SURTC Releases Findings from University Transit Study

The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) recently released the final report from a study on the changing attitudes and travel behaviors of university students. The study tracked a cohort of North Dakota State University students during their undergraduate careers. Over two-thirds of students used transit, roughly the same amount that expect to use transit at least occasionally in the future. Among students in the cohort, 64% stated that they would at least consider voting for increased funding of transit in the future.

The report, The Changing Attitudes and Behaviors of University Students Toward Public Transportation, also investigates the impacts of individual and mode attributes on mode choice.  The analysis finds that students prefer walking and transit to travel by automobile.  However, over long distances, the short travel times provided by travel by automobile result in it being the dominant mode.  This finding supports continuing the redevelop of near-campus areas as well as investigation into express service between campus and off-campus locations with high student residency rates.

Questions related to the research should be directed to David Ripplinger, who can be reached by email at david.ripplinger@ndsu.edu.

SURTC Publishes Report on Aging and Mobility

Mobility is fundamentally important for people to live full and satisfying lives. As people age, however, their mobility may decline. To investigate issues of aging and mobility and other concerns of older adults, the AARP conducted a survey of its North Dakota members. The SURTC report analyzes the results from the transportation section of the AARP survey. Specific objectives were to determine how informed and satisfied older adults are with their transportation options, how often they make different types of trips, if they desire more trips, if lack of transportation limits the trips they make, what improvements they would like to see made for them to stay in their neighborhood as they age, and what problems they encounter with using public transportation.

The report, titled North Dakota Transportation Survey: Aging and Mobility, shows that most AARP members in North Dakota continue to drive, and they are more satisfied than dissatisfied with their transportation options. Although many still drive, transit is found to be very valuable for certain segments of the population and for certain trips, and an analysis of the data using logit modeling shows that for all types of trips, transportation is more likely to be a limiting factor as age increases. Also significant is the impact that disabilities have on the ability to make trips.

Questions related to the research should be directed to Jeremy Mattson, who can be reached by email at jeremy.w.mattson@ndsu.edu.

House Passes Jobs Bill with Funding for Transit

The U.S. House passed a jobs bill yesterday that includes $36 billion for transportation projects. Of this, $27.5 billion is for highway projects and $8.4 billion will go to transit. The bill allows states to use 10% of their transit money on operating expenses. The legislation would also extend the current transportation law through the end of September 2010, and it transfers $20 billion into the Highway Trust Fund.

The Senate is expected to consider the bill early next year.

House and Senate Pass 2010 Spending Bill

The U.S. House passed an annual spending bill last week funding a number of federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, and the Senate followed suit on Sunday. According to the AP, the bill includes $41 billion for highway construction, a slight increase, and as Streetsblog reports, the deal provides the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with $10.73 billion for 2010 and includes $2.5 billion for high-speed rail.

FTA Annouces $32 Million for 100 Tribal Transit Projects

The FTA today awarded $32 million of funding for 100 tribal transit projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for the Public Transportation on Indian Reservations Program (Tribal Transit Program) and Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations for the Tribal Transit Program. A total of $17 million was made available for the Tribal Transit program under ARRA and $15 million from 2009 appropriation dollars.

A full list of funded projects can be found here.

FTA Seeking Applications for Livability-Related Transit Projects

The FTA is now seeking applications for the livability projects previously reported.  The December 8 Federal Register has the details.  Both urban and rural projects are eligible for the $150 million available from the Livability Bus Program.  The application deadline is February 8, 2010.

"Ready-to-Go" Transportation Projects Identified for Potential Jobs Bill

Congress may soon be considering a second stimulus package to spur job creation. House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar on Wednesday called for at least $69 billion in new federal spending on highway and transit projects as part of this bill to address a looming shortfall in transportation funding.

This came the same day that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) identified thousands of "ready-to-go" projects that could be funded under such legislation. AASHTO identified 9,500 highway, bridge, transit, port, rail, and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion, including $9.8 billion for transit projects. By surveying transit agencies nationwide, APTA identified more than $15 billion in public transportation capital projects that can be started in 90 days.

The Transport Politic and Streetsblog Capital Hill provide some analysis.

FTA Announces Funding for Livability-Related Transit Projects

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday the availability of $280 million for transit projects as part of the Obama Administration's Livability Initiative, a joint venture of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the FTA press release, $130 million will be available for streetcars and other urban circulator systems, while the remainder will be made available to both urban and rural communities:

A second pot of money totaling $150 million in unallocated discretionary 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.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) plans to announce grants early in 2010.

Transportation Workforce Development Seminar Rescheduled

The Transportation Seminar titled “Transportation Workforce Development – Are We Ready?” has been rescheduled for Dec. 8, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus.

Legislative Update

The failure to pass new federal transportation authorization legislation is causing problems for some transportation agencies due to uncertainty regarding long-term funding. The current legislation, SAFETEA-LU, expired in September and has been extended by a stop-gap measure to December 18. The White House and Senate leaders had supported an 18-month extension that would push the new multi-year highway and transit bill into 2011, while House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) had wanted to pass new legislation by the end of the calendar year. More recently, a bipartisan group of Senators have called for a six-month extension that would continue current federal spending until June 2010.

A key question is how to pay for the proposed increases in transportation spending. Most lawmakers have resisted calling for an increase in the federal gas tax, but Sec. LaHood recently remarked that a debate in Congress on such an increase is likely.

Meanwhile, Congress may soon consider a jobs creation bill that could include additional transportation spending. James Oberstar now intends to introduce a two-year jobs/infrastructure bill with the aim of front-loading the spending to further stimulate the economy, followed by a four-year transportation bill with major reforms and changes in the way transportation investments are paid for.

One area that is getting increased funding and support is high-speed rail, as $8 billion in stimulus funding will be awarded starting this winter, and as much as $4 billion more could be included in next year's budget. Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, wrote articles this week in the Duluth News Tribune and Winona Daily News arguing that high-speed rail is a key opportunity not just for big cities but also for rural America. He further argues that Congress should provide funding for pilot projects for adopting new transit technologies in rural areas.

SURTC is a part of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University