A unique public funding structure called Transportation Reinvestment Zones is a new strategy to increase funds available for public transportation and expanded housing near transit. TRZs work on the principle that improved amenities, access, and convenience will lead to increased property taxes, generating funds for transit and other public services.
Transit agencies across the country are weighing the potential impacts of lowering transit fares or making transit free to passengers, but riders and transit advocates are concerned the fare cuts could translate into worse service. Research suggests there may be better ways to improve service and increase ridership, including leaning on partners to help cover costs. Many agencies suspended fares during the pandemic, partly as relief for frontline workers, but also because fare collection became challenging. Now local governments across greater DC are considering lower fares or transit subsidies for low-income riders.
Just as the bottom has fallen out of the of the air travel market, so it has for local and regional transit and intercity rail travel. Transit farebox revenue has taken an immediate hit, and sales, state, and local taxes will likely decline as well. In total, transit agencies stand to lose between $26 billion and $38 billion over the next year.
Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense has released Repair Priorities 2019, a new report analyzing pavement conditions, state spending trends, and unmet repair needs nationwide. The report indicates that pavement conditions are getting worse, contributing to a growing gap nationally between current investments in repair and unmet needs. At the same time, some states continue to invest in expanding roads, further increasing that backlog. The authors also hosted a webinar to roll out the report. Speakers included staff from DOTs that are prioritizing repair with available funding despite the challenges. Those challenges often include significant political pressure to direct funds toward new capacity projects instead of repair projects that cause backups and inconvenience to drivers.
It may sound like an Onion headline, but a new study out of UCLA finds that while a majority of Los Angeles County voters may support transit expansion, they express little desire to ride transit themselves in the future. The study found that voters appear to want transit for reasons other than riding it. The results of the study may also provide guidance on how to develop messages for future transit funding measures.
A new paper suggests that while gas taxes or similar revenue sources might be well-suited for maintaining our interstates, urban transportation will thrive more on local resources and must focus on two guiding principles: value capture and livability.
Subsidies are common across transportation modes, but it’s useful to have the numbers. A recent report by the Tax Foundations, updated data on the portion of roads paid for by travelers and shippers—fuel tax, tolls, and other user fees—by state. The figures range from 12 percent in Alaska to 76 percent in Hawaii, based on fiscal 2014 figures. The report does not give a national figure, but a previous version estimated user fees cover just 50 percent of road costs.
Xpress West, the high-speed rail developer that had been seeking federal loans and private investors to support its plan to build a high-speed rail line from Southern California to Las Vegas, has formed a partnership with China Railway International USA to move the project forward. China Railway International will provide $100 million initially and officials say construction could begin in fall 2016. A proposed extension via the High Desert Corridor, linking Xpress West’s Victorville station with Palmdale, 60 miles to the west, will connect the Xpress West line to Las Vegas with the existing Metrolink commuter rail service, as well as the California High Speed Rail system.
On August 20 the Federal Highway Administration posted a new page on its website. The title, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, belies the importance of the clarifications FHWA is trying to make. The page addresses more than bicycle and pedestrian matters. It points out that federal funding or rules do not prohibit good road design for all modes, even if it varies from the standards used for decades.
There is an increasing urgency to addressing the transportation funding crisis, not simply for highways but system-wide. As urban areas—where most of the country’s population lives—become increasingly multimodal, a shift in the funding paradigm is required for such a system to truly flourish.