The American Public Transit Association (APTA) appreciates the opportunity to present its views on the benefits of the federal transit program and reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).
Mr. Chairman, at the outset we want to commend you and the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for the strong leadership role you played in development and enactment of ISTEA in 199 1. We look forward to working closely with you, and providing whatever support you may need, as you undertake the effort to rewrite that law.
APTA believes that the continuation of a strong federal role is needed to provide an efficient, balanced transportation system for all Americans. Toward this end, APTA has adopted a comprehensive ISTEA reauthorization working proposal that would maintain the ISTEA and transit program structures, improve the transit program's efficiency, and support transit research and development. A summary of our proposal is attached.
A recently published report, Dollars and Sense: The Economic Case for Public Transportation in America, gathers a wide range of information on the benefits of transit as an essential part of a balanced national transportation system. The report demonstrates that the benefits of public transit investments have often been understated or unrecognized both for large metropolitan areas and rural communities. The report finds that American taxpayers receive some $62 billion per year in quantifiable benefits from their $15 billion investment in public transportation, a 4-to- I return on the money. Paul Weyrich, President of the Free Congress Foundation, notes that, "this study supports an important conservative argument for transit: transit doesn't just cost money, it saves money and it makes money." Following are some of the benefits highlighted in the report. We are making the report available to every member of the Committee.
Transit provides mobility and economic independence for millions of people each day. Approximately 55 percent of the nine billion transit trips each year are to and from the work place, and each $ 1 0 million invested in transit creates or maintains 550 full time jobs. An increasingly important segment of transit ridership involves the suburb-to-suburb or central city to suburban commute. In cities like Philadelphia and Chicago, transit agencies are using special buses, vans and programs to serve workers who five in one suburb and work in another. Transit has always provided access to jobs and education, and it will be vital to the success of welfare reform. Many current welfare recipients do not own cars and must rely on public transportation to get to work.
Transit is also an essential element of the transportation system in small towns and rural areas. In the nation's small urbanized areas (UZAs) -- those with fewer than 200,000 people - and in rural communities, transit provides mobility and access to jobs, social and health services, churches, and stores. An estimated 30 million non-drivers in rural America depend on transit; in some cases its availability is the factor that allows the elderly to retain their independence in the homes they cherish and out of more expensive nursing homes.
While transit clearly helps those people who use it, even larger benefits accrue to motorists, businesses, and society in general. Investment in public transportation benefits drivers, truckers, and businesses that depend on just-in-time delivery of goods because it reduces traffic congestion. Public transportation reduces the cost of traffic congestion -- estimated at $50 billion -- by up to $19 billion per year. For example, without existing transit in the New York/New Jersey area, the roads would carry nearly 2 million additional cars and 10,396 more new miles of freeway would be needed to accommodate them. Other efficiency benefits cited in the report include:
Transit helps to spur economic development. Indeed, as Paul Weyrich points out in Conservatives and Mass Transit: Is It Time for a New Look?, "Quality mass transit can have a profound and positive effect on economic growth and development." When cities add a bus route or build a rail station, they stimulate private investment around the new transit service in the form of housing, retail and other privately-financed, tax generating development. In the Washington, D.C. area for example, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has generated at least $15 billion in surrounding private development. A KPMG Peat Marwick study found that the Commonwealth of Virginia is expected to benefit from $2.1 billion in state tax revenue attributable to Metrorail between 1978-2010, a healthy return on a projected state investment of $940 million.
Investment in transit infrastructure makes a vital contribution to national economic productivity. Several economists have found a direct linkage between the performance of the U.S. economy and the level of public spending on public infrastructure, including transit. Transportation is the backbone of the national economic system. An efficient transportation system is key to the nation's global competitiveness. Many local chambers of commerce and national corporations recognize that transit has a positive impact on their bottom line.
The Dollars and Sense report shows that transit plays an essential part in making the overall transportation system work, and confirms APTA's view that Congress should renew and strengthen ISTEA. APTA uses three primary principles to assess the merits of any ISTEA reauthorization proposal. They are: 1) preservation of ISTEA's flexible funding provisions; 2) provision of the highest funding possible for transit formula and discretionary programs; and 3) maintenance of the transit program structure, which promotes fair and equitable treatment for transit agencies of all sizes in large, medium-sized, and small urbanized areas and in rural areas.
The first principle is critical because federal interests are best served by a balanced transportation system and ISTEA's program structure and flexible funding provisions promote intermodal balance. They allow federal, state, and local resources to be used for a range of transportation alternatives, and permit state and local authorities to choose the alternative that best meets their particular objectives. ISTEA's program structure and flexible funding provisions also allow transportation policy to address national and local needs while recognizing that transportation is linked to other factors that effect each community's economy and quality of life.
ISTEA's flexible funding provisions under the Congestion Nfitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program and Surface Transportation Program (STP) have been successful. Nearly sixty percent of the $3 billion in surface transportation funds "flexed" to transit in the first five years of ISTEA have come from the CMAQ program. CMAQ recognizes the connection between transportation improvements and air quality. APTA supports adjustments to the CMAQ program that would keep "maintenance areas7eligible for CMAQ funding, because these areas remain subject to EPA requirements and should have access to federal funds that can help them to keep their air clean.
The second principle is critical because additional investment in the nation's surface transportation network is needed to provide a solid foundation for economic growth. It is also important because the federal program provides the incentive for states and localities to provide a reasonable balance as they invest in all elements of the over" transportation infrastructure system. As discussed earlier, the ability to travel on transit is an effective and necessary way to reduce highway congestion and construction costs, just as a good highway system is needed to meet truck and auto travel needs that cannot be addressed by transit.
Adequate transit funding is needed to preserve existing capital resources, and federal
transit investments produce valuable assets in every community and long-term benefits for the
entire nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has estimated that at least $13
billion should be invested in transit capital projects each year, just to maintain existing transit services and
provide modest improvement to meet a variety of needs. Based on an APTA study of the
transit industry, over the next decade $150 billion would be spent for these capital needs and
for planned service expansion, including:
The bottom line is that the current federal investment of $4 billion per year is simply not enough, and that is why APTA supports the use of gas tax revenues, including the 4.3 cents per gallon gas tax that now goes to non-transportation purposes, for investment in transportation.
The last principle is critical because the federal transit program is a vital component of the federal surface transportation program. It supports transit services that fill critical gaps in a comprehensive national transportation system. It helps to create transportation choices that allow the existing infrastructure to move people and goods more efficiently and reduce ever more costly congestion.
The existing transit program structure should be retained because it has been successf 1. it does a good job of meeting a large number of basic needs. The major capital investment programs for new start, fixed guideway modernization, and bus/bus facilities; the urban, rural, and elderly/disabled formula programs; and the planning, research, and administrative functions, all support essential needs and encourage innovative projects and management practices in various regions of the country.
APTA supports retention of the ISTEA-authorized funding ratios for the formula and
discretionary components of the transit program as the true-tested way of ensuring a balanced
transit investment program. These include:
We support the existing major capital discretionary investment programs, because they provide strong incentives for innovative, customer-responsive transportation investments. The New Start program gives metropolitan areas the opportunity to develop and implement high quality transit alternatives in high density corridors. The Fixed Guideway Modernization program helps extend the useful life of major capital investments, and has enabled the historic rail cities to maintain infrastructure which, in many cases, had suffered from decades of neglect. As more cities invest in fixed guideway systems, there will continue to be a need for this program so that the full value of these systems can be maintained. The Bus/Bus Facilities program fulfills a critical role in meeting major facility and equipment purchase needs that cannot easily be accommodated through the formula program.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, we welcome the recognition reflected in the House and Senate versions of the FY 1998 Transportation Appropriations bills that additional investment in the nation's surface transportation network is needed to provide a solid foundation for economic growth. We also note that both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees included statements encouraging the Congressional authorizing committees to act favorably on the Administration's- proposal -- endorsed by APTA -- to expand the definition of capital expenditures to include preventive maintenance. This would make the transit definition of capital more consistent with that of the federal-aid-highways program and would help mitigate the reductions in transit operating assistance anticipated in FY 1998.
On another note, we urge the Committee to support the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP). The Senate Transportation Appropriations bill, as reported from Subcommittee, eliminates funding for this program. However, TCRP research has proven invaluable. Through the program we have found practical and innovative ways to enhance transit security and safety, customer service and satisfaction, and productivity and efficiency. Therefore, we urge you to support continuation of the TCRP program in reauthorizing ISTEA.
The Federal Transit Program is an essential element of the nation's surface transportation
infiastructure and is vital to efforts to reduce traffic congestion, provide access to jobs, and enhance
the quality of life in our nation's metropolitan, small urban, and rural communities. Under the
leadership of the Senate Banking Committee, Congress can enact transportation legislation that
readies our economy for global competition in the next century. The nation's transit industry looks
forward to working with you toward this end, in the weeks and months ahead.
The American Public Transit Association (APTA) has adopted a comprehensive working proposal for reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). The Federal government should retain a vital role in maintaining a balanced and comprehensive transportation system that supports a healthy economy by moving people and goods as efficiently as possible. The plan calls for preservation of - ISTEA's overall program structure and flexible funding provisions, maintenance of a strong federal transit program, and elimination of unnecessary regulations. It rejects proposals to repeal federal gas taxes that support investment in the nation's transportation infrastructure, or which would eliminate the existing transportation partnership among state, local and federal goverrunents. A summary of key recommendations follows:
Preserve a Strong Federal Transportation Program -- The nation's surface transportation system must provide a solid foundation for economic growth by moving people and goods efficiently through a comprehensive, integrated network in and among rural, suburban and urban areas. ISTEA reformed federal policy to meet the mobility challenge of the post-interstate era by integrating surface transportation planning, programs, and services. This integration process, just in its infancy, must be continued.
Invest Trust Fund Revenue in Surface Transportation -- The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that $62.7 billion per year is simply needed to maintain the federal government's 100-year investment in surface transportation infrastructure' For transit, additional resources are needed to protect the federal investment in existing facilities and services, respond to unmet public mobility demands, and fulfill federal mandates. Because use of all available trust fund resources is necessary to help meet these critical transportation infrastructure needs, the transportation trust funds should be taken off budget so that taxes collected for transportation purposes are available for these critical needs. In addition, the 4.3cents per gallon 'deficit reduction' gas tax should be dedicated to the Highway Trust Fund, and 1/2-cent should be deposited in a new Intercity Passenger Rail Account. The Mass Transit Account should receive at least its historic share -- 20 percent -of the revenue from the remaining 3.8 cents, with the balance reserved for the Highway Account.
Maintain the Existing Transit Program Structure - The existing transit program structure works well and should be retained. The discretionary new start, rail modernization, and bus components; formula funding for urbanized area, nonurban, and elderly/disabled components; planning and research; Federal Highway Administration's highway/rail grade crossing safety program; and FTA administrative functions, all provide hinds for specific needs and encourage innovative solutions for all regions of the country.
Maintain ISTEA's Flexible Funding Provisions - ISTEA's flexible funding provisions under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program and Surface Transportation Program (S'IT) have been successful and should be retained. They allow cornmunities to identify those transportation solutions that best support their goals for economic development, community revitalization, and other priorities. APTA's proposal supports adjustments to the CMAQ program so it continues to provide resources for 'maintenance areas' because these areas remain subject to EPA requirements.
Expand Opportunities for Flexible Funding - After 'core' transit programs are fully funded, additional flexible funding should be authorized by expanding the Surface Transportation Program using revenues from both the Highway and Mass Transit Accounts of the Highway Trust Fund.
Strean-dine the Transit Program -- Reauthorization legislation should address fin-dtations on the use of transit funds, expensive federal mandates, and unnecessarily stringent procurement standards that create waste and inefficiency. APTA's proposal would: provide transit systems with flodbility similar to that which highway agencies have in using capital funds to maintain federal investments; provide flexibility under the chug and alcohol testing program; apply federal procurement requirements only to capital funds; reduce red tape in disposition of excess property-, permit transit operators to coordinate federal and state reviews; improve the public's access to charter bus service; and ensure that Americans with Disabilities Act compliance requirements recognize financial burdens on transit systems.
ISTEA's Planning Provisions -- ISTEA's planning provisions are fundamentally sound, including current authority for Metropolitan Planning Organizations, public participation requirements, transportation and land use linkages, and multi-modal . corridor analysis through the Major Investment Study (MIS) criteria. APTA recommends changes to ensure that the planning process fully accounts for often ignored benefits of transit investments and to provide sufficient resources so that planning does not become another "unfunded mandate."
Other Recommendations -- Support of strong transit research and development efforts; establishment of a unified appropriation of transit funds; allow states to use the state shares of flexible funding programs for intercity passenger rail investments; and apply the federal highway funding solvency test to federal transit funds.
Home | Menu | Links | Info | Chairman's Page