Transportation

Last week’s settlement by the rideshare company Uber of a pair of class action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts means the company won’t have to change a key part of its business model … at least for now. I also have items about Uber’s involvement in a new lobbying group to promote autonomous vehicles, a new report on how ridesharing services could help fill the gaps in low-income communities not well served by transit and how some communities are trying to deal with the issues presented in allowing Uber to operate in their jurisdictions while protecting the interests of others. Plus updates on a couple of key conferences later this year you might want to attend.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the Prevalence of Healthy Sleep Duration among Adults—United States, 2014 report, which found that nearly 35 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-60 are not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. The average hours of sleep Americans get each night vary across states and across geographic locations, the average hours of sleep Americans get each night also vary across racial and ethnic groups, age groups, employment statuses, levels of educational attainment, and relationship statuses.The implications of sleep deprivation extend beyond individual health and can impact public safety and the workforce.

Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have produced a whirlwind of state government activity since 2013 with more than 30 states and the District of Columbia approving legislation to address the legality of the services and a host of other issues. The issue of the adequacy of insurance for rideshare drivers has produced some of the most significant questions for lawmakers. A model law developed by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators has become a template for many of the state laws passed in recent months but some states have approved rideshare laws with unique features.

As Washington, D.C.’s Metro system marked its 40th anniversary last month, concerns about damage caused by a fire near the McPherson Square station prompted a 29-hour shutdown of the hugely important regional transit system and prompted much speculation about what could lie ahead for Metro. Meanwhile, Boston’s transit agency moved to cut back late night service on the T as officials said it was too expensive and impacted maintenance schedules on the nation’s oldest subway system, which opened in 1897. I also have items below on states and communities around the country that are moving to invest in transit expansion.

Lawmakers in Kentucky and Tennessee have considered bills this session that would allow the states to enter into public-private partnerships (P3s) to enable transportation projects. But both would place limitations on what kinds of projects could be undertaken. I also have a variety of updates on P3s and tolling from around the country as well as details on how you can attend this summer’s most essential forum on the state of the P3 industry.

Many believe that taxes paid at the gas pump are what financially support roads, bridges, buses, trains and other public transit. While it is true that gas tax revenues are used to build and maintain transportation infrastructure, this revenue stream is no longer sufficient to pay for public transportation needs. Several states have begun to explore alternatives to the gas tax, such as the road usage charge—also known as the mileage-based user fee and the Vehicle Miles Traveled method. This eCademy session from The Council of State Governments West provided an overview of the road usage charge, as well as an update on how pilot programs are beginning to take shape in a few Western states.

On Monday, March 21st, the House approved a measure which provides a short-term extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs through July 15, 2016. The current authorization was scheduled to expire on March 31, and this will give lawmakers more time to enact long-term, comprehensive legislation.

On page 723 of the $305 billion, five-year federal surface transportation legislation approved by Congress last year is a $95 million grant program that some believe could help determine whether there will ever be another long-term transportation bill and that appears likely to put states at the forefront of determining the future of transportation funding. Section 6020 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation--or FAST--Act requires the U.S. secretary of transportation to set up a program to “provide grants to states to demonstrate user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that utilize a user fee structure to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.” Although the language was left intentionally vague, the program is being viewed as a way to further explore the possibilities of the mileage-based user fee concept being pioneered by Oregon and other states.

"After 10 years of uncertainty and 36 short-term extensions, it’s wonderful to start the year with a five-year transportation bill,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said to applause at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 13.

Signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 4, 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act authorizes federal highway, highway safety, transit and rail programs through fiscal year 2020 and provides $305 billion in funding from the Highway Trust Fund and the General Fund. The legislation is the first long-term surface transportation bill passed by Congress since 2005.

None were happier to see the bill pass than state transportation officials.

Across the country, transportation options are being deployed to revitalize communities, revive sluggish economies and change the way we live and work. In particular, transit stops have become a focal point for many areas hoping to generate the development of office, retail and commercial spaces and flourishing neighborhoods around them.

Pages