Spending Detente Results in Transportation Cuts

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

(Washington, DC -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Republicans and Democrats locked in a spending fight on Capitol Hill appear to have averted the specter of  a government shutdown, for now. But the deal that sidestepped the showdown dealt some blows to transportation funding.

House Republicans easily passed a bill Tuesday extending government operations for two weeks beyond the current March 4th deadline. The idea is to give Republican and Democratic negotiators more time to cut a deal on government funding through September 30, the the remainder of Fiscal 2011. But the Republican-led Congress believes the American public is in the mood for spending cuts, so even the two-week peace offering contained $4 billion in immediate cuts.

That includes a $650 million cut in highway spending. The trim comes from increased spending from last fiscal year that the Obama Administration did not wish to continue anyway, according to the White House's 2012 Budget. The additional spending  would have sent more money to states through existing highway formulas, but will be cut if the president signs the 2-week extension bill.

The bill also shaves off $293 million in "surface transportation" earmarks, and another $25 million that would have been earmarked for "rail line relocation." It's all part of a move to kill about $2.7 billion in earmark spending in the measure.

The 2-week extension goes to the Senate floor today, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has predicted it will be approved. Then its on to President Obama's desk for a signature. But that hardly gets Congress into the clear. The bill only buys lawmakers a bit more time to continue negotiations on funding government operations for the rest of the fiscal year. Republicans are gunning for at least $61 billion in total spending reductions, so they'll still have an appetite for more cuts.

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TN Moving Stories: As Gas Prices Rise, So Does Public Transit Ridership, and See Google's Street View Trike

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Los Angeles says that higher gas prices are pushing more people onto that city's public transit (KABC-TV). Raleigh is experiencing the same ridership spike (News & Observer).

Meanwhile, LA's City Council approved a bicycle master plan that sets a long-term goal of some 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways and calls for 200 miles of the new bike paths to be added every five years. (AP via Silicon Valley Mercury News)

Georgia may tweak its gas tax so that the rate rises with inflation--and be pegged to the cost of road construction. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Say hello to Google's street view trike, which can boldly go where no car can:

New York's $370 million subway communications network is years late and $76 million over budget. (NY Daily News)

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood wants your questions; he'll supply video answers. (FastLane blog)

D.C. Council member and former mayor Marion Barry has racked up so many parking tickets that his car has been booted. (Washington Post)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Two Florida senators filed a lawsuit to force Governor Rick Scott to accept the feds' high-speed rail money. The Governor was not amused. Metro-North's beleaguered New Haven line will have full service restored -- and gets some new cars to boot.  We take a look at a California court decision on transportation equity. And: where should the seed money to fund an infrastructure bank come from? One person's idea: inducing US multi-nationals to repatriate some of their foreign profits with a tax holiday--and using those funds as seed money.

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BREAKING: Florida Governor Says Lawsuit "Disrespects" Taxpayers

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Gov. Rick Scott just issued a terse statement in response to a lawsuit seeking to force him to accept federal money for the state's high-speed rail project.

“My position remains unchanged, I’ve yet to see any evidence that Florida taxpayers would not be on the hook. Senators Altman and Joyner’s disrespect for taxpayers is clear by their lawsuit trying to force the state to spend this money.”

Earlier today two state senators filed a lawsuit in Florida Supreme Court, saying the governor had overstepped his constitutional authority. The court has given Scott a deadline of noon tomorrow to respond. 

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Metro-North's New Haven Line To Restore Full Service on Monday

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

New rail cars debuted today on Metro-North's New Haven line (photo by Jim O'Grady)

(New York, NY -Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Riders on Metro North Railroad's New Haven Line will get their regular service back sooner than expected on Monday.

The NYC MTA abruptly cut the line's schedule by 10 percent in early February after winter storms disabled its old cars faster than repairs could be made. Most of those cuts were made to rush hour trains on the already crowded commuter line from Manhattan to Connecticut. For years, the line has routinely run trains with fewer cars than platforms can handle, leading to standing-room-only crushes during peak times.

The MTA has said the service problems can be traced to a funding gap caused by Connecticut's refusal to pay for new trains for years, beginning in 2000.  (A fuller explanation of the funding problem is here.)

A return to full service wasn't expected until spring, with the arrival of new train cars.

But this morning, Metro-North President Howard Permut said the MTA activated eight new cars that--along with more repairs--will allow the railroad to run more trains.

"Next week, the trains will be crowded," he said. "But they will not be nearly as crowded as they were during January, when they were jammed."

Permut talked to reporters at Grand Central Station this morning, having ridden on the maiden trip of the new train cars from Stamford, Connecticut.

The interior of the new Metro-North rail car (Jim O'Grady)

The new cars arrive two years late. They are the first of 380 cars that will be put into service over the next two years, at a cost of $761 million. Jim Cameron of the Connecticut Metro North Rail Commuter Council also rode the new train into Grand Central this morning. Normally a critic of the railroad, he had nothing but praise for the long-awaited Kawasaki cars.
"The ride was smooth," he said. "The heat worked, the lighting was great, the seats were comfortable. The bathroom was fabulous. It didn't stink--and it was the size of a studio apartment in Manhattan."
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Back of the Bus: The Courts Weigh In on Transportation Equity

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

AC Transit bus (photo by lensovet/Wikimedia Commons)

(San Francisco--Casey Miner, KALW News) If you've had a chance to listen to Back of the Bus, you know a little something about civil rights and Bay Area transportation. The quick version: local transit advocates believe money goes disproportionately to big rail projects like the Oakland Airport Connector at the expense of the local bus service used primarily by low-income and minority riders. Last month the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on that topic -- and it says the transit advocates are wrong.  But you can bet the story won't end here.

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Florida's High-Speed Rail Case on Fast Track

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Florida Supreme Court, Tallahassee 

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) The Florida Supreme Court has requested that Governor Rick Scott respond by noon tomorrow to a lawsuit filed earlier today by two state senators.  (The court scheduling notice can be found here.) The senators are arguing that Scott doesn't have the authority to reject federal funds for the program.

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Bill Nelson has requested more time from Ray LaHood. The transportation secretary had said that if an agreement isn't reached on high-speed rail by this Friday, he'll give the $2.4 billion to other states.  Senator Nelson writes:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I know you believe the high-speed rail proposal for Florida is among the best such projects in the country.  And, as you know, I certainly agree.

I cannot thank you enough for all your efforts so far to save the project in Florida, including granting us an extra week extension to find a subgrantee.  I am writing now to ask that you please allow at least one additional week before having to give our money and jobs to another state.

Specifically, some lawmakers in Florida today sued Gov. Rick Scott in a bipartisan effort to stop him from killing high-speed rail.  Their suit asks the Florida Supreme Court to order Scott to expeditiously accept the $2.4 billion in federal transportation money, and it seeks an injunction if necessary.

The plaintiffs who filed the suit called me this morning to ask that I convey to you their request for more time for the court to consider their case and to ensure that Florida gets the money it was awarded.

I thank you in advance for your favorable consideration.  I am enclosing the aforementioned lawsuit.  Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions.

The Department of Transportation had no comment on the letter.

Also maintaining radio silence is Congressman John Mica, who's been balancing his roles as the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and being a Republican from  Florida -- and whose own plan to save the state's high-speed rail program gained no traction.

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BREAKING: Florida High Speed Rail Lawsuit -- State Senators Say Gov has "Exceeded... Constitutional Authority"

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) Two state senators have filed a lawsuit to force Florida Governor Rick Scott to "expeditiously accept" $2.4 billion in federal money for the state's high-speed rail plan.

Republican Thad Altman and Democrat Arthenia Joyner claim in their petition to the Florida Supreme Court that the governor has overstepped his authority and is legally obligated to accept the high-speed rail money from the federal government, because the Florida State Legislature voted in December 2009 to authorize the project.

The massive document, which contains not only the legal argument but dozens of exhibits and letters, can be found here (pdf) or below.

Governor Scott said two weeks ago he was rejecting funds for high-speed rail because he was convinced there would be cost overruns. Since then, US Department of Transportation Secretary RayLaHood granted the governor two one-week extensions in an effort to change his mind. But the governor said as recently as this morning that he remained unconvinced.

Governor Scott's office has not yet returned calls seeking his comment on the lawsuit, while the Department of Transportation has no comment. More as we learn it!

Filed 03-01-2011 Altman v Scott

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Union Big: Use Overseas Profit Tax to Fund Infrastructure Bank

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

(New York, NY -- Bob Hennelly, WNYC)  As we've reported, the idea of using an infrastructure bank to fund big projects is gaining steam.  The most recent evidence was in the President's budget, released last month.  But questions about where the tens of billions of seed money would come from remain unanswered.

Now Andy Stern,  a Senior Fellow at Georgetown Public Policy Institute and the former president of the Service Employees International Union, has a possible solution. He thinks it’s wise to induce US multi-nationals to repatriate some of their foreign profits with a tax holiday. Because none of that money is getting taxed now, he said the tax rate could even be lowered to a minimum rate of 5.25 percent on overseas profits, well below the current 35 percent. He wants that new revenue to be put to work here in the United States re-building the nation's aging and  dysfunctional infrastructure.

"It could be more than that — but the minimum should be at least 5.25 percent," Stern said in a telephone interview.  "That would generate at least $40 to 50 billion dollars for opening equity in an infrastructure bank. That in turn could be additionally leveraged into $500 billion."

Read the full  Stucknation column at

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TN Moving Stories: Chicago To Build 'Cycle Tracks,' Florida Polls Mulling HSR Lawsuit, and India's Infrastructure Budget

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers is mulling suing Governor Rick Scott over his rejection of high-speed rail. (WESH TV, Orlando)

Chicago is testing a new kind of bike lane called a cycle track. (Chicago Tribune)

The Indian government says the country needs $1 trillion worth of infrastructure work. It won't get that number in its 2011 budget, but there's an increase. (Wall Street Journal)

The Indian budget also sets up a National Mission for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles to encourage the manufacturing and selling of eco-friendly vehicles. (AltTransport)

Transit advocates are seeking an overhaul to Maryland's commuter train service. (Washington Post)

The NY Daily News wants to Christie-ify the World Trade Center transit hub.

Gothamist talks with New York State Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat who has introduced legislation that would require every bicycle in New York State to have a license plate.

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: In his first remarks on infrastructure since the Florida High Speed rail near-death experience, the President acknowledges "controversy." NY state suburban legislators and the head of the MTA square off over the payroll tax for transit. Ten US senators from the Northeast are hungrily eyeing Florida's high-speed rail money. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by New York City officials who want to force cabs to purchase more fuel-efficient cars. And experience a day in the life of a Volt owner.

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Ride Shotgun With an Electric Car Test Driver

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What is it like to be an early adopter of electric vehicles? President Barack Obama set a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 in his State of the Union, but today there are only a few hundred Americans driving electrics. Last November an attorney from White Plains traded his speedy Camaro in for a chance to be a test driver for the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car that he has used to commute 14 miles from his home to West Nyack.

WNYC's Ilya Marritz caught up the test driver to find out how it went.

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NY MTA Chief Spars With Legislators Over Paying for Transit With Payroll Tax

Monday, February 28, 2011

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) In a sometimes heated hearing, state legislators and NYC Chairman Jay Walder squared off on the payroll tax that the NY state legislature approved in 2009 to bail out the agency. The tax applies to businesses in the twelve counties the MTA serves in an around New York City.

"We are paying greater freight in the suburbs for the services that are basically New York City services," said Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun from Orange and Rockland Counties, reflecting a common view among suburban legislators.

Walder said he didn't see the tax as a short-term fix but a part of the MTA's permanent financing solution. "I don't foresee a plan in any time frame in which you can phase out the payroll tax," he said, when asked if the MTA could ever balance its budget without it.

Walder said the tax--in which each employer pays one-third of one percent of its payroll to the state--brings in $1.4 billion a year to the authority. That's fifteen times the money saved by all of last year's service cuts.

Walder said the MTA wouldn't raise fares or cut service to meet its 2011 budget. But he wouldn't rule out adding more layoffs to the 1,700 workers laid off last year.

New York Governor Cuomo has repeatedly said that he is open to a "better way" of funding the MTA than by a payroll tax. But has yet to propose an alternative.

The payroll tax was part of a bailout package proposed by Richard Ravitch, the former MTA chief who later became Lt. Governor under David Paterson. Ravitch had initially proposed the tax in conjunction with a toll on the East River Bridges that are now free -- including the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges.  But those tolls were rejected, and a watered-down package including the payroll tax, a taxi-cab surcharge, and a tax on rental cars was ultimately passed.

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Senators To Florida: You Gonna Eat Those HSR Funds?

Monday, February 28, 2011

(Washington D.C. - David Schultz, WAMU) Have you ever been out to a restaurant with a group of people and one person didn't quite finish their entree? Whenever this happens, I'm usually the first to broach that eternal question, "You gonna eat that?"

I realize in some circles this is interpreted as uncouth behavior. I ask the question not to offend, but simply as a means to distribute a meal more efficiently. In other words, if you're not going to eat it, I will.

And I'm not the only one who holds these controversial views. Ten Democratic Senators from the northeast sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Friday asking that $2.4 million in high speed rail funds semi-rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) be redirected to their states. In other words, if Florida won't eat it, they will.

Full text of the letter after the jump...

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President Obama To Governors: I Know Infrastructure Projects Have Been Controversial

Monday, February 28, 2011

(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Our sister site, It's a Free Country, just posted a video of President Obama speaking to the National Governor's Association today.  (Obama starts 27:27 in,  infrastructure comments about 39 minutes in.)  His remarks are the first time the President has directly addressed infrastructure since Governor Rick Scott of Florida said he'd kill the high speed rail project there. (Scott is now considering reversing his decision.)

President Obama said:

"I know in some of your states, infrastructure projects have garnered controversy, and sometimes they've gotten caught up in partisan politics. This hasn't traditionally been a partisan issue. Lincoln laid the rails during the course of a civil war. Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. Both parties have always believed that America should have the best of everything. We don't have third-rate airports, third-rate bridges and third-rate highways. That's not who we are. We shouldn't start going down that path. New companies are going to seek out the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods and information, whether they're in Chicago or they're in Shanghai, and I want them to be here in the United States."

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Federal Judge Won't Hear Appeal on Green Taxis

Monday, February 28, 2011

(New York -- WNYC Newsroom) The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by New York City officials who want to force cabs to purchase more fuel-efficient cars.

The suit was brought by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade in 2007, when the city first announced plans to require cabs get at least 30 miles per gallon by 2009. Spokesman Michael Woloz said the victory is bittersweet.  "It's very unfortunate because everybody — the city and the industry — could have used that four years to really get a more fuel-efficient fleet on the streets already," he said.

Woloz said that time could have been spent negotiating for a more reasonable time table to phase in fuel-efficient cabs.

Taxi and Limousine commissioner David Yassky said in a statement that the city would seek other ways to improve the city's air. He said some fleet owners have seen the "clear logic" of using greener cabs, and have voluntarily put 4,300 hybrids in service. Yassky will be on WNYC around 4:40 p.m. to discuss the decision today.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city will try to lobby federal officials, and that Monday's decision won't put a cramp in the city's greening plan. Federal judges said it is up to federal agencies and not local officials to regulate fuel economy and emission standards.

With the Associated Press

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US DOT Fines American for Undisclosed Voucher Fees

Monday, February 28, 2011

UPDATED: With response from American Airlines

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The U.S. Department of Transportation fined American Airlines $90,000 Monday for charging passengers undisclosed voucher fees. Airlines routinely offer free flight vouchers as an incentive to give up a seats on oversold flights. A DOT investigation found that American was not telling passengers about restrictions, including a $30 ticketing fee, on the use of those flight vouchers.

This is the first time the DOT has issued a fine on an airline for failing to disclose fees.

“When passengers volunteer to give up their seat on an oversold flight, they are entitled to be fully compensated – not to find out later that they’re getting $30 less,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “Passengers deserve to be treated fairly when they fly, and especially when they’ve volunteered to give up their seat because the airline overbooked their flight.”

In a statement the DOT explained the rules for "bumping" and vouchers this way: "an airline must first seek volunteers willing to give up their seat on an oversold flight before bumping passengers involuntarily.  The carrier may offer any type or amount of compensation agreed to by the volunteer, in contrast to involuntary bumping situations, where DOT rules require airlines to pay passengers cash compensation in most cases."

An investigation by the DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office found that American offered travel vouchers valued at specific dollar amounts as compensation for voluntary bumping.  However, when awarding the vouchers, the DOT found, American did not tell passengers about a ticketing fee required to redeem the vouchers, nor that the vouchers could not be redeemed on the carrier’s internet site.

The DOT stresses that the process for redeeming oversales flight vouchers remains more cumbersome and complicated than purchasing a ticket or redeeming other flight vouchers.

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TN Moving Stories: Automakers Struggle To Win 20-Somethings, Britain's HSR Woes, and Navigating by iPad

Monday, February 28, 2011

Automakers struggle to market cars to the younger generation. (NPR)

Joan McDonald --Gov. Cuomo's choice to head the New York State Department of Transportation -- is scheduled to go before lawmakers today in Albany, talking budget and transpo funding. (Wall Street Journal)

High-speed rail in Britain has had cross-party support, but it's now facing opposition on environmental grounds. (Telegraph)

Navigating by Apple: the FAA is allowing some pilots to use iPads instead of paper charts. (Autopia)

Turf battle: the FAA and the NTSB are sparring over who has access to safety data. (Wall Street Journal)

MetroCard vandals are becoming more aggressive in some parts of New York. (NY Post)

The NY Daily News's Pete Donohue writes: "The MTA is paying hired-gun lawyers more than $540 an hour to deny token booth clerks earning $18 an hour a modest raise."

If Karsan wins NY's "Taxi of Tomorrow" competition, will they assemble part of the vehicle in Brooklyn? (Brooklyn Paper)

The National Journal debates Rick Scott's rejection of high-speed rail in Florida.

New York City is eyeing ways to maximize parking meter revenue. (NY Daily News)

More than $4 million in federal funds is ready to fuel passenger train service across New Hampshire. But legislation proposing to disband the N.H. Rail Transit Authority has stalled the effort. (Nashua Telegraph)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: Washington State has reached an agreement with the DOT over high-speed rail funds. A new report says improving transit in outer boroughs is key to NYC's job growth. And Houston's bicyclists and pedestrians win a small victory.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Back of the Bus Airing Sunday in Phoenix, Houston, Monday in Little Rock

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday, February 27, KJZZ Phoenix, 91.5, at 3 pm. KUHF, 88.7 Houston, 7 pm

Monday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. on KUAR, 89.1, Little Rock, Arkansas

Sunday, March 6 on WXXI, Rochester, NY:at 10 p.m. on AM 1370/FM-HD 91.5-2.

Friday, March 11, on Minnesota Public Radio at noon.

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Washington State, DOT, Others Ink Agreement on High Speed Rail

Saturday, February 26, 2011

At least something is going right for Ray LaHood...

US DOT released the following today:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Statement on High-Speed Rail Agreement in Washington State

Washington, DC – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued the following statement today:

“President Obama's historic investments in a national high-speed rail network will enable America to win the future by creating construction and manufacturing jobs today and laying the foundation for future economic growth. By building safe, reliable and energy-efficient passenger rail corridors we will be able to help small businesses thrive and move people and goods more quickly than ever before. I am thrilled to congratulate the State of Washington, BNSF, and Amtrak for their contributions to the agreement signed today by the Federal Railroad Administration and Washington DOT that will make $590 million available for work to begin on significant improvements to the popular Cascades corridor, which connects Eugene, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.   Thanks to the hard work, dedication, and flexibility of all parties involved in the negotiations, this agreement will immediately put Washingtonians to work in good paying jobs, significantly improve rail service for commuters and travelers, and preserve the world-class freight rail system America has today.”

Additional background on the agreement:

‪As part of the President’s long-term vision to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail in the next 25 years, this initial $590 million in funding for high-speed and intercity passenger rail will create more than 6,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Washington region.  And thanks to the performance standards included in this agreement, travelers will benefit from two additional daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, a 10 minute reduction in travel time, and reliability improvements of up to 88%.  With the signing of this agreement, 5 of the 6 high-speed rail corridors that require coordination with freight railroads now have a signed agreement in place. The Department of Transportation will build on this momentum to realize President Obama’s vision of a national high-speed rail system that will allow American workers to out-build, out-innovate, and out-compete the rest of the world.


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Report Says Improving Outer Borough Bus Service Is Key To NYC Job Growth

Saturday, February 26, 2011

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The outer boroughs of New York City are creating jobs, but the newly employed might have some trouble commuting: New York's bus service has not kept pace with employment growth. Those are claims in a report just released by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank in Lower Manhattan.

The report says that over the past two decades, the number of outer borough residents commuting from borough to borough or within their borough has been increasing much faster than the number who make the more traditional trip into Manhattan's business districts. Because the subways are generally oriented toward moving riders to and from Manhattan, many outer borough residents with outer borough jobs take the bus.

The report's author, David Giles, says the outer borough bus system is straining under the weight of 60 percent more riders since 1990.

"Despite the fact that transit ridership patterns have been shifting, with more people working in the boroughs, the MTA and NYC Department of Transportation have not made the investments necessary to keep up with these trends," he writes.

The study, called "Behind the Curb," concludes that "the biggest losers in all this have been New York City’s working poor."

The report goes on to say that New York has the slowest bus speeds in the country. Not surprisingly, outer borough bus riders have the longest median commutes.

But the outer boroughs are where New York's new jobs are. Giles says Manhattan had a net loss of 109,029 jobs between 2000 and 2009. But during the same period, the outer boroughs saw employment gains:  Staten Island with 4,045 jobs (a 4.6 percent increase); Queens  with 11,584 jobs (2.4 percent); the Bronx with 16,557 jobs (7.7 percent); and Brooklyn with 35,010 jobs (7.9 percent).

Those jobs were mostly produced by the health care and education sectors. But other large employers--like the new Hunts Point Market in the Bronx with 20,000 employees and JFK Airport in Queens with 50,000 employees--complain that it’s getting harder for their employees in the boroughs to reach work because, in part, the buses are getting more crowded. Additionally, as new employers spread out, some of them are far from existing bus lines.

The Center recommends the city speed up the roll-out of Select Bus Service--buses with dedicated lanes and, in some cities, technology to move faster by keeping lights in their favor. It also calls for the state to commit to a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA, something transit advocates have been saying for years.

Listen to the report's author, David Giles, discuss his findings on WNYC Radio.

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Small Victory for Houston Cyclists, Pedestrians

Friday, February 25, 2011

(Houston -- Wendy Siegle, KUHF) Cyclists in the Houston area won a small victory Friday. At its monthly meeting the Transportation Policy Council, decided to postpone a vote on a proposal to stall several bike and pedestrian projects.

[Listen to the KUHF audio version of this story]

The decision comes after more than thirty people showed up at the meeting to voice their concern.  Barbara Jusiak was one of them. “I ride my bicycle to and from the Texas Medical Center every day. And I believe that the ability to cycle safely and to get around on foot is very important to quality of life in a city.”

The Transportation Policy Council allocates money for transportation projects throughout the greater Houston region. The proposal in question has to do with how the TPC will divvy up $345 million dollars that’s coming from two parts of a federally funded program.

Alan Clark is the director of transportation and planning at the Houston-Galveston Area Council. He calls this particular funding the flexible part of the program. “Because although they are highway dollars, they can be used in some cases to support funding for transit, pedestrian, bicycle-type facilities,” he says.

Clark says what’s also unique is that the TPC has control over how the money is used, as opposed to that decision being made in Austin or Washington. If the proposal is approved, $12.8 million dollars that’s planned for transit, bikeway, and walkability projects would possibly be stalled one or more years. That would mean 78 percent of the pot would go to roads and freight rail while just over 11 percent would be spent on building bikeways, sidewalks, and other initiatives that would take people out of their cars. Matthew Reisdorf is a father of two.

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