Posts Tagged ‘Public transportation’

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.

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.

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.

RTA Breaks Ground on New Campus Station

June 3, 2017

An artist drawing of the new RTA Campus station.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held this week for a new Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority station near 34th Street in downtown Cleveland to serve the metro campus of Cuyahoga Community  College.

Known as Campus Station, the facility will serve trains of the Red, Green and Blue rail lines, as well as three bus routes. It will be built at the site of the existing Campus station, which opened for light-rail service in 1930.

Panzica Construction Company was awarded a $6 million contract to build the station, which is expected to open in late 2018. Federal funding will cover 80 percent of the $7.5 million project.

RTA said in a news release that the station will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, instead of escalators and elevators, the facility will feature an extended ramp design.

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.

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.