Posts Tagged ‘Public transit’

NOACA OKs $15.8B Transportation Plan for Greater Cleveland

July 22, 2017

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency has approved a $15.8 billion, 20-year transportation plan for Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties that has been named AIM Forward 2040.

More than 90 percent of the funds identified in the plan will be used to maintain existing infrastructure and support new transit and livability projects.

“We heard over and over again that adding more lanes and widening roads was not necessarily a priority,” said NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci. “What we did hear was a strong desire for more options for getting around and fixing what we already have.

NOACA plans to invest $45 million to renew rail infrastructure of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s Red Line from Tower City to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

The line sees nearly 30,000 weekday riders and in recent years deteriorated tracks and poor drainage have slowed trains.

Also on the docket is spending nearly $68 million for replacing 260 transit buses in Cuyahoga and Lake counties.

This does not yet include the replacement of RTA’s rail fleet, some of which dates back to the middle 1970s. RTA wants to replace its two models of light and heavy rail cars with a single type of equipment during the next four-year cycle of urban formula grants.

The price of replacing the rail car fleet with nearly 70 light-rail cars may be as much as $300 million.

Also in the works is planning of transit-oriented development around RTA rail stations. This will include a pilot program focused at the West Boulevard/Cudell station on the Red Line and the East 116th Street station on the Blue and Green Lines.

Additional transit-supportive land-use planning is occurring near RTA’s two East 79th Street rail stations that are in need of major rehabilitation.

Some development has been built, is under construction or is planned within walking distance of dozens of rail and bus rapid transit stations.

In the longer term future, NOACA wants to expand the number of rail stations from 50 to 162, and expand rail service to improve job access in places such as Euclid, Lorain, Westlake, Lakewood, Solon, Strongsville and Medina, as well as promote walkable communities around rail stations.

NOACA officials say that under existing flexible transportation funding provisions, the financial resources already exist to expand the existing transit system.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded to NOACA $200,000 to begin planning a multi-county transit system as an overlay to connect and enhance existing county-based transit networks to improve access to job hubs.

Only 10 percent of available jobs are within a 60-minute one-way transit ride in Greater Cleveland.

SORTA Delays Tax Hike Proposal to 2018

July 22, 2017

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority has delayed until next year a ballot measure proposing a sales tax that would help fund an expansion of public transportation in Greater Cincinnati.

The delay was has been attributed to the desire of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to enhance his re-election prospects this year.

All Board Ohio said Cranley is facing a tough opponent and asked his appointees to the SORTA board of directors to delay the tax increase question in the belief that not having it on the ballot in November will result in a smaller voter turnout at the polls.

AAO, a rail passenger advocacy group that also supports public transportation of various forms, said that the upside to the delay is that SORTA will have more time to mount a better levy campaign.

Cincinnati Metro, which is overseen by SORTA, is facing a funding gap of more than $20 million over the next five years.

Cranley has said his city could cover the 2018 shortfall. About half of Metro bus operations are funded by a 0.3 percent city of Cincinnati’s earnings tax.

Fares account for the next largest source of revenue for Metro.

A consulting firm has reviewed three funding for SORTA’s board to submit to voters:

  • A half-cent increase that wouldn’t raise enough money to close the funding gap but would raise enough money to increase service.
  • A three-quarter cent increase that would close the budget gap and increase levels of service by 22 percent.
  • A 1-cent increase that would close the budget gap and increase service by 55 percent.

Metro has said that under its current funding it can’t offer transit service to reach the growing number of jobs that are outside the city of Cincinnati.

One in five adults in Cincinnati doesn’t have a car and many others share cars with other adults.

Just  4 percent of the Cincinnati region’s jobs are accessible within an hour’s transit commute.

AAO Wants Senate Vote on Veto Override

July 18, 2017

All Aboard Ohio is urging its members to prod the Ohio Senate into scheduling a vote on overriding a veto by Gov. John Kasich of legislation that would provide funding for public transit agencies.

The House voted 87-10 to override the line-item veto in the budget bill of a provision in the budget known as the Dolan amendment that would provide funding to transit agencies that will be lost when a sales tax on Medicaid managed care organizations ends.

The Dolan amendment would authorize a franchise fee be paid to transit agencies through 2024.

At this point, Senate President Larry Obhoff has yet to schedule a vote on a veto override and AAO members are being asked to contact Obhoff, who represents a district in Medina County, and ask that a vote be scheduled.

The tax on services provided by Medicaid managed care organizations was struck down by a court, which AAO said could result in a yearly $40 million loss to transit agencies starting in 2019.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority would lose $20 million of that. RTA has said that loss of that funding would result in a 10 percent service cut and layoffs.

FTA Urges States to Enact Safety Programs

June 21, 2017

Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan are among 30 states that have been reminded by the Federal Transit Administration that they must establish a state safety oversight program by April 15, 2019.

The rule was promulgated in 2016 and sets a three-year time frame for states to obtain certification for their SSO programs.

Failure to do so will mean the  FTA will not obligate funds to transportation agencies in that state until certification is achieved.

The FTA said it is encouraging states to act quickly to enact necessary legislation required to meet certification requirements.

Nine states have yet to enact legislation prior to FTA certification. FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes said that by law the 2019 deadline cannot be waived.

“The affected states should act to establish an FTA-certified SSO program that is compliant with federal law and provides the highest level of safety for their rail-transit riders and workers,” he said in a statement.

Detroit SMART to Serve Troy Amtrak Station

June 15, 2017

Local bus service will return to the Troy Transit Center in suburban Detroit, which is also used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

The signing of a court order this week involving the city of Troy and an Oakland County developer paved the way for the return of bus service provided by Detroit’s SMART bus system.

The settlement ended years of litigation that began in 1999 and had kept the buses away. “We’re very happy that the parties were able to reach an agreement without going to trial,” said SMART communications manager Beth Gibbons.

SMART buses will resume picking up and dropping off riders at the Transit Center.

The City of Troy agreed to pay $100,000 to developer Gary Sakwa and his Grand/Sakwa Properties, owners of a 75-acre shopping center and condominium complex that surrounds the transit center.

An earlier lawsuit was settled when Troy agreed to spend $4.15 million in federal transportation funds to buy the 2 acres under the center from Sakwa, whose ownership he claimed under previous legal rulings.

“It certainly is a welcome step in the right direction” for mass transit in southeast Michigan, said Megan Owens, executive director of TRU, or Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit group of bus riders.

Six daily Chicago-Detroit (Pontiac) Wolverine Service trains serve the transit center.

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.