Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill


“rot” may be the new state of transit if the House of Representatives passes two transportation bills that affect the entire nation. Photo by Eric Rogers. 

This is a quick update on two federal government topics I’ve been following: the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was proposing to make the Chicago region an “attainment zone”, meaning we’d meet our pollution reduction goals (for just particulate matter) and that we would lose our eligibility for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds (CMAQ) – see the original post. But those funds may not be so protected, if the House Republicans have their say and are able to pass H.R.3864, the new surface transportation bill – see the original post. Continue reading Federal government update: Clean air legislation and surface transportation bill

Some talking points about transportation funding when you call House representatives


Photo of the Wabash ‘L’ by Clark Maxwell. 

If you call your representatives to ask them to vote against bills that cut transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure funding, you can also add these talking points:

Highways and roads have the lowest return of jobs per dollar of investment

From the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst:

For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million. On average, the 58 projects we studied create about 9 jobs per $1 million within their own states. If we add the spill-over employment that is created in other states through the supply chain, the employment impact rises by an average of 3 additional jobs per $1 million. Read the full summary. Read the full study, by Heidi Garrett-Peltier.

Bicycling can save the economy

A series of 10 articles on “Bikenomics“, by Elly Blue.

Bicycle transportation is good for a lot of things — it’s healthy, it’s green, it’s quiet, it’s fun, it builds community. It also makes financial sense, and the magnitude of bicycling’s economic impact gets far less attention than it deserves. In the Bikenomics series, Elly Blue explores the scope of that impact, from personal finance to local economies to the big picture of the national budget. In the grassroots and on a policy level, the bicycle is emerging as an effective engine of economic recovery.

People who use transit to commute save thousands annually

It’s a no brainer: no gas and insurance to buy. From the American Public Transportation Association:

The report notes that riding public transportation saves individuals, on average $9,656 annually, and up to $805 per month based on the January 5, 2011 average national gas price ($3.08 per gallon-reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate. [This data is from January 5, 2011, but the information remains true today. The only difference is the calculated dollar amount each individual is saving over driving a car to work.]

Do something about transportation funding, today


New and maintained trains? Forget it. Photo by John Iwanski. 

If you are on the mailing list of any transportation advocacy group, or have been reading Streetsblog, this blog, and other websites, you may have noticed that transportation funding for transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects is falling on the cutting room floors of two of the House of Representatives’s committees: Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I), and Ways and Means (W&M). Full information on these issues was posted this morning.

Each committee has a bill that screws over funding that buys buses and trains, builds train stations, sidewalks, and cycling trails. You can ask your representatives to vote no on these bills. Here’s what to do:

Transportation and Infrastructure committee

It’s probably too late today to do anything about this, but you should ask your Representative to vote no on H.R.7. This bill repeals programs on safety, Safe Routes to School, and Transportation Enhancements.

Find your representative, or contact the following representatives from Illinois on this committee:

  • Daniel Lipinski – 3rd district – closes at 5 PM
    (202) 225 – 5701
    (866) 822 – 5701
  • Tim Johnson – 15th district – closes at 5 PM
    (202) 225-2371
  • Randy Hultgren – 14th district – closes at 4 PM
    (202) 225-2976
  • Jerry Costello – 12th district – closes at 5 PM
    (202) 225-5661

Ways and Means committee

Voting on H.R.3864 happens Friday morning. Ask your representative to vote no. This bill removes the Mass Transit Account from the Highway Trust Fund and leaves its funding up in the air, fighting for General Revenues along with thousands of other programs, instead of having a dedicated funding stream (gas taxes).

Find your representative, or contact the following  representatives from Illinois on this committee:

  • Aaron Schock – 18th district – unknown close time
    (202) 225-6201
  • Peter Roskam – 6th district – closes at 5 PM
    (202) 225-4561

House of Representatives transportation bill fraught with bad ideas


Funding for trails? Forget it, say House Republicans. Photo by Eric Rogers.

Updated 15:36: See additions to this article under “updates”

No matter how you get around, whether on foot, by bike, in a car, on a bus or by train or water taxi, the federal surface transportation bill impacts your travel.

The surface transportation bill does essentially two things:

1. It sets national transportation policy. This includes plans on how much to subsidize monthly car parking for workers, monthly transit passes (see note 1); regional planning; safety goals; and environmental protection from vehicle pollution and infrastructure impacts.

2. Defines which transportation modes and programs get how much money.

A majority of trains, buses, bike lanes, roads, and highways in Chicagoland were built with funding from the surface transportation bill. And they continue to be majority-funded by federal tax dollars, year after year.

The last surface transportation bill is called SAFETEA-LU and it expired on September 30, 2009, at the end of fiscal year 2009 – Transportation 4 America has a clock counting the time since expiration. Since then, it has been extended many times while Congressional committees and representatives work on a new one.

A new one may be enacted this year!

Continue reading House of Representatives transportation bill fraught with bad ideas

Innovative financing for transportation infrastructure, notes from a seminar


The Metropolitan Planning Council graciously provided me with a free entry to a seminar in October about infrastructure funding and financing at their office at 140 S Dearborn. The seminar featured Rob Puentes of the Brookings Institution, Illinois Senator Heather Stearns, and Dr. Paul Hanley a professor at the University of Iowa. They talked about three innovative ways to fund construction of highways, airports, transit, and other capital-intensive projects: the surface transportation bill (Puentes), public-private partnerships (Stearns), and distance-based taxing (Hanley).

This article will be presented in two parts: presentations from Puentes and Stearns today, and Hanley on Friday. It is my intention that by presenting that discussion to readers, you can learn about some of the ways infrastructure in the United States is paid for.

Continue reading Innovative financing for transportation infrastructure, notes from a seminar