News & Media
Vol. 5, No. 4June 01, 2007
In This Issue …
- All Systems Go in Austin Texas
- Miami Plans for Streetcars
- Minnesota House-Senate Negotiators Agree on Nickel Gas Tax Increase
- SAFETEA-LU Implementation and Global Warming are in the Spotlight
All Systems Go in Austin, Texas
SNEAK A PEAK OF AUSTIN”S STARTER COMMUTER RAIL LINE
June 10th – 12th the Center for Transportation Excellence will be holding the 2007 Transit Initiatives Conference in Austin, TX. The city of Austin is the perfect backdrop for the conference because Capital MetroRail, Austin’s starter commuter rail line will open in late 2008, thanks to a successful transit referendum in 2004 called All Systems Go. Many of the key players from this successful referendum will share their insight into the art of passing transportation ballot measures and building community support for transit. Attendees will hear how the success of the 2004 initiative has sparked a new community dialogue about public transit as Austin considers a streetcar system and evaluates next steps for more commuter rail lines.
Conference attendees will also get a sneak peak at how Austin’s sleek, new trains will transport folks to work in comfort and style; trains provide high-back seats, bicycle and overhead racks, and Wi-Fi connections.
This is the only national conference devoted to understanding the role of ballot measures in improving transportation choice and investment and providing advice on how to achieve success at the ballot box. The CFTE conference features leading national transportation experts, seasoned campaign professionals including:
* Lane Beattie, President & CEO, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce
* William Millar, President, the American Public Transportation Association
* David Schwartz, Executive Director, Friends of Transit, Phoenix, AZ
* Oliver Griswold, Communications and Outreach Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Washington, DC
* Bill Lhota, President/CEO, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus, OH
To view the full program and register for the conference..
Miami Plans for Streetcars
MAYOR WANTS TO BUILD A SUSTAINABLE CITY
Miami city administrators hope to develop a $200 million streetcar to connect downtown activity centers, businesses, and residential communities. The project would be funded as a public-private partnership, which is a funding model used in many European countries. This structure provides a way for governments to control and share the risks with developers. City officials met recently in Paris and Madrid with government representatives, international streetcar experts, and potential partners to plan what they hope will become a jointly funded transit system designed to relieve congestion in Miami's quickly developing urban core. Miami is experiencing a population and development boom and most of the medium and high rise condos and apartments are being built within a few blocks of Metro or the streetcar line.
In addition to the financial support administrators hope to garner if the commission approves a public-private partnership model, officials plan to fund the city's share through revenues and interest generated by the streetcar system and with transportation sales tax revenue and federal grants.
The streetcar is an urban transit circulator that will operate in existing roadways, and provide connectivity among major activity centers, commercial and retail establishments, as well as residential communities throughout the project corridor. Its proposed route runs east of the Miami River, serving Government Center through the Entertainment District, Wynwood, Midtown Miami, the Design District, Overtown, and the Civic Center area. Should the city commission pass enabling legislation in the fall, Miami would issue a request for proposals to construct, operate, and maintain the project. The city recently published a schedule that forecasts a contract award in December 2008 and the streetcar opening in December 2011.
During the State of the City Address in April, 2007, the Mayor said, "We need to invest in a streetcar system today, like the one we used to have. And, we must do it while we can still afford it. Rather than wait years and Miamians (wonder) why we failed to act, a streetcar system is an inevitable solution - Miami can either pay for it now, or pay for it later - leaving future generations to pay a much, much higher bill to ensure sustainability".
For more transportation news
Minnesota House-Senate Negotiators Agree on Nickel Gas Tax Increase
LEGISLATORS DEFY GOVERNOR'S VOW TO VETO
An agreement was reached Wednesday, May 9 by House-Senate negotiators to raise Minnesota's gasoline tax 5 cents a gallon on Sept. 1 and another 2½ cents over the next four to five years. The 5-cent increase is half the dime increase approved earlier by both chambers. The tax hike would increase road funding throughout Minnesota by $160 million a year. The additional 2½ cents would gradually kick in to cover debt service on $1.5 billion in bonding. Brian McClung, spokesman for Gov. Pawlenty, said the governor plans to veto state-level tax increases; however, the bill may have enough bipartisan support to override the governor's veto. The compromise proposal will be up for a floor vote early this week. It takes two-thirds majorities—90 votes in the House and 45 in the Senate—to enact legislation over a governor's veto
The proposal would pour $7 billion into roads, bridges, and transit over 10 years. The money would come from a broad mix of state levies, borrowing and a half-cent general sales tax in the Twin Cities area that county boards could impose without a voter referendum. But increasing the gas tax, currently at 20 cents a gallon since 1988, would have the most immediate effect on taxpayers. The tax would be dedicated solely to roads and bridges. Efforts to raise it have failed year after year.
This compromise bill could be considered a major concession to Gov. Pawlenty, who proposed spending an extra $2 billion on roads and transit over the next decade, most of it from borrowing $1.7 billion.
For a complete list of 2007 Transportation Ballot Initiatives
SAFETEA-LU Implementation and Global Warming are in the Spotlight
HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARS FROM KEY PLAYERS IN THE ADMINISTRATION
In May, the House T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held an oversight hearing on the implementation of the New Starts & Small Starts Program. During the hearing Chairman Oberstar stated that the “FTA, however, is not currently incorporating all of the congressionally mandated project justification criteria into either the New Starts or Small Starts evaluation process. Rather, FTA gives undue weight to a singular criterion – cost effectiveness – effectively trumping all the others.” The subcommittee Chair also expressed some harsh criticism of the administrations process for implementing SAFETEA-LU. During the second panel of the hearing a number of Transit Agencies testified about the impact this focus on a singular criterion has impacted their projects specifically streetcars. Their seemed to be overwhelming concern that FTA was not following the intent of congress with their narrow definition of cost effectiveness and the weight it has been given in evaluating projects.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure also held two hearings in May on climate change and energy independence in regards to transportation. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, Environmental Protection Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, and General Services Administrator Lurita Doan were among the witnesses at the first hearing. During his opening remarks Committee Chairman Oberstar explained that he is holding these hearing because there is “Overwhelming evidence of the relationship between fossil fuels and global climate change, and the ever-increasing price of oil, have focused national attention on the benefits we could achieve by reducing our overall energy consumption and meeting more of our needs with renewable sources.” Since this is a fairly new topic for the Transportation & Infrastructure committee they are holding these hearings as a means of exploring their jurisdiction on these topics.
During the second hearing the committee heard from a wide range of non governmental organizations including William Millar of the American Public Transportation Association. It appears that there will be more movement on this issue in coming months.
For more transportation news