Sean Slone

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Next week (May 18-20), The Council of State Governments will host a group of 10 state legislators from around the country at the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. As part of the academy, attendees will take part in activities around Infrastructure Week, a national week of events, media coverage, and education and advocacy efforts to elevate infrastructure as a critical issue. I have more about the academy and Infrastructure Week below as well as details about another key event CSG is involved with happening next month.

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.

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.

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.

Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly have introduced legislation (SB 908) being viewed as an effort to restrict the power of the governor to decide which transportation projects to fund. The legislation comes in the wake of Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision last summer to cancel a long-in-the-works plan for a light rail project in Baltimore. But Maryland may also be looking to follow in the footsteps of several states, including neighboring Virginia, that have taken a close look at their project selection processes in recent years as a means to increase transparency, improve accountability and shore up the public trust that scarce transportation dollars are being spent wisely.

The arrest of an Uber driver in connection with a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend has brought renewed focus to the rigor with which rideshare companies conduct background checks of their drivers. State and local governments have been looking at the background check issue in a number of ways as part of rideshare-related legislation over the past year. Here’s a primer.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo last week signed legislation to fund a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. Rhode Island, which ranks 50th out of 50 states in overall bridge conditions, has been one of the only northeast states that does not charge  commercial trucks a user fee. There is also a variety of other tolling-related news from around the country as well as updates on the states to watch on transportation funding this year. Plus details on how you can join us for next week’s CSG eCademy webinar on the subject.

Efforts around the country to revitalize downtowns and create economically vital and aesthetically pleasing communities, often centered on transit hubs, have created a greater need for a private-public entity that can manage these areas to ensure their long-term sustainability. While most states have laws on the books to enable these special districts, some experts say they are still too difficult to establish and that some of the decades-old laws may need to evolve to reflect the expanding mission of these districts and the changing nature of the communities they serve.

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