The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) appreciates the opportunity to submit testimony and share our comments on the reauthorization of our nation's public transportation program. Our association represents the people who operate community transportation services and the millions of people who depend on these services to get to work, to health care, and to meet life's most basic needs. The nation's 1200 rural public transit providers, the more than 200 transit systems serving smaller cities, and the thousands of specialized paratransit agencies providing accessible transportation to people with disabilities in urban and rural communities are represented by CTAA.
When the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was signed into law six years ago, it helped improve the mobility of Americans everywhere. Federal transportation dollars became available to all communities, large and small. States and metropolitan areas gained the flexibility to transfer funds between traditional highway and transit programs in ways to best meet local priorities. Wherever we look, we see the recognition that public transit services must be developed in a cost-effective, coordinated fashion. Another of ISTEA's strengths was the promotion of planning process that promote a local, community-based approach to transportation decision making. Later in our testimony, you will learn of successful examples where community support, linked with the mechanisms and resources of ISTEA, are helping move more people more effectively to the places they need to go.
Since the passage of ISTEA, our nation's transportation patterns have changed. There are more elderly Americans, particularly in the oldest age cohorts. More Americans with disabilities than ever before are traveling to jobs, education business, and social services. Perhaps the greatest change is that states and communities are under unprecedented pressure to move people off welfare and into jobs... and many of these jobs are not at all near the people.
Today's hearing brings together many perspectives on public transportation, and the issues you must face as you set about drafting a reauthorization proposal. However, whether we represent transportation providers, planners, users, advocates, or local governments, we are united in our desire to see a transit program that builds on the strengths of ISTEA, and becomes even more capable of responding to the transportation needs in every state and community.
Today, one hundred and five million Americans can be considered "transportation disadvantaged." They are at risk of not being able to transport themselves or cannot afford to provide their own transportation services. This population includes 46 million Americans with disabilities, many of whom rely on transportation services to access jobs, health care and other daily living activities. Nearly all our country's 44 million elders at some point rely on others to drive them to nutrition, medical and social services. Many of the 38 million Americans living in poverty do not have their own reliable transportation. In fact, 10.6 million households-a quarter of which are in rural areas--do not even have an automobile.
The implementation of welfare reforms in every state has placed a new emphasis on moving people off welfare and into work. A lack of reliable transportation is cited as the second leading barrier to workforce participation, after the availability of affordable child care. Clearly, a sound transportation network is vital to the success of welfare reform efforts.
|(Elderly & Poor)||3.7 milllion|
|(Elderly & Disabled)||14.3 million|
|(Elderly, Disabled & Poor)||1.6 million|
|TOTAL (adjusted for overlap)||105.4 million|
In state after state, community aftercommunity, local officials are struggling with the question of moving people off of public assistance. States and communities also struggle with questions of how to link diverse populations-such as public housing residents,
As a result, millions of Americans depend on community transportation services. Provided by a network of public transit agencies, local governments and private non-profits, it is a vital link in moving people to work, furnishing basic mobility services for persons with disabilities, linking our elders with social and nutrition services, assuring people's access to basic health care, and more. In short, community transportation is a lifeline to society for millions of citizens.
We expect you will have renewed some familiarity with the details of how the transit program works under ISTEA_ If not, we welcome your questions. In brief, we feel the dedicated funding that flows through the Mass Transit Account, when combined with formula-based block grants and discretionary major capital investments, continues to serve most of our country's public transportation needs quite well.
There is, however, room for improvement. While taxpayers everywhere help fund the Mass Transit Account, 44 million Americans live in areas without any public transit service. Every day, 18 percent of our citizens-including 40 percent of all rural residents-are paying for a transit network they never see. Nonetheless, the factors that drive increased transit demand in our largest cities-carlessness, disability, poor health, poverty, or lowincome status-are as prevalent and as real in small cities and rural areas.
We are especially concerned about the state of transit investment in rural and small-city America. While our nation's largest cities are struggling to keep their buses and subways operating, or building up transit as a means to stop choking on smog and gridlock, folks in small-town America are left wondering if they can even get a ride to work. Although we agree with our colleagues in urban transit that the nation would suffocate if the big-city transit systems broke down or disappeared, we often wonder what to tell the transit-dependent residents of rural New York State, where this year's federal transit investment is among the lowest in the country, at $1.47 per capita. It's possible they may not be assuaged by the offer of a safe, clean and reliable transit experience in Portland, Atlanta or St. Louis.
The transit investment needs in our nation's largest cities certainly are quite different from those in small-town America. They all need our support. ISTEA has moved us closer than ever before to a balanced transportation system. As a result of this progress, the nation is investing $1.64 per capita for transit in rural areas, compared with $10.15 in small cities and $27.30 per capita in our largest urban areas. We are not scoffing-this is true progress for transit in both rural and urban America, and we hope the level of support can grow when ISTEA's transit program is reauthorized.
To show what is possible in making the federal investment work effectively, we'd like to share two -success stories with you. They are interesting, but not that unusual. You probably have similar successes in your own state. If not, you certainly could support more of these successes through a reauthorized transit program!
Rural Mississippi long has been considered a bastion of poverty. The jobs are few, the economy stagnant, the state has little of a tax base to support vital services, and opportunities are limited. In Clarksdale, Miss., the local community health center saw that the provision of some basic transportation services could help overcome many of these barriers. There were jobs, if residents could be transported to the growing riverboat gambling businesses in nearby communities. People could get to work in the casinos, in agricultural plants, or in Clarksdale's own retail businesses, if they could have reliable transportation... particularly if it could link the person, their work, and their child care.
The health center's management began scouring the state and community for resources to help meet this need. They succeeded in obtaining Section 5311 federal transit funding for their rural community, used that as a catalyst for attracting private investment in the transit system, and have attracted support front additional federal programs, including the "JOBLINKS" employment transportation program CTAA manages in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration. In work-related trips alone, the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Center is providing 600 daily trips for area residents who otherwise would not even be in the work force. In addition, the health center continues to serve the rest of Clarksdale's transportation needs: taking senior citizens to meal sites and programs, bringing people to the doctor who otherwise would not have health care, providing mobility for the area's residents with disabilities. In short, your support of the federal transit program has helped create opportunities in Clarksdale that would not otherwise exist.
Transportation in Albany and the surrounding region of New York State historically has been very fragmented. The resources and mechanisms developed under ISTEA are helping overcome this fragmentation, and are helping to ensure a much more effective use of federal transportation dollars in New York's Capital District.
In the past, Albany has seen a hodgepodge of the Capital District Transit Authority's public transit service, overlaid with the transportation services provided by dozens upon dozens of public and private nonprofit groups, all of whom are receiving federal funds from different agencies to provide transportation. Rather than sustain this chaos, the state of New York, the transit authority, and the local planning organization have teamed up to coordinate services, and see that Albany residents receive a cost-effective, appropriate mix of transportation services.
Capital District Transit has taken on the lead role in coordinating services and bringing order out of this chaos. They have done so because of their commitment to community mobility. This efficiency would not have been possible without your support of ISTEA's flexible funding provisions. The transit authority and planning organization are targeting their federal transit formula grants to services that need them the most. They have chosen to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality improvement program (CMAQ) funds for program oversight and service expansion. The state is providing technical support to make this whole endeavor possible. Without ISTEA and its flexible funding programs, none of this efficiency could occur.
There are many ways to measure a successful community transportation service. You can look at moving people. Are people getting to jobs, businesses, health care or social services who otherwise would be left at home? You can look at the finances. Is this transportation provided in a way that maximizes the federal transit investment? Are the costs of community transportation less than the expenses associated with isolation and immobility?
As we mentioned earlier, the basic framework nurtured under ISTEA has proven capable of serving many communities very well. With a very few modifications, even more Americans could reap the benefits of a truly federal transit program.
Another key to the success of rural transit is that these systems can use income from federal human services programs to help cover their operating costs. In fact, revenues from human services programs account for 14 percent of the rural transit operating budget.
This ability to integrate rural transit with human services programs allows many rural Americans' transportation needs to be met with a minimal level of federal transit support. If push came to shove, all of rural America's transit needs could be met in this coordinated fashion for the cost of only one or two large-city rail projects. More important, though, is that small-city transit systems need this same flexibility. Otherwise, we can travel to small-city America and still observe the phenomenon of a poorly funded, poorly maintained public transit vehicle trying to serve the same clientele as a poorly funded senior services van, or a poorly funded medical transportation service.
This kind of efficiency and integration of resources would not be possible without continued support for FIA's Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP), which for ten years has helped states and rural communities across the country achieve professionalism and operating efficiencies which make "doing more with less" a reality, not a cliche. Continued funding of RTAP and its family of technical assistance services is a vital piece of assured mobility in rural and small-town America.
In this statement, we have attempted to lay out the scenario of community transportation in much of America today. The basic framework of ISTEA has worked well, and can work even better with only a few improvements. There is a need for greater federal transit support in small cities and rural areas. Resources must be made available to help support the transportation demand created by welfare reform, but we cannot afford this at the expense of existing federal transit formula grants. Transportation needs associated with the ADA are growing, not diminishing, and need federal support. A "capital crisis" in rural and small-urban transit has been delayed, but will not disappear without increased federal support. The flexibility that has made rural transit a success must be continued, and must be extended to small-urban transit, as well.
Thank you for your attention, and thank you again for your invitation to include CTAA in
your discussions. We welcome any questions you may have, whether now or in the future.
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