This morning, as part of President Obama’s livability initiative, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I announced over $290 million in new transit funding for projects that will enhance the quality of life in communities across America. The 53 grants will fund new streetcars, buses, and transit facilities from Manchester, NH, to Albuquerque, NM, through FTA’s Urban Circulator and Bus Livability programs.
Administrator Rogoff summarized the benefits of this funding perfectly: “These projects mean jobs now and major transit improvements that will last for years to come.”
I am thrilled about these awards because the jobs and the economic development and the mobility choices this livability funding sets in motion demonstrate so clearly the progress the Obama Administration has made possible in just 18 months.
Communities around the US have been enthusiastic partners, looking for opportunities to advance good projects that have solid ridership expectations, that create opportunities for economic development, that have demonstrable environmental benefits, and that increase access for transit-dependent people.
For $130 million in urban circulator grants, we received more than $1 billion in applications. And for the $160 million in bus grants, we received over $2 billion in applications.
That’s a sign that America is ready for better connectivity, more transportation choices, and greater livability.
And streetcars have become a very popular way to achieve those outcomes. In Charlotte, for example, the streetcar will provide an east-west transit spine connecting people to the 10,000 jobs and array of top-flight medical services at Presbyterian Hospital. It will also connect to Central Piedmont Community College, whose students are all commuters. And it will connect to the Charlotte Transportation Center for access to the Charlotte Area Transit System’s many bus lines and Lynx light rail system.
Cincinnati is another example of a promising streetcar through an urban core. Mayor Mark Mallory and the Cincinnati City Council realize that streetcars are a great engine to improve livability and drive economic development in Cincinnati’s downtown. Cincinnati’s residents and visitors don’t want to wrestle for scarce parking spaces; they don’t want to fight roadway congestion. They want to get to jobs, services, and retail stores without a hassle.
With 47 projects, bus transit is also a huge part of these awards. The 34th Street Transitway in New York City will create a distinct bus lane, isolated from automobiles, and make 34th Street safer for pedestrians. A grant for more efficient buses will allow Manchester to provide better service in communities with smaller roadways–allowing elderly residents access to medical care while reducing transit operating costs and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
In San Francisco, the Phelan Loop Bus Facility project offers a model of the gains our Partnership for Sustainable Communities with HUD and EPA can achieve. That project includes plans to maintain and create affordable housing, relocate a bus turnaround that dates back to the 1930s, and introduce service by Zero-Emission Vehicles. Walking access from affordable housing to a major transit center that is served by a green fleet–that is livability.
Look, in the end, our goal is to provide cleaner, safer, and more efficient ways to get around in communities that want those alternatives. And today’s grants are a huge step in that direction.