MAP-21 provides predictable funding, guarantees public transit representatives a seat at the table with metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and establishes a transit asset management system that “will help communities make strategic investments to bring transit systems into a state of good repair,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx in a videotaped address for a Sept. 30 General Session at APTA’s Annual Meeting.
Foxx’s message served as a last-minute substitute for his scheduled in-person appearance—which would have been his first before a large gathering of APTA members—when he was called to an emergency Cabinet meeting by President Obama to respond to the pending shutdown of the federal government on Oct. 1.
Foxx also highlighted the new safety rulemaking granted to FTA under MAP-21. “As we work together to invest in the transit infrastructure our nation needs to succeed, we can’t lose sight of our number one priority, and that’s safety,” he added, encouraging attendees to review and comment on the recently issued proposal. “This is your chance to help inform our approach to safety and make sure that, together, we get this right,” he said. (Find details here.)
“Let me be clear: Transit is one of the safest ways to travel. Our goal is to put in place a safety framework that takes into account the differences among transit operators so that it’s scalable, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and that it’s also efficient,” he said.
Foxx noted several other recent accomplishments FTA has implemented, including streamlining requirements for the New Starts and Small Starts programs to speed up project completion and save money. “And we expedited the environmental review process to cut red tape, a common-sense change that was 25 years overdue,” he added.
Foxx briefly addressed the impact of the federal government shutdown on public transportation. “The people this hurts the most are everyday Americans who need good transportation to get where they need to go. New projects will be delayed and grants to make needed repairs will be put on hold. In fact, much of the work that the FTA and the FRA perform will be put on hold until Congress works out its differences and lets us get back to the work the American people are counting on us to do,” he said.
Even so, he called public transportation a central element of the Obama administration’s job-creation strategy. “Over the last four years, we’ve invested in critical transit systems that connect people and jobs and schools and other vital services. In our New Starts program alone, we’ve signed more than 40 new major transit project construction agreements in 16 states in the last four years, including light rail, commuter rail, and Bus Rapid Transit systems.
“We’ve awarded over $12 billion for high-performance intercity passenger rail, and we’ve also helped communities build or improve 6,000 miles of rail and 40 train stations nationwide. And just this month, we announced the latest round of our popular TIGER grants. Of the 52 grants that were awarded this year, one third included funding for transit.”
He said these projects “shouldn’t be sidelined because of a shutdown. The impact this money is making on communities across America is the best argument for even more transit investments as we go forward.”
Carolyn Flowers, chief executive officer of the Charlotte Area Transit System in Charlotte, NC, then welcomed FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and a seven-person team of senior FTA officials to wrap up the presentation with a question-and-answer session. “This is your opportunity to talk with people in the know,” Rogoff said.
Audience members asked questions about the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, guidance on the role of transit representatives on MPO boards, the rules governing procurement contract “‘piggy-backing,” the impact of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act on FTA grantees, and the 100-bus rule, among other topics.
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, far left, leads a team of senior FTA officials in a Q-and-A session at APTA's Annual Meeting. They include, from left, Robert Tuccillo, associate administrator for budget and policy; Henrika Buchanan-Smith, associate administrator for program management; Therese McMillan, deputy administrator; Matthew Welbes, executive director; Richard Steinmann, senior advisor to the administrator; Thomas Littleton, associate administrator; and Dorval Carter Jr., chief counsel.