Finding the Money

July 22, 2011
Transportation funding continues to be in flux and agencies are looking at all the options available.

I’m writing this hours after the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) announced the Transportation Committee’s six-year transportation reauthorization proposal. And by now, everyone’s had a chance to review it and to hear the variety of responses to it. It's a six-year proposal, greater accountability, simplified federal grant programs, streamlined project delivery: Good. A proposal that has about $56 billion less than the previous bill: Frightening . 

Not only is it about a third less than current levels, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the proposal would eliminate more than 140,000 jobs as a result of cuts to public transportation funding.

With the economy in the state it’s in, there’s no doubt we can’t restrict people’s abilities to get to jobs or education; they need access to transportation. As American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President Bill Millar said, “The funding will not permit public transit agencies to address the costs of getting the existing systems to a state of good repair, which the U.S. DOT has estimated as a one-time cost of $78 billion, let alone meet the growing demand for public transportation services in the United States.”

The timing seems ideal to feature the North County Transit District (NCTD) as our cover story. In 2008, the NCTD Sprinter service was “bestowed” with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s Grand Golden Fleece award. Delays, technical issues and the total cost of the project being over budget were some of the reasons for this top “award” that highlights waste.

Fast forward to 2011 and the NCTD was again at the award’s dinner, but this time on the opposite end attaining the highest true honor, the Grand Golden Watchdog Award. The NCTD faced a decline in state funding and something had to change if the agency was going to continue to provide mobility in the region. Privatization of the bus operations and maintenance and the paratransit service offered a savings that worked for the NCTD and the community.

In this issues, we look at the NCTD and how they've adjusted their business model to continue to provide service while reducing costs. We also look at some of the latest sustainable trends. Whether it's incorporating green principles in capital projects or looking at how to leverage the benefits of transit-oriented development or multi-modal options, there are ways that going green is paying off for properties.

I've had more than a few transit managers talk about how when they started in this industry it was to run buses and/or trains. Today they're doing that plus managing parking and providing access for multiple modes, including walking and biking. There's a lot that falls under transit's umbrella and information sharing provides examples to learn from.