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 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 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,

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

The New York Times recently ran a story illustrating the need and anticipation for this feature of the new bill:

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

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 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.