State Decision Making in the Context of Federal Transportation Funding

STIP-by-Transit

» An examination of STIP plans shows wide variation in planned use of federal transportation dollars across states, with limited ability to maneuver independently.

Because of the sheer number of states in the U.S., it is often simpler to discuss federal transportation investment policies or state investments in the aggregate than make comparisons between states. Overall, for example, transit accounts for about a quarter of national spending on ground transportation — a bit more than the 20% of funds appropriated directly to public transportation by Congress, showing that many states are moving a small amount of their highway funds into transit programs. Looking at the national level, however, fails to provide an accurate evaluation of what is occurring on the ground in different parts of the country. States, after all, are often wildly different in political ideologies and historical mobility patterns.

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign (TSTC), a New York-based advocacy group,

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UK Ramps Up Intercity Rail Investments

East Midland Train

» Continued investment in the U.K.’s rail network comes at a considerable cost, but spending on existing services will complement planned high-speed rail route and further recent ridership increases.

Opposition to the United Kingdom’s second high-speed rail line, the £17 33 billion* connection between London and Birmingham called HS2, has been stewing for years. Critics of the line — much like opponents to rail programs in the U.S. — suggest that the project’s benefits do not justify its enormous cost (both monetarily and in terms of its effects on the rural landscapes trains will pass through) and that other investments on existing lines would be more effective.

While the U.K.’s Conservative-led coalition government, itself teetering and facing a double-dip recession, continues to maintain its support for the HS2 program, it has not limited its public investments just to that line, and this week it announced a £9.4 billion ($14.6 billion) scheme

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A Different Future with California High-Speed Rail

Map of the initial plans for service along the California High-Speed Rail route, showing the Madera-Bakersfield segment now approved for construction. Source: California High-Speed Rail Authority

» California’s Senate takes a courageous step in supporting the first construction stage of the state’s high-speed rail project. There is much more work to be done.

Last week, America’s future in high-speed rail took a modest step forward. On Thursday, California’s State Assembly approved by a 51 to 27 margin the release of $2.5 billion in state bonds for the construction of a 130-mile segment of 220-mph tracks through the Central Valley and the implementation of $2 billion in commuter rail improvements in the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions. On Friday, by a vote of 21 to 16, the State Senate expressed its agreement.* If all goes as planned, the project could be under construction by the beginning of next year. Tracks between Madera and Bakersfield could be ready for use by 2017, the first step towards what could be an eventual 2h40 journey time for trains traveling from

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Congress Passes Major Transportation Bill, Preserving the Status Quo

U.S. transportation spending has declined as a percentage of GDP or federal government budget.

» MAP-21 will provide federal funding for highways and transit over the next 27 months. Passing the bill was an accomplishment for a do-little Congress, but serious issues about how to pay for transportation in the future have yet to be resolved. Nonetheless, there are some interesting features in the bill for new transit capital projects.

On Friday, the U.S. House and Senate passed MAP-21*, the federal government’s latest ground transportation authorization bill, modeled closely on the bill that passed the Senate in March. The $105-billion piece of legislation will provide funding for essential highway and public transportation programs, most of which are in the form of formula-based allocations that direct money automatically to states and metropolitan areas. The bill will be in effect for 27 months, expiring in September 2014.

MAP-21 replaces SAFETEA-LU, the last long-term federal transportation bill, which expired in 2009; in the meantime, we have seen extension

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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