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Flowers: FAST Act Funding 'On the Right Track'

The increased federal funding levels for public transportation in the FAST Act are “on the right track” but “much more needs to be done,” FTA Acting Administrator ­Carolyn Flowers told Paul Jablonski, who presided at the June 20 DOT Update General Session.

Flowers explained that while the legislation increases public transit funding by $1 billion in each of its five years (an 8 percent increase), the funding totals are less than those proposed by both President Obama and APTA.

Changes she cited in the FAST Act include reducing the federal match for Capital Investment Grants from 80 percent to 60 percent—which Flowers said “stretches federal dollars further”—and a revision that makes joint public transportation-intercity rail projects eligible for New Starts funding.

She called the law’s consolidation of three DOT workforce programs “mixed news”: While more than one-third of current public transit employees will reach or near retirement age in the next 10 years, she said, the act allows grant recipients to use one-half of 1 percent of their funds for human resources and training.

Other FAST Act-related topics she addressed included the safety rule, which strengthens state safety oversight agencies, and the $8 million “sandbox” program for improving mobility on demand.

In answer to an audience question, Flowers said she sees services such as Uber and Lyft as extensions of public transit that will “redefine public transportation and expand its network.” She noted that she has lived without a car for her year and a half in ­Washington, DC.

Jablonski said in his introduction that the industry has been “waiting for the day we had an administrator who came from our ranks.” Flowers headed the Charlotte Area Transit System and worked for Los Angeles Metro before joining FTA.

Paul Jablonski introduces FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers.
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