With growing mass transit needs and uncertainty about the future of federal funding, states like Georgia and Colorado look for new solutions to expand and maintain their transit systems. It has been suggested that the federal infrastructure investment President Donald Trump campaigned on could attract $1 trillion from the private sector. But his budget proposal shows federal cuts to transit, placing much of the responsibility for funding transit projects on localities...

If the recent pattern holds, 2017 could end up being a big year for state transportation funding efforts. In 2013, six states approved major transportation packages. In 2015, eight states followed suit. The intervening even-numbered years saw less activity, perhaps owing to shorter legislative sessions in some states and re-election concerns. But transportation policy analysts are confident this year won’t buck the odd-number year trend for a simple reason: It’s time.

Issue: States are seeking to change how transportation projects are selected by making project selection less political, determining which ones could have the best return on investment, factoring in long-term costs and reconsidering some long-planned projects that may no longer make sense in the modern age. Increasingly facing limited resources, they likely will need to do more of that in the future.

Issue: The 2016 election saw the passage of ballot measures to enable new transit investments in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle. But in Washington, D.C. and other cities, years of neglect of transit systems are burdening public officials with funding, safety and service challenges. Meanwhile, ride-hailing services are continuing to evolve to fill increasingly essential roles. As governments look to provide and enable all these mobility options, how do they ensure that successful communities are built around transit, that housing remains affordable and that those communities work for all their residents?

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.

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