Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify before you today.
As a Mayor of a major city I want you to know that I support growing and predictable Federal financial support for public transportation. Investing in public transportation helps our cities and towns meet the mobility needs of all our citizens. This in turn helps us to improve the quality of life and sustain economic growth and development in our communities. We need the Federal government to continue to be our partner in providing people with safe, reliable and convenient mobility options that are integrated with our local efforts to manage the use of our land and improve our communities.
To help you understand the importance of Federal support for public transportation, I'd like to describe to you in the time available to me how we in Charlotte are seeking to use public transit to grow our community smarter.
As background, Charlotte was the second fastest growing city in the Country during the 1990's when our population grew by 36% to 541,000 residents. At the same time, the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in our community grew over 40%. This growth has created traffic congestion and air quality problems that threaten our quality of life and our ability to sustain economic growth in the future.
The disparity between the growth in VMT and population occurred because during much of the 1990's Charlotte growth continued to follow the conventional suburban form with low density, widely separated land uses and street designs that force people to drive their cars everywhere on increasingly longer trips. This form of land development is the same one that has plagued other fast growing cities as well as many of our Country's older cities. By the mid-1990's we in Charlotte recognized that if we wanted to protect our excellent quality of life while sustaining our growth we needed to do things differently.
As a result, in 1994 local governments, working with business and community leadership, adopted our Centers and Corridors Land Use Vision. This vision calls for concentrating the majority of future development in five travel corridors and a dozen or so major activity centers around Mecklenburg County. It also calls for creating higher density, mixed use and pedestrian-friendly development in these areas. The vision recognized the need to develop a comprehensive public transit system, including rapid transit in the five corridors, to support this change in land development.
Over the next several years, private and public interests worked together to agree on a strategy for developing the transit system and creating more transit oriented development. This cooperative effort resulted in the preparation of our 2025 Integrated Transit/Land Use Plan in 1998. With this Plan, we went to the voters with a half cent sales tax initiative to help build and operate a regional public transportation system. In November 1998, on our first try, voters approved the sales tax by a 58% to 42% margin, which gives you some idea of the priority that local residents placed on the need to invest in an alternative to driving.
Since 1998, we have taken a number of steps to implement the 2025 Plan including the following:
Each of our Major Investment Studies has included a component on the land use strategy for the corridor which has been used in the evaluation of transit investment alternatives. Our South Corridor Light Rail Project received a "Highly Recommended" rating from the FTA last Spring in part because of the coordination of land use with the Project's development.
Our recommended System Plan, if adopted and fully implemented, would result in a 2025 transit system with:
The estimated capital cost for our System Plan is $2.9 billion in escalated dollars of which $1.99 billion would be for rapid transit development. In our financial planning, we have assumed 50% Federal funding for our rapid transit projects and 80% Federal funding for formula and other grants. As a result, our need for Federal funding support to achieve our plans over the next 20 plus years is:
$990 million in New Starts funding and
$643 million in formula grant funding for a
Total of $1.633 billion or 56% of the total estimated cost.
This Federal funding will be matched by $766 million from the State of North Carolina (26%) and $583 million in local funding (18%). The vast majority of our local sales tax will go towards subsidizing the operation of the transit system.
We are not seeking to build the public transit system I've described as an end to itself. Rather, our efforts to develop this system is to support a fundamental change in how our community will grow in the years ahead and to provide our citizens with a real choice in how to get around. By doing this, we will:
Without the level of Federal funding I outlined, we will not be able to make our plans for transit and land use a reality and therefore will not be successful in achieving our quality of life and economic development goals. We will also not be able to contribute to national policy goals like cleaner air; conserving energy resources and reducing dependency on foreign oil; access to educational and economic opportunity; and national security. In addition to the availability of Federal funding, we also need Federal funds to be predictable to help us develop multi-year capital investment plans and to take advantage of opportunities to leverage private financing.
Accordingly, and in conclusion, as you approach reauthorization of the Federal surface transportation program in the year ahead I urge you to grow the size of the Federal transit program and to maintain the funding guarantees established under the current law (TEA21). Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today.
Home | Menu | Links | Info | Chairman's Page