Tuesday, December 22, 2009

SAFETEA-LU extensions

In case you were afraid that SAFETEA-LU expired last week, fear not. The current expiration date is February 28, 2010 (this extension was signed into law by Pres. Obama as part of the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 3326).

Although nowhere near a done deal, the House-passed "jobs bill" (H.R. 2847) would further extend SAFETEA-LU authorizations to the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2010. The House passed this measure on its way out the door for a holiday recess, but the Senate isn't likely to take it up until January....if at all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Transit Investments in Indian Country

Last week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced funding awards to 100 tribal transit projects. 39 of these are tribal transit capital projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). 61 of these are tribal transit projects funded under the FY 2009 allocation for Section 5311(c), which supports capital, operating and planning grants for tribes' transit activities.

For details, see the announcement posted to the FTA website on December 11, 2009.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Minibus" Brings Money to Transit

Yesterday (Dec 8), House and Senate negotiators came to terms on a $447 billion Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2010. This bill covers Transportation-HUD, Labor-HHS-Education, and four other areas of federal appropriations for the year.

Highlights of the conference agreement, which would increase transit spending above FY 2009 levels, add funds in the DOT and HUD budgets for aspects of the federal "livability" agenda, and provide modest increases in federal funding for job training, senior services, Head Start, community health centers, et al., are available at the House Appropriations Committee web site, together with the complete text of the conference report.

House and Senate acceptance of this agreement is expected later this week, at which time the bill would be whisked off to President Obama for his expected signature.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FTA Now Seeking Applications for Livability Projects

As expected, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is seeking applications for transit capital projects as the US DOT’s latest contribution to the DOT-HUD-EPA partnership for sustainable communities. There are two FTA notices in the December 8, 2010, Federal Register.

One is for grants under a Section 5309 "Livability Bus Program." Application deadline is February 8, 2010. Since these are Section 5309 funds, eligible applicants are direct recipients of Section 5307 funds in urbanized areas, Indian tribes (regardless of whether they are receiving Section 5311(c) funds), and states. Projects can be located in urban or rural areas. A total of $150 million is available for competitive grants under this heading; federal share is 80 percent. Although the program is intended to support the six principles of the DOT-HUD-EPA partnership, these grants can be used only for activities eligible for funding under the Section 5309 Bus and Bus Facilities program, which should present a constructive challenge to prospective applicants.

The other is for grants under a Section 5309 "Urban Circulator" program. Application deadline is February 8, 2010. Eligible applicants are those who are eligible for "new starts/small starts" funding under Section 5309, which essentially are state governments and urban public transit authorities. A total of $130 million is available for competitive grants under this heading, all grants will be $25 million or less; federal share is 80 percent. Similar to the “bus” program, grants can be used only for activities eligible for funding under the Section 5309 “New Starts/Small Starts” program.

Although published in the December 8, 2009, Federal Register, it will take a day or so before these notices appear on the FTA web site, but they will be there shortly.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Congress Casts Eyes on Transit Safety

While most of the nation's Congressional reporting is going to be on the Senate and health care this week, a couple of calendar items from committees will be of interest to many in the transit community.

On Tuesday, December 8, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Highways & Transit Subcommittee is going to have a hearing on "Public Transit Safety: Examining the Federal Role." Witness lists and prepared testimony are not yet on-line, but this hearing will be webcast live at 10:00am (Eastern time) that day. A link to the webcast can be made from the committee's website.

And on the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee's Housing, Transportation & Community Development Subcommittee will be convening a very similar hearing at 9:30am (Eastern time) on Thursday, December 10, entitled "Examining the Federal Role in Overseeing the Safety of Public Transportation Systems." This hearing will be webcast live that day via the Committee's website.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

FTA Announces Money for Urban, Rural Transit Livability

At a media event in New Orleans on December 1, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be making available $280 million for livability-related transit projects. According to a press release issued that day, $130 million will be available for rail and fixed guideway projects, such as streetcars, circulators, and related mixed-use/walkable/high-density developments. Additionally, $150 million of "Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments."

Details on timeframes, solicitation processes and related concerns should be available imminently from FTA, but haven't been posted on the FTA website. Interested persons probably should contact their nearest FTA regional office for application processes and details.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TCRP Announces FY 2010 Research Projects

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) recently announced the major research projects it will fund in the coming year. These topics are:

  • Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual, 3rd Edition
  • Defining and Implementing a Transit Safety Culture
  • Command-Level Decision Making for Transit Emergency Managers
  • Paratransit Emergency Operations and Preparedness Handbook
  • Research Support for Transit Industrial Control Systems and Cyber Security
  • State of Good Repair: Evaluating the Implications for Transit
  • The Public Transportation Industry's Professional Development/Human Capital Needs to Build a Sustainable Workforce
  • An Evaluation of Warrants for Major Capital Investment Projects: An Update of "Urban Rail in America"
  • Public Transit in the 21st Century: Changing Institutional and Business Models

At this point, TCRP is recruiting individuals to serve on the panels that will oversee these projects. At some point in the coming months, those panels will develop scopes of work, and TCRP will invite interested, qualified firms or individuals to submit competitive proposals. Prospective proposers should register with the TCRP website for email notifications with RFPs are released for any of these research projects.

Other cooperative research activities, including TCRP synthesis studies, special and quick response studies under TCRP, transit-related research under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program project 20-65, and the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) "Transit IDEA" program, are announced under separate cycles, but information on these projects and their current and future activities can be found from various pages under the TRB site.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Medicaid: skip the headlines, read the fine print

Mainstream and alternative media alike are shouting the headlines about the release of the House Democrats' health bill. If you haven't seen this news, take a look at the Washington Post, the New York Times, or your own local media outlet.

For transportation, though, the important thing is to burrow deep into this bill, where Section 1737 would establish, for the first time in health care history, a statutory mandate for states to provide non-emergency medical transportation as part of their program of Medicaid benefits.

While Medicaid transportation is nothing new in most of the US (the Community Transportation Association has an entire portion of its web site dedicated to this topic), it has been addressed as a regulatory matter by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as a result of legal action in the 1980s. But if this section of the House bill becomes law, the transportation component becomes grounded in actual law, not simply in the rulings of federal courts.

Stay tuned, to see - first - if this bill makes it through to House passage, and then to see what happens in the Senate and thereafter.

News, Necessary, but not a Surprise

While "Capitol Clips" would love to claim ownership of a transportation policy crystal ball, that's not really the case this week.

The current continuing resolution and SAFETEA-LU extension were set to expire on Halloween. There was almost no doubt that some kind of continuation of appropriations and extension of SAFETEA-LU (and some otherwise expired pieces of non-transportation legislation) was going to happen. As predicted, Congress tacked on a six-week "CR" to the FY 2010 Interior/Environment appropriations bill, which now is headed to President Obama's desk for an anticipated signature.

If you're thirsty for news and insight, check out the coverage on DC.Streetsblog, or for something a little closer to mainstream media, visit FederalTimes.com. As always, the details of appropriations, including continuing resolutions, can be found on-line at Thomas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Extensions? Continuations? -- An Update

Whether because of the ongoing health care debate or other factors, progress on the annual cycle of appropriations has slowed in Congress. This month, President Obama signed the USDA appropriations into law (PL 111-80), and is expected to sign the Homeland Security appropriations into law any day now. Transportation-HUD appropriations have passed both the House and Senate, but there've not been any conference committee negotiations. The Senate hasn't even taken up Labor/Health & Human Services/Education spending. Up-to-the-minute details are kept on the "Thomas" web site.

The current one-month continuing resolution expires on Halloween. There'll be some kind of continuation after that point. One possibility, reported in Government Executive, is a continuing resolution through mid-December, tagged to one of the bills soon to emerge from conference, such as the Interior/Environment appropriations bill. Or maybe Congress will take a different approach.

What is much less certain is the nature of the next SAFETEA-LU extension. DC.Streetsblog reports that a six-month extension remains under consideration. The House passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU last month. As reported through several intermediaries, Congressional Quarterly is hinting that the White House idea of an 18-month extension may be slipping off the table in Congress. In any case, some kind of extension for the highway and transit authorization must be passed this week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sign Up for On-Line National Dialogue on Coordination!

As part of the National Resource Center's partnership, you and your interested colleagues are invited - no, urged - to please join a Federal Government Online Outreach Effort to Develop New Ideas in Transportation Access for People with Disabilities, Older Adults and Persons of Limited Income

Do you have suggestions and ideas that you would like to share with national leaders that can assist communities to increase access to affordable and reliable transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with limited incomes?

If so, please register to participate in an upcoming national online dialogue with representatives of the federal government, state and community leaders! For more information, and to register, just click the link to visit the Dialogue website:www.UWRdialogue.org

The Federal Interagency Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) invites you to participate in the United We Ride National Dialogue. This groundbreaking, web-based interactive dialogue is designed to allow a broader range of opinions and ideas to inform future policies, the CCAM Strategic Plan and to strengthen the CCAM's relationship with is vast array of partners and stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments, transportation agencies, human service agencies, healthcare providers, employment specialists, educators, and consumers.

In order to capture this critical feedback, the CCAM is seeking your participation in a 2 week long, web-based dialogue that will begin on November 2nd and end on November 13th. This dialogue will allow participants to submit, comment, and rate ideas interactively on how to increase access to affordable and reliable transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with limited incomes. Your invaluable participation will directly inform the work of the CCAM on future policy decisions and the Strategic Plan.

This dialogue is being organized by the National Academy of Public Administration and Easter Seals, in partnership with the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The New Year Begins

The newest federal fiscal year began this week, on October 1, 2009. Late in the day on Sept. 30, Congress sent President Obama legislation that includes a one-month (to October 31) continuing resolution for nearly all federal spending, and which includes a one-month extension of SAFETEA-LU.

FTA Invites Comments on Proposed Sec 5307 Circular

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has drafted a proposed new program circular for its "Section 5307" formula grant program for transit in urbanized areas. A notice announcing this proposal appears in the October 2, 2009, Federal Register. Comments are due to FTA by November 30, 2009. A copy of the proposed circular can be accessed on-line from the FTA site. NOTE that this is only a proposal; no changes have been made to current Section 5307 guidance.

President Issues Order on Distracted Driving

[Corrected October 5]

On October 1, President Obama issued an Executive Order that prohibits Federal employees from text messaging while driving during the course of doing work that is supported by the Federal government, and calls upon Federal agencies to "encourage" their contractors, grantees and subrecipients to adopt similar policies that restrict text messaging while driving. The text of this order, which takes full effect by December 30, 2009, can be found on the White House web site. It was issued in conjunction with this week's Distracted Driving summit, convened by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

[Note: this text has been corrected, thanks to a commenter's input]

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two recent GAO reports of interest

While I generally defer to the NRC "Tappy Grams" e-newsletter to announce new reports and publications, I couldn't hold my breath on these two.

A couple of weeks ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, Metropolitan Planning Organizations: Options Exist to Enhance Transportation Planning Capacity and Federal Oversight (GAO-09-868), looking at the capacity of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). My colleague Sheryl summed up this report succinctly: GAO review of what MPOs do and whether they actually improve transportation planning. It also makes recommendations to enhance MPO performance. GAO recognizes that with the imminent expiration of SAFETEA-LU, better information “on the effectiveness of MPOs’ transportation planning activities is needed, especially in light of government and industry associations’ proposals for increasing or modifying MPOs’ authority, responsibilities, and funding.” The report does a good job of explaining what tasks Congress has assigned to MPOs, their funding, and the broad spectrum of MPO characteristics. Particular challenges are the public participation requirements, the lack of authority to implement plans, and obtaining reliable data; also noted were difficulties finding and retaining staff with necessary skills. Suggested statutory changes were discussed, including greater MPO flexibility, authority to implement projects, “an increase in the population threshold for mandatory MPO creation,” increased funding to generate more reliable data, and outcome-based performance requirements.

Hot on the heels of the MPO examination, GAO issued a report looking at the DOT-HUD collaboration on housing and transit, Affordable Housing in Transit-Oriented Development: Key Practices Could Enhance Recent Collaboration Efforts between DOT-FTA and HUD )GAO-09-871). While speaking highly of the agencies' partnership, GAO found "While these interagency efforts have produced numerous strategies, local housing and transit officials told GAO that these strategies had little impact, in part, because they have yet to be implemented. However, the agencies have not yet developed a comprehensive, integrated plan to implement all efforts, and without such a plan, the agencies risk losing momentum. GAO has previously identified key practices that could enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies; when compared to these practices, GAO found that HUD, FTA, and DOT have taken some actions consistent with some of these practices--such as defining a common outcome. However, weaknesses in agency housing data and analytical transportation planning methods will limit these agencies' ability to effectively monitor, evaluate, and report results--another key collaboration practice. GAO found that other collaboration practices, such as establishing compatible policies and procedures, could be taken to strengthen collaboration. Finally, without a more formalized approach to collaboration, including establishment of memorandum of agreements, these agencies may not effectively leverage their unique strengths."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Extensions? Continuations?

Congress has less than a week to do something. The current federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. None of the annual appropriations bills have become law. SAFETEA-LU also expires on Sept. 30. Expect lots of whirlwind activity from Capitol Hill, and even more rumors and speculation.

As of today, it looks and sounds like there will be a one-month continuing resolution on government spending, probably tied to the Legislative Branch appropriations measure, which is the closest to being ready to present to Pres. Obama for his signature. It's actually pretty likely that quite a few of the other appropriations bills, possibly even the DOT bill, could then be cleared for signature into law during October (By the way, if you're looking for a quick status of appropriations bills, bookmark the Library of Congress' THOMAS web site).

Less clear is what's to be done with extending SAFETEA-LU, although some kind of extension is virtually guaranteed. Yesterday, the House passed a bill, H.R. 3617, that would extend SAFETEA-LU for three months, to Dec. 31, 2009. However, it doesn't sound like the Senate is too keen on this idea, with Senate offices still buzzing about doing an 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. One of the latest rumors, which sounds logical, but is only a rumor, is that there may be a one-month SAFETEA-LU extension folded into the above-rumored continuing resolution. That's one way to keep the federal transit and highway programs moving forward, but there are many in this field who still blanch at the memory of the many 1/12 at a time funding allotments while waiting for what is now SAFETEA-LU to be completed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FTA Announces TIGGER Grant Winners, short-term extension looms for SAFETEA-LU

Yesterday, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced the 43 recipients of $100 million in competitive ARRA grants under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant program. As described in the official DOT press release, these grants are for a variety of bus, facility and rail projects in urban, suburban and rural areas. Writing for DC.Streetsblog, Elana Schor reminds us that the $1.5 billion multimodal pool of US DOT "TIGER" grants (not to be confused with the FTA "TIGGER" grants) are slated to be revealed this autumn, as well.

In another of Elana's DC.Streetsblog postings, news is out that the wheels are in motion for a 3-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. Recall that there is a raging debate in DC about whether to extend SAFETEA-LU for 18 months, or reauthorize it immediately. In any event, some kind of extension becomes necessary as the current highway/transit authorization expires on Sept. 30.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Health Reform Takes Senate Stage

The Senate Finance Committee will be wrestling with health reform this week. NY Times reports 564 amendments have been filed for the committee to consider. For most transportation interests, the leading issue in this debate is what will happen with Medicaid. In both House and Senate, the pressure's on for expanding Medicaid to all persons living at 133 percent of federal poverty lines, which would include many of the "working poor." As a side note, NPR recently reported on federal employees who can't afford their part of the premiums for feds' health benefits (note: listen to the 5-minute story, or download the transcript, as the NPR web story doesn't go that far). Governors are very worried that this expansion will create crises in states' budgets, although House and Senate bills currently hold states harmless. For transportation providers, it's less clear what that sort of Medicaid expansion would mean, as most of the new enrollees are, as mentioned, working people who can't currently afford health coverage, and thus more likely than current Medicaid enrollees to have existing transportation resources; on the other hand, they are likely to have dependents who may need access, so it's kind of hard to predict what would happen on the streets. Also in the House and Senate bills, there may be language that would - for the first time - add transportation as a specifically covered benefit within Medicaid (remember that, despite the billions of dollars now spent every year on Medicaid transport, it's done because a couple of federal courts said so, not on account of any statutory authorization). For more information on this possible change to Medicaid law - admittedly with a certain bias - see the CTAA web site.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Senate Passes FY 2010 Transit Spending Measure

On Thursday, September 17, the Senate passed its version of FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations. The House had passed its version of this bill (H.R. 3288) on July 23. A quick read of the transit sections in these two bills show they’re not too far off from one another. The Senate would fund the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and its programs at $11.1 billion, which is about 8 percent more than this year’s funding. The House comes in slightly lower, at $10.5 billion, which is about 2 percent above this year’s transit funding.

Aside from specific project earmarks, which always are grist for House-Senate conference committee negotiations, the greatest difference between House and Senate FTA funding is in the “Section 5309” funding for fixed-guideway new starts and small starts: Senate funds this category at $2.3 billion, House would appropriate $1.8 billion (which essentially is the same as this year’s funding). There also are differences in House and Senate approaches relative to the funding of transit-related energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction projects, with the Senate appropriating $100 million to these, and the House directing that unearmarked bus and bus facility funds be used for these projects.

The lion’s share of federal transit spending comes from the category of “Formula and bus grants,” which would receive $8.3 billion in both House and Senate bills, which is one percent above this year’s figure. Both the House and Senate make identical allocations among the categories under that heading:

Clean Fuels Program: $61,500,000
Over-the-Road Bus Accessibility Program: $10,800,000
Urban Area Formula Grants: $4,757,130,662
Bus and Bus Facilities: $584,000,000
Fixed Guideway Modernization: $1,756,134,569
Planning Programs: $113,500,000
Elderly and Persons with Disabilities: $140,680,447
Nonurbanized Area Formula: $607,025,922
Job Access and Reverse Commute: $164,500,000
New Freedom: $92,500,000
National Transit Database: $3,500,000
Alternatives Analysis: $25,000,000
Alternative Transportation in Parks and Park Lands: $26,900,000

House and Senate have made some programmatic shifts from this year, primarily to reduce the amount of discretionary bus and bus facility grants by about $300 million, with offsetting increases in rural and urban formula transit funds. The House Appropriations Committee attributed this decision to the fact that FY 2009 was the last year of SAFETEA-LU project earmarks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Senate Poised to Wrap Up DOT Spending Bill

The Senate is expected to complete debate and pass its version of FY 2010 Transportation/HUD appropriations today. In yesterday's floor debates, a series of amendments sponsored by Senators McCain and Coburn were defeated; these amendments would have trimmed numerous aspects of states' highway and transit funding programs. This morning, the Senate will consider five last amendments, and then pass the measure, which would go to House-Senate conference negotiations.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Transit Spending now on Senate floor

Having returned from the August recess, the Senate is now debating the FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill. Here's what Congressional Quarterly is reporting on that measure:

'Debate on the Transportation-HUD spending bill (HR 3288) has already begun in the Senate, and Democratic leaders have said they hope to work through the bill early next week.

'“We would like to have some of these amendments over Friday and Monday be offered so that we can move expeditiously to this really important appropriations bill and be moving quickly by Monday afternoon on this,” said Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee.

'The Senate’s version of the measure would provide $122 billion in funding for transportation and housing programs for fiscal 2010, including $42.5 billion for the Federal Highway Administration, $18.1 billion for Section 8 tenant-based vouchers, $11.1 billion for the Federal Transit Administration and $15.6 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration.'

Thursday, September 10, 2009

FTA Considers Capital Project Management Rules - seeking comments

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is considering the possibility of issuing regulations about how its grantees manage "major capital projects." In that vein, FTA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the September 10, 2009, Federal Register, and on its website. Basically, this notice presents a number of questions that stakeholders are welcome to answer and address as appropriate to their views. Historically, the project management guidelines being discussed have affected only rail and other fixed-guideway projects. However, one of the first questions in this notice is one of scope - how to define the "major capital projects" that may fall under any regulations that arise from this. Comments are due November 9, 2009. For more information, contact Aaron James or Carlos Garay of FTA at aaron.james@dot.gov or carlos.garay@dot.gov respectively.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senate Appropriations Action

[UPDATED August 6]

On July 30, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations; on July 31, Senate Appropriations marked up FY 2010 Labor-HHS appropriations. On the Senate floor, USDA appropriations were passed August 5, in one of the last actions of the Senate before its August recess.

Friday, July 24, 2009

House Passes Record-Setting Transit Appropriations Bill

On July 23, the House passed its version of HR 3288, the FY 2010 Transportation and HUD appropriations bill. Within the federal transit program, here are some of the funding levels as approved by the House:

  • Section 5305 statewide and metropolitan transit planning grants: $113.5 million
  • Section 5307 urban transit formula grants (including funds apportioned per Section 5340): $4.8 billion
  • Section 5308 clean fuels bus grants: $61.5 million
  • Section 5309 bus and bus facility grants: $584.0 million
  • Section 5309 fixed guideway modernization grants: $1.8 billion
  • Section 5309 fixed guideway capital projects: $1.8 billion
  • Section 5310 elderly and persons with disabilities transit formula grants: $140.7 million
  • Section 5311 rural transit formula grants (including funds apportioned per Section 5340): $607.0 million
  • Section 5316 job access and reverse commute formula grants: $164.5 million
  • Section 5317 new freedom formula grants: $92.5 million
  • Section 5320 transit in parks and public lands: $26.9 million
  • Section 5335 funds for national transit database program management: $3.5 million
  • Section 5339 new fixed guideway alternatives analysis grants: $25.0 million
  • Over-the-road bus accessibility grants: $10.8 million
  • Transit research programs (including TCRP, NTI, university research, etc.): $65.7 million
  • Supplemental grant to WMATA: $150.0 million
  • FTA administrative expenses: $97.5 million

Action on this bill now turns to the Senate, whose transportation appropriations subcommittee drafted its version of this bill in a July 29 markup.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What to do with SAFETEA-LU: Divergent Paths

SAFETEA-LU, the current authorization for federal transit and highway programs, is set to expire Sept. 30, 2009.

In the Senate, the key committees all have cast their approval on a plan to simply extend SAFETEA-LU authorizations for 18-months, through March 31, 2011. The Senate Environment and Public Works committee okay'ed this approach on July 15; the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee approved it on July 21; the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee approved an 18-month extension on July 23. This extension still needs approval by the Senate Finance Committee before presentation to the full Senate for a vote.

In the House, the Transportation and Infrastructure committee has been resolute in calling for reauthorizing SAFETEA-LU this year, without an extension. Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chair of this committee, introduced a "Surface Transportation Authorization Act" earlier this summer; most recently, the Highways and Transit subcommittee held a hearing on July 16 at which nearly all the witnesses spoke to what they said was a pressing need for a new authorization this fall, without delay or extension.

These are very different approaches, and the September 30 deadline is coming up quickly. Hard to say where this will lead.

This week on the House Floor

House debates and passes FY 2010 transportation-housing appropriations July 23. House debates and passes Labor-HHS appropriations bill July 24.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Health Care Reform Legislation - what's in it for coordinated transportation?

While there are many significant issues being debated and amended in Congressional committees concerning health care reform, most of these proposed overhauls are not likely to have a direct effect on the provision of transportation services.

The largest area of transportation interest is the proposed expansion of Medicaid coverage. In its current form, the House version of health care reform (H.R. 3200) would expand the pool of Medicaid-eligible persons to almost all people at or below 133 percent of poverty, starting in 2013. As drafted in the House, there would be a 100 percent federal share for all Medicaid expenses incurred for persons added to the Medicaid population under this bill. It's not yet clear how this expansion of Medicaid would affect the provision of transportation, or the matching rates that would be used. Those questions may become clearer after the House Energy and Commerce committee completes its markup this week.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated this expansion of Medicaid would come with a $438 billion price tag to the federal budget between now and FY 2019.

Elsewhere in the draft House bill, there is an authorization for an $89 billion "public health investment fund," which would be used to support a number of activities, including a $39 billion expansion of the community health centers network over the next ten years. Although not treated as "mandatory" spending, this new trust fund, and its expenses, would be "off budget" when deficit calculations and budget balancing goals are addressed by Congress.

The health care debate remains very fluid. Two of the three House committees with jurisdiction - Ways & Means and Education & Labor - completed their work on portions of the House bill on July 17. The third - Energy & Commerce - is marking up its sections of the bill during the week of July 20.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

FY 2010 Appropriations Update

UPDATED, July 20...

Congress is racing through the process of drafting and passing the various FY 2010 appropriations measures. Here's a quick run-down of where some of next year's spending bills currently stand in the House and Senate:

  • Transportation/Housing & Urban Development -- House subcommittee markup was July 13, full committee markup was July 17; may arrive on House floor July 28 0r 29. Senate action not yet scheduled.
  • Labor/Health & Human Services/Education -- House subcommittee markup was July 10, full committee markup was July 17; may arrive on House floor as soon as July 22. Senate action not yet scheduled.
  • Agriculture and rural development (H.R. 2997; H.Rept. 111-181) -- House subcommittee markup held June 11, full committee markup was June 18; HOUSE PASSED July 9. Senate version (S. 1406; S.Rept. 111-39) marked up and reported out from Senate appropriations committee July 7; no floor action yet scheduled.
  • Commerce/Justice/State (H.R. 2847; H.Rept. 111-149) -- HOUSE PASSED June 18. Marked up and reported out from Senate Appropriations Committee June 25.
  • Interior & Environment (H.R. 2996; H.Rept. 111-180) -- HOUSE PASSED June 26. Marked up and reported out (S.Rept. 111-38) from Senate Appropriations Committee June 25.
  • Homeland Security (H.R. 2892; H.Rept. 111-157) -- HOUSE PASSED June 24. Senate version (S. 1298; S.Rept. 111-31) marked up and reported out from Senate appropriations Committee June 18; SENATE PASSED July 9.
  • Military Construction/Veterans Affairs (H.R. 3082; H.Rept. 111-188) -- House subcommittee markup was June 16, full committee markup was June 24; HOUSE PASSED July 10. Senate version (S.1407; S.Rept. 111-40) marked up and reported out from Senate Appropriations Committee July 7.

Once subcommittees have finished drafting (or "marking up," to use Congressional jargon) their versions of these bills, one often can find highlights, or even detailed language, on the subcommittee pages at http://appropriations.house.gov/ and http://appropriations.senate.gov/. For legislation that has been officially introduced, the Library of Congress' "THOMAS" web site has a very readable table that shows status of current appropriations bills at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app10.html.

[NOTE: External links are shared for informational purposes only. Neither the NRC, the Community Transportation Association, nor the Federal Transit Administration assumes any responsibility for the views, opinions or accuracy of external links]

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Transportation, Coordination, and the Climate Change Bill

Last week, the House passed a comprehensive energy policy and climate change bill (H.R. 2454). This bill faces an unpredictable future in the Senate, where it is likely to be debated this month.

The centerpiece of the House legislation is the establishment of a “cap and trade” system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Several features of the House bill would be likely to have effects on the planning and provision of public and community transportation services. Some of these are discussed below.

  • Within the trading of emission allowances, a portion of these allowances would be distributed to states’ State Energy and Environment Development (SEED) accounts (a new creation under this bill) for the purposes of supporting states’ renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Up to 10 percent of the allowances states receive under this allocation could be used to pay the “non-federal” share of FTA Section 5307, 5308, 5309, 5310, 5311 or 5319 grants.
  • States and MPOs would be required to address greenhouse gas reduction as part of the development of their TIPs and STIPs. The bill would require these plans to be developed in coordination with air quality, environmental health, and transportation agencies, and would require these plans to be developed in consultation with housing, public health, economic development, land use, environment, and public transportation agencies. This section of the bill outlines a number of measures to be explored in the planning process, including setting targets for increased transit ridership and many facets of coordination between transportation and human or social service functions within the state or locality.
  • There are provisions to promote location-efficient mortgages, which offer a financial inducement to finance housing that is located near public transportation.
  • The “green” and affordable housing sections of the House bill would require local housing and planning agencies to coordinate housing strategies with their transportation planning efforts, and to make use of existing infrastructure in housing plans, programs and projects.
  • The House bill includes a "Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance" program to aid workers placed out of jobs as a result of changes in current energy-intensive industries. This program is modeled after the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and includes transportation assistance to dislocated workers, and inclusion of transportation and various social services such as job training and child care as parts of the family of services eligible to be provided to these dislocated workers.
  • There would be an authorization, albeit without specific funding, for EPA-administered grants to support a "SmartWay" transportation efficiency program, aimed primarily at the freight transportation sector.
  • Other items in the bill include a small program of competitive grants for “clean business” innovation, transit agency participation in urban tree programs, a small program of competitive grants to promote sustainable low-income community development projects, and a national program to inventory fish and wildlife habitat corridors for consideration in transportation planning processes.
Although transportation is not directly discussed, the Washington Post recently posted a set of Q's & A's about the House legislation: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/05/AR2009070502287.html?hpid=moreheadlines

Friday, June 26, 2009

ARRA, Beyond Transit: Workforce Development

Within the transit community, the primary focus of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) interest is on the $8.4 billion in transit capital investments for urban, rural and tribal areas.

But what about other programs? This posting takes a quick look at just one of the other agencies involved in ARRA, the workforce development programs administered by the Department of Labor's (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA).

Under ARRA, a total of $20 billion has been routed to DOL. Out of this amount, ETA received $4.0 billion, of which $1.2 billion was for WIA youth employment programs, $495.0 million for WIA adult employment and training programs, $1.4 billion for WIA dislocated worker programs, $396.0 million for Wagner-Peyser Act employment services, and $500.0 million for unemployment compensation. The WIA and Wagner-Peyser elements were allocated to states using the same formulas as their "regular" (non-ARRA) allotments of these funds. That distribution was announced on March 19, 2009. These ARRA funds must be spent by June 30, 2011.

For the most part, these allotments were folded into states' existing WIA and W-P programs. ARRA did stipulate certain types of employment ("casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool") for which these funds could not be used. ARRA further required that its funds be prioritized to serve recipients of public assistance and low-income adults, in contrast to "regular" WIA and W-P funds, which don't allow that sort of prioritization.

States are required to submit WIA/W-P plan amendments to ETA no later than June 30, 2009, that detail their plans for spending the ARRA allocations. There were requirements for stakeholder input and participation in development of these plan amendments.

Because states are just now in the process of completing and submitting their plan amendments, it's too soon to tell how ARRA funds are helping achieve recovery among the country's workforce programs. For transportation stakeholders already engaged with their workforce partners, there should be opportunities, but no surprises, as all the WIA programs (youth, adult, and dislocated worker) allow their funds to be used for a variety of support services, which specifically include transportation. Under ARRA, as with WIA, the details are left in the hands of state and local workforce boards.

Monday, June 22, 2009

House Panel Advances Transportation Bill

[UPDATED June 26]

This Wednesday, June 24, the Highways & Transit subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee officially drafted ("marked up," in legislative jargon) the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, which would renew and restructure the nation's highway and transit programs for the next six years. Take a look at http://transportation.house.gov/ for more information.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oberstar Unveils Transportation Blueprint

[NOTE: The following information is subject to change, as more details are learned about this major legislative proposal]

Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, unveiled his initial blueprint for the next highway and transit authorization on June 18.

Transportation advocates and stakeholders are poring over the broad language in Rep Oberstar's documents, to see what direction Congress is likely to be taking on this important legislation.

In terms of the relationships between public transportation and human services, one significant detail in this blueprint is a proposed consolidation of the current FTA Section 5310, Job Access, and New Freedom programs into a formula-based "Coordinated Access and Mobility Program" (CAMP). Another detail of possible interest is the proposed establishment, under the Federal Highway Administration, of an Office of Livability, which would be charged to administer some grant programs and provide technical support to promote livability and sustainability in planning and transportation system design.

Other items in Rep Oberstar's documents allude to increased funding overall for transit and highway spending, increased share of formula grants to rural and small-urban areas, an emphasis on performance targets and accountability in transit programs, increasing federal share of transit operating assistance, and expanded use of ridership data in determining transit formula grant apportionments. Major transportation projects would be approached in a multi-modal fashion through programs to be administered by the DOT Secretary's office, including a "Metropolitan Mobility and Access" program. There would be a DOT-wide emphasis on streamlining, and performance-based reporting. In the planning arena, there would be increased possible roles for rural transportation planning organizations, and increased expectations for local stakeholder participation in metropolitan and rural planning processes.

Video of Rep Oberstar's news conference releasing this blueprint, along with links to key documents (note that legislative language has not yet been made publicly available), are at http://transportation.house.gov/. Look for the section entitled The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009: "A Blueprint for Investment and Reform"

MEANWHILE, President Obama and DOT Secretary LaHood are calling for a short-term 18-month extension of SAFETEA-LU. This has been reported in a number of places, including a report (based on a direct interview with Sec LaHood) at StreetsBlog, http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/06/17/lahood-asks-congress-for-18-month-extension-of-four-year-old-transpo-law/.

Some ARRA funds available for transit operating assistance


Urban and rural transit providers are slated to gain some operating assistance flexibility with their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, based on a provision tucked into a supplemental appropriations measure (HR 2346), which President Obama signed into law on June 24.

Under this provision, 10 percent of formula-based ARRA allocations to states and urbanized areas may be used "for the operating costs of equipment and facilities for use in public transportation, or for [rural intercity bus] activities under Section 5311(f)."

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff has issued a "Dear Colleague" letter announcing this provision. His letter, which includes a link to FTA's detailed questions and answers on this topic, can be found on the FTA website at http://www.fta.dot.gov/regional_offices_10012.html.

The New York Times recently ran a story illustrating the need and anticipation for this feature of the new bill: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/us/17transit.html?scp=1&sq=transit%20operating%20costs&st=cse

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Deputy Administrator at FTA

On June 8, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff announced the appointment of Therese Watkins McMillan as the Federal Transit Administration's Deputy Administrator. She comes to FTA from the San Francisco Bay area, where she served most recently as Deputy Executive Director of Policy for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. There is a complete announcement of Ms. McMillan's appointment on the FTA website, accessed via www.fta.dot.gov.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Public Transit, Coordination & the Energy Bill

One might imagine that a comprehensive energy policy bill would have some things to say about public transportation, even if it does not directly address human services or their coordination with public transportation.

As reported out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month, the "American Clean Energy and Securirty Act," H.R. 2454, did not have much in it that directly related to public or human services transportation.

  • There is language that would require states and MPOs to address greenhouse gas reduction as part of the development of their TIPs and STIPs. The bill would require these plans to be developed in coordination with air quality, environmental health, and transportation agencies, and would require these plans to be developed in consulation with housing, public health, economic development, land use, environment, and public transportation agencies. This section of the bill outlines a number of measures to be explored in the planning process, many of which are facets of coordination between transportation and human or social service functions within the state or locality.
  • There would be an authorization, albeit without specific funding, for an EPA-administered program to support a "SmartWay" transportation efficiency program, aimed primarily at the freight transportation sector.
  • The House bill includes a "Climate Change Worker Adjustment Assistance" program to aid workers placed out of jobs as a result of changes in current energy-intensive industries. This program is modeled after the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, and includes transportation assistance to dislocated workers, and inclusion of transportation and various social services such as job training and child care as parts of the family of services eligible to be provided to these dislocated workers.

Senate Bill Aims to Enhance Rural Transit

The season of SAFETEA-LU reauthorization is beginning. This highway and transportation authorization expires September 30, 2009.

One of the bills recently introduced as part of possible amendments to the current transit program is S. 1144, the "Rural Transit Improvement and Flexibility Act of 2009," sponsored by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

This bill would call for three changes affecting public transit in rural areas:

  • Allocating more of FTA Section 5311 rural transit funds based on states' land area, and less on the basis of states' rural population (this would benefit states, primarily in the western US, with large land areas, at the expense of states with high rural populations and not as much land area, such as the New England states)
  • Allowing all states to use up to 25 percent of their FTA Section 5310 allocations for operating assistance (at a 50 percent federal share), with a higher proportion of Section 5310 operating assistance eligibility for states with large rural land areas (this would apply to all states, with greater level of possible operating assistance availability in certain western US states, but no states would gain or lose funding under this provision).
  • Authorizing a pilot program to support multi-modal transit centers in rural and small-urban areas, but only in states with population densities of 100 persons per square mile or less. This program would be authorized at $25 million in FY 2010, and at $50 million in FY 2011 through 2015.

It is not expected this bill will be passed on its own in the current session of Congress. More likelly, the sponsors are championing a concept they hope to see included in SAFETEA-LU reauthorization this year.

FTA Administrator Speaks at CTAA Expo

Newly minted Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff gave the first public address of his FTA career this week at the CTAA Expo. More reporting on the front page of CTAA, at www.ctaa.org. Highlights of his remarks included a desire to forge stronger relationships between FTA and agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In response to an audience question, he acknowledged that FTA has been historically focused on vehicles and facilities, and at least one part of his legacy will be pictures of transit-using people on the walls of FTA's offices.

Friday, May 29, 2009

GAO Reports on Job Access Program

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just issued its latest analysis of the Federal Transit Administration's Section 5316 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program. In the latest report, GAO finds that states and urbanized areas are starting to obligate funds and deliver a variety of projects, with most JARC funds being used to cover operating costs.

Noting that 14 percent of FY 2006 JARC funds lapsed , GAO agreed with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) that there were several factors behind these lapses of funding, including delays arising from the time spent by FTA meeting with stakeholders and crafting program guidance, and the number of steps required by law to deliver projects, including the designation of recipients, development of coordinated plans, and competitive basis for project selection.

GAO found that there continue to be some structural program challenges, including:
  • Difficulty in securing non-federal matching funds;
  • Complexity facing states as they manage statewide JARC programs for their rural and smaller urbanized areas; and
  • Complexity of managing and delivering JARC projects in very large metropolitan areas, including coordination challenges among multiple JARC recipients and challenges coordinating JARC services with other FTA-funded transit activities in these metro areas.
The bottom line of this report, though, is summed up in GAO's introductory statement, "FTA is making progress in awarding funds and has awarded about 48 percent of the $436.6 million in JARC funds apportioned for fiscal years 2006 through 2008 to 49 states and 131 of 152 large urbanized areas."

The GAO report is "Federal Transit Administration: Progress and Challenges in Implementing and Evaluating the Job Access and Reverse Commute Program," and is report number GAO-09-496, issued May 21, 2009. Available on line from the GAO website:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rogoff Confirmed to Lead FTA

The Senate confirmed Peter Rogoff as our nation's newest Federal Transit Administrator on May 22. Mr Rogoff comes to the FTA after serving 22 years on the staff of the US Senate Appropriations Committee, including 14 years as Democratic staff director for the subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations.

UPDATE: Mr Rogoff makes his official industry debut on June 2 at the Community Transportation Association EXPO in Providence, RI. Read more at www.ctaa.org.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DOT Solicits TIGER Applications

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or the "stimulus bill") authorized $1.5 billion in discretionary grants to be awarded by the Secretary of Transportation. On May 18, the US Dept of Transportation (DOT) announced the availability of these grants. Applications are due by September 15, 2009.

Although these grants are not specific to any mode, there is much about this solicitation that should interest public and human services transportation stakeholders. First and foremost are the selection criteria: one of the two "primary selection criteria" is a set of long-term outcomes, which include elements of livability and sustainability; the second primary selection criterion is job creation and economic stimulus; one of the two "secondary selection criteria" is partnership, in which the DOT specifically states "The Department [of Transportation] will give priority to projects that demonstrate strong collaboration among a broad range of participants and/or integration of transportation with other public service efforts."

In other words, projects that demonstrate significant and meaningful coordination between transportation and such aspects as housing, community development and job creation are certain to have a competitive advantage in this solicitation.

Eligible applicants are "State and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities, other political subdivisions of State or local governments, and multi-State or multi-jurisdictional applicants."

Although ARRA specified that projects to be funded under this program would be between $20 million and $300 million, the DOT has determined that it may waive the $20 million floor, and is willing to entertain proposals for projects that are less than $20 million in scope. Other than by browsing the May 18, 2009, Federal Register, the text of this notice has not yet been posted (as of May 17). However, more information is available on-line at http://www.dot.gov/recovery/.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CMS Proposes Permanent Suspension of Certain Rules

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed a permanent rescission of some rules that were issued this past autumn. If finalized, the rules that would NOT take effect are those affecting school-based Medicaid services (including transportation for school-based Medicaid), outpatient hospital services, and case management services.

CMS is soliciting comments on this proposed rescission. Comments are due June 1, 2009. While it seems likely that these rescissions will indeed take effect, nothing is certain. For more information, read the CMS notice in the May 6, 2009, Federal Register at page 21232, or contact Lisa Parker of CMS by phone at 410-786-4665.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kansan Tapped to Head AoA

The following is an official announcement from the US Administration on Aging.

President Obama announces intention to nominate Kathy Greenlee as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging

The Administration on Aging is pleased to report that on Friday, May 1, 2009, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Kathy Greenlee, Kansas Secretary of Aging, for Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Kathy Greenlee has served as Secretary of Aging for the state of Kansas since January 2006. In that capacity, she has led a cabinet-level agency with 192 full-time staff members and a total budget of $495 million. Her department oversees the state’s Older Americans Act programs, the distribution of Medicaid long-term care payments and regulation of nursing home licensure and survey processes. Ms. Greenlee has served on the board of the National Association of State Units on Aging since 2008. From 2004-2006, Greenlee served as State Long-Term Care Ombudsman in Kansas, and prior to that, was the state’s Assistant Secretary of Aging. From 1999-2002, Greenlee served as general counsel at the Kansas Insurance Department. During her tenure there, she led the team of regulators who evaluated the proposed sale of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas, and oversaw the Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas program. Greenlee also served as Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations for then Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She is a graduate of the University of Kansas with degrees in business administration and law.

Prior to assuming her official duties as Assistant Secretary for Aging, Ms. Greenlee will be officially nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rural Development funds available from HUD

It's a very short turnaround time: applications are due May 29, 2009. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has just announced its FY 2009 solicitation for grant proposals under the Rural Housing and Economic Development Program. As in the past, a total of $26 million is available for this year's "RHED" grants. Eligible applicants include tribes, state housing finance agencies, state and local economic development agencies, rural nonprofits, and community development corporations. Projects must be in rural areas, which in this program is defined as either (a) a non-urban place [that's a Census term] having fewer than 2500 inhabitants, regardless of whether the place is inside or outside a metropolitan statistical area, (b) a county (or Louisiana parish) with 20,000 or fewer inhabitants, or (c) any place with 20,000 or fewer inhabitants that is not inside a metropolitan statistical area. The primary focus on this year's soliciation are strategies to address housing and housing finance in rural areas, but other possibilities exist. For more information, go on-line to www.hud.gov/rhed.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Congress Passes Budget Resolution

This week, Congress passed its FY 2010 budget resolution. Typically, nonbinding resolutions such as this are interesting, as they signal the tenor of the annual budget and appropriations debate. This year, there's more significance, as the resolution includes a $325 billion reserve to cover SAFETEA-LU reauthorization.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tribal Transit Grant Applications Now Being Accepted

Federally recognized Indian tribes are invited to submit applications for the Federal Transit Administration's grant program for public transportation on Indian reservations, commonly called its Tribal Transit Program. FTA has a total of $15.0 million available in this year's round of competitive grants. Priority will be given to funding continuations of existing projects under this program. Applications are due June 29, 2009. Note that grant applications are to be submitted directly to FTA either electronically or in person, as detailed in the Federal Register notice of April 29, 2009; FTA is not accepting applications through the federal grants.gov website for this program.

New Policy on New Freedom

After a period of review and examination, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued an updated interpretation for the phrase "beyond the ADA" with regard to its Section 5317 New Freedom program. This policy statement was published in the April 29, 2009, Federal Register, and is due to appear shortly on the FTA website.

In brief, FTA has clarified a more inclusive definition of eligible New Freedom projects, stating, in part, "new and expanded fixed route and demand responsive transit service planned for and designed to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities are eligible projects." All other aspects of the New Freedom program guidance remain unchanged.

This policy statement takes effect May 29, 2009. For more information, contact David Schneider of FTA at david.schneider@dot.gov

FTA Announces Formula Funding Apportionments

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced the remainder of the FY 2009 formula funding apportionments and allocations. This notice essentially makes these funds available to states and urbanized areas for these programs: Section 5307 (urban transit formula grants), Section 5310 (formula grants for elderly/persons with disabilities capital assistance), Section 5311 (rural transit formula grants), Section 5316 (job access and reverse commute formula grants), Section 5317 (new freedom formula grants), statewide & metropolitan transit planning, and the remainder of funds for designated projects under the Section 5309 transit capital assistance program.

FTA took a slightly different approach with this announcement. The required notice in the Federal Register (published on April 27, 2009) does not include the pages of detailed funding tables. Instead, readers and interested persons are directed straight to the FTA website, where this information is detailed at http://www.fta.dot.gov/regional_offices_9562.html.

UPDATE: FTA did intend (or need) to publish these tables in the Federal Register, after all. The FTA website (see above) is easier to navigate, but there is a complete 76-page notice, detailing all the apportionments and allocations, in the April 30, 2009, Federal Register.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

President Signs National Service Bill Into Law

Today (April 21), President Obama signed the "Serve America Act" into law. At its essence, this is a reuathorization of domestic volunteer service programs managed by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Our colleagues in the voluntary service sector can speak more eloquently about the overall opportunities that are created under this legislation. Perhaps its most dramatic feature is a tripling of the AmeriCorps program.

There are two leading potential angles of interest for public and community transportation in this legislation. One is that most of the volunteer service programs allow program funds to be used to cover at least a portion of participants' transportation costs, either as part of their stipends, or else as part of sponsors' management of particular service projects. Another is that it is possible for AmeriCorps or other service programs to be used to provide on-the-ground people to do field work, resource coordination, mobility management, or outreach for community-based transportation activities.

In case you're wondering where this legislation may relate to your state or community, here's a list of service programs it has extended, amended, renewed or established:

Learn and Serve America
National Service Trust
National Civilian Conservation Corps
National Senior Service Corps
Volunteers for Prosperity

For information on how the federal government will implement this legislation, go to the website of the Corporation for National and Community Service, at www.nationalservice.gov

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quick Notice - FTA seeks comments on Buy America waiver request

The Federal Transit Administration is seeking comments on whether to grant a waiver from its Buy America requirements for minivans and minivan chassis produced outside the United States. Petitioners have argued that there are no domestically produced minivans or minivan chassis, therefore a waiver on the basis of non-availability is immediately necessary. FTA seeks public comment on this request, in a notice published in the April 2, 2009, Federal Register, and linked from the FTA website at http://www.fta.dot.gov/regional_offices_federal_register.html.


NOTE: Even though the petitioner is El Dorado National, and the topic centers around Chrysler-produced minivans, the request, if granted would apply to all minivans and minivan chassis, regardless of manufacturer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

CMS Delays "Benchmark" Rule to 12/31/09

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice April 3 delaying the effective date of their Medicaid "benchmark" rule, and reopening their docket for comments on the rule. The effective date of the rule is postponed to December 31, 2009. Comments on the rule are being accepted through May 4, 2009. This notice was published in the April 3, 2009, Federal Register.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Congress takes a break

Congress is now on recess, having raced through a month of passing budget resolutions, reauthorizing national and community service programs, completing the FY 2009 appropriations, and more.