Streamlined grant procedures can make competitive funding fairer

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a more than $850 billion historic investment in support of state and local government work to increase access and safety while redressing inequities across the country. However, a recent article by Brookings contributors Ellory Monks and Shalini Vajjhala points out that the existing structure of federal and state grant application processes may inhibit the fair allocation of the funds.

If the future of cars is electric, what does that mean for transportation funding?

The adoption of electric vehicles is growing in the United States, with all-electric vehicle sales increasing by 85% from 2020 to 2021 and plug-in hybrid sales rising 138%. This is a welcome trend for many, but the increased popularity of EVs combined with better fuel efficiency, and a gas tax that hasn’t been raised in thirty years, is posing a major challenge to policy makers; how to make up for lost gas tax revenue, which currently pays for 29% of state highway funds and 84% at the federal level.

Utah leverages value capture to fund transportation

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.

Facing ridership slumps, agencies weigh the costs of free transit

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.

State DOT officials discuss how to prioritize repair

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.

Study: Transit supporters in LA unlikely to use transit themselves

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.

Who pays for roads? Users, but only partly

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.

High-speed rail pushes on without federal funding

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.