Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

Transit, Amtrak do Well in Budget Bill

May 3, 2017

A proposed federal budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 contains funding for public transportation and Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association reported.

Congress is expected to vote on the budget this week to fund the federal government through Sept. 30.

The FY17 omnibus appropriations bill contains $12.4 billion in funding for the Federal Transit Administration, $657 million above the FY 2016 enacted level.

The transit formula grants total is $9.7 million while about $2.4 billion would go toward “New Starts” funding, including $1.5 billion for current Full Funding Grant Agreement transit projects.

Amtrak would receive a $75 million increase to $1.495 billion.

Also included in the bill is $199 million for positive train control funding authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program would receive $68 million; the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program would get $25 million; the Restoration and Enhancement Grants would get $5 million; and the Transit Security Grant program, $88 million.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be funded at $500 million.

Let the Posturing Begin: Trade Groups Jockey for Support in Washington in Wake of New Administration

March 31, 2017

With a new administration in Washington promising a renewed focus on transportation infrastructure the posturing from trade groups representing various segments of the railroad industry is in full swing.

The American Public Transportation Association is seeking to lobby Congress to fully fund the FAST Act for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 as well as include public transit in any infrastructure development plan.

The Association of American Railroads is seeking to caution the administration against taking too hostile of a stance on foreign trade by pointing out that at least 42 percent of rail traffic and more than 35 percent of annual rail revenue are directly tied to international trade.

APTA is reacting to the “skinny budget” proposed by President Donald Trump earlier this year that slashed funding for capital grants used by public transit.

In particular the Trump budget would greatly reduce the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants, TIGER grants and Amtrak funding.

APTA said it has conducted more than 60 meetings with congressional staff, focusing on those that serve on budget, appropriations, tax and authorization committees, and taken other proactive steps to engage with members of Congress.

It also has called on its members to meet with their members of Congress when they are on spring break in their home districts April 8-23.

As for the AAR, it released a report saying that 50,000 domestic rail jobs accounting for more than $5.5 billion in annual wages and benefits depend directly on international trade. Those numbers would be higher if rail traffic indirectly associated with trade is included.

AAR fears that the Trump administration might make policy changes that would adversely affect the global economy.

“Efforts that curtail overall trade would threaten thousands of U.S. freight-rail jobs that depend on it and limit essential railroad revenues used to modernize railroad infrastructure throughout North America,” said AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger.

The AAR report examined rail movements using data from the 2014 Surface Transportation Board Waybill Sample, other government data and information from U.S. ports and Google Earth.

This included movements of coal for export from ports in Maryland, Virginia, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes; paper and forest products imported from Canada into the Midwest, as well as paper products exported from the southern United States; imports and exports of Canadian and Mexican automotive products to and from auto factories in dozens of U.S. states; containers of consumer goods from Asia coming ashore in California, Washington, Georgia, Virginia and New Jersey; plastics shipped by rail from Texas and Louisiana to the East and West coasts for export to Europe and Asia; iron ore mined in Minnesota and shipped by rail to Great Lakes ports; and Midwest-grown grain carried by rail to the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast for export.

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.

Tally on Regional Transit Ballot Measures

November 11, 2016

In a final tally, the Community Transportation Association of America said that 39 transit-related measures were approved by voters on Tuesday.

That included four that involved only rail transit, 17 that dealt only with bus transit, and 25 that covered both modes. Three measure involved only roads while one was aimed only at ferries. Of the 46 measure involving transit, 16 also affected roads.

The issues that involved public transportation in Ohio and nearby states are summarized below:

INDIANA
Marion County (including Indianapolis) approved a 0.25-percent income tax to raise $56 million per year for improved bus service and new Bus Rapid Transit construction as part of the IndyGo transit improvement program. It passed with 59.3 percent of the vote.

MICHIGAN
Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw Counties (including metro Detroit, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor) voters rejected a measure to levy an additional 1.2 percent property tax to raise $2.9 billion for the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority over 20 years for a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line and a regional bus rapid transit system. The measure failed by about 18,000 votes with 52.7 percent of Wayne County ( Detroit)  and 56.2 percent in Washtenaw (Ann Arbor) voting yes. However, the measure was turned down in Oakland County (50.09 percent voting no to 49.91 percent yes), and 60.1 percent voting no in Macomb County.

OHIO
• Franklin County (Columbus)  voters renewed a 0.25 percent sales tax for the Central Ohio Transit Authority for 20 years with 72 percent of the vote, which will raise $62 million.
• Lorain County voters rejected a new 0.25 percent sales tax for transportation, with 50 percent of the anticipated $9.9 million annually going to public transit, with 74.2 percent voting no.
• Lucas County (Toledo) voters renewed a 1.5 percent property tax for the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority for 10 years with 58.5 percent of the vote.
• Stark County voters renewed a 0.25 percent sales tax for the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority for 10 years with 63.2 percent of the vote.

Voters OK 33 Public Transit Ballot Measures

November 9, 2016

The American Public Transportation Association said that 33 of 46 local and statewide public transit issues were approved by votes on Tuesday.

It said that was a 72 percent paaptassage rate and that collectively the measures represented a $200 billion investment in public transportation.

One of the top plans that won approval was a $120 billion transit plan in Los Angeles County, which received more than two-thirds approval.

It will fund several transit-rail projects in the region, including the Purple Line subway extension and a Regional Connector rail project.Other rail-related measures that won voter approval include:

• A half-cent sales tax increase in Atlanta that will raise $2.5 billion for Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority expansions

A $3.5 billion bond measure that will provide funds for repairing and improving Bay Area Rapid Transit’s infrastructure.

• Measures allowing Arlington and Fairfax counties in Virginia to issue general bond obligations for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

• A half-cent sales tax increase in Wake County, North Carolina, to help pay for a 10-year, $2.3 billion plan to add commuter rail and increase bus service throughout the county.

Ballot measures that appeared to be headed for approval include a $54 billion, 25-year Sound Transit Proposition 1, which would fund an expansion of the light-rail system in Washington state’s Puget Sound region.

Cavs Victory Parade and Rally Help Greater Cleveland RTA Set Single Day Ridership Record

June 25, 2016

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority reported that it carried a record 500,000 people last Wednesday, most of whom were bound for the victory parade and rally honoring the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

Officials estimated that 1.3 million people were on hand for the festivities.

Cleveland RTAThe previous single-day ridership record for RTA was 225,000 set on a St. Patrick’s Day that fell on a Saturday.

RTA offered a $5 all-day pass on the day of the Cavs victory parade and most riders bought one.

RTA CEO Joe Calabrese said the agency took in an estimated $1.5 million on Wednesday.

That is enough to cover the cost of RTA operations for about two days, he said, but it doesn’t factor in the costs of running extra service Wednesday for the parade.

“I think a day like that will certainly help RTA. It won’t hurt RTA,” Calabrese said. “It’s not something we could do every day because we just don’t have the people to make that happen every day.”

Calabrese said the ridership on Wednesday was about 300,000 more than it would be on a busy day such as a home game for the Cleveland Browns.

He said many of those who rode were riding RTA for the first time.

The horde of passengers caused major service delays and forced RTA to open interim bus terminals and add buses to its blue and green lines.

RTA riders also filled all of the parking lots at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which is the western terminus of the Red Line.

Airport officials said the lots had filled by 10 a.m. Although that didn’t lead to any flight delays, it did create problems for those wanting to take a flight out of town and park at the airport.

News reports indicated that some flights were delayed because flight crews were late in getting to the airport due to the traffic downtown where some airlines house their crews between flights.

The airport parking lots did not reopen until after 6 p.m. when Cavs revelers began returning to the airport and leaving.

Akron Metro Pondering Service Restructuring

April 29, 2016

Akron Metro wants to make changes. For the past month it has been holding public hearings and soliciting comments on its website as part of its Drive Forward campaign that is expected to result in changes to bus schedules and routes.

The transit agency has said that its guiding principles include matching service to modern travel patterns, strengthening its network structure, simplifying routes, fostering a transit-first lifestyle, and building financial stability.

Akron Metro 3Metro said its current route network is built to serve commuting patterns of the past. Its challenge is to realign routes to go where the greatest number of transit users live and work.

The last major route restructuring occurred in the late 1990s and Metro said many people and jobs have moved since then.

A 2013 study determined that 53 percent of Metro riders travel to and from work, which is significantly less than most transit systems.

“Therefore, we need to tailor our service to more than just work,” Metro said in a presentation. “Metro provides basic mobility for school, shopping, medical, and many other trip purposes.

Although 76 percent of businesses in Akron are within a quarter-mile of a Metro route, the transit agency’s radial-oriented route network creates difficulties for those wishing to travel across town or from one neighborhood to another.

Traditionally, Metro routes have been oriented to serving downtown Akron, but now Metro is seeking to create connections outside of downtown.

It is eyeing a grid network that it labels an “everywhere to everywhere model.” It will result in more transfers being needed for riders but also more frequent service with faster travel times.

As for simplifying its routes, Metro is considering adopting a clockface schedule that will provide a regular and consistent schedule, such as every half hour.

The current schedule has more frequencies grouped during certain periods of the day and Metro said it is difficult for casual or first-time users to understand.

Some routes also have as many as four different patterns. Metro is proposing replacing this with fixed routes that would not vary depending on the time, the day or the trip.

Increasing service is a key to encouraging a transit-oriented lifestyle. Metro noted that nowhere in Summit County does it provide frequent service seven days a week.

Metro also acknowledged that its fare box recovery lags the average for similar transit systems. Whereas Metro recovers 11.1 percent of its expenses at the fare box, its peer system average is 19.4 percent.

Related to improving its financial position is boosting ridership. In 2015, Metro ridership was nearly 400,000 rides below 2008 when it imposed a series of service cuts.

Although Metro has increased the service hours of its buses by 22 percent since 2005, ridership has not responded in kind.

In 2014, Metro had 5.2 million line service rides, but that fell to 5 million last year. The peak was 5.4 million in 2008.

Comments about how Metro’s service should be restructured can be left at its website at:

http://www.akronmetro.org/driving-forward.aspx

FTA Offering Transit Oriented Grants

April 17, 2016

The Federal Transition Administration is offering $20.5 million in competitive grants to support transit-oriented development projects.

Being provided by the agency’s Transit-Oriented Development Planning Pilot Program, the grants will be made for comprehensive planning in communities that are developing or implementing major new transportation projects.

FTAPlanning work must be associated with a transit project for which the community intends to seek funding through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program or that recently received funding through CIG.

“This funding opportunity will help communities plan development that creates jobs, encourages transit use, and gives residents convenient access to work, school, medical care, housing and other vital services,” said FTA Senior Adviser Carolyn Flowers. “Transit-oriented development helps ensure that the benefits of new transit lines extend throughout a community.”

The pilot program was created as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.