Bus

New Starts moves continue rail favoritism over BRT

Posted on February 9, 2010 by Cliff Henke

[IMAGE]Rails.jpg[/IMAGE]The Obama administration continues to display a preference for rail-based public transportation modes in its recent regulatory and budgetary actions. However, whether transit agencies and cities can take advantage of these new opportunities will continue to depend in part on local factors.

Taking away BRT favoritism

The first recent move came with the FTA's announcement in December of two new programs designed to implement the administration's livability agenda. The programs total $280 million for urban circulator, bus and bus facility projects. The first is for urban circulator systems, funded with $130 million in unobligated discretionary New Starts/Small Starts money.

The second is for a Livability Bus program, funded by $150 million in unobligated Discretionary Bus and Bus Facilities Program money. Evaluation criteria for both programs are the same; promoting transportation options is only one evaluation measure, with the others having to do with economic development and energy security.

Project proposals for both programs were due Feb. 8, 2010, with expected project awards announced by the summer of this year. While both programs were launched with already appropriated funds for previous years, they showed that the administration was committed to assisting projects that emphasized economic development as much as promoting mobility.

In January, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood proposed a revision of funding guidelines for major transit projects so that evaluation of submitted projects will be based equally on livability issues, such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved - currently the primary criteria. The FTA immediately rescinded budget restrictions issued by the "Dear Colleague" letter and other policy guidance of the Bush administration that focused the agency's evaluation primarily on a cost-effectiveness index that emphasized how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost. In the Bush criteria, bus rapid transit (BRT) almost always scored more favorably than rail-based projects because of this index.

Local decisions

Both announcements clearly signal a new desire to de-emphasize evaluations based on criteria that almost always favored BRT over rail and virtually shut out streetcar projects from federal funding. This is not to say, however, that the feds will rescue a project that is struggling locally. For one thing, the new programs have grant caps of $25 million, meaning that other funds will have to be lined up; moreover, statutory local match rules still apply.

Secondly, environmental review, local approvals and demonstration of local financial and technical capacity are still required. Finally, while the recent moves undid some of the rules stacked in favor of BRT, it only leveled the playing field.

In other words, a worthy project still needs local support and local financial contribution, regardless of mode.

 

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More News

New York City Transit introduces bicycle racks to buses

Racks available on S53, S93 Routes for 1-Year pilot testing feasibility and impact to service.

National Express takes over operation of Merced's The BUS

The Bus offers fixed-route and paratransit services to the communities of The Joint Powers Authority of Merced County’s seven member agencies, including the Cities of Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, and Merced, and the County of Merced.

Maine's Greater Portland Transit adds pass for high school students

The Transit Pass allows free and unlimited use of METRO bus routes during the academic school year, including weekends and break periods.

San Francisco introduces interactive, online performance dashboards

The site contains results from 13 key areas, including the percentage of on-time performance, mode share, crime stats, the agency’s carbon footprint, collision data and other information aligned with the SFMTA’s strategic plan.

ABC founder, industry icon Clancy Cornell passes

The founder of ABC Companies, Clancy grew a small transport service — Faribault Bus Service — into an industry force leaving an indelible list of accomplishments and memories in his path.

See More News

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The resource for managers of class 1-7 truck Fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation

Please sign in or register to .    Close