Posts Tagged ‘public transportation funding’

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.

Cincinnati Metro May Seek 1% Sales Tax

June 12, 2017

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is considering seeking a sales tax to help fund its operations, known as Cincinnati Metro.

The transit system is currently funded in part by a 0.3 percent earning tax on jobs in Cincinnati. But as many jobs in the city have vanished or moved to the surrounding region, the level of funding provided by the jobs tax has fallen to the point where SORTA is unable to replace aging buses and maintain its existing network.

Cincinnati Metro serves area beyond the city limits, but receives no tax support from those areas.

Cincinnati Metro also would like to expand service to areas where there is job growth, noting that one out of five adults in Cincinnati doesn’t have a car. Just 4 percent of the region’s jobs are accessible within a 1-hour transit commute.

SORTA plans at its June 20 meeting to consider placing on the November ballot a 1 percent sales tax proposal in Hamilton County.

The agency said revenue earned from the tax would be used to buy more efficient buses that use cleaner  fuels or even electricity and expand its network with dozens of new countywide routes.

Rail service is not expected to part of the expanded plan in the short or medium term, but could be discussed once the agency has stabilized its financial situation.

APTA Decries Proposed Grant Program Cuts

May 25, 2017

In a statement, the American Public Transportation Association was critical of plans by the Trump administration to end two grant programs that benefit public transit.

The administration’s fiscal year 2018 federal budget proposal seeks to end the Transportation Investment Generating Economy Recovery grants and to phase out the Capital Improvement Grants program.

“This budget proposal to eliminate critical public transportation infrastructure projects is inconsistent with addressing America’s critical transportation needs and helping America’s economy prosper,” said Richard White, APTA’s acting president and chief executive officer, in a news release. “These targeted cuts to public transit go directly against the president’s own calls for new infrastructure spending.”

An earlier “skinny budget” blueprint released by the White House had outlined the administration’s desire to slash both programs, but some public transportation officials had hoped that a backlash against those proposed cuts would change the administration’s mind.

APTA said that Congress has been annually funding the TIGER grant program “at significant levels.”

The proposed transit cuts would put 800,000 jobs at risk and a possible loss of $90 billion in economic output, APTA officials said, citing a recent economic analysis prepared for the association.

That analysis said the spending cuts would endanger $38 billion of already planned transit projects.

“We are extremely concerned with the administration’s proposal to phase out existing infrastructure programs that are putting people to work building projects that our communities need and support,” White said.

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.

ODOT Budget Gives Ohio Public Transportation Slight Increase in Funding for FY 2018, 2019

April 27, 2017

The two-year budget for the Ohio Department of Transportation includes an increase in spending for public transportation, but no funding for intercity passenger rail.

The Ohio General Assembly approved an increase of $5 million for public transportation, boosting state spending in that area to $33 million a year.

The budget covers the fiscal years of 2018 and 2019.

The legislature turned down a proposal to allocate $15 million for the purchase of new transit vehicles from the fund created by the Volkswagon settlement that stemmed from that company’s fraudulent altering of pollution emission equipment on its vehicles.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said the bid to appropriate money for transit vehicles could be revived in the general revenue budget that the legislature must approve by late June.

The ODOT budget includes $3.9 billion for highway spending.

AAO said that the budget could have included flexible funds and pass-through federal funds for intercity passenger rail, but it did not.

In the past five years, Ohio has allotted $1.4 million in such funding for intercity passenger rail projects.

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.

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.

No New Ohio Transit Funding Likely

December 16, 2016

All Aboard Ohio reports that the next budget for the Ohio Department of Transportation to be submitted by Gov. John Kasich is unlikely to contain any additional funding for public transportation.

ODOT 2The budget proposal will be presented to the Ohio General Assembly in late January and cover fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

AAO, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that ODOT officials have told metropolitan planning organizations that the budget will be “very tight.”

Kasich recently told the legislature that the state’s revenues have been below estimates and that Ohio may be on the verge of a recession.

The passenger advocacy group noted in its December newsletter that public transportation in Ohio is funded from the general fund and the ODOT budget is separate from that.

Michigan Officials Mull Options After Voters Spurned Commuter Rail Funding Proposal

November 26, 2016

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority it examining its options after voters earlier this month narrowly defeated a tax increase that would have funded an expansion of service, including a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line.

SE Michigan RTAWhat is certain, though, is that the earliest that the SMRTA can return to the voters with the same proposal is 2018.

“Obviously we’re just trying to absorb what happened,” said Michael Ford, who leads SMRTA.

The proposal for a 20-year 1.2 mill tax increase passed in Wayne (Detroit) and Washtenaw (Ann Arbor) counties, divided voters fairly evenly in Oakland County but was rejected in Macomb County.

“We’re going to have to reassess, understand why,” Ford said of why people voted against the tax plan, adding he plans to convene with the RTA board, which includes representatives from the different communities, to discuss possible next steps, including whether to plan to put a proposal before voters again in two years.

Ford said he remains optimistic that something can be done to expand public transportation options and still thinks that the proposed plan of commuter rail and new regional bus services is a good one.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said that had the tax been approved it would have given the Detroit-Ann Arbor rail link a critical boost.

“Commuter rail is a necessity for Ann Arbor to improve our local economy and to improve our local quality of life,” he said.

Had the plan been funded by the tax measure, commuter rail was expected to begin in 2022.

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.