Thank You Congress and President Obama for the FAST Act

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Last week was the culmination of many years of work led to the passage of a surface transportation bill known as the FAST Act. We appreciate the bi-partisan action of Congress and the President to provide reliable funding for public transportation systems for the next five years. Please take a moment to watch this video thanking them for their action from APTA Board Chair Valarie McCall and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

American Public Transportation Association Applauds House for FAST Act Passage

The public transportation industry applauds members in the U.S. House of Representatives for their bipartisan vote to pass the surface transportation bill titled Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).

“On behalf of the 1,500 APTA member organizations and the millions of Americans who rely on public transportation, I congratulate the members of the House for their bipartisan vote today in favor of FAST Act,” said American Public Transportation (APTA) Chair Valarie J. McCall and board member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

Noting that the Senate still needs to vote on FAST Act, APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said, “We are one step closer to having the first multi-year, well-funded surface transportation bill in ten years.  This is excellent news for America’s public transportation systems and the communities they serve in small, medium, and large communities.”

McCall and Melaniphy both thank House Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Peter DeFazio, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Ranking Member Sander Levin for their efforts in moving this legislation forward.

Stand Up for Transportation

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By: Michael Melaniphy, APTA President & CEO

Just over a week ago, Americans across the country came together in cities and towns – big and small, in almost every state to Stand up for Transportation. They called on Congress to continue to invest in public transportation and to provide long-term funding for our transportation infrastructure.

As we continue to advocate for Congress to pass long-term funding, we are very concerned about two proposals in Congress that would eliminate federal funding altogether for public transportation from the Highway Trust Fund. Under both these scenarios, it would be disastrous for local communities and their public transportation systems.  The analysis shows that proposals to cut federal funding for public transit would result, on average, in a 43 percent reduction in a community’s capital improvement funding.

Overall, federal transit investments for both capital and operating costs would be lost, putting at risk more than $227 billion in our nation’s economic productivity over 6 years. The loss of federal capital funds would impact the reliability and safety of current bus and train service and put new services in jeopardy. These Congressional proposals are short-sighted because they would put at risk: 

  • 38,000 buses or 57 percent of the nation’s public transit bus fleet would not be replaced.
  • Overall, 66 new public transit projects could be stalled. Many of these projects serve as a catalyst for economic development in every region of the country.
  • Rail maintenance, expansion and rail car replacement would be significantly impacted.

Support for our nation’s transportation system is a partnership among local, state, and the federal government.  Public transportation makes the transportation system work more effectively and efficiently.

Public transit investment creates jobs and grows our economy.  In fact, 73 percent of the funds for public transit creates and supports private sector jobs.

It makes no sense to reduce or eliminate funding as we work to meet the demand of growing public transit ridership which has grown to more than 10.8 billion trips taken in 2014, the highest in 58 years.

APTA has created a new web application that shows the impact of no federal investment by region, state and Congressional district.

The clock is ticking! There are only 44 days before the May 31st deadline.  It’s time to stand up NOW for the future of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

We will continue to rally citizens, our partners and community leaders to reinforce our message that Congress must act NOW to continue to fund public transit through the Highway Trust Fund and to pass a comprehensive, long-term bill so that we can repair, maintain, and expand America’s public transportation, roads, bridges, and rail systems.

State of the Industry

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By: Michael Melaniphy, APTA President & CEO

Recently I delivered a State of the Industry speech, it covered the past year, our current status, and some thoughts for the future. Today I would like to share some highlights with you.

Demand for public transportation is on the rise. In fact, 10.7 billion trips were taken on public transportation in 2013, the highest in 57 years, according to our most recent statistics.

Even those who drive should take note of these statistics, which show that communities that invest in public transportation stand to gain. APTA figures point to a four-fold economic return on investment for every dollar spent on public transportation.

It truly reinforces a common refrain in our industry, where public transportation goes, businesses thrive, property becomes more attractive, and tax revenues increase.

A substantial and robust public transportation infrastructure is one key innovation that helps to support economic growth in local communities, say experts. With federal funding for public transportation poised to be a critical issue for Congress this year, public transportation advocates are calling for funding legislation that is reliable and sustainable in order to plan, build, maintain and repair these systems.

As we approach the May 31 deadline for a new surface transportation bill, it is critical that our national leaders come together to create legislation that will ensure years of economic growth and opportunity for communities across the country.

Here are several ways such investment in public transportation could affect an individual community:

  • If you are a homeowner, public transportation in a community could spell financial security during times of economic uncertainty. Residential property values performed 42 percent better on average during the last recession if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors and APTA.
  • Seventy percent of millennials prefer a city or town that features a multimodal transportation option that includes public transportation. By investing in public transportation infrastructure, a community increases the likelihood of attracting new talent and industry to the area, especially as public transportation systems adopt technologies like smartphone charging stations on vehicles and facilities and fare collection via smartphone.
  • Public transportation is a 61 billion dollar a year industry that puts people to work –– 1.1 million jobs are created or sustained annually, directly employing nearly 400,000 people and creating hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs. As such, public transportation advocates say that by supporting measures that improve these systems, local residents will be doing their community a favor.

No matter how you get around your community, a robust public transit system stands to have a positive impact you and the local economy.

More than 2.7 Billion Trips Taken on Public Transportation in 2014 Third Quarter

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By: Michael Melaniphy, APTA President & CEO

More than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, according to a report released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).  This is a 1.8 percent increase over the same quarter last year, representing an increase of more than 48 million trips and the highest third quarter ridership since 1974 (the oldest third quarter APTA has available for comparison).

Some of the public transit systems that reported record third quarter ridership for their entire system or specific lines are located in the following cities:  Albany, NY; Ann Arbor, MI; Birmingham, AL; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; New York City (Metro North), NY; Oakland, CA; St. Petersburg, FL; Peoria, IL; Seattle,WA; and Wenatchee, WA.

There are a number of reasons why public transportation ridership is on the rise.  First, the investment in public transportation by the federal government has paid off with new rail and bus rapid transit lines or extensions that have opened up in recent years.  These new services have not only created greater access for people to use public transit, but have led to economic development that has transformed and revitalized the community. Public transportation is not just moving people, but also positively shaping the communities we live in.

A second reason for increased ridership is that people are affirmatively responding to the quality of public transportation that is now available.  For example, some public transit systems have increased their frequency of service and have modernized their vehicle fleets.  Additionally, with the use of apps and real time information at stations, riders can easily find out when the next bus or train will arrive.  Technology has made riding public transportation more convenient and easier to use.

Additionally,  the economy is recovering and since nearly 60 percent of public transit trips are taken to travel for work commutes, public transportation ridership has increased in cities where the economy has improved.

The following cities are some examples of areas with higher employment and public transit ridership for the third quarter:  Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Champaign-Urbana, IL; Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA.

High and volatile gas prices have played a part over the past nine years in convincing people to try public transportation.  Now that gas prices are declining, many people are still choosing to ride public transportation.  They have discovered that there are other benefits to taking public transit besides saving money.

For full national ridership numbers see the ridership report.

The Nation is a Multimodal Network

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    by Darnell Grisby, APTA Director, Policy Development and Research

APTA occasionally gathers information on the use of public transportation, as well as the characteristics of public transportation users. In information that emphasizes the multimodal nature of our transportation network, 82 percent of public transportation users last summer report having an automobile in their household. Public transportation users pay into the highway trust fund in a number of ways, and this data shows that one of those ways happens to be driving.

(Click on the figure below to view the chart)

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Technometrica, Driving Habits of Public Transportation Users, July 2014, Conducted for the American Public Transportation Association

Furthermore, it is clear that public transportation offers relief to our nation’s highways. Of those drivers that used public transportation in our poll, 87% used their cars three or more times in a given week. Not only do public transportation users contribute to the Highway Trust Fund, but they also provide relief to their fellow drivers when they use public transportation some portion of their weekly activities as seen in this chart.

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Urgent Action by Congress is needed on Commute Benefit To Restore Tax Parity with Auto Drivers

By Michael Melaniphy, APTA President and CEO
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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) joins the Commuter Benefits Work for Us Coalition, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) in urging Congress to take immediate action to restore parity among public transportation/van pool and parking benefits.

Commuters who use public transportation and especially those with the longer commutes by rail, bus, or van pools have seen their annual commuting cost increase by up to $1,380 a year based on a bias in the tax code that eliminated the parity between public transportation and parking benefits for auto users.

Absent Congressional action, the transit commuter benefit dropped at the beginning of this year from $245 to $130 per month, while the parking benefit was automatically adjusted up to $250 per month. This equates to a higher tax of approximately $565 annually for those who take public transit. Congress has an opportunity to correct this and restore parity between transit tax benefits and parking tax benefits before the next tax year begins.

We believe it is sound policy to maintain both the public transit and parking benefits at equal levels. The current law diverges from a balanced federal tax policy that treats different modes of travel equitably.

Restoring parity between transit tax benefits and parking tax benefits will eliminate the federal tax incentive to drive over taking public transportation.

Let’s restore equity in the tax code when it comes to commuting – whether one commutes by public transportation or drives to work.