News & Media
Vol. 5, No. 5July 16, 2007
In This Issue …
- King Snohomish and Pierce Counties Finalize Transportation Measure
- Polk voters will be asked to OK transit tax
- House Transportation Committee Passes Energy & Climate Bill
- Budget Compromise Reached in Pennsylvania
- Green Travel is on the Rise
King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties Finalize Transportation Measure
NOVEMBER BALLOT WILL INCLUDE LIGHT RAIL
Washington State Regional Transportation Investment District Planning Committee (RTID) jumped one of its final hurdles in a historic transportation plan by securing ballot approval for a $9.7 billion regional road-building plan for the November vote in King County. Voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will decide whether to approve the 20-year plan combined with a $23.6 billion proposal to expand the Sound Transit light rail system. The Snohomish and Pierce county councils would have to agree to place the RTID component before their voters, and both are expected to do so; approval by either would send the measure to the ballot. The light rail plan has been approved for the ballot by the Sound Transit Board.
If approved, the plan would make the most significant regional transportation investments since the freeway was built 50 years ago. The projects which span across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties would include widening, replacing and extending several portions of major highways and routes to improve traffic congestion and safety. The Sound Transit component would extend light rail east to Bellevue and Overlake, south to Tacoma and north to Mill Creek.
A typical family can expect the overall package to increase sales taxes by an estimated $150 annually and will increase yearly car-license fees by $80 per $10,000 of vehicle value if the plan is approved. The combined price tag of $33.3 billion for both projects represents the expected construction costs in the year the work will take place, factoring in inflation. However, the overall expenses for the program will be much higher. Sound Transit expects to spend $24.6 billion on the program by 2027, including financing, administration and maintenance and operation of the extensions, and $37.9 billion by the time the financing debt is paid off in 50 years. For RTID, which plans to spend a smaller percentage on financing, the grand total is estimated at $16.1 billion by the time the books close in 2037.
For a complete list of 2007 Transportation Ballot Initiatives
Polk voters will be asked to OK transit tax
IF APPROVED TRANSIT SERVICES WILL BE EXPANDED
Citizens of Polk County in Florida may be enjoying expanded transit services in their county next year if they vote to pass a referendum to fund the recently created Polk County Transit Authority. The State Legislature created the authority in an effort to unify the varied public bus services offered by Polk County Transit, Winter Haven Area Transit (WHAT) and Lakeland's Mass Transit District, better known as the Citrus Connection. Held in 2008, the referendum would ask voters to fund the authority through an additional ad-valorem (property) tax. "The purpose of the Polk County Transit Authority is to expand transit services countywide," said Tom Deardorff, Polk County's director of long-range planning. "We want this single agency to have a dedicated source of funding." Gov. Charlie Crist signed House Bill 777, the legislation creating the Polk County Transit Authority, into law on June 28. The bill was spearheaded by state Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven.
Citing a need to address the changing needs of Polk County as it grows more urban, Deardorff said the authority is a key element to the future growth of the county. "We have to address traffic congestion. The solution is not to build more highways." If Polk voters approve funding, they could potentially connect with a planned commuter rail system west of Kissimmee in 2012. The authority will continue to move forward by forming its nine member board out of three commissioners from Polk County, two from Lakeland city, one from Winter Haven city and Bartow and Auburndale will rotate a commissioner every two years as will Haines City and Lake Wales. The ninth voting member will serve on a rotating two-year term from a group of smaller towns. A final nonvoting member will be appointed by the secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. That member will be a state employee from the DOT District 1 headquartered in Bartow. The new board will hire an administrator to run the bus system.
Prior to the vote in 2008, one of the board’s first tasks will be to recommend tax structures for funding - either property tax or a half-cent to 1-cent sales tax. Both taxes would require voter approval in a current anti-tax atmosphere. Property owners within the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District currently pay 48.8 cents per $1,000 of taxable value on their property, which was approved by the voters in the district. If the referendum does not pass, the future of the authority remains in question. Deardorff believes that the Polk Transit Authority will still exist by finding an alternate source of funding. However, Troutman stated that if voters don't approve the transit tax, the newly created authority no longer will exist. "From my understanding, if the voters say no, the authority will die," Troutman said, "but public transportation will still remain in place."
For a complete list of 2007 Transportation Ballot Initiatives
House Transportation Committee Passes Energy & Climate Bill
LANGUAGE INCLUDES SUPPORT FOR INCREASED TRANSIT FUNDING
Earlier this month the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee passed its contribution to the summer energy package promised by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The committee approved H.R. 2701, The Transportation Energy Security and Climate Change Mitigation Act, after voting on more than a dozen Republican amendments to the bill. The committee's action language included a number of energy efficiency programs related to the transportation sector. Among the bill's key provisions is additional support for expanded commuter rail service, expanding use of alternative fuels, increasing the federal share for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program, and program parity for rescissions of federal budget authority. The bill also expressed support for "complete streets" policies which ensure safe access for all modes.
The bill did not include language to dramatically reshape the country's national energy policy but represents an important step toward adopting policies that will reduce the nation's greenhouse emissions and dependence on foreign oil. The bill also acknowledges the vital role of transportation in addressing energy and climate issues. "Each of these [provisions] is an individual modest step but, added up, it's significant," said committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.).
Below is a summary of key provisions in the bill:
- Reduce dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate carbon emissions by promoting greater public transit use;
- Provide additional funding for the use of green technologies by transit systems and railroads;
- Require the General Services Administration to use energy efficient and renewable energy systems in Federal government buildings;
- Establish a program to develop cleaner, quieter engines for jet aircraft;
- Promote short-sea shipping as an alternative to land-based freight transportation;
- Direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the potential for increased hydroelectric power generation at its facilities
- Direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to study its ability to respond to an increased number of natural disasters created or intensified by global climate change.
For more transportation news
Budget Compromise Reached in Pennsylvania
BOTH PARTIES AGREE TO INCREASE FUNDING FOR TRANSPORTATION
The Pennsylvania state legislator is close to finalizing their budget which will provide major funding increased for transportation. After two weeks of negotiations it appears that a compromise has been reached. The current language would provide dedicated funding to mass transit and highways through a bond issue, a toll on Interstate 80, and a broad menu of local tax and fee options.
The plan generates $700 million - $450 million for roads and bridges and $250 million for mass transit - in new funding. Though this would be less than what Gov. Rendell is seeking, this is the first major action taken to address the long time transportation funding crisis in Pennsylvania.
In previous years, transportation spending was provided for only in the general budget.
SEPTA faces the prospect of steep fare hikes and service cuts without $100 million in additional state money, transit agency officials said. Under the proposed plan, local governments would have to chip in more than they do now. For mass transit, counties and municipalities would have to increase over four years their share of mass-transit funding to a statewide average of 20 percent of the cost, up from the average 13 percent that they currently pay.
The proposal would also give the local governments power to impose new taxes. Counties could levy: a sales, use and hotel occupancy tax of 0.25 percent or 0.5 percent; a room rental tax of up to 1 percent of the price of the room; a car-rental tax of up to $2 a day. Municipalities could impose an earned income tax of either 0.25 percent or 0.5 percent - or a car rental tax of up to $2 a day.
The state Senate passed the budget on Monday morning and expected to give approval to the budget Monday night.
For more transportation news
Green Travel is on the Rise
TRANSIT SEEN AS COST EFFECTIVE AND ENVIROMENTALLY FRIENDLY
While most think of the local public transportation system as a way to get back and forth to work, according to a recent survey report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) many savvy travelers are using it as an environmentally-friendly and cost effective way to tour some of the hot destinations and summer events a city has to offer. In its Green Travel Forecast, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) estimates that 90 million American adults will travel to large American cities this summer.
On average, one out of three people surveyed said they will tour green by using public transportation (34 percent). Travelers‟ use of public transportation will reach as high as 48 percent in New York City, the nation‟s top destination for transit use for visitors. A ranking of the top ten city destinations and their transit use among visitors follows:
- New York City (48%)
- Washington, DC (46%)
- Boston, MA (43%)
- San Francisco (40%)
- Philadelphia (34%)
- Chicago (31%)
- Seattle (30%)
- Las Vegas (26%)
- Los Angeles (26%)
- Atlanta (22%)
This survey of 33,000 adults shows for the first time how travelers will get around once they arrive at their city destination. Synovate, a leading market research firm, conducted the survey for APTA. The survey also showed that travelers‟ use of public transportation will increase this summer. Twenty-eight percent of those who will use public transit while visiting a city said that they are more likely to use it this summer as opposed to last year.
While high gas prices are a factor for daily commuters, it did not rank as the top concern when travelers listed the most important reasons they would use public transportation during their trip to a city this summer. Sixty-two percent said it would be less expensive than taxicabs or rental cars, followed closely by 61 percent who say they won‟t have to worry about finding a parking space for their vehicle.
Another 48 percent say they will use public transportation when traveling because it is easier to use, while 42 percent like not having to drive around an unfamiliar city. Thirty-nine percent say public transportation is better for the environment and 38 percent said it will be less expensive than buying gas to drive their personal vehicle.
The environmental benefits of transit are many. Public transportation produces 95 percent less carbon monoxide (CO) and 90 percent less in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nearly 50 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), per passenger mile than private vehicles, according to APTA.
The cost savings for travelers using public transportation are high. A traveler can purchase a visitors pass for a local public transportation system and ride all day for as little as three to ten dollars. That is a fraction of what it would cost to rent a car and park it, or take numerous cab rides around the city, or buy gas and park a vehicle.
To assist travelers, APTA is providing its free “Green Travel Forecast, a Consumer’s Guide to Touring American Cities in a More Environmentally Friendly Way.” The guide includes specific information on day and visitor passes, trip planners, transit maps and directions. For the top 10 destinations with established transit systems it includes examples of upcoming city events accessible.