CSG South

In the last 30 years or so, particularly in the early years of the 21st century, there has been renewed interest in commuter trains across the country, including in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states. This renewed interest has been propelled for a variety of reasons: commuters choosing rail over cars for convenience; easing traffic congestion; reducing air pollution; promoting economic development; and boosting property values. Consequently, multiple metropolitan regions in SLC member states continue to operate commuter rail systems and expand their operations, even initiating new networks. Given that these initiatives have emerged in transit-starved areas, this increased momentum to introduce or expand commuter rail systems is a direct response to the demands and expectations of businesses and the workforce. Information on recent efforts in the SLC states to enhance the light rail capacities in their transportation plans, an important cog in any multimodal strategy, is detailed in this SLC Regional Resource.

The November-December issue of Capitol Ideas magazine features my article on how states and communities are working to improve transportation mobility for older Americans. One of the experts featured in the article is Beth Osborne, vice president for technical assistance at Transportation for America in Washington, D.C. Osborne, a veteran of both the U.S. Department of Transportation and Capitol Hill, in recent years has been working with states on the implementation of complete streets policies. Complete streets are streets designed for safe access by all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. In this extended excerpt of our conversation, Osborne talks about how complete streets can benefit seniors, how complete streets implementation processes have evolved, how the process differs from state to state, the promise of rideshare companies and autonomous vehicles for improving senior mobility and what kinds of policies state officials should consider during the 2017 legislative sessions. Osborne will be among the presenters next month at Transportation for America’s Capital Ideas II conference in Sacramento, for which CSG is a promotional partner.

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.

For many years synonymous with car culture and some of the nation’s worst traffic, the city of Los Angeles is in the midst of what city leaders hope will be an extended period of investment in public transit that is already transforming how Los Angelenos live, work and play.  

The 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. wrapped up on May 20 with a panel discussion on transit-oriented development and building communities. Panelists included Marco Li Mandri, the President of California-based New City America, a company that works on business district revitalization efforts around the country; Angela Fox, the president and CEO of the Crystal City, Virginia Business Improvement District; and Michael Stevens, president of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District in Washington, which was the home base for this year’s policy academy. They discussed the evolving responsibilities of state legislation-enabled business improvement districts in managing neighborhoods around transit hubs and the roles played by retail, restaurants, residential, office space, parks, sports facilities and transit in ensuring their success. This page includes extended excerpts of their remarks from the panel discussion, links to PowerPoint presentations and related reading and photos from both the panel and a subsequent tour of the Capitol Riverfront BID.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, D.C. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 19 as part of the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he talks about ASCE’s recent report “Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future.” He also discusses the importance of factoring in operations and maintenance costs and the overall lifecycle costs of projects as the investment price tag is considered, how much the federal gas tax would need to go up and how much individuals might have to pay on a daily basis to close the infrastructure investment gap, and whether public-private partnerships might help to close the gap.

Ten state legislators from around the country, chosen in consultation with the CSG regions, attended the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy May 18-20, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The academy took place against the backdrop of Infrastructure Week, a week of infrastructure-themed events in the National’s Capital and elsewhere. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in Infrastructure Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and to meet with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation. They took part in a policy roundtable with stakeholders and experts from such organizations as the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Transportation for America, the Eno Center for Transportation and the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure. In addition, they attended briefings on state regulation of rideshare companies, autonomous and connected vehicle technologies and transit-oriented development. The group also toured the area around Navy Yard, a rapidly developing, transit-centric D.C. neighborhood that is home to Nationals Baseball Park and the U.S. DOT headquarters. And they heard remarks from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne about the commonwealth’s efforts to reform its processes for transportation project selection and public-private partnership deployment. This page includes photos from the three-day academy, the complete agenda for the event and links to web pages where you can read extended excerpts of remarks from many of the speakers, view their PowerPoint presentations and find additional materials.

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.

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.

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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