The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Destination:Freedom

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

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July 13, 2009
Vol. 10 No. 30

Copyright © 2009
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 10th Year

Home Page: www.nationalcorridors.org

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
White House Sends Surface Transportation Extension Plan To Hill
New TTI Report Shows Increased Congestion Relief Brought
   By Public Transportation
Cities Lose Out On Road Funds From Federal Stimulus
  Commuter Lines…
Transit Improvements For South Jersey Move Closer To Implementation
MBTA Receives $51.5 Million Stimulus Boost
  Environmental Lines…
Saving Fuel, Cleaning Up The Air, Reducing Traffic
Canadian Pacific Orders Fuel Savers For 200 GE Locomotives
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Streetcar Lines…
Lahood, Blumenauer Christen New Portland Streetcars
 
  High-Speed Rail Lines…
The Daily Dig - High Speed Rail Edition
  Across The Pond…
Chaos Continues on the Berlin S-Bahn
Patience and Planning Required If Using Berlin’s Rail Transit System
Happy and Safe Summer to D:F Readers
  Commentary…
A Victory For Transit Riders In California, But Will It Help Elsewhere?
  Editorial…
Understanding – And Fixing ---
   The Current Crisis Requires A Deeper Understanding
   Of American History
  Publication Notes …


NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

White House Sends Surface Transportation Extension Plan To Hill

From DCStreetsblog On The Internet

WASHINGTON, DC, JULY 9 --- Today the Administration sent a brief proposal to Congress for an 18-month extension of the existing SAFETEA-LU surface transportation authorization. The text of the two-page proposal is below. The proposed extension, which must still be approved by Congress which may have its own ideas, would extend the highway and transit programs through March 2011 and provide $20B in General Funds to cover the short-fall in the Highway Trust Fund. The funds would have to be re-paid to the Treasury over 10 years. How specifically that would happen is not made clear. In previous statements, US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood indicated the desire for major reforms to be included in any extension bill. However, today’s proposal makes mention of only two or three relatively minor reforms which are detailed below.

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar previously indicated very strong opposition to any extension and has introduced a six-year authorization bill that he hopes Congress will pass this year. Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer has indicated support for an 18-month extension.

Administration Proposal for Stage 1 Reauthorization

This document outlines the Administration’s proposal for the first stage of surface transportation reauthorization, consisting of an 18-month plan to address the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and implement discrete, leading-edge capacity-building measures that a long-term reauthorization should expand upon. The following are the Administration’s core principles for this proposed 18-month reauthorization, which should be considered “Stage I” of the broader reauthorization process:

Highway Trust Fund Solvency

Analysis by the Department of Transportation shows the Highway Trust Fund running short of cash in late August or early September of this year. To extend the program 18 months at the baseline funding level will require $18 billion for the highway account and $2 billion for the transit account. Legislation to address the HTF shortfall should pass before August recess to avoid disruptions to state cash management and further strain on state budgets.

The Administration believes this transfer should be repaid to the general fund over the next ten years. A revenue measure that repays the general fund contemporaneously (i.e., over the two year period) is not feasible given the economic situation and the pressing needs of the transportation system. Instead, the Administration would support a range of options, including international tax enforcement proposals the President included in his budget.

Downpayment on Reform

Although an extension of the HTF is urgent, the Administration believes that this opportunity can be used to put in place a limited set of carefully thought-out reforms that can form the basis for further reforms in a full six-year reauthorization.

Investing for Performance

The Administration strongly supports improving investment decisions at the federal, state, and local levels of government. Establishing performance goals and basing project selection on merit criteria will increase returns to transportation investment, which have fallen precipitously in recent decades. The following are concrete reform proposals with 18-month costs:

Improving state and MPO project evaluation capacity (Cost: $300 million). The Administration proposes funding to help states and localities build capacity for collection and analysis of data on transportation goals. States and MPOs that choose to participate would be given funding to establish project evaluation infrastructure, including information on usage or ridership, accidents and fatalities, average speeds and travel times, and environmental impacts. This voluntary program would provide participating entities the opportunity to integrate analysis into investment decisions and prepare for improved accountability standards and merit criteria in the long-term reauthorization.

Improving project assessment tools (Cost: $10 million). As states and localities build informational and analytic capacity, the federal government must work to refine assessment tools and develop standards for cross-modal comparisons of projects. The Administration proposes funding for USDOT to develop performance goals and establish guidelines for states and localities on project evaluation.

Increasing transparency in state and local public reporting (Cost: Low). The Administration also proposes stronger requirements for tracking and reporting on the projected and actual outcomes of transportation investments that use federal dollars. These requirements would include information on project costs, timelines, and selection process as well as expected and actual outcomes of individual projects. Improved reporting requirements would increase the transparency of transportation spending and improve state and local decision-making. These requirements would also lay the groundwork for further accountability reforms in the long-term reauthorization

Regional Access and Livability Initiatives

The Administration supports efforts to improve regional access and mobility and enhance the livability of communities. Possible reforms in Stage I reauthorization could include:


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New TTI Report Shows Increased Congestion Relief
Brought By Public Transportation

From Internet Sources

JULY 10 --- The 2009 Urban Mobility Report, (http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/) from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University finds that public transportation saved 646 million hours of travel delay in 2007. The report’s analysis of the 2007 data also shows that without public transportation, both congestion costs and time wasted due to congestion would have been 16 percent higher.

“This highly respected report, which shows that traffic congestion is still a major problem on our nation’s roads, also drives home the value of public transit in helping to reduce congestion,” said APTA President William Millar. 


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Cities Lose Out On Road Funds From Federal Stimulus

From The New York Times

JULY 8 --- Large metropolitan areas around the country are getting a disproportionate amount from the federal stimulus money for roads and bridges and other transportation projects. There is a history of states giving short shrift to large urban transportation projects in favor of spending more in outlying areas, and it appears the same thing is happening with the stimulus money, according to a story in the New York Times by Michael Cooper and Griff Palmer.

“Two-thirds of the country lives in large metropolitan areas, home to the nation’s worst traffic jams and some of its oldest roads and bridges. But cities and their surrounding regions are getting far less than two-thirds of federal transportation stimulus money.”

Of the of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far (according to the New York Times analysis) “the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money.” Robert Puentes of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, is more in favor of targeting the money where the most complex transportation problems are –such as the large cities. He says states are taking the “peanut butter” approach, spreading the dollars around thinly, and that may not be the best way to stimulate the economy.

A little more than half of the $26.6 billion transportation stimulus will be spent on “pavement improvement” projects, mostly repaving rutted and potholed roads. Nearly one-tenth of it will be spent to fix or replace bridges and more than a quarter of the money will be spent to widen roads or build new roads or bridges.

Many analysts see this stimulus distribution by states as a spotlight on the continuation of a troubling trend that has favored highway dependent sprawl over investments to revitalize city centers. Much of the money has been diverted to districts of powerful members of Congress rather than where it is needed the most to help bring back our cities to a healthy state.

Three quarters of the country’s economic activity takes place in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, according to the NYT story, and in most cases, that is where the largest traffic jams are.

A study by the Texas Transportation Institute released last week found that traffic jams in 2007 cost urban Americans 2.8 billion gallons of wasted gas and 4.2 billion hours of lost time.

Cleveland lost out on the $200 million needed to rebuild a 50-year-old bridge that is so deteriorated that trucks are no longer allowed on it.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Pat McCrory lamented the tiny amount –only $7.8 million of the $423 million for his state --- going to Mecklenburg County, the most populous area of the state and the home of Charlotte.

The NYT story states, “Mayors had lobbied Congress to send the money directly to cities, but in the end, 70 percent of the money was sent to the states to be divided, and 30 percent was sent to metropolitan planning organizations, which represent the local governments in many metropolitan areas.”

There is still a chance for cities to get more since large metropolitan areas were not bound by the June 30 deadline to apply for the grants. Also, Obama’s plan - $8.4 billion for intercity and high-speed rail will direct money to the cities, as will the $1.5 billion for projects of national and regional significance.

Obama has said he wants transportation projects to be directed toward ending sprawl and intends to evaluate projects on that basis. His administration will be watching to see that money from the ARRA -- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – is spent wisely toward this goal and not wasted.

“The transparency that comes with Recovery Act funds is letting us see what’s happening in real time, and that’s a good thing,” said Roy Kienitz, an under secretary of transportation for policy. “Understanding where recovery dollars go and why will help us determine how to shape long-term transportation policies with the goal of getting the most benefit for every dollar.”

The article, pix and a graph of how the 20 largest metro areas fared at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/us/09projects.html?_r=1&hp

(Note editorial below on this subject.)


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

Transit Improvements For South Jersey
Move Closer To Implementation

By David Peter Alan

Southern New Jersey may soon enjoy better transit. The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) announced its preference for upgrading an existing rail line for restored passenger service, rather than building a new rail line in the median of a highway. This decision received widespread popular support at four “open house” meetings held in South Jersey in June, and has been hailed as a major victory by rail advocates in the Garden State.

Two of the proposals which DRPA considered involved construction of a new rail line in the median of either Route 42 or Route 55. Rail advocates preferred “Alternative 3”; restoration of service on an existing rail line, which was operated by the former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL). For the proposed service, DRPA chose light rail over the alternative of extending the existing Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) line, an electrified heavy rail line which runs between Philadelphia and Lindenwold, New Jersey. PATCO is a subsidiary of DRPA, which also operates bridges over the Delaware River and the River Link ferry between Philadelphia and Camden.

The proposed line would extend from Camden to Glassboro, a former center for glass manufacture and home of Rowen University. The line would connect with New Jersey Transit’s River Line in Camden, and service could eventually be extended to Millville, where passenger trains ran until 1971.

DRPA’s overall plan for transit improvements in the region also calls for bus service enhancements along Routes 42 and 55. In addition, the Atlantic City Rail Line will be upgraded to include a new intermodal transfer center at Woodcrest (a station on the PATCO Line) and a new station to serve the Atlantic City Airport.

According to DRPA, the preferred alternative will encourage transit-oriented development and redevelopment in the towns along the line, in addition to the environmental benefits that come with increased rail use. DRPA’s web site, www.drpa.org, also praised the plan as providing good value for the money invested: “At close to $1B less than any of the other alternatives studied, this alternative can be implemented along with additional improvements for less than the more costly alternatives, allowing us to address more of our needs and build more of our web.”

Although some local residents and politicians criticized the plan at the June meetings, many elected leaders in the region support it, as does New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine. A proposal for a line to Glassboro was defeated in 1996, but DRPA officials believe that times have changed. According to DRPA CEO and PATCO President John J. Matheussen, “We have support in Trenton, we have a commitment for funding form the Transportation Trust Fund, we have the support of our Board and we have heard from residents in South Jersey that they want and support expanded mass transportation.”

One of these residents is Jeffrey Marinoff, Vice-Chair of New Jersey Transit’s South Jersey Transit Advisory Committee. Marinoff and other rail advocates in the region campaigned for restoration of service along the line that DRPA eventually selected. “We have been pushing long and hard to get it through the towns, like the River Line” he said. The River Line stops at Bordentown, Burlington and other historic towns on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River.

The New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP) has also consistently supported the alternative that DRPA selected. NJ-ARP Director Albert L. Papp, Jr. praised the choice of using the rail line that serves existing communities, saying: “Rail is the catalyst for restoring community and cohesiveness to our towns and weaning the residents of those towns away from their dependence on an overly auto-centric culture.”

South Jersey once had an extensive passenger rail network but, except for the PATCO Line, all service had disappeared from the region by the early 1980s. Passenger trains between Philadelphia and Atlantic City were restored in 1989. The River Line, a diesel light rail service between Trenton and Camden, began operation in 2004. There is currently no connection between the two lines, but NJT plans to build a transfer station in the near future. At the present time, riders must take the PATCO line between Camden and Lindenwold to travel between River Line points and destinations on the Atlantic City Rail Line.

Rail advocates in northern and central New Jersey have complained that politicians from South Jersey are too demanding when they push for transit in their region, considering the vastly higher population density and established transit network in the northern part of the state. However, it appears that residents of the towns in South Jersey now want better rail transit, too, and it also appears that they will soon have it.

[ Ed. Note: Click this link for specifics and planning maps - http://www.drpa.org/projects/regtran/ ]


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Passengers at Attleboro Platform

PBN File Photo / Victoria Arocho  

Commuters, like those above preparing to board a train in Attleboro [MA] last fall, would pay 19.5 percent more to ride the train and other services offered by the MBTA under fare increases the agency is considering.
MBTA Receives $51.5 Million Stimulus Boost

 

From Web News On The Internet
Staff writer - Meghna Chakrabarti

 

BOSTON, JULY 9 — The MBTA will receive $51.5 million from the federal stimulus program, according to an announcement made Thursday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Transportation Authority, reeling from a debt load of approximately $8 billion, will use $43 million of the money for improvements to commuter rail, specifically on the Haverhill and Fitchburg lines. The projects include new track circuits, new switches and grade crossing improvements.

Other funds will go to station, signage and signal system upgrades.

“We are committed to improving the quality and reliability of commuter rail service throughout the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Patrick in a statement. “These recovery investments will help create jobs, improve our infrastructure and strengthen our long-term economy.”

The 19.5 percent fare increase, which was announced last Friday, will be implemented anyway. It is slated to raise $69 million annually and will be used for operating deficits and debt payments. A timeline has not been set for when the increase will start.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

Saving Fuel, Cleaning Up The Air, Reducing Traffic

Volvo Hybrid Bus in London

Volvo Hybrid Bus

LONDON ---Six new hybrid double deck buses will provide service on Route 141 in London. The B5L Hybrid Double Deck is made by Volvo and uses the company’s I-SAM (Integrated Starter, Alternator, Motor) technology, which was developed for use across the whole group’s heavy vehicles. No specific figure yet on fuel economy, CO2, or NOx emissions, but a Volvo 7700 Hybrid Single Deck in Gothenburg has been showing better than expected fuel economy (around 30% improvement). London might show even better results since the stops are closer to each other.

Green Car Congress wrote this in 2007 about the Volvo hybrid tech: “The I-SAM (Integrated Starter, Alternator, Motor) parallel hybrid system comprises a starter motor, drive motor and alternator fit between the clutch and the I-Shift automatic transmission. It supports regenerative braking; electric launch and assist; electrification of power steering, air compressor and air conditioning; and idle avoidance.”

The hybrid bus can move up to 12 MPH in all-electric mode, and over that the diesel engine kicks in. One of the main benefits of the hybrid system in an urban area will certainly be the reduced smog-forming emissions. We hope that Volvo will update us soon with those numbers.

How About Natural Gas Hybrid Buses?

But to go even farther in that direction - short of an all electric battery or fuel cell bus - would be to have a CNG (compressed natural gas) hybrid bus. Such a bus (they exist) would certainly have very low PM and NOx emissions compared to even diesel hybrids, which is crucial in urban areas. And if the natural gas could be sourced from methaned captured in a landfill, it would even be close to carbon neutral. Are you listening, Volvo?

We all know that the more cars there are on the streets, the more traffic, the more congestion and the more idling. This is bad for the air quality in our cities and in our lungs. Luckily, science and technology have stepped up to the plate and provided us with bus tracking systems.

Bus tracking systems are not uniform from city to city. Atlanta, Georgia, has a solar-powered bus tracking system called WaitLess. This system displays the in-motion buses at bus stops, so citizens, who may be thinking about taking the bus, can choose whether to wait or to walk.

Seattle, Washington, has a bus tracking system called OneBusAway which allows riders to call a number ( 206-456-0609) and obtain instant information about the bus that they are waiting for.

Not every city has this wonderful bus-stop technology, but more and more cities are adopting these practices, including Duluth. It is likely that most serious cities will have a bus tracking system within the next decade or so. Check with your local public transit authorities and find if they offer any bus tracking systems.

Meanwhile, NextBus provides a state-by-state, city-by-city, route-by-route account of buses tracked by its system. Just find your personal state, city and route, and the site will give you a prediction on when your bus will arrive, kind of like a Nostradamus for buses.


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Canadian Pacific Orders Fuel Savers
For 200 GE Locomotives

From Railway Age And Ecomagination Website

JULY 9 -- GE Transportation announced Thursday that it will equip 200 Canadian Pacific locomotives with its Trip Optimizer fuel management system. The order follows revenue-service tests, involving intermodal trains of various lengths that showed fuel savings ranging from 6% to 10%, depending on territory.

Trip Optimizer, a product of Ecomgination, is described as “an advanced energy management system that optimizes fuel consumption based on a specific train’s makeup and the route being traveled. GE’s Trip Optimizer™ System determines the optimum speed profile over a trip or route to minimize travel time and fuel consumption. The optimization reduces unnecessary braking due to “running-up” on speed limits, braking before inclines, and braking to control over speeds while reducing or eliminating the variation in driving techniques between drivers.

Environmental impact

Using a sophisticated system of sensors, on-board computers, and GPS, GE’s Trip Optimizer™ System can create an optimal speed profile, typically reducing fuel consumption and particulate matter by approximately 10 percent.

Installing GE’s Trip Optimizer™ System could reduce GHG emissions by 365 tons/year per locomotive. If Trip Optimizer™ System was installed in 1,500 GE Evolution Locomotives, the GHG emission reductions would be equivalent to removing 95,000 cars from the roads for a year or the amount of CO2 absorbed by approximately 498,700 acres of forest.

Trip Optimizer uses GPS, a digital track database, and advanced track algorithms that automatically learn the train’s characteristics throughout the trip to achieve the fuel savings.”

For more on this story, visit: Railway Age Breaking News http://www.railwayage.com//content/view/1006/121/.


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STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...

Source: MarketWatch.com

   This
Week
Previous
Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)68.9671.14
Canadian National (CNI)39.1241.86
Canadian Pacific (CP)33.6538.66
CSX (CSX)32.0333.22
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)24.9425.35
Kansas City Southern (KSU)15.4615.97
Norfolk Southern (NSC)36.6536.90
Providence & Worcester (PWX)11.4612.00
Union Pacific (UNP)50.3750.90


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STREETCAR LINES... Streetcar Lines...  

Lahood, Blumenauer Christen New Portland Streetcars

From Dcstreetsblog On Internet

Transportation Secretary LaHood and Congressman Earl Blumenauer examine Portland’s streetcars

Photo: Streeblog.org

Transportation Secretary LaHood and Congressman Earl Blumenauer examine Portland’s streetcars

PORTLAND, OR, JULY 1 -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) in Portland today to christen the city’s new fleet of made-in-the-U.S. streetcars.

The streetcars, the first to be crafted in America in 58 years, are manufactured by Oregon Iron Works. The 65-year-old company has won agreements to build six for the city of Portland and seven for the city of Tuscon, Arizona.

Check out a close-up of Portland’s new ride after the jump, courtesy of Blumenauer’s office.


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HIGH SPEED LINES... High-Speed Rail Lines...  

The Daily Dig - High Speed Rail Edition

Posted The Infrastructurist - Briefs

Japan's N700 series High-speed trainset in 2007

Photo: Infrastructurist

The future for the USA maybe? Japan’s N700 high-speed train set at its debut two year’s ago in July 2007.


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Correspondent

Chaos Continues On The Berlin S-Bahn

After DBAG Subsidiary Flubs Wheel Inspections Capacity Drops By Nearly Half

Via various sources including N24, Zeit Online, NDR Info Radio and ZDF-TV

Berlin – Nearly a week after federal authorities moved to make the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary company, which operates the Berlin S-Bahn commuter transit system, begin repetitive inspection of wheels of certain models of trains in use with the company, chaos ruled the region as hundreds of scheduled trains were canceled. More than half the fleet is affected by the inspections. The action by the German EBA came after audits by the German rail safety agency determined that the company had ignored safety directives issued after an S-Bahn train failed in-service due to a cracked wheel, as reported in D:F last week. Worst affected has been the ET 481 EMU fleet, of which there are nearly 500 train sets in operation on the Berlin S-Bahn.

Deutsche Bahn laid out a six-point plan for recovery from the chaos, after asking for the resignation of four top managers last week. Since then the company has faced massive criticism at many levels for the current situation, including critical commentary over its decisions in the past ten years to reduce in-house maintenance capability for the rail fleet and instead subcontract much of the routine maintenance to companies which supplied the rolling stock. The six-point plan includes issuing updated train schedules which will reflect reality for the next several months, increasing frequency of regional trains along the “Stadtbahn”, which is the major east-west rail corridor through the city of Berlin. Two of the tracks along the “Stadtbahn” are dedicated to the Berlin S-Bahn’s DC third rail power system and unique signaling and train protection system, but the other parallel tracks along this route are standard configuration with AC overhead electrification, on which DB will run additional regional commuter trains to make-up partially for lost capacity of the S-Bahn line. Other points of the plan include providing free services to monthly pass holders in December and increasing bus frequencies on certain routes parallel to S-Bahn routes.

Additional measures to alleviate the situation are still under discussion. The rather unique configuration of the Berlin S-Bahn’s DC third rail power supply and signaling / positive train control system rule out the short term use of EMUs from other German cities, which have AC overhead powered EMUs equipped with the national rail network’s standard PZB and SiFa signaling and train control / protection equipment. Only Hamburg has a somewhat similar standard of S-Bahn rolling stock to Berlin’s, but with a different power supply voltage and altogether different train control and signaling system, therefore this equipment is also not suitable for Berlin. Reports from various sources indicate that the Berlin S-Bahn is even looking into leasing museum / historic Berlin S-Bahn EMUs retired from the system many years ago and now placed in various museums and classic train collections, as a potential source of relief.


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Traveler’s Advisory to D:F Readers –

 

Patience and Planning Required
If Using Berlin’s Rail Transit System

D:F readers who may be visiting Berlin within the next 3 – 5 months should plan their visit to Berlin carefully with the knowledge that traveling within the city may be far more complicated than it was just two weeks ago. Trips which rely heavily on use to the S-Bahn system should either be avoided or replanned to use other modes of transit, including Berlin’s extensive bus, subway (U-Bahn) and street tram networks. Conventional commuter trains operated by DB Regio (RE and RB services) and by other rail companies are operating normally, if not with extra services to help commuters with avoiding the S-Bahn system. If traveling via Berlin’s S-Bahn rail network is unavoidable, then be prepared for much longer than usual intervals between trains as well as heavy overcrowding on the trains which operate. Readers can also check the Berlin transit authority web page for more updates at: http://www.bvg.de


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Happy and Safe Summer to D:F Readers

Family and I going to Croatia and Southern France for Vacation

To our readers – have a safe and pleasant summer – and if you can, travel this summer by Amtrak and other passenger rail providers. See you in about four weeks with more reports from Europe and beyond.

- David Beale.

 

The newly electrified Lübeck (Germany) main train station

Photo: David Beale

The juice is on – view of the newly electrified Lübeck (Germany) main train station on a quiet Saturday afternoon in July 2009. The rail station, along with the main line to Hamburg, was electrified in a major multi-million euro project during 2006 to 2008.


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COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

A Victory For Transit Riders In California,
But Will It Help Elsewhere?

By David Peter Alan

Last week we reported on a victory for transit riders and managers in California. The California Appellate Division, Third District, held that funds dedicated for “mass transit” may not be used for another purpose, even for providing another form of transportation. The unanimous decision required the State to return money to the Public Transportation Account after it had been transferred to accounts for such purposes as school bus programs and special transportation for the disabled.

Proposition 116, the Clean Air and Transportation Act of 1990, required that specific tax revenues be set aside for “planning and mass transportation” purposes. In its opinion, the court used the terms “mass transit,” “public transit” and “public transportation” interchangeably.

The victory could not have come at a better time for transit providers in California, or for California’s rail and transit riders. Due to its financial difficulties, the State has essentially eliminated aid to transit this fiscal year. Funds from the 1990 Act were originally used for capital projects on the state’s rail and transit lines. Two of the largest beneficiaries of grants were MetroLink, the expanding commuter rail system in the Los Angeles area and Amtrak’s California corridors. New rail transit was built in San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose and other places since the grant program began.

While the State has announced its intention to appeal the court’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, it is unlikely that the decision will be reversed. The decision was unanimous, and the court’s construction of the applicable statutes was reasonable. It does not appear to this writer that the court made the sort of error that would cause the Supreme Court to reverse the decision, even though the Appellate Division had reversed the original ruling by the trial judge. There is also no reason for the case to go into the Federal Court system, since it concerned only issues of state law.

The Supreme Court can either decide to hear the case, or it could deny the appeal and let the recent Appellate Division ruling stand. If the Court hears the case, it could reverse the Appellate Division or specifically affirm it. If the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case, California’s transit providers and riders will keep the victory they have just won. If the Court affirms the Appellate Division, the victory will be even stronger, because Supreme Court authority has greater legal standing than an opinion of the Appellate Division. Of course, if the recent ruling should be reversed, victory will turn into defeat.

It is unclear how much the California ruling will help transit providers and riders in other states. No other state is required to follow it, although California decisions can be persuasive to courts in other states, if cases in the other states raise the same issues. California opinions, especially from the state’s Supreme Court, are highly-regarded by judges in other states, and are often followed. For example, the opinions of Justice Roger Traynor, who served on the California Court from 1940 to 1970, helped set the tone for universally-accepted principles of law in the fields of negligence and statutory construction, even though these are fields where all law is made at the State (not Federal) level.

The appropriation process is different in every state, and all states have their own statutes that govern funding for transit and other transportation purposes. California is unique for its emphasis on law-making through public initiatives approved by voters. Many of California’s statutes started as “Propositions” ranging from taxation to social relationships. The controversial “Proposition 8” restricts “marriage” to heterosexual couples and was enacted by a referendum vote. When the voters enact a statute in this manner, the Legislature is bound by it.

The court’s discussion of issues concerning Proposition 116 and the California Legislature are unique to the Golden State and will probably have little persuasive value in other states. Every state has statutes, however, and the California court carefully interpreted the state’s statutes that concern funding for transit. This is the sort of issue where courts in other states could look to California for precedent.

For now, Californians have won a victory. Time will tell if it will hold, but this seems likely. If it holds, it could also make a positive difference for transit providers and riders in other states. Again, time will tell.


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EDITORIAL... Editorial...  

Understanding – And Fixing --- The Current Crisis
Requires A Deeper Understanding Of American History

By James P. RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom

This past week’s New York Times carried an important article on the current economic crisis and the Obama Government’s “Stimulus” response to it. Entitled, “Cities Lose Out on Road Funds”, it ran July 8 and was written by NY Times infrastructure specialist Michael Cooper and his colleague Griff Palmer.

The article, which can be found along with other infrastructure-related stories at www.nytimes.com by searching for “Michael Cooper”, identifies the so-far rurally-slanted funneling of Stimulus monies thus far distributed, even though most Americans now live and work in cities. Summarized elsewhere in this issue of D:F, the article is important not so much for the story it directly relates, which is straightforward enough, but also for the hints about the impact of the long, deep, underlying American history that is slanting the Stimulus allocation process. Here is the gist:

“According to an analysis by The New York Times of 5,274 transportation projects approved so far — the most complete look yet at how states plan to spend their stimulus money — the 100 largest metropolitan areas are getting less than half the money from the biggest pot of transportation stimulus money. In many cases, they have lost a tug of war with state lawmakers that urban advocates say could hurt the nation’s economic engines.

The stimulus law provided $26.6 billion for highways, bridges and other transportation projects, but left the decision on how to spend most of it to the states, which have a long history of giving short shrift to major metropolitan areas when it comes to dividing federal transportation money. Now that all 50 states have beat a June 30 deadline by winning approval for projects that will use more than half of that transportation money, worth $16.4 billion, it is clear that the stimulus program will continue that
pattern of spending disproportionately on rural areas.”

Rural defenders have blogged onto The Times interactive site to denounce the article, but The Times reporters are quite right. Unless and until Americans begin to understand how and why it is right, we are going to continue to hobble ourselves as a nation by misallocating tax monies.

The root cause of this anti-urban slant goes back to the very founding of the country, to the battles between Thomas Jefferson (rural, agriculturalist) and Alexander Hamilton (urban, and a banker), and even before that, to the ratification of the Constitution in 1789: unless we understand why and how The Times is right, and begin to reverse the bias and take down our self-imposed barriers, we will continue our economic decline. It is that simple --- and that complex, because as we do so, we should and must maintain the essential infrastructure elements that our rural regions still need, and will continue to demand.

These barriers to recovery are as much a fixture of American political history as they are a simple fact: rural areas are over-represented in the Congress, and also in the state legislatures, because of our nation’s deeply rooted rural political bias.

For example, although it is largely forgotten now, the original idea for the make-up of both houses of Congress was proportional representation; this idea was favored by George Washington, who although saying little in the way of public speech-making during the debate on the Constitution, knew and understood that the nation needed a strong Federal government, with the power not only to tax, but to initiate and manage large projects, such as the Potomac-and-western canal championed by Washington after he stepped down as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental forces.

Washington, although a farmer himself, also understood the need for cities, commerce, and banking, because as Commander-in-Chief he and his army had endured extreme poverty at the hands of a weak Continental Congress that had virtually no central/commercial elements, and derived all its powers from the states.

Washington and his brilliant protégé Hamilton lost that debate to the rural interests, which in return for ratification of the Constitution demanded and got two Senators per state regardless of population, thereby instantly creating an American Federal government which, literally from Day 1, has vastly over-represented rural interests. We see the results of that bias throughout American history, in the way we have not only allocated transportation money, but have as a people made other decisions as well, such as choosing Presidents who are less progressive than the American people as a whole. For example, because the President is chosen by vote of the Electoral College, and because those electors are allocated based on each state’s representation in Congress, it is possible to elect a conservative President in what is actually a progressive nation: George W. Bush was elected President in 2000 because he won the electoral vote, even though Democratic Nominee Al Gore was the overwhelming choice of the American people.

The President’s Stimulus package is also showing a rural bias for another reason: the emphasis on “shovel-ready” projects. In a nation where we have overbuilt roads at the expense of nearly everything else, it should be no surprise that there are more highway projects ready to go for public funding than there are other kinds (transit, rail); and the early funding of some of these projects was therefore inevitable.

What we have to watch for, and which The Times we hope will continue to cover, is how we begin to change that bias, and begin to build up transportation systems, especially the long-neglected rail system that the President has specifically backed, that serves the cities where most people actually live. What the President needs to do is put his able Vice President, Joe Biden, in over-all charge of infrastructure (not just rail) and back him to the hilt. Meanwhile, the long, slow process of electoral reform must begin, and it needs this slogan: One American, One Vote.


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