News & Media
Vol. 6, No.1January 18, 2008
In This Issue …
- National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Releases Report
- Voters Head to the Polls in Florida Later the Month
- The American Public Transportation Association Hosts a Policy Forum
- Idaho State Legislature to Consider Transportation Funding
- Missouri Election Updates: St Louis County & Kansas City
National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission Releases Report
MAJOR REFORM RECOMMENDED
Earlier this week, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission released a report entitled “Transportation for Tomorrow: Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission”. The Report includes detailed recommendations for creating and sustaining a pre-eminent surface transportation system in the United States.
Congress created The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission in 2005 under Section 1909 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act—A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The 12 members of the commission represented federal, state and local governments; metropolitan planning organizations; transportation-related industries; and public interest organizations.
The Commission examined the current condition and future needs of the nation's surface transportation system. It also considered short and long-term alternatives to replace or supplement the fuel tax as the principal revenue source to support the Highway Trust Fund over the next 30 years. In the report the United States transportation infrastructure system was broken down into four components: freight rail lines, highways and bridges, ports, and mass transit systems.
To view the full report
Voters Head to the Polls in Florida Later the Month
PROPERTY TAX REFORM COULD CUT TRANSPORTATION FUNDING
Rapidly rising real estate values in Florida have increased property taxes to levels that many homeowners and potential homeowners cannot afford. In a special October session, the Florida state legislature put together a tax reform package designed to lessen the property tax burden. On January 29, 2008 voters will be asked to support a constitutional amendment that if approved by 60 percent of voters, would result in homeowners receiving on average $240 in annual savings. This small amount of savings translates into an estimated $9.6 billion in lost revenue over the next five years for local governments and services such as transportation.
Unions representing labor, teachers, police and firefighters have joined together to form the “Florida is Our Home” campaign, to oppose the amendment. The Amalgamated Transit Union in Tampa has mailed letters to its members encouraging them to preserve public services by voting against the amendment.
The probable effects of the amendment are already being discussed throughout Florida. The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was created last July as a means of improving and expanding transportation options for citizens in the seven counties of Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota. Without proper funding, TBARTA cannot complete its mission of creating a master plan for regional transportation in the Tampa Bay area by July of 2009. Transportation in small cities like Pinellas Park in Pinellas County will be affected by budget restraints if the property tax reform is approved. A city-operated mini-bus transit system has been proposed, but plans cannot move forward while the city is unsure of its funding ability.
For more election information and results
The American Public Transportation Association Hosts a Policy Forum
GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION AND ENERGY CONSERVATION: PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION’S STRATEGIC ROLE
A policy forum featuring the latest research on the strategic role of public transportation in greenhouse gas reduction and energy conservation will take place on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 in Washington, DC.
The transportation sector in the United States is the second largest and fastest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As Congress moves to address climate change, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and partnering organizations are hosting a forum to discuss how public transportation coupled with efficient land use is emerging as an important component in greenhouse gas reduction and energy conservation strategies. Americans need new mobility choices and new transportation strategies for the United States to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets and reduce our dependence on imported oil.
Featuring expert discussion, the forum will present new research showing that public transportation significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and impacts energy conservation. Among the presenters are APTA President William Millar, Mariia Zimmerman of Reconnecting America, Center for Transit-Oriented Development, Don Chen of Smart Growth America, Scott Bernstein from Center for Neighborhood Technology, and other experts.
In addition, we will hear from leading advocates about the best opportunities to advance federal public
transportation policy in 2008 and 2009 and their plans to do so.
The forum is specifically designed to benefit congressional staff, environmental organizations, transportation associations, business members, advocates, and U.S. federal agency officials who are interested in shaping and advancing public transportation as a strategy to curb global warming and reduce energy dependence. The forum provides an opportunity to hear from and engage in depth with key experts in the field.
For more information on the forum
Idaho State Legislature to Consider Transportation Funding
BILL TO ALLOW LOCAL-OPTION SALES TAXES FOR TRANSPORTATION
Early this year, the Regional Transportation Act will be presented in the Idaho state legislature. The bill will create regional transit authorities (RTAs), which can ask voters to approve local-option sales taxes for transportation funding. A similar bill was introduced last year, but revenue use was limited to public transit projects. Representatives from many rural areas were not willing to support transportation funding if it would not make money available for highway improvements. Without their support, the bill did not make it out of committee.
The current version of the bill was drafted by the Coalition for Regional Public Transportation, made up of local government and business leaders, and its provisions are intended to meet the needs of both rural and urban legislators. This new bill would still provide funding for public transit but it also allows that money to be spent on highway improvements. Another change that was made to appease legislators wary of passing a bill that could create new taxes, is an increase in the standards for voter approval of local-option sales taxes. Measures need to pass with a supermajority (66.66%) instead of a 60% majority, and election dates are limited to May primaries and November general elections. Voter turnout in these elections is higher, which means increased difficulty for achieving a supermajority.
If the local-option sales tax were to be approved in both Ada and Canyon counties then as much as $15 million would be generated for every quarter cent of sales tax. That money could be used to fund projects such as "constructing, operation or maintenance of any city, county highway district and state highways in the region and public transportation systems."
For more transportation news
Missouri Election Updates: St Louis County & Kansas City
TRANSPORTATION ON THE BALLOT IN NOVEMBER 2008
Last fall, the Kansas City Council and the St. Louis County Council voted to put transportation initiatives on the February 5, 2008 ballot. Before the year was out, both Missouri initiatives had been postponed.
Voters in St. Louis County were being asked to approve a half-cent increase to the transit sales tax to support maintenance and expansion of the MetroLink system. But with all the problems that the transit agency has been having (losing an $81 million lawsuit and the resignation of its president), the county executive and council decided that it would be prudent to wait until public opinion of Metro improves before asking voters for their money. Council members have not determined when they will put the question back on the ballot, but the primary election in August or the general election in November are likely options.
Bringing light-rail to Kansas City has been an arduous task for the city council since the first vote in November 2006. The plan approved in that election was determined to lack feasibility, and the first remedy was to ask voters on February 5, 2008 for their support in repealing the old plan and developing a new one. Instead, the council repealed the 2006 election results on its own and removed the question from the February ballot. A self-imposed mandate requires the council to approve a light-rail plan and put it on the ballot no later than November 2008. Currently, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is developing a plan for a “fast streetcar” type of light-rail system that should be completed by August. If that timeline is followed then next November is the earliest that voters can expect to see it on the ballot.
Kansas City Council members are currently deciding whether they will couple the light-rail vote with the renewal of a 3/8 cent bus sales tax or if the two votes will fair better separately. If brought to the ballot independently, Kansas City voters may be asked to renew the bus tax as early as April.
Get election results and regular election updates.