With two months of 2018 in the books, there is plenty of evidence of state and local policymakers around the country seeking ways to invest in public transit, shore up existing assets and change how transit is governed and planned. From property tax revenue diversion to ride-hailing fees and from value capture to sales tax ballot measures, a variety of strategies are being deployed or contemplated as transit communities seek to deal with longstanding maintenance issues that may be contributing to recent declines in transit ridership, seek to increase density around transit hubs and seek to improve their odds of attracting the next major employer. Here’s a roundup of what’s going on.

CSG Midwest
Ridership on the region’s state-supported passenger rail routes has increased on almost every line over the past decade, according to Amtrak ridership data tracked by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.
CSG Midwest
The Federal Railroad Administration has formally launched an 18-month study that is exploring the long-term development of high-performance, intercity passenger rail service for the Midwest.
CSG Midwest
Ridership on seven of nine state-supported Amtrak routes in the Midwest has grown by leaps and bounds over the last 10 fiscal years, but has dropped during the last five — a situation that state officials attribute at least in part to construction projects that aim to increase ridership and improve travel times over the long term.
Total ridership on the routes grew 42 percent from fiscal years 2006 to 2016 (up to a total of 2,705,848 passengers), but dropped 8 percent from FY 2011 to FY 2016.
CSG Midwest
The latest tangible sign of high-speed passenger rail service in the Midwest should arrive before the year is out: New, state-of-the-art “Charger” locomotives are ready for delivery, attendees of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission’s annual meeting were told in September.
The locomotives, made in Sacramento, Calif., by Siemens, have been successfully tested along Amtrak’s Northeast corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City, and at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., said Dave Ward, vice president of Siemens Locomotives’ North America division.

While not likely to be a major issue in the fall campaign, the future of the nation’s infrastructure did receive some attention in the party platforms released last month in advance of the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions. The platforms reveal very different philosophies that could guide the federal government’s approach to infrastructure in the years to come and have a huge impact for states seeking to meet their future infrastructure needs. But the statements of the presidential candidates themselves on infrastructure issues are also prompting some attention this week.

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.

With the passage of the FAST Act by Congress in late 2015, states have some of the long-term certainty they have long sought in the federal transportation program. But can a mostly status quo, five-year transportation bill help states make up for years of inadequate investment in the nation's infrastructure. More than likely, more than a few will still feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of eight states that raised gas taxes in 2015. Some may also turn to tolling and public-private partnerships to help fund projects, although those tools in the toolbox have seen increasing scrutiny and criticism in some parts of the country. State officials face a variety of other challenges as well including how to plan for the technological and demographic changes that could radically alter the transportation landscape in the years ahead and how to deploy and enhance the kinds of transportation options that will make communities into livable, sustainable, economically vital places. Here are my top five transportation issues for 2016 along with more than 500 links to resources from CSG and a variety of other sources where you can read more.

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

CSG Midwest
An estimated 25 percent of all of the nation’s rail traffic goes through Chicago, where 56 Amtrak trains originate or terminate every day and where six of the nation’s seven largest railroads converge. But the Midwest’s largest city isn’t just a hub of rail transportation; it’s also known as a major “chokepoint”: a source of gridlock, poor on-time performance and dispatching problems. In October, Amtrak’s Chicago Gateway Blue Ribbon Panel released its recommendations for loosening the Chicago “chokepoint,” which poses a larger economic vulnerability to the U.S. economy than any other major rail hub. (A panel-commissioned study estimated that up to $799 billion in annual gross domestic product depends on freight rail service through Chicago.)

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