3 billion for the Federal Transit Administration’s “New Starts” Capital Investment Program, which is used to fund the launch of transit, commuter rail, and light-rail projects.

Political analysts have noted that no budget proposal sent to Congress has emerged without changes.

It is likely that transportation advocacy groups will lobby Congress hard to restore the funding that Trump wants to cut.

Trump Wants to End Amtrak Long-Distance Train Funding, to Trim Public Transportation Funding

March 16, 2017

Here we go again. Another president has taken aim at Amtrak’s federal funding.

The proposed FY2018 budget released by the Trump administration this week calls for eliminating federal funding of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and would impose other steep cuts in transportation spending.

Amtrak would not lose all funding, but the funding it receives would be focused on supporting services within specific regions, specifically the Northeast Corridor and state-funded corridors in the East, Midwest and along the West Coast.

The budget described long-distance trains as inefficient and incurring the vast majority of Amtrak’s operating losses.

Trump is seeking to cut the U.S. Department of Transportation budget by $2.4 billion or 13 percent.

If Congress adopts the Trump budget blueprint, DOT will receive $16.2 billion.

Also slated for deep cuts in the budget are Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.

Funding of the New Starts program of the Federal Transit Administration will be slashed and limited to projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

In a statement with the budget, Trump said the DOT budget is being revamped to focus on “vital federal safety oversight functions and investing in nationally and regionally significant transportation infrastructure projects.”

A statement with the budget request said that the blueprint seeks to reduce or end “programs that are either inefficient, duplicative of other federal efforts, or that involve activities that are better delivered by states, localities or the private sector.”

In a statement, Amtrak President Charles “Wick” Moorman said that Amtrak’s 15 long-distance trains offer the only service in 23 of the 46 states that the carrier .

“Eliminating funding for long-distance routes could impact many of the 500 communities served by Amtrak,” Moorman said.

“These trains connect our major regions, provide vital transportation to residents in rural communities and generate connecting passengers and revenue for our Northeast Corridor and state-supported services. Amtrak is very focused on running efficiently  — we covered 94 percent of our total network operating costs through ticket sales and other revenues in FY16 — but these services all require federal investment.”

Moorman pledged to work with the Trump administration, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Congress to “understand the value of Amtrak’s long-distance trains and what these proposed cuts would mean to this important part of the nation’s transportation system.”

As for transit funding, the budget blueprint says that curtailing federal funding leaves funding up to “localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”
The American Public Transportation Association issues a statement saying it was surprised and disappointed with the budget details so far.

APTA noted that the administration has been touting a broad plan to spend $1 trillion for infrastructure investment, but “the White House is recommending cutting billions of dollars from existing transportation and public transit infrastructure programs.”

The trade group said the budget cuts would affect projects underway in Kansas City; Dallas; Fort Worth, Texas; Indianapolis; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville, Florida.

The cuts to the TIGER program is aimed at what the budget described as “unauthorized” projects. In January before Trump was inaugurated , DOT had announced that $500 million was available. The TIGER grants were first awarded in 2009.

Among the 2016 grant recipients are San Bernardino County, California., which received $8.6 million for passenger rail service; Mississippi’s 65-mile long Natchez Railway, which received $10 million for rehabilitation and upgrades for five bridges; and Springfield, Illinois, which received $14 million to build two underpasses for proposed high-speed service between St. Louis and Chicago.

MRPS Trying to Evict Steam Loco Party

March 16, 2017

The Midwest Railway Preservation Society has filed an eviction action against the American Steam Railroad Preservation Association.

Court records show that the case was filed on March 2, 2017, in Cleveland Municipal Court.

The case (2017 CVG 003164) is scheduled to be the subject of a first cause hearing on March 23 at 9 a.m. in Courtroom A on the third floor of the justice center at 2900 W. Third Street.

A second cause hearing has been set for April 20 in the same courtroom for 1:30 p.m.

Records show that the ASRPA has a business address in Akron.

The details of the complaint are not shown in the online record of the case.

In spring 2015, ASRPA moved Reading T-1 No. 2100 to the former Baltimore & Ohio roundhouse in Cleveland that MRPS owns.

The group said at the time it was embarking on a $700,000 fund-raising campaign to pay for restoration of the locomotive to operating condition.

Details of the eviction case can be found at https://eservices.cmcoh.org/eservices/search.page.12.5?x=7dEqpk8ad1rvzQ*raMiYqIRb3nTZvNYK75lapan0Niaq8lulYd6i4heKiWfg90dAlNBm*ZYWTHcJODEu2davEg

 

 

Excursions to Raise Money for Restoration

March 14, 2017

The American Steam Railroad Preservation Association has announced plans to operate two special passenger excursions to raise money for the restoration of Reading T-1 4-8-4 No. 2100.

Both trips will feature private cars attached to scheduled Amtrak trains. The excursions are being coordinated by Luxury Rail Travel of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

One trip will operate July 27-30 on the Adirondack between New York and Montreal.

The second trip will operate in November on the Pennsylvanian between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The private cars expected to be used include a 1952 Budd observation-lounge, Alexander Hamilton, a former Pennsylvania Railroad car; and Passaic River, a 1948 Budd-built buffet-once owned by the Santa Fe. Both cars are now owned by the Morristown & Erie Railroad.

Detroit QLINE to Open on May 12

March 13, 2017

Revenue service on Detroit’s streetcar system will begin on May 12, QLINE officials said last week.

To mark the opening, there will be a special event at the Penske Technical Center and an inaugural ride down Woodward Avenue. Public service begins that evening.

“We are going to be running simulated operations in April,” said M-1 Rail spokesman Dan Lijana. “We want to make sure that the drivers have as much time on the road (as possible) before we start taking passengers.”

M-1 Rail is the operator of the streetcar system. Construction of the $142 streetcar line began in July 2014 and test runs over the 3.3-mile system began in December.

The 66-foot long streetcars can carry 125 passengers on average and will reach maximum speeds of 35 mph.

They will stop for traffic lights and M-1 Rail has begun a public education campaign with the first step being a series of safety videos to help Detroit residents become accustomed to coexisting with streetcars.

The QLINE will operate between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to midnight on Friday, 8 a.m. to midnight on Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

M-1 Rail estimates that the QLINE will carry 5,000 to 8,000 passengers per day.

“QLINE’s grand opening will be a historic day in Detroit,” said M-1 Rail CEO Matt Cullen. “We’re bringing rail transit back to the heart of the city and connecting the Woodward Corridor in a way that’s already begun to transform the entire district.”

Study Finds Public Transit Helps Local Economies

March 9, 2017

The American Public Transportation Association says that 90 percent of public transit trips affect local economies through work commutes and consumer spending habits.

That was the key finding of a study sponsored by the trade group, which said 63 percent of public transit riders use transit systems at least five days a week and 13 percent use them six or seven days a week.

Most riders are in the most economically active years of their lives between age 20 and 64.

More than 70 percent of transit riders are employed. Seven percent are students.

But not all of them are riding to work. Since 2007 use of public transit to go shopping has more than doubled.

Public transit ridership has increased by 37 percent since 1995, which APTA said is a growth rate higher than the 20 percent increase in the U.S. population and higher than the 23 percent growth in the use of the country’s highway systems.

The study was conducted by CJI Research Corporation.