Once a project has been agreed upon as a priority, a legislative strategy plan should be created, including an outline of the strategies and tasks necessary to bring the project to a swift and successful conclusion.
In 2002, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) identified several legislative proposals to level the playing field between highway infrastructure and mass transit priorities that any particular project's legislative strategy should consider:
- *Strengthen metropolitan planning organizations;
- *Improve public involvement;
- *Support use of major investment studies;
- *Consolidate planning factors;
- *Encourage land use/transit linkage; and,
- *Improve the New Starts criteria and rankings.
ACHIEVING AMERICA'S TRANSPORTATION GOALS
In 2002, APTA noted that our national transportation policy should include:
- * Safe, secure, reliable mobility options that create an integrated, balanced transportation system;
- *Access to economic and social opportunities that provide all Americans, from all walks of life, the opportunity to enrich their lives and communities through expanded public transportation;
- *Economic growth with reduced traffic congestion. America should significantly increase its investments in the development of transportation capacity to stimulate the economy and reduce traffic congestion and its adverse effects on families, economic productivity and the environment;
- *Achieve greater national security, cleaner air and better health, reduction of America's dependence on foreign oil, more educational opportunities and a host of other national goals through public transportation investment; and
- *Recognition of public transportation's role in reaching critical national policy goals.
Mass transit is an integral and indispensable element of the transportation system and the achievement of these important goals. However, today's public resource constraints so severely limit our ability to leverage the benefits of mass transit that we have no choice but to rely on innovative new financing strategies.
Taking advantage of new funding opportunities will require not only new thinking, but new strategies for overcoming institutional barriers, as well as intellectual and political inertia.
Fortunately, we can look to the public-private partnerships emerging in the highway infrastructure industry for inspiration and instruction.
We know that we will have to secure legislative authorization to accommodate the many forms of joint developments.
We will have to make careful, analytical decisions about the risks and rewards of new financing solutions and technologies.
We will have to leverage our existing assets and audiences to prove the value of mass transit as an enabler of economic opportunity and environmental improvement.
We will have to educate leaders and policymakers that mass transit funding from current and innovative sources can extend quality of life benefits to larger communities of riders and deliver even greater economies of scale than simple investments in the highway infrastructure.
The nontraditional funding sources detailed in this article are unlikely to displace traditional public funding, except in cases of outright privatization or concessions. However, innovative financing can help close the gap in regularly occurring shortfalls faced by public transportation authorities, extend the benefits of public transportation to more people and communities, and help to achieve the transportation goals of our country.