Three years and 10 extensions later, America has a new federal transportation reauthorization bill.
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), along with transit agencies throughout the nation, applauds congressional leaders and the President for investing in America’s transportation future by passing this much-anticipated piece of legislation.
The bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, was signed by President Obama on July 6 and outlines $120 billion in funding for highway and transit programs over 27 months.
While many would prefer to see a bill spanning longer than two years, MAP-21 gives agencies confidence that there will be a dedicated and reliable stream of federal funding — at least for the next two years.
Having a guarantee from the federal government that they will continue to support transit operations and highway improvements over the long haul is essential to effectively plan for, deliver and maintain critical transportation infrastructure projects.
Perhaps the most important aspects of the bill are the changes to existing law that break down some of the bureaucratic barriers to project delivery allowing for expedited project implementation.
The changes are based in part on OCTA’s "Breaking Down Barriers" initiative, which was launched nearly three years ago, bringing together local and national leaders to identify ways to accelerate project delivery without sacrificing environmental protections.
Some key provisions from the initiative that are outlined in MAP-21 include:
• Allowing states, under certain conditions, to purchase right-of-way before completing the federal environmental review process.
• Allowing states to be reimbursed for pre-construction and design contracts before the federal environmental review process is completed.
• Setting deadlines for decisions by agencies responsible for environmental review, including financial penalties for agencies that do not complete the reviews by set deadlines.
• Allowing states or Metropolitan Planning Organizations to develop plans that address the potential impact of future transportation projects.
• Making permanent a current pilot program that allows the U.S. Department of Transportation to delegate NEPA review authority to states and expanding the program to include rail, public transit and multimodal projects.
These changes have been embraced with bipartisan support and ensure we preserve the environment while moving critical projects to construction earlier.
The result will be completing projects faster, creating jobs quicker and saving taxpayer dollars.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Public transportation on solid footing, will lawmakers face the music," here.
At the Denton County (Texas) Transportation Authority (DCTA), we’re constantly looking for unique ways to engage with passengers, generate brand awareness and increase ridership. This year with Valentine’s Day being on a Saturday, we saw a great opportunity to launch a campaign in which passengers could ride DCTA’s A-train commuter rail and Connect Bus for free on Valentine’s Day all day by saying “Be Mine” to the agency’s rail and bus operators. With low-trending ridership in February, we needed to find a way to increase ridership and brand awareness within Denton County and surrounding cities. Launching the Valentine’s Day promotion definitely would help us achieve this.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.