Peter Javsicas, executive director of PenTrans, a coalition of public agencies and private firms working to improve transportation throughout Pennsylvania, views MAP-21 a bit more conservatively. “On the plus side, the bill includes retention of New Starts funding, expanded borrowing options and moves toward more local control and decision-making. These measures could be features of a renewed federal commitment to transportation spending,” Javsicas said. “However, without requiring increased transportation revenues, the bill shows little federal commitment to transportation spending in general — and represents substantial steps backward in terms of structural repair and transit funding.
“In general, MAP-21 is inadequate,” Javsicas added. “The U.S. needs a comprehensive, long-range, multi-modal transportation policy properly coordinated with other national goals and objectives to provide a framework for making decisions about transportation investments.”
Joseph Casey, general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), remains optimistic about MAP-21, but agrees the United States must commit to long-term transportation funding that goes well beyond MAP-21’s two years. SEPTA is the nation’s fifth largest transportation operation.
“Considering the budget climate in Washington, MAP-21 can only be considered a success for transportation. What is critical from a transit operator’s perspective is a long-term federal transportation funding bill in order to properly plan and budget capital projects,” Casey said. “Although a two-year reauthorization bill, MAP-21 allowed SEPTA to enter into several contracts to rebuild our transit system. The new emphasis on state of good repair is especially important for “older” systems such as SEPTA, [which are] typically in the major economic centers of the country.”
Schruth said that any upswing in transit projects could provide both large, multi-disciplinary firms and smaller, niche consultants with new opportunities.
“To do a New Starts project, you need a range of expertise — engineers, administrators, environmental experts, public outreach and public information experts, financial experts, contracts and claims experts. Most (transit) agencies don’t have that breadth of expertise in-house. For example, there are 24 areas of compliance that grantees must pass, and only a few of the grantees nationwide have the staff to be able to handle all of those areas,” Schruth said.
MAP-21 doesn’t just provide great business opportunities, Spearing said. The legislation will go a long way in helping to meet a growing public demand for alternatives to the automobile and the gas pump.
“Riding transit makes good economic sense, and also is a safer alternative to any other mode of transportation. The business of transit results in $4 in economic return for every dollar invested and helps green the planet at same time.”
Spearing knows first-hand the benefits of safe, reliable means of transportation. He grew up “almost literally underneath the Frankford Elevated,” SEPTA’s elevated line that connects northern Philadelphia with Center City.
“We had a family of four that went to work, or to school, or got around the city every single day by using public transportation. It was a way of life. Bringing back that way of life and, at the same time, bringing public transportation into the 21st century will have very specific and lasting benefits for generations to come.”