Categories
Federal Policy Public Transit Transportation Funding

StreetsBlog DC: $2 Billion in Emergency Transit Operating Aid

Policy in Motion Note:

This week marks both the one-year anniversary for dc.streetsblog.org and the transitioning of the organization’s Capitol Hill coverage by Elana Schor.  Thanks for all the great coverage Elana and good luck at Greenwire!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following is a StreetsBlog Capitol Hill article by Elana Schor on May 25:

Transit agencies forced to raise fares or cut service to close budget gaps would be eligible for $2 billion in emergency operating funds under legislation unveiled today by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) and seven other Democratic senators, including two members of the party’s leadership.

harry_reid_christopher_dodd_max_baucus_charles_schumer_richard_durbin_2009_8_4_16_40_23.jpgSens. Chris Dodd (D-CT), left, Charles Schumer (D-NY), right, and Dick Durbin (D-IL), second from right, with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). (Photo: AP)

The transit operating bill would authorize $2 billion in federal grants aimed at helping local transit agencies reverse already-imposed service cuts, fare increases, or worker layoffs — provided that those changes were forced by a shortfall in state or local transport budgets that took effect after January 1, 2009. Any agency planning future service cuts or fare hikes could use their grant money to stave off those moves until September 2011.

“While families continue to struggle to make ends meet, the last thing we should do is make it harder and more expensive for people to get to work,” Dodd said in a statement. “This bill will prevent disruptive service cuts and help put money back in the pockets of families when they need it most.”

Those transit agencies not pursuing service cuts, fare hikes, or layoffs would be allowed to use the extra federal money for maintenance or repair of existing infrastructure. The transit operating funds would be distributed according to existing formulas, but the authorizing nature of the bill means that the money will also need to be appropriated in a separate piece of legislation.

Notably, the bill’s authorization remains in effect until September 2011, giving lawmakers more than a year to find suitable appropriations vehicles to which the operating aid bill can be attached.

In addition, the legislation’s short-term nature meets the conditions set by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which had endorsed extra operating aid with the provison that it not become a permanent fixture of the federal transit program.

Transportation for America (T4A), an infrastructure policy reform group that counts APTA as a member, hailed the bill’s release.

“With demand for public transportation service at its highest level in over 50 years, Congress must act to protect Americans who rely on transit from service cuts and fare hikes that threaten their ability to reach jobs and daily necessities,” T4A director James Corless said in a statement. “This act will help to preserve an economically essential service with a one-time, emergency infusion that will help to save jobs and access to jobs.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Categories
California Policy NewsFlash SB 375

ULI Releases SB 375 Report on Economic and Environmental Benefits

SB 375 Has Much Potential to Help California’s Urban Areas Be More Environmentally and Economically Sustainable, Says Urban Land Institute’s Analysis of Law”

Report from Land Use Experts Emphasizes Wise Implementation as Key to Success

For more information, contact Trish Riggs at 202-624-7086; priggs@uli.org

LOS ANGELES (June 4, 2010) — A California law that requires metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to create and implement land use plans that use compact, coordinated, and efficient development patterns to reduce auto dependency could, if implemented wisely, help the state’s urban regions become more economically and environmentally sustainable, according to an analysis of the law released today by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The SB 375 Impact Analysis Report examines the potential effects of California Senate Bill 375 on the economic future for the state and the quality of life for its residents. In particular, the report analyzes the law’s mandate for a new regional land use plan, Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), which calls for more coordinated and efficient development patterns that can accommodate all types of land uses. The law requires regional transportation plans (RTPs) to include such strategies to encourage better alignment of land use, transportation, and housing planning.

Enacted in September 2008, SB 375 is part of a series of initiatives the state has underway to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target reduction goals (cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and further cutting emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050). The impact of SB 375 will become more apparent this fall, as MPOs strive to meet a deadline for regional greenhouse gas emissions set by the California Air Resources Board.

ULI, a global research and education institute dedicated to responsible land use, has long supported land- and energy-efficient development practices to accommodate growth in urban areas. The Institute and its District Councils in California – ULI Los Angeles, ULI San Francisco, ULI Sacramento, ULI San Diego, and ULI Orange County/Inland Empire– recently convened an interdisciplinary panel of real estate leaders, including developers, land use attorneys, academics and public officials, to conduct an analysis of the law. The panel’s findings formed the basis for SB 375 Impact Analysis Report, which was released today in Los Angeles during the Transit-Oriented Development Summit 2010 sponsored by ULI Los Angeles. The panel was jointly sponsored by ULI and Smart Growth America.

SB 375 reflects the reality that “how we use land matters,” said ULI Chief Executive Officer Patrick L. Phillips. “Land use has an enormous impact on the long-term environmental viability of our urban areas. Climate change has elevated the need to rethink what and where we build,” Phillips said. “Clearly, with SB 375, California is taking a leading role in addressing the detrimental impact of sprawling development, and is seeking to improve urban growth patterns. It’s taking a meaningful step forward toward conserving land and energy, and preserving the environment.”

According to the report, the law has the potential to make a positive change in the growth patterns of California’s urban regions. “If implemented well, SB 375 would help California accommodate growth in ways that are economically sound, environmentally responsible, and socially beneficial,” the report says. “As such, SB 375 has the potential to improve the quality of life for Californians, and is one tool that can address a number of problems long associated with sprawl, including traffic congestion, the cost burden of housing, declining air quality, increases in greenhouse gas emissions, and the geographical imbalance between jobs and housing.”

The overarching anticipated benefit of SB 375 is its ability to provide more consistency, coordination, and clarity to the development process, which the land use industry needs to start recovering from the recession, the report says. It points to several benefits that SB 375 can bring through thoughtful implementation, including:

  • Rational alignment of regional planning, transportation, and environmental policy and funding;
  • mproved jobs-housing balance;
  • More certainty for developers on the desired direction for development;
  • Initiating reform for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA);
  • Flexibility for regional and local solutions; and
  • Improved efficiency and effectiveness for transit systems.

“Economically, SB 375 will help the state, communities, and developers meet the shifting market demand for housing, diversify the housing offerings on the market, allocate public resources more efficiently, and ensure a better of quality of life,” the report says. Specifically, SB 375 can help the state:

  • Accommodate a growing share of housing demand for first-time buyers and renters, as well as empty nesters;
  • Strive to create a  wider range of housing choices, and maintain a balance between infill and greenfield development;
  • Improve the allocation of transportation funds based on density and need;
  • Position both state and regional governments to be more competitive for federal resources, many of which are tied to more collaborative planning initiatives;
  • Promote healthier living environments that cut exposure to vehicle exhaust emissions and promote exercise through pedestrian-friendly design; and
  • Preserve and enhance a higher quality of life through more efficient municipal services and infrastructure.

The report offers several recommendations to maximize the effectiveness of SB 375 as a productive guide for development that benefits California’s communities. One major area considered critical to its success is transit certainty. The report notes that the coverage and efficiency of public transit – including buses, trains, light rail, and shuttles – must keep pace with the anticipated increase in urban and suburban density. “Improving the service levels and ongoing investment in transit capital improvements and operations creates transit certainty, a critical factor for supporting the growth of compact development,” the report states. Another “must” for successful implementation: proper alignment of policy and funding.  Among the factors to be considered are aligning public policy across all levels of government; aligning land use policies with demographic and market trends; and producing a transparent approvals process for public- and private-sector stakeholders.

Greater community engagement, communication, and dialogue could go far in building consensus around the positive impact that SB 375 can have in guiding growth, the report advises. “It is critical to ensure that residents and stakeholders understand the goals and anticipated benefits associated with the implementation of SB 375,” the report says.

Much of the debate surrounding SB 375 has been a result of misinterpretation of the legislation itself. SB 375 is not the first legislation from California that was initially seen as problematic but in the long run contributed to positive and progressive results. It is possible, the report says, for SB 375 to achieve similar benefits as Title 24, the state’s 30-plus year old law mandating improved building energy efficiency. That law is now viewed as helping to shift the state toward more sustainable land use decisions, and as contributing to significant energy cost savings for the state. “The better California does with SB 375 implementation, the greater the benefits will be,” the report says.

“SB 375 is consistent with the overall mission of ULI and what it has long advocated – the development of sustainable, thriving communities that:  provide a social framework for connecting people to places; respect environmental realities locally and globally; and compete effectively for economic vitality.”

To download the report, click here.

About the Urban Land Institute
The Urban Land Institute (
www.uli.org) is a global nonprofit education and research institute supported by its members. Its mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. Established in 1936, the Institute has nearly 30,000 members representing all aspects of land use and development disciplines.

Categories
Education/Webinars Federal Policy GHG Reduction

Webinar: US DOT Report to Congress on GHG Reduction

“Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions”

Date:  Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time:  1:00 – 2:30 PM

Registration opening soon at www.climate.dot.gov.

You are invited to participate in a webinar on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new report to Congress, “Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions.”  The report analyzes greenhouse gas emission levels and trends from all modes of transportation in the United States.  It then examines the full range of strategies available to reduce transportation GHGs.  These strategies include introducing low-carbon fuels, increasing vehicle fuel economy, improving transportation system efficiency, and reducing carbon-intensive travel activity.  While the report does not provide recommendations, it does analyze five categories of policy options for implementing the strategies: an economy-wide price signal, efficiency standards, market incentives, transportation planning and investment programs, and research and development.  Authors of the report will discuss its key findings, followed by time for questions and discussion.

Agenda:

Introductory remarks:

  • Beth Osborne, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy
  • Linda Lawson, Co-Chair of the US. DOT Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting and Director of the Office of Safety, Energy, and Environment in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation

Key findings:

  • John Davies, Environmental Protection Specialist, Federal Highway Administration
  • Joanne Potter, Principal, Cambridge Systematics
  • Tina Hodges, Program Analyst, Federal Transit Administration
  • A.J. Singletary, Environmental Policy Analyst, Office of the Secretary of Transportation

Questions and  discussion

Members of the research team will also be available for questions and discussion, including representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Research & Innovative Technology Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and Cambridge Systematics.

Link to the report: http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/32000/32700/32779/DOT_Climate_Change_Report_-_April_2010_-_Volume_1_and_2.pdf

For more information, please contact JoAnna Smith at JoAnna.Smith@dot.gov.

Please forward to other interested colleagues.

This webinar is sponsored by the U.S. DOT Center for Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting.  The Center is the focal point within U.S. DOT for information and technical expertise on transportation and climate change, working with its component organizations to coordinate related research, policies, and actions. The Center promotes comprehensive multimodal approaches to reduce GHG emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change on the transportation system, while advancing U.S. DOT’s core goals of safety, mobility, environmental stewardship, and security.

Categories
Federal Policy NewsFlash Transportation Funding

TIGER II Grants To Target Major-Impact Trans Projects & Job Creation

Press Release | May 28, 2010 8:32PM GMT

The Journal of Commerce Online – Press Release

Following on the success of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant Program, Secretary Ray LaHood today announced the availability of $600 million in TIGER II grants for capital investment in surface transportation projects. TIGER II grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or metropolitan area and can create jobs.

“The enormous number of applications we received for the first round of TIGER grants shows that we have a backlog of worthwhile transportation projects waiting for funding,” said Secretary LaHood. “This money will go to the kinds of projects that will help spur lasting economic growth, reduce gridlock, provide safe, affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation choices and create jobs.”

In an overwhelming show of demand for TIGER I, the U.S. Department of Transportation received more than 1,400 applications from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia requesting funding for almost $60 billion worth of projects – 40 times the $1.5 billion available under the program.

The TIGER II solicitation now available on the Federal Register website provides clear criteria for the department to make merit-based decisions on the new discretionary program.

Primary selection criteria include contributing to the long-term economic competitiveness of the nation, improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and improving the quality of living and working environments of communities through increased transportation choices and connections.

The Department will also give priority to projects that are expected to quickly create and preserve jobs and stimulate rapid increases in economic activity.

Pre-applications are due on July 16 and applications are due on August 23 from state and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities and others. The Federal Register notice can be accessed by clicking here.