In two states 3,000 miles apart, referendums that would fund transportation efforts, in part, were on the ballot this election cycle. Voters made their choice on Proposition 30 in California and Question 1 in Massachusetts. Both referendums sought to increase the tax rate on each state’s highest earners, but only one was successful.
Equity, diversity, and inclusion have been of growing importance among state and federal transportation agencies, and yet there isn’t a clear consensus on how that commitment translates into tangible outcomes. A new report from the Policy Lab at Claremont McKenna College, produced in partnership with SSTI, offers some clarity through an in-depth look at state DOT responses to the USDOT’s Request for Information on transportation equity data, which was released last year.
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.
The much-anticipated Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was finally signed by President Biden on Monday, and state DOTs are preparing for what will amount to around 50 percent more transportation spending than originally planned for over the next five years. The act includes an additional $110 billion for roads and bridges, $11 billion for safety, $39 billion for public transit, and $66 billion for freight and passenger rail (a five-fold increase).
There is a growing public clamor for better access by people to the places where they live, work, and spend their recreational time. However, a majority of transportation investments are spent on moving people through places, typically by driving.
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.
The Alliance for Biking and Walking has released its biennial benchmarking report, providing a wealth of information on programs, policies, data, and case studies from all 50 states, the 50 largest U.S. cities, plus 18 additional medium-sized cities. At the same time, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association released a report on the alarming rise in pedestrian fatalities from 2014 to 2015.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation is working to reduce the number of state residents with suspended licenses. There are about 30,000 Vermonters with suspended licenses at any time in the state with 626,000 people. The majority of these suspensions are the result of unpaid fines, both for driving infractions as well as for offenses unrelated to driving.
This report from the National Conference of State Legislatures examines state legislative action to define transit-oriented evelopment, plan for and fund TOD, provide “last-mile” transportation solutions to get to and from a transit stop, and a number of other states strategies to encourage TOD.
In the post-Interstate-building era, questions about the role of the federal government in funding surface transportation have become more common. Most of these arguments have come from conservatives. A new call for eliminating the federal role comes from a different perspective, though—a green one.