With Congress needing to act on a new transportation authorization bill, 2009 will be an important year for transit. We must make dramatic changes to the way we have traditionally funded and implemented transportation improvements in this country. The status quo can no longer be an option if we are to improve our quality of life, address environmental concerns and enhance the competitiveness of our economy in a global marketplace. The next authorization is our window of opportunity to put in place the policies and dedicated funding sources that will enable us to add years of life to our existing infrastructure while creating new capacity and expanding modal choices.
HDR’s transportation leadership has developed a policy framework for the next authorization (available on our Web site at www.hdrinc.com/transportation). We believe the next bill should articulate a national vision for transportation based on principles such as preserving Americans’ freedom to travel and improving quality of life. We also believe the next authorization should outline clear goals for creating an integrated and sustainable national transportation system. Top among those goals should be streamlining the federal transit program to reduce the time required to implement major transit projects, and significantly increasing the federal funds available for transit to achieve an appropriate modal balance in our growing urban areas.
The thrust of HDR’s authorization framework is twelve strategies aimed at addressing the long-term needs of our nation’s transportation system. The national transit program must be reformed. The Federal Transit Administration must work to establish stronger partnerships with metropolitan areas, using transit investments as a key strategy to enhancing metropolitan mobility. To accomplish this strategy we must:
- Increase available federal funds for transit projects by at least 50 percent to respond to demand for mobility alternatives and to advance national goals
- Streamline the New Starts program to reduce the time required to implement projects
- Return the Small Starts program to its drafters’ intent by specifying simple performance measures focused on urban circulation, economic development focused around transit and livability in the form of non auto-dependent urban forms
- Require that transit investment decisions be based on a range of criteria that reflect national priorities (land use, economic benefits, mobility, safety and environment), and not be driven by a single criterion of “transportation cost-effectiveness”
As industry leaders, it is our duty to make the case that efficient and reliable public transportation is essential to a thriving, livable and sustainable community. We can help our communities achieve their mobility goals by helping to shape the debate in Washington. Reforming our transportation funding programs won’t be easy. But now is the time to make the tough choices necessary to move our infrastructure programs forward.
Steve Beard is a Senior Vice President and HDR’s National Director for Transit Planning & Program Management. He has more than 30 years of experience in planning and program management for transit systems, highways and airports. He is active in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and serves on APTA’s Business Members Board of Governors. He holds a master’s degree in planning from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University.