Monday, March 26, 2012

Treasury Department Touts Transit and Infrastructure Investments

Department of the Treasury
The Treasury Department issues a report, A New Economic Analysis of Infrastructure Investment, that argues in favor of expanding transportation options as an avenue for economic growth, citing research on location-efficient neighborhoods and emission reductions due to transit ridership, among other evidence. Also covered is what the Administration is doing currently in terms of investments in infrastructure and speeding project delivery.

The report also speaks in favor of a national infrastructure bank and benefits to the middle class of wise infrastructure investment, including a benefit to Lincoln, NE, of 1000 jobs for making Metro North train cars that seat commuters from Westchester and Connecticut traveling into the city each day. (Yes, New York City, Grand Central, specifically.)

No Pie on Transit* - Except Pi Day?

Public health benefits are touted as a reason to invest in transit.
Using data on individuals before (July 2006 to February 2007) and after (March 2008 to July 2008) the completion of a light rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina, they find that the use of light rail to commute to work is associated with a nearly 1.2 point reduction in body mass index as well as an 81 percent reduction in the odds of becoming obese. Moreover, improved perceptions of neighborhoods as a result of the availability of light rail were associated with 15 percent lower odds of obesity as well as higher odds of meeting weekly recommended physical activity levels for walking and vigorous exercise (9 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

In addition to all of the personal benefits associated with a healthier life style, overall costs on our health care system are substantially reduced when obesity rates are lowered, given that health care costs for the obese are almost twice the rate for normal weight individuals. Finkelstein et al. find that between 1998 and 2006, the prevalence of obesity in the United States increased by 37 percent, adding $40 billion dollars to health care costs.

A separate study by Stokes et al. estimates that health care savings in Charlotte from the creation of the first segment of their light rail system could reach a cumulative $12.6 million by 2015. These facts also suggest that targeted investment in creating new public transportation systems could translate into large-scale savings in health care costs. Furthermore, many other academic studies show that proximity to public transportation and more rationally-designed neighborhoods tend to be associated with increased walking and other physical activity for the general population, working or otherwise. [Footnotes omitted.]

Transit ridership growth is declared as well as increased demand for transit service. There is more in the report.

* [For all of you non-math nerds, Pi Day is March 14, as in 3.14159 etc., used in circle radius, circumference, diameter and other calculations. It is also the birthday of Albert Einstein and my mother. That would make her happy. Some schools ask parents to make pie donations for math class celebrations. Not that math classes are unhealthy; other than the last day of the term, that's pretty much the only day for less-than-healthy eating in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and beyond classes. Well, at least the ones I am aware of.]

Occupy Transportation? and State Updates

Amalgamated Transit Union

ATU is generating attention for April 4 as a National Day of Action for Public Transportation, called by Occupy Boston on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech about Vietnam and American poverty. The April 4 event "is about demanding public transportation for the 99% by spreading the word about the mass transit crisis out to riders and the general public." Occupy Boston voiced its concerns for transit funding at a recent public hearing. ATU's website links to the Occupy Boston announcement.

National Conference of State Legislatures

NCSL releases its monthly transportation newsletter, which includes an overview of reauthorization activity in Congress, high-speed rail developments, and an update on state funding for transportation.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Public Health and Expanding Mobility Options

American Public Health Association
APHA has eight fact sheets devoted to the topic of how transportation modes, accidents, and the lifestyles our prevalent car culture engender affect public health.

APHA is promoting National Public Health Week, Apr. 2-8, 2012. Monday, Apr. 2 is the day designated to celebrate active living and healthy eating. The week is designed as a time to tell your tale, host an event, or introduce yourself to public health partners. Refer to the event toolkit for ideas and instructions. Transit, transportation services, and pedestrian and bike-friendly street networks (complete streets) offer exercise and access to food and all of the important destinations in life.

Faster Route to Multimodal Choices

Department of Transportation
The Secretary and the Federal Transit Administration are proposing streamlined regulations to make the review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) more efficient and "five times" faster. More details are contained in the FTA press release and in the Federal Register notice. The notice states that "[c]omments must be received by May 14, 2012."

Ten categorical exclusions are proposed. Among these is one for "[a]cquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and improvement or limited expansion of stand-alone recreation, pedestrian, or bicycle facilities, such as: A multiuse pathway, lane, trail, or pedestrian bridge; and transit plaza amenities." Other exclusions are for rehabilitation of public transportation buildings, planning and administration, repairs within an existing right of way, acquisition and maintenance of vehicles within existing facilities, and similar activities to maintain facilities themselves. Another one that seems possibly more significant is:
Assembly or construction of facilities that is consistent with existing land use and zoning requirements (including floodplain regulations), is minimally intrusive, and requires no special permits, permissions, and uses a minimal amount of undisturbed land, such as: Buildings and associated structures; bus transfers, busways and streetcar lines within existing transportation right-of-way; and parking facilities.
The tenth exclusion is for encompassed or adjacent facilities that do not substantially enlarge the carbon footprint of a transit project, such as daycare, police or other facilities.

An important public participation aspect of the proposed regulations is that "applicants may announce project milestones using either electronic or paper media." Posting on a website of all important documents during an environmental review is encouraged. Hard copies would still be available.

Acknowledgement that Options Matter

Transportation Research Board

Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans is mostly about safe driving and roads, but it recommends enhancements to public transportation, such as:
• Ensuring public transit vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to elderly or disabled passengers.
• Expanding bus and transit routes.
• Implementing non-traditional and public sector approaches that are tailored to the needs of older adults, including ride sharing, volunteer driving programs, door-to- door community transportation services, taxi services and vehicle donation.
While the report points out that traditional fixed-route transit might not be an option for people who are frail or disabled, it does not discuss or advocate particular options.

Local Stories

Food Access - From the American Public Transportation Association newsletter is a story about transporting the supermarket to people who are transportation challenged. In areas of Columbia, MO., that the Department of Agriculture has deemed to be food deserts, a USDA grant is paying for a food bus. The city contracted with a farmer's market to provide two buses that will make stops through the food deserts and underserved areas. Promotion for the food buses include advertisements on public transit buses.

The bus route will run on 30-minute cycles from April 7 to Oct. 27, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Normal Saturday transit doesn't begin until 10 a.m. and runs in 80-minute cycles.

- Steuben County, NY, is the home of a new website that offers the one-click portion of a one-call/one-click service for information about transportation options. An article from Bath, NY, New site outlines transit options, features mobility manager Jane Davis and describes how the website,, offers everything from transit schedules to rides to medical appointments. The site has information about publicly-funded options and volunteer services, as well as taxis. [Editor's Note: Jane Davis serves on the Advisory Committee of the Partnership for Mobility Management. The editor is the director of the Partnership.]

Carsharing - Car2go expands to Washington, DC and Portland, OR. This carsharing company operates differently than Zipcar and others. There is no mandatory use of particular parking spaces, no requirement that cars be reserved, and the fee is based on minutes the vehicle is rented for instead of hours. Daimler's car2go Continues Carsharing Expansion from Coast to Coast, an article from the Bradenton Herald, gives more information. There are also posters with details currently on Metro trains in Washington, DC and its suburbs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

President's Budget - What Are National Organization's Saying?

I am currently perusing websites of the members of the National Consortium on the Coordination of Human Services Transportation with an eye toward responses to and analyses of the Obama Administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2012. I am especially looking at organizations that are not specifically transportation related to find out their perspectives.

Public Health

Children’s Health Fund
CHF's reaction to the President's proposed budget did not discuss transportation per se. It did discuss access to health care, and praised:
the investment of an additional $300 million to create 25 new health centers nationwide; additional incentives for 2,800 new primary care providers who practice in areas where there is an existing shortage of doctors and high poverty rates; and retaining the majority of funding for the implementation of national health reform.
However, CHF criticized the requested cuts in Medicaid and other publicly-funded health insurance for children, as well as a proposed decreased investment in the Prevention and Public Health Fund, established as part of the new health reform law.

American Public Health Association
APHA responded in a press release to the Administration's budget proposals with disappointment, stating that public health and prevention would be shortchanged.
With today’s proposed $664 million in cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency will have seen its budget authority slashed by $1.4 billion since fiscal year 2010, a more than 20 percent reduction. In addition, the Prevention and Public Health Fund established under the Affordable Care Act is slated for additional cuts of more than $4 billion over 10 years. The budget would also divert monies from the fund to backfill cuts to the CDC and other public health agencies. This maneuver not only puts the integrity of the CDC’s budget at risk but violates the fundamental spirit of this historic law. It robs Peter to pay Paul.
State and Local Perspectives

National Association of Counties
NACO's members are feeling the pinch of county budget cutbacks. For federal appropriations, NACO recommends assistance to state and local governments to mitigate further layoffs; investment in state and local infrastructure because it produces private sector jobs; and finding ways to reduce the federal deficit without "shifting costs to counties and their residents, imposing unfunded mandates, or preempting county programs or taxing authority."

National Association of Development Organizations

NADO released a proposed budget explanation that analyzes funding ramifications for rural programs, particularly economic development, and other programs that serve rural areas. It lists which programs would be eliminated, and which would suffer severe reductions. The document also reviews programs by federal departments, including transportation and reauthorization proposals.

Local and Regional Priorities

NADO and NACO joined to present testimony at a Senate hearing in February regarding rural development. Federal support for self-determined priorities and ease of access to federal programs were the major themes.
A criticism of USDA Rural Development is that its investments are not always driven by local and regional priorities. Instead of rural communities and small businesses working regionally on common goals, they often are forced to fit their economic development initiatives into federal priorities and funding stovepipes. I would urge a greater recognition and support of existing regional development strategies, including the EDA CEDS and our region’s Grand Vision and the 3E Initiative, which could assist Rural Development in making sound decisions regarding their investments.
National Conference of State Legislatures
NCSL provides an overview of what the President's budget proposals mean for funding across a broad spectrum of federal programs, including transportation. This is a good document for skimming to find out where the Administration's priorities are on everything from agriculture to transportation.

Equity, Human Services and Health Care

American Public Human Services Association
APHSA posts a list of what the proposed budget would mean for medical and human services programs. It does not include transportation, but is quite detailed about programs targeting vulnerable populations of older adults, children, people with disabilities, and people living in poverty.

PolicyLink has issued the 99% Agenda to explain and respond to President Obama's proposed budget. The equity-oriented organization applauds the proposals to increase transit investment, to award transportation innovation, to develop multimodal corridors, and to enhance livability, foster mobility, and expand transportation choices via the inter-agency Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

People with Disabilities

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
Though not billed as related to proposed budgets, APRIL hosted two Capitol Hill briefings on Feb. 23 - one on the House side and the other on the Senate side - with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, and the American Association of People with Disabilities. The briefing examined civil rights enforcement, accessible transportation, job creation, workforce development, and legislative priorities critical to the disability community.

National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities
As mentioned in the last Express Stop post, NASUAD posted a chart that translates both the President's proposed budget and expected funding in terms of programs that serve senior citizens.

[Editor's Note: Due to the strict limit on the number of characters allowed to label each post, this post will only be labeled under Legislation and Funding, but not under the label for each organization discussed.]

Friday, March 2, 2012

Events and Awards

Partnership for Mobility Management
Annual conference - May 9-10, 2012, in Long Beach, Calif. Hosted this year by the American Public Transportation Association, the conference will feature sessions and workshops on performance measurement, successful partnerships with different organizations, non-emergency medical transportation and brokerages, customer focus, information technology, and integration of facilities.

National Council on Independent Living
Annual conference - June 11-14, 2012 in Washington, DC. Come celebrate three decades of growth "from a handful of advocates and the Centers they represent into a force of thousands of people with disabilities from CILs and SILCs in every state and territory of the U.S."

American Public Human Services Association

2012 National Policy Forum: - June 3-5, 2012, in Washington, DC. The forum will focus on the policy analysis and recommendations from the Pathways: The Opportunities Ahead for Human Services document that will guide the APHSA's legislative priorities.

Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Annual Conference - Sept. 11-14, 2012 in Saratoga Springs, New York. All presentation proposals are due by March 2. The instructions for submissions are available on the AMPO website. Proposals are welcome about topics such as transit planning, reauthorization, performance measures and transit demand management.

Association for Commuter Transportation

2012 ACT International Conference - July 29-Aug. 1, 2012 in Savannah, GA.

National Association of Counties

Annual conference and exposition - July 13-17, 2012, in Pittsburgh, Pa. The conference provides county officials with the opportunity to vote on NACo’s policies related to federal legislation and regulation; learn about innovative county programs; and find out about issues impacting counties across the country.

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Award applications are being accepted to honor area agencies on aging accomplishments in care transitions, financial assistance, caregiving, livable communities, technology, volunteerism and more. The deadline is March 14.

Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living
Annual conference - Oct. 5-8, 2012, in Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nev. Information is posted on APRIL's homepage.

National Association of Development Organizations

Applications are currently being accepted for the Excellence in Regional Transportation Award, a program of NADO’s RPO America and the NADO Research Foundation’s Center for Transportation Advancement and Regional Development, which recognizes noteworthy projects and practices in rural and small metropolitan transportation planning. The organization applying to receive the award must be a member of NADO. Awards recognize uniqueness/level of innovation; regional impact; ability to be replicated; long-term viability of the program and its impact; innovative partnerships and collaborations; and creative funding. Winners will be recognized at a roundtable reception during the National Rural Transportation Peer Learning Conference (April 25-27, 2012 in Burlington, Vt.)

[Editor's note: This post is archived under Events and not under the individual organizations. This is due to a strict character maximum.]