Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Transit Funding Problems Prompt National Meeting

Decreased transit funding and declining revenue due to the recession are causing service cutbacks and layoffs in the transit industry, now at more than 3000. The Amalgamated Transit Union convened a meeting of national organizations and union locals, to work together bring to the public's attention the need for transit service. The meeting focused on jobs, community organizing, and forming a message for a national campaign.

Among the participants were the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), Transportation for America, and Reconnecting America.

Ridership Increases

Despite the recession, or maybe somewhat because of it, transit ridership is again on the rise, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), showing a .1 percent increase in the second quarter of 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Comprehensive Thoughts on Reauthorization

Two recent reports offer food for thought about reauthorization. One examines the macroeconomic issues at play and the other looks at the daily living needs of the population of those aging with disabilities.

Two Former Secretaries of Transportation

If we did not already know that reauthorization is overdue, the 92-page report, Well Within Reach America’s New Transportation Agenda, from the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, offers 10 reasons, with plenty of analysis to support its arguments, to invest now in transportation. Yes, two former Secretaries of Transportation participated in the conference leading to the report. Specifically, it calls for:
1. Investment to ensure the global competitiveness of the United States;
2. Investment in mobility options that reduce congestion at airports and on roads, especially high speed rail;
3. Returning to a pay-as-you-go funding mechanism for the nation’s highways, such as a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) system;
4. Investment in hi-tech air travel safety systems;
5. Investment and policy reforms that reduce traffic congestion; and
6. Investment in infrastructure to prevent an erosion of the “social and economic foundations for American prosperity in the long run.”

Looking for Long-Term Solutions

The report has a long term economic perspective. Without explicit names or programs, it criticizes “short-term fixes for unemployment or other problems.” It also calls for setting of a few priorities, adequately funding them, and accounting for them as long-term investments.

The report examines the Oberstar reauthorization bill and its recommendations are consistent with the bill, particularly in the area of livability and reduction of single-occupancy-vehicle (SOV) trips. It also addresses other topics, getting into the weeds on zoning, technology, performance measures, public/private partnerships and other issues.

Transportation-Challenged Populations Left Unmentioned

Even though the report concentrates on megatrends and large problems, it leaves unmentioned the large and growing population of older adults and people with disabilities. It does not discuss those who are unable to drive, those who cannot afford a privately-owned vehicle, or those who live in rural areas. Nor does it address transportation equity.

AARP's Look at Caregiving

In Trends in Family Caregiving and Paid Home Care for Older People with Disabilities in the Community: Data from the National Long-Term Care Survey, AARP examines the levels of disability older people are living with and how they are being taken care of - whether with assistive devices, family care, and/or formal and paid care. Though the report does not discuss transportation, it does analyze the needs of a many people who do not drive. This population has increased substantially in the last 15 years.

The report offers both a sober message and recommendations.

Clearly, most older people want to stay in their homes and communities when disability strikes, and the data presented in this report and its companion (Redfoot and Houser 2010) document the strong trend toward greater independence among older people with disabilities. But policy discussions have been too focused on saving money and too little focused on providing the supports needed to enable older people to retain their independence. And far too little attention is paid to providing the financial, technical, and respite support needed by family caregivers who are increasingly bearing the burdens of care. Building the network of services and supports for people with disabilities and their family caregivers should be a national priority today so that tomorrow’s much larger cohorts of older people can look forward to aging with dignity and independence.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aging in Place News

The National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), formerly the National Association of State Units on Aging, has links to articles about the demographics of the older adult population and about how to age well in place.

One article discusses the village model, originated in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, but which has sprouted many different variations across the country. The article also touches upon the toll that end-of-life care imposes on workplaces and employees.

Community and Home Care

Unfortunately for those who wish to age in place on limited incomes, the financial condition of state and local government coffers are not in good shape. State and local services include transportation and meal deliveries, among others. According to NASUAD, "States can’t stop enrollments because these are entitlement programs. But they can cut the number of hours or visits and individual receives, and they can cut reimbursement to the providers, who already complain that their payments are too low."

Martha A. Roherty, executive director of NASUAD, adds that the shrunken government workforces will also have to meet the challenge of enrolling 16 million more people in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Who Is Living in the Community?

has a brief that specifically discusses who is aging in place and at what level of independence and disability. Trends in who is caring for those who are unable to fully take care of themselves is also covered, along with who is paying for that care.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Health Care Reform - Integrating Transportation

The Administration on Aging released the Affordable Care Act - Opportunities for the Aging Network, which is a quick summary of health care reform's changes for the public health system and communities.

There are opportunities for transportation providers because successful aging in place, getting people healthy after a hospital stay and providing a modern medical workforce will all require moving people from home to a medical facility.

Medicaid expansion is addressed in Covering Low-Income Childless Adults in Medicaid:
Experiences from Selected States
. "The paper attempts to summarize: (a) what is known about the incoming population, including their health care needs and costs; (b) the outreach and enrollment challenges presented by the expansion population; and (c) the delivery system design questions that need to be answered to adequately address their needs."

Medical Transportation

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) will be play a big part in getting people to appointments. With greater numbers of people to be covered by Medicaid and preventive and maintenance medicine to be practiced, there may well be many more people traveling to regular doctor appointments. The Community Transportation Association of America is assisting providers with current issues and helping them to be more efficient for when the new law takes effect.

CTAA has a new training to address these needs.

Limited funding combined with growing patient loads has states seeking intermediaries that can control costs through competition. Community and public transportation providers must become efficient, safe, cost-effective and accountable to maintain these important medical transportation services. CTAA, in response to requests from its members, is introducing a new initiative this fall -- the Competitive Edge -- which will give community and public transit providers the tools, resources and benefits they need to make them central players in this new medical transportation environment. For more information, contact Charles Dickson at 202.247.8356 or email dickson@ctaa.org.

Secretary LaHood's Blog in My Neighborhood

On a personal note, I read the Secretary's blog a moment ago and noticed he has been in my neighborhood for Walk to School Day. The Secretary is photographed at a nearby school surrounded by children. A video posted on the blog shows children walking to their local elementary school (yes, my daughters' old school) and discusses safety. I will brag a little to say that Takoma Park Elementary School boasts a 30 percent walker rate, thanks to pedestrian-friendly streets and child-friendly crossing guards on the corners.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Big Plans

From small to large public transportation systems, recent announcements are reminiscent of the Daniel Burnham quote, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.... Make big plans... aim high in hope and work.”

Last night, the PBS NewsHour profiled rural transit in Natchez, Miss., and the plans to build a better system that will attract many more riders. Charles Carr, director of transit services, Mississippi Department of Transportation and President of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) was asked to respond to arguments that subsidies are required to fund public transit. Carr replied that subsidies are used for rail and air travel as well as roads.

Natchez Transit's director, Sabrina Bartley, plans to expand service to underserved areas, start fixed-route service, and coordinate service in 13 counties.

A Bos-Wash Dream

On the other side of the spectrum, a large sytem, Amtrak, declares its plans for high-speed service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). None other than the Secretary of Transportation praised the unprecedented regional partnership in his blog post this morning. The NEC plan envisions trips from Washington to Boston in 3 hours and 23 minutes (compared to the current 8 hours on Amtrak's Northeast Regional trains or 6 hours and 37 minutes on Acela Express), with 220 mile-per-hour service between the major cities along the corridor. More information is available from the Potomac Express and from the Philadelphia Enquirer at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/home_top_stories/20100929_Amtrak_rolls_out_ambitious__high-speed_service_plan.html.

What's the common denominators for implementation of ambitious plans in the rural Natchez area and the states and cities along the NEC? Champions will be needed to persist in seeing the plans through and coordination at the county, state and regional levels.

Economic Message

The message that many see in ambitious public transportation plans is the creation of jobs, increasing employment within transit systems and in the communities that it serves.

The Natchez Transit director speaks of attracting business. Employers, she says, are always interested in whether their employees can get to work. For Amtrak and those supporting the NEC plan, there are estimates that thousands of jobs could be created. Amtrak's president, Joseph Boardman, says that the new high-speed rail corridor's bridges, tunnels, and stations "would create 40,000 full-time jobs per year over 25 years" and planners estimate 120,000 new permanent jobs would result from improved economic productivity along the corridor.

Green Jobs

Ambitious plans are not limited to local and intercity transportation. According to the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), a green economy incorporates transit and coordination among regional sectors. In its discussion of green jobs in a letter to the Department of Labor, NARC points out the Kansas City regional plan. (The Department of Labor definition of
green jobs contemplates public transit.)

Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) is the multi-faceted regional planning organization representing the Kansas City bi-state region (Missouri and Kansas). MARC is a leader in developing Kansas City’s Green Impact Zone, an effort to concentrate resources — with funding, coordination, and public and private partnerships — in one specific area to demonstrate that a targeted effort can literally transform a community. This national model for place-based investment is now underway in the heart of Kansas City's urban core and has received significant federal recognition and funding. At the heart of the Green Impact Zone initiative is a project that would put area residents to work weatherizing the 2,500 homes in the zone’s neighborhoods. Another piece calls for development of a green bus rapid-transit system that would include bio-diesel buses and green bus shelters. A third piece would provide job training and employment programs for ex-parolees in green building, park restoration and transit work. The Green Impact Zone project will include an employment and training program coordinated both with zone activities and business interests outside of the zone.


To encourage the use of commuter transit and keep it on par with driving, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is urging its members to contact Congress to extend the commuter tax benefit for transit riders. APTA writes in its legislative update,
Under ARRA, the transit/vanpool portion of the benefit was increased to $230 per month, treating each mode of transportation as equal. This provision is set to expire on December 31, 2010, and without an extension, the transit tax benefit would be reduced by more than half to the previous $120 per month amount.

APTA is asking Congress to either extend ARRA's higher commuter tax benefit or to "permanently equalize the transit benefit and parking benefit."