Thursday, March 30, 2017

Meanwhile, north of the border……

Having compared the most recent British transportation budget (here) to the awful U.S. budget document (here), I thought it would be useful to take a peek at the new Canadian budget (synopsis here).
In truth, it’s not as aggressive as I would have hoped, but there are definitely some steps in the right direction.
While the U.S. budget calls for eliminating the transit New Starts program – and foreshadows cuts in the formula programs – the Canadian budget calls for a greatly expanded program of federal aid for transit capital.  The budget earmarks $20 Billion Canadian over 5 years for Phase II of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.  (By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, this would translate to a program of about $30 Billion US a year in this country.)
The transit initiative is an element of a “Transportation 2030” strategic plan (here) which, although not as focused as I would like, includes an emphasis on “clean and innovative” transportation.

We look for more to come, Canadians, especially in these difficult times down south!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Meanwhile, across the pond…..

I wrote recently about the ugliness of the proposed transportation budget in this country (here).  As it turns out, the recent British budget for transportation provides a dramatic contrast – one that should make us shake our heads, or perhaps hope for better days.
The British budget lists 10 transportation programs targeted for increased funding (I won’t go into the differences in budgeting practices.  Suffice it to say that I’m referencing the mid-year UK “Autumn Statement” budget released last November, details here).  The 10 programs (translated into Americanese) are:
1.     Local aid,
2.     Strategic highway bottlenecks,
3.     Technology: EV charging infrastructure, alternative fuels, autonomous vehicles, etc.,
4.     Digital rail signaling,
5.     Oxford-Cambridge Growth Corridor
6.     Highway and rail flood resilience,
7.     Strategic highway studies,
8.     Smart ticketing for transit customers,
9.     Discretionary major local projects, and
10. Rail upgrades and realignment in Birmingham (a la CREATE).
Bear in mind this is from a Conservative government!

I particularly like the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Corridor project, which aims to coordinate new housing with rail and roadway improvements to support this strategic corridor (report here).  I think we call that planning.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just How Bad is the White House Transportation Budget?

Bad.  Just how bad is unknown, since we don’t have the details.  The budget summary document (available here) proposes a $2.4 Billion, or 13%, cut from baseline funding, but only 5 specific provisions are identified:
1.     Privatize air traffic control,
2.     Eliminate funding for long-distance Amtrak trains,
3.     Eliminate FTA’s New Starts program for transit (for projects not yet at the stage of “full funding agreement”),
4.     Eliminate the Essential Air Service program, and
5.     Eliminate funding for the TIGER discretionary funding program.
These changes certainly don’t add up to $2.4 Billion, and I have no idea how OMB plans to get to that number.  It won’t be pretty.
The 5 provisions themselves reflect the thinking of the 2016 Republican platform, although in less radical (or perhaps only introductory) form (see my comments on the platform here).
Ironically, two of the targets for cuts – Essential Air Service and Amtrak long-distance trains – are subsidies for transportation in mainly Red State “flyover” territory.
The largest and most consequential hit is transit New Starts.  This program is already starved for funds compared to demonstrated need – let alone what we should be doing to build an advanced, greatly expanded public transportation component for a resilient, sustainable 21st century transportation system.

What about the anticipated infrastructure initiative that is supposed to draw bipartisan support?  Certainly there is no money for anything like that here, adding to the suspicion that that initiative will focus on a giveaway of highways and bridges to concessionaires who will fund improvements through very high tolls.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

David Burwell RIP

I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of my old friend and colleague David Burwell.
David was a giant in the transportation reform community and had a real impact in changing how transportation happens in this country.  From rails-to-trails, to federal reauthorization, to land use and transportation, to climate change and transportation, he always seemed to be at the cutting edge, using his fertile mind and sharp wit to open up new possibilities.

David was also a real gentleman and a great guy.  We will miss him.