Friday, February 22, 2013
Another infusion of federal cash is keeping central Florida's SunRail project on track to open in 2014.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, speaking on behalf of transportation secretary Ray LaHood, paid a visit to a Florida Hospital in Orlando, where one of the stops for the 61 mile long SunRail line is being built. Rogoff was joined by local leaders, state department of transportation officials and Florida lawmakers including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Corinne Brown.
Rogoff announced the federal government would make $87.3 million available in funding for SunRail, bringing the FTA's investment to date in the Central Florida commuter rail line to $148 million. The Federal government has agreed to pay $178.6 million overall in New Start funds towards construction of the 32-mile long first phase of the line, about half the capital cost.
"We make incremental payments based on the progress of the project," Rogoff said. "They're making great progress, they're ready to spend that money, they're ready to keep these people on the job."
Rogoff highlighted the rail line as a jobs engine, which has already employed 800 people to work in construction.
"But what we're really excited about is all the additional jobs that are coming in from the economic development along the line," he added.
The Florida hospital station is at the heart of a 176 acre "health village" where the hospital is developing medical research offices, apartments and shops.
SunRail officials say there are more than two dozen retail, office, government and residential development projects associated with stations along the rail line, representing $1.6 billion in investment.
Rogoff also talked about the need for additional spending on roads and other infrastructure in Florida-- particularly to fix up hundreds of bridges, highlighting president Obama's call for a $50 Billion infrastructure plan. "If that $50 billion dollars goes through, you're going to see more investment around here, not just on this type of rail project but on highway and sea port projects that will keep the economy of Florida going."
Asked whether sunshine state might see federal funds in the future for high speed rail, Rogoff said "that is going to depend a lot I believe on the leadership of Florida."
Florida's Governor Rick Scott famously turned down federal money for a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa in 2011.
Meanwhile, SunRail officials say the first phase of the commuter rail line, a 32 mile long stretch from DeBary to Sand Lake Road, will open in 2014.
DOT Head Ray LaHood Takes Another Whack At House Transpo Bill: It "Takes Us Back to the Horse and Buggy Era"
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
By Kate Hinds
US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who has called the House transportation bill “the most partisan ever” and the “worst bill in decades," continues to pile on. Yesterday, he called the bill "lousy" and said "it takes us back to the dark ages."
In a conference call today about rail and bus rapid transit projects, LaHood spoke passionately about the virtues of our nation's transit systems. They "are more than the way we get from point A to point B," he said. "They're the lifelines of our regional and national economies, they're they ways we lead our lives and pursue our dreams."
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff was asked on the call about federal funding for transportation projects, and he spoke in measured terms about the current debate raging in the capitol. "Some of the proposals that have been considered in the House pose a great threat to transit funding," he said.
"I'm going to put this more directly," interjected LaHood. "The House bill takes us back to the horse and buggy era. That's why over 300 amendments have been offered -- many of them by Republicans, to a Republican bill. This bill in the House was written by one person, one person only, it's not bipartisan."
He then broke it down further. "In the House there's a rules committee, they're going to decide this afternoon which one of these or many of these 300 amendments are going to be allowed to be debated on the House floor...many of these amendments would restore transit funding, and restore this program to a program that reflects the values of what people in America want. They want more transit. So we'll see how it all plays out."
Later, in the call, LaHood, a former GOP Congressman from Illinois, became more optimistic when talking about the Senate's bill. "I anticipate that we're in a very good position in the Senate to have a bipartisan bill," he said, "and then we'll see what happens with the House bill."
Wednesday, February 08, 2012
Coupled with Secretary Ray LaHood's comments, where he called the bill "the most partisan ever," the statement represents one of the Obama Administration's most pugilistic stances to date. Here's the full statement:
“The House Majority’s approach eliminates a guaranteed funding source for mass transit that has been in place since the Reagan Administration and represents a huge step backward from a balanced transportation policy. The bill takes away billions of dollars that have already been collected solely for mass transit, impacting every American that rides a bus, or a train, or uses a paratransit van to get to work, school, or medical appointments each day.
“The House Majority proposal subjects all future Federal transit funding to partisan, controversial and unworkable funding schemes. Meanwhile, the Senate has found a way to fund the needs of transit and highways in a bipartisan, non-controversial way. There are no Democratic or Republican buses or rail systems. We can only hope that the House will follow the Senate’s bipartisan lead and fix this misguided bill.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
The bill is on its way to being three years late -- it was supposed to be reauthorized in September, 2009.
"Given the politics, the number of days that remain, the differences between what the Senate and House are looking at -- I think its very unlikely we will have a surface transportation bill during this year of Congress," LaHood told a gathering of transportation professionals at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting.
"When you look at the number of days that Congress will be in session -- it is limited. Given the political atmosphere that is around us now with presidential politics and every member of Congress seeking reelection in November that obviously will play into what happens."
LaHood told reporters after the panel that another big obstacle is the differences between the two-year Senate bill and the five-year House bill, which as of yet has no "pay-fors." "I think the difference between a two-year bill and a five-year bill is a pretty big gulf to overcome particually given the number of legilsative days," LaHood said.
But his remarks seemed to take his own top aides by surprise.
"I didn't hear him say we're not going to have a reauthorization bill this year," said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, who was in the audience and left with Secretary LaHood.. "I'm an optimist, the real way we are going to put people to work the fastest and make progress on all these policies, is by getting a reauthorization bill as soon as possible."
LaHood's comments came at a panel of transportation secretaries going back to Alan Boyd, who was Lyndon B. Johnson's transportation secretary. The moderator asked the secretaries if they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of transportation funding.
“I’m hopeful but I’m very concerned," said Boyd, who went first, "because it seems to me looking and listening as I do now from my vantage point in Seattle so many of my fellow Americans want to have good roads, good bridges, but they don’t want to pay for it, they want somebody else to pay for it. There is this sense to me around the country: no new taxes. The world keeps changing and if America is going to be the leader it says it is and wants to be its got to improve its infrastructure. "
(LaHood did express optimism about the future of high speed rail -- that story here.)
Thursday, December 01, 2011
(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF) On a cold and sunny morning, construction workers in hard hats mingled with dignitaries under a tent at a northside Houston rail construction site. With the downtown skyline towering in the background, Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Gilbert Garcia kicked off events with a countdown and a shout of "Houston, we have liftoff."
The occasion was a signing ceremony for a first-ever agreement that brings federal dollars to Houston for rail construction. But it's something that almost didn't happen.
Metro has already been given $250 million of that money. It will fund a five-mile northward expansion of the Red Line, the only light rail line currently in operation in Houston. The money will also pay for the Purple Line, a seven-mile route that runs from downtown to the southeast.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
This in from the US DOT on its "TIGGER" grants (not to be confused with Tiger.) We'll have more after the DOT's media call, but for now, here's the US DOT release:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced that 46 innovative transit projects chosen for their capacity to help cut the nation’s dependence on oil and create a marketplace for 21st century ‘green’ jobs will share $112 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
“These grants will put thousands of Americans back to work building sustainable, energy-efficient transit vehicles and facilities across the country,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to investing in the cutting-edge transportation projects that will keep our economy moving forward.”
Projects were selected through the FTA’s competitive Fiscal Year 2011 Sustainability Initiative, which includes funding from two FTA programs: the Clean Fuels Grant Program and the TIGGER III (Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction) Grant Program.
Examples of key projects receiving federal funds include:
• South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s Tri-Rail project will receive approximately $5.7 million from the TIGGER III Program to showcase Tri-Rail’s first green, LEED certified, sustainable stations, which will generate more than 100 percent of the station’s energy demand through solar panels. The project will send excess energy back to the power grid and store daytime energy for nighttime lighting of the station, parking area, and other parts of the facility.
• The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will receive two grants, one for $5 million to replace diesel buses with hybrid buses that will reduce fuel costs and save money, and another for $1.4 million to install a “wayside energy storage system” on the Market-Frankford rail line, consisting of a battery that stores energy generated by braking trains. The stored electrical power can then be used later whenever energy is needed.
• The Connecticut Department of Transportation will receive $5 million to purchase a stationary fuel cell for CTTransit’s New Haven Division Bus maintenance facility. The fuel cell will provide up to 3.3 million kilowatt-hours per year, or aproximately 59 percent of the facility's annual electric use.
Clean Fuels Grant recipients were awarded competitively based on the project’s ability to help communities achieve or maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone and carbon monoxide while supporting emerging clean fuel and advanced propulsion technologies for transit buses.
TIGGER III grants were competitively awarded based on the ability of projects to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while providing a return on the investment. Since 2009, the TIGGER program has invested in numerous innovative transit projects that have brought to market advanced fuel-cell and hydrogen-powered buses and allow for the development of sustainable transportation stations.
“The Federal Transit Administration is tapping into American innovation and ingenuity to develop and build leading edge energy efficient transportation technologies,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “These continued investments help combat the pain commuters feel at the gas pump and curb the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that pollute the air we breathe.”
The Federal Transit Administration reviewed 266 project applications for both grant programs representing more than $1 billion in funding requests from transit providers across the country. A full list of successful proposals can be found here.
Monday, October 17, 2011
More love for Michigan from the Obama Administration. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood traveled to Detroit to announce some $928.5 million in transit grants for 300 public transportation projects around the country.
According to the DOT the grants "are made available through the Federal Transit Administration’s fiscal year 2011 Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair Programs, will go toward replacing or refurbishing aging buses, building or improving bus terminals, garages, and other transit facilities, installing bus-related equipment, and conducting studies to help communities select the best transit options to meet future transportation needs. "
The DOT pulled out three examples to highlight in its press release (two of them in the key swing states of Michigan and Pennsylvania.) Other big grants include $11 million for Harris County, Texas (Houston's County), more than $100 million for the NY MTA for vehicle replacements and a new radio system for buses, and $25,000,000 to replace vehicles in Los Angeles.
The full list is here:
And here's what the DOT highlighted, in its press release.
• The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments will receive $2 million to study a possible second phase of the planned Woodward Avenue corridor transit project in Detroit and the best mode of transit to pursue. The first phase, a light rail line still in the early planning stages, would end just south of Eight Mile Road. The second phase may one day provide additional transit solutions another 7.5 miles to Maple Road (Fifteen Mile Road).
• Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) will receive $5.4 million to replace buses in its Seattle-area fleet that are beyond their useful lives with hybrid-diesel buses.
• The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority will receive $5 million to restore Philadelphia’s historic 33rd Street and Dauphin Street bus facility, a 110-year-old facility that is in a state of disrepair.
Friday, July 08, 2011
(Washington D.C. - WAMU) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be pitching in more money to the Dulles Metrorail project, despite his recent complaints that its cost has grown too high.
Leaders at the local and state level in Virginia say they're worried the rising cost of the project will force fees on the Dulles Toll Road to rise painfully high. Money from tolls is paying for a large chunk of the plan to build a new Metro line to Dulles Airport.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff says, in the past few days, the McDonnell administration has told him it would contribute an additional $150 million to keep the tolls down.
McDonnell's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, won't confirm the offer, but he says it is one of the options under consideration.
Rogoff and other federal officials are working to mediate a dispute over the cost of the project between Northern Virginia's elected leaders and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Rogoff says if the dispute isn’t resolved soon, it could kill the plan.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has proposed a compromise to end the bitter feud between the partners building a new subway line out to Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, a more than $5 billion infrastructure project that's one of the costliest currently under construction in the country. But, as of right now, it's unclear if the partners will agree to it.
For months, disputes over the rising cost of the Dulles Rail project have raged between the two partners. On one side has been the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is in control of operating the Dulles Rail project. It wants to build an underground train station at the airport that could cost more than $330 million dollars more than an above-ground alternative.
On the other side are local elected officials, who are responsible for allocating the money to pay for the project. This bipartisan group of local supervisors, state legislators and members of Congress have expressed outrage at the Airports Authority's choice of a more expensive rail station option, and have demanded they reverse course. The Airports Authority says an above-ground station would be twice as far from the terminal as the underground alternative, thus making the new subway station inconvenient for travelers, and have refused the elected officials' demands.
LaHood has been mediating discussions to get this massive infrastructure project back on track, and this weekend the head of the Federal Transit Administration sent the project stakeholders a proposal (pdf). The compromise would strip several elements of the Dulles Rail project from Airports Authority control and eliminate the underground station from the project. Among other things, these alterations would shave around $1 billion off of the cost the project, according to a letter laying out the details of the compromise that LaHood's office sent to the partners this weekend.
The Board of Supervisors for one of the local jurisdictions in on the project, Virginia's Loudoun County, is meeting this morning and is expected to approve the compromise. The Board of Directors for the Airports Authority has also met this morning, but according to an Authority spokesman, the issue of the LaHood compromise did not come up. As of right now, no Airports Board members have returned our calls.
UPDATE: Airports Authority Board member Mame Reiley, the chair of its Dulles Rail committee, says the Authority is considering the compromise proposal and that "all options are on the table." Also, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chose to defer a vote on the LaHood compromise to a later day.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) UPDATED WITH ONE MORE LIST: When Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff yesterday mentioned a $50 billion funding gap just to maintain the top seven transit systems (representing 80 percent of all U.S. riders) at their current levels of service, I got to wondering, what are the top seven transit systems in the U.S.?
(By the way, this was the same presser where Rogoff mentioned that the age of some transit infrastructure was "spooky")
1. New York
2. Los Angeles
4. Washington, DC
5. San Francisco
Okay, and 8. Seattle
By Organization Size
1. NYC MTA
2. CTA (Chicago)
3. Metro (Los Angeles)
4. WMATA (Washington, DC)
5. MBTA (Boston)
6. SEPTA (Philadelphia)
7 NJ Transit (Yes! New Jersey!)
and... 8. MUNI (San Francisco) (Lower on the list because BART and MUNI are separate systems.)
By Operating Expense
1. New York
2. NJ Transit
5. LA Metro
Source: U.S. Federal Transit Administration
Monday, June 13, 2011
Officials say systems are shutting down, service is getting worse, transit systems are aging, and there are $78 billion worth of needs out there -- just to keep the system functioning more or less as it is today.
And all that comes as Congress and Governors are showing themselves in no mood to fund public transit.
The tension between just fixing everything that's broken -- or about to break -- and all the new transit that's needed to really give Americans mobility options was fully on display at an APTA press conference at its annual rail conference Monday.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff argued: "We want to provide the American public in the maximum number of communities with real transit choices, and give them the opportunity to keep more money in their wallet rather than hand it over at the gas pump, but in order to do that the transit service has to be available, it has to be safe and clean. It has to be reliable and desirable." His remarks came at a press conference at the APTA 2011 Rail Conference, (see our earlier blog posts with highlights from that).
But before thinking about making transit a real option for most, if not all Americans, Rogoff said, there's a $50 billion hole that needs filling.
In the seven largest systems, which carry 80 percent of the rail transit passenger load in the U.S. -- including New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles -- there is a $50 billion backlog of major maintenance needs. Rogoff said the FTA has proposed combining funding streams to "rifle shot" resources to where they are most needed.
"Reliable transit is really the difference between getting home in time to have dinner as a family, or not; getting home in time to supervise homework, or not; or being able to pick your kid up on time from day care, all of these core quality of life issues, which are critical if we are going to entice more people on transit. But for for the millions of transit riders who do not have an automobile option these investments are critical to maintaining a viable transit system," Rogoff said.
Rogoff acknowledged that Congress must approve the above plan, as well as a proposal to allow transit systems to use federal funds to operate and not just for their capital budgets.
The seams are already splitting, said Richard Davey, General Manager of Rail and Transit for the MBTA in Boston. On the "Orange Line, we’re required to run 96 cars, and 102 in rush hour, in order to have proper headway. We’re not seeing that anymore. Our customers are waiting in platforms a little longer -- 30 seconds, maybe a minute. If we don’t invest in our vehicles, you will be standing on platforms," Davey said.
But Rogoff still questioned whether bringing systems into a state of good repair is more important than expanding transit -- which makes it more of a choice for more Americans.
"Why should we invest in expanding a footprint when we know that they they are not adequately investing in their current footprint? Rogoff asked of transit agencies across the country. (He promised to ask Boston that question soon.)
"It’s a critical and important question to ask and we don’t back away from it. We’re having that dialog now with the MUNI system in San Francisco and the central subway project where we want to see a continuing financial commitment to, at a minimum, not allowing the MUNI system to go backward when we are also investing money to expand the system that they will then be required to maintain."
"One of the challenges we have with a number of systems across America is that there was a lot of enthusiasm and political support to build out the services to communities that want and need it and far less enthusiasm for making the necessary investments to maintain them."
Monday, June 13, 2011
"There are power substation facilities serving the SEPTA [Philadelphia] system that have equipment in it dating from the 19-teens and 20’s. Thank heaven they overbuilt those systems back in the 20’s because they actually have been able to endure and serve the service.
"But it is, sometimes it is rather spooky when you see how many tens of thousands of daily commuters that are dependent on the continuing reliability of systems that are approaching 50, 60, 70 years-old in some of these cities.
"That’s why we really want to surge forward with the investment because some of those systems are going to have to be replaced you cannot keep milking them along another half century."
We've reported on aging infrastructure and underfunding on Transportation Nation regularly: aging infrastructure is bad for business; when it comes to transpo spending, those who can't, study; and bang for the buck, how states spend precious transpo dollars.
Monday, June 13, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff wants it all: to improve the U.S. transit systems sometimes woeful state of disrepair, expand buses and train service, and prevent municipalities from losing their transit systems to the downward tug of an economic whirlpool. "We are trying to deal with all those challenges at once," Rogoff tells a press conference in Boston. "Not just maintenance but also on expansion" he said. "Also to provide increased formula funds."
That's a taste of what he had to say -- a fuller report coming soon.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
By Kate Hinds
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation) On the day that President Obama formally kicked off his reelection campaign, the amount of work the president has to do to energize his former allies came into stark relief. (More on what the administration is doing further down in this post.)
Speaking at a breakfast at the Transportation Equity Network's annual conference, Amalgamated Transit Union president Larry Hanley ticked off a list of urban transit systems that slashed service during the first two years of Obama's presidency: New York, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh... “This administration was indistinguishable from the prior one with respect to transit operating aid,” said Hanley. He said he was grateful for the new money budgeted for transit -- but wanted to know “what can we do…to get the president to recognize publicly that what’s happening to transit is a national crisis and we need collectively to elevate this on the national agenda?”
Seated near him at the dais Deputy Secretary of the US DOT John Porcari responded that the federal government doesn't control local government decisions.
"When you look at how a transportation reauthorization bill actually gets passed," he said, "it's not from the top down...we are going to push as hard as we can, but it's from the bottom up. It's the mayor, county commissioners, and the governors, articulating their needs." To fund the bill, he told the crowd of civil rights, union, and transit advocates, "you need to push that and you need to make sure that your elected officials at the local and state level are making that clear to your congressional delegation. That's what brings the bill home."
But what funds the bill is not as clear. Speaking later in the day at the conference's lunchtime event, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said:
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
(Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation) Governor Christie's spokesman, Michael Drewniak, just emailed around the following statement. We'll have more soon, plus FTA response. (Yesterday, when asked about the ARC tunnel negotiations, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff--who'd just spoken at a transportation conference--looked like he'd swallowed several lemons whole. He wouldn't comment. ) From the email:
Last night, New Jersey’s legal counsel filed its response to the Federal Transit Administration’s demand for $271 million in ARC transportation funding. Attached is the submission filed electronically with the FTA on behalf of NJ Transit, as well as a fact sheet.
While the submission clearly sets out New Jersey’s case, pay particular attention to the four-page introduction, which aptly and succinctly describes why the State of New Jersey has no lawful or administrative obligation to repay any of the $271 million demanded by the FTA. The FTA overstates the funds that are even at issue and makes a demand for repayment that is far broader than authorized by statute. Specifically:
Of the $271 million FTA demands, the vast majority -- $225.5 million -- consists of:
(1) funds that were expended prior to the execution of the August 2009 ESWA (Early Systems Work Agreements); and
(2) the State’s own formula funds that New Jersey was entitled to as a matter of right, and chose to apply to the Project.
The ESWA simply was not the source of these funds and the statute makes clear that these funds are not “Government payments made under the work agreement.”
As is by now abundantly clear, Governor Christie cancelled the project due to multi-billion dollar cost-overrun projections for a project that previously had an agreed upon price tag of $8.7 billion. Billions in those cost overruns would have been borne by New Jersey -- something unforeseen and entirely out of the state’s control, and a burden Governor Christie was not willing to place exclusively on New Jersey and its taxpayers.
Opposition to Demand
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
By Kate Hinds
(Kate Hinds, Transportation Nation, and Quinn Klinefelter, WDET, Detroit ) While many of the usual suspects got a piece of yesterday’s Federal Transit Administration’s $776 million “State of Good Repair" program, there was one notable absence from the list: Detroit.
While roughly $11 million is going to Michigan cities like Ann Arbor, Flint and Saginaw, Detroit is NOT receiving any federal money from this particular grant. But FTA chief Peter Rogoff says the federal government is keenly aware of the need for transit funding in the Motor City. “Detroit has started off, for a city of its size, way behind comparable cities in providing a real network of transit service. And they’re struggling to do so, given the financial challenges they have.”
Although Detroit missed out in this round of grants, the mayor’s administration estimates Detroit has received more than $37 million to improve the city’s bus system, and has used it to buy 46 new bus coaches--four of them hybrid models.
Other embattled urban transit agencies were successful.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
By Casey Miner
(Oakland, California - Casey Miner, KALW News) After a marathon hearing today at which more than 20 people spoke, the BART board gave its final approval to the Oakland Airport Connector project, pending a guarantee of funds from the Port of Oakland. The project stalled earlier this year when it ran afoul of federal civil rights statues and lost $70 million in stimulus money, but roared back to life a month ago when BART found a way to fund the project without stimulus dollars.
Advocates say the 3.2-mile elevated connector will make reaching the Oakland Airport faster, easier, and more convenient than the current AirBART bus which shuttles passengers back and forth between the airport and the Coliseum BART station. In the best-case scenario, they promise thousands of new jobs for Oakland residents and as much as a 40% increase in ridership on the BART system.
But today's hearing offered little solace to those with persistent concerns about the project
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
(David Schultz, WAMU News) Metro, Washington D.C.'s embattled transit authority, has changed drastically in the past 12 months - ever since two of its trains crashed into each other a year ago this week, killing eight passengers and a train operator.
The change felt most viscerally by passengers has to do with how Metro's trains operate. Because its automatic train control system was thought to be at fault, Metro switched its trains to manual control. This has not only hurt the trains' on-time performance, it's made them more herky jerky - especially when coming to a stop at a platform. As a result, motion sickness has become a real hazard for many Metro riders.
But the legacy of the Metro train crash goes beyond some queasy train passengers.
Monday, April 26, 2010
(Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation, April 26) We're following the changes in how public transit projects are planned and funded under the Obama Administration's DOT, which has made it quite clear that it wants to see new lines and routes serve wide groups of riders, especially those traditionally underserved. Nathanael Johnson of KALW News has been following BART's efforts in San Francisco to reconnect with the community, after its plans failed to meet new criteria and lost $70 million.
Guillermo Mayer is the lawyer who fought BART and found himself backed by a new White House. He won, and is now looking at ways the new Transportation Reauthorization in Congress can be used to fund this kind of civil rights argument for transit. "This breathes life back into Title VI Civil Rights enforcement," Mayer said. "We didn’t win much under Bush."
Today on The Takeaway, Mayer said "at this time we're pretty much seeing transit service in the Bay Area get decimated. The buses are running with much longer headways. They're much more expensive to ride now. Transit drivers are being laid off." And so why should agencies be building expensive new ways for well-off riders to get to the airport?