PT Express 09-25-20
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September 25, 2020 | An APTA Publication
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APTA Urges House to Provide $32 Billion of COVID-19 Emergency Transit Funding

In a private meeting Sept. 24, House Democratic leaders indicated that the U.S. House of Representatives may consider a new, approximately $2.4 trillion COVID-19 bill next week. This bill will provide $1 trillion less than the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act, which passed the House in May. (The Heroes Act included $15.75 billion of emergency transit funding.) This new legislation is an effort by House Democrats to offer a “compromise bill” and restart the COVID-19 negotiations with the White House and Senate Republicans.

APTA is urging its members to contact their representatives and urge them to include $32 billion in funding in the new COVID-19 bill.

Although the $25 billion of CARES Act funding has served as a lifeline for public transit, more than 93 percent of these funds are already obligated.

If Congress does not provide the $32 billion, more than 6 in 10 public transit agencies will have to cut service or furlough staff. Eight in 10 large transit agencies are also considering delaying, deferring, or cancelling capital projects to close their budget gaps. Nearly one-half of transit businesses expect to be forced to lay off employees without additional emergency funding. In addition, one-third of transit businesses are concerned that they may go out of business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Please click here for APTA’s Talking Points.
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House Passes Bill to Extend Transportation Appropriations and Surface Transportation Authorization Acts

Prevents $6 Billion Across-the-Board Cut to Public Transit Agencies; Provides $3.2 Billion to Mass Transit Account
 
This week, the House passed H.R. 8337, the “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act,” which addresses both the transportation appropriations and surface transportation issues. The bill prevents a federal government shutdown and continues current appropriations through Dec. 11. It also includes a one-year extension of the surface transportation authorization act. The Senate is scheduled to consider the bill next Tuesday.

In the past 30 years, Congress has never enacted a one-year extension of surface transportation authorization programs after the lapse of a multi-year authorization act. This bill, if enacted, will provide public transit agencies with much-needed certainty regarding public transit funding in FY 2021, and is a direct result of APTA’s advocacy efforts with its coalition partners. Please click here to view the Coalition letter.

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas applauded the bill, saying it is “critical to the industry and it will provide certainty to capital programs. Congress still needs to address the dire situation faced by public transportation systems large and small, from coast-to-coast. As ongoing COVID-19 emergency funding conversations occur on Capitol Hill, APTA implores both chambers of Congress and the Administration to provide at least $32 billion in critical federal support to enable the industry to survive during this unprecedented pandemic.”
 
Please click here to view the APTA Press Release.

The bill authorizes at least $12.6 billion for public transit investment and includes several critical priorities:
  • Authorizes public transit funding for FY 2021 at amounts equal to the FY 2020 authorization as provided by the FAST Act and distributes the funds in the same manner as the prior year;
  • Prevents a $6 billion across-the-board cut of FY 2021 transit formula funds to each public transit agency by prohibiting application of the Rostenkowski Test;
  • Deposits $3.2 billion in the Mass Transit Account (MTA) of the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that the MTA will not run out of funds and FTA will be able to process grants in the upcoming fiscal year; and
  • Extends the authorization for transit-oriented development projects for Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loans and loan guarantees (which expire Sept. 30, 2020) to Sept. 30, 2021.
 
To prevent a government shutdown, Congress must complete action on the bill and the President must sign it by Sept. 30.
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FTA and APTA Leaders Discuss Issues Facing Public Transit Industry
 
Nuria_&_K_Jane_Williams_x275(1)_1691553.jpgFTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams was the featured guest Sept. 24 in APTAU’s PERSPECTIVES webinar.
 
APTA Chair Nuria I. Fernandez, general manager and CEO, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA, interviewed Williams on the status of the industry and moving forward during a challenging time amid a global pandemic.
 
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FTA Announces Final Rule to Streamline Project Management Oversight for Major Capital Projects
 
FTA has announced a final rule amending regulations for Project Management Oversight of transit capital investments. It will reduce the number of projects subject to FTA oversight and modify the regulation to make it consistent with statutory changes. The final rule is published in the Federal Register.
 
“The number of transit capital projects and the infrastructure costs associated with them has increased significantly since the PMO program was first authorized in 1987,” said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “This rule tailors the level of FTA oversight to the real costs, complexities, and risks of major capital projects and right-sizes the role of federal oversight while eliminating unnecessary red tape for state and local leaders.”
 
The rule redefines a “major capital project” as a new fixed guideway project—or an expansion, rehabilitation or modernization of an existing fixed guideway system—with a total project cost of $300 million or more and with a federal investment of $100 million or more. The previous threshold defined a major capital project as a project costing $100 million or more but did not include federal support as a factor.
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USDOT Announces $320.6 Million for Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements
 
FRA has selected 50 projects in 29 states to receive competitive grant funding under the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program. The projects improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight service.
 
“This $320.6 million federal investment will upgrade U.S. rail infrastructure and enhance rail safety in communities across America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“We remain committed to helping address pressing transportation capital needs, particularly in rural areas,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “I am pleased that so many high-quality applications were submitted for worthwhile investments by the FRA.”  
 
Of the 50 projects, nine specifically address safety at highway-rail grade crossings, and deter illegal trespassing, the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. Thirty-two are located in Opportunity Zones, which were created to revitalize economically distressed communities using private investments.
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FTA Announces $6.2 Million for Transit Planning
 
FTA has announced the availability of $6.2 million in funding to support comprehensive planning to improve access to public transit. The competitive grant funds are provided through its Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning. The program funds comprehensive planning to encourage ridership, access, and economic and mixed-use development near public transit projects.
 
“Safe and convenient access to public transportation for all is a priority for FTA,” said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams. “This program is an excellent opportunity for communities to incorporate transit projects in their economic development planning.”
 
Examples of eligible projects include comprehensive planning studies around station areas for new fixed-guideway projects, such as light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail, or BRT systems that have a designated right of way.
 
The application period closes Oct. 26.
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REGISTER FOR THESE APTA EVENTS
 
Upcoming APTA Virtual Events
 
TRANScend: Critical Conversations for the Year Ahead
October 21-22
 
Connect with your peers and explore perspectives on the six biggest questions for the year ahead and how to rise above current challenges. Topics covered will include the long-term impacts of COVID-19, bringing passengers back, putting equity in the forefront, the changing landscape of cities, policing in a new era and more. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from thought leaders and exchange ideas! Learn more and register.
 
 
Upcoming Webinars
 
Innovations in Mobility Series
OMNY: New York MTA’s New Contactless Payment Platform
October 1
3:00–3:45 p.m. ET
 
New York MTA’s OMNY program is moving the region toward a fully contactless system, a transition with added urgency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The system enables payments by smartphone, other devices with digital wallets or contactless debit/credit card, and provides the capacity for future innovations like fare capping and multi-modal ticketing. This interview will explore the core functionalities MTA is building into the system, its impact on the ridership experience and the opportunities OMNY presents for enhancements to transit ticketing in the future. The series is presented by Uber | Routematch. Learn more and register.
 
 
Cybersecurity Risks and Implications for Public-Sector Agencies and Defense-in-Depth Strategies
October 6
3:00–4:30 p.m. ET
 
Cybersecurity threats have increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, with a major impact on the public sector and affecting the planning and security posture of communities and public transit agencies. Join APTA and the National League of Cities for an informative webinar on the implications of the cybersecurity threat landscape for transit agencies and the public sector. Hear about available resources and steps to take to eliminate vulnerabilities. Learn more and register.
 
 
APTA’s Emerging Leaders Program Class of 2020
Capstone Projects Webinar Series
 
Fare Incentive Programs
September 28
3:00–3:45 p.m. ET
 
Public transit riders regularly identify fares as one of the most important factors in whether to take transit. One way that agencies have tried to address declines in ridership is to institute innovative fare programs. While some programs aim to increase ridership through a lower (or even eliminated) fare, others connect transit to other shared modes. Through a survey of agencies and case studies of free fares, fare capping and mobile wallets, this presentation will analyze how agencies are using fare programs to address declining ridership. Learn more and register.
 
 
TCRP Up Close Webinar
September 30
2:00–3:00 p.m. ET
 
Sponsored by FTA, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) serves as a means for the public transportation industry to develop innovative near-term solutions to demands. TCRP reports and other tools help public transportation practitioners solve problems and inform decision makers. Learn more about TCRP and its research, available resources and how to get involved at this free webinar. In addition, the authors of two recently published TCRP reports will share their findings: Synthesis 148: Business Models for Mobile Fare Apps, and Research Report 215: Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook. Learn more and register.
 
 
In Case You Missed It
 
Missed APTA’s 2020 Sustainability & Multimodal Planning Workshop? Purchase access to on-demand content and learn techniques that increase efficiency, resiliency and integration. Hear from industry thought-leaders on topics related to service planning and scheduling in response to COVID-19, sustainable capital programming, equity in transit service planning and delivery, facilities planning, clean bus technologies, and route design and service planning for enhanced mobility. Learn more.
 
APTA’s webinars are archived and available to the public transit industry. Please click here to access APTA’s library of recordings and videos to keep informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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