Transportation Seminar on Transit and Small Urban Sprawl

A Transportation Seminar titled “Transit and Small Urban Sprawl” will be held Sept. 29, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus.

Small urban sprawl has resulted in new housing developments and business centers that have never been served by transit. Unfortunately, transit agencies are often not included in the land development process within small urban communities.  SURTC researcher Del Peterson recently studied the issue and will present his findings.  The objectives of his study were to determine what steps small urban transit providers are currently taking to integrate transit service into sprawling communities and to determine what can be done to improve relationships with local governments during the land development planning process.

Small Urban and Rural Transit Roundup

The Leader Times newspaper of Kittanning, Pennsylvania recently chronicled the financial difficulties of Town and Country Transit, a rural Pennsylvania transit system.  The story provides some lessons for those who want to avoid similar problems. (Leader Times)

A free transit service in northern Idaho is thriving under a unique partnership between the local tribe and local governments. (Spokesman-Review)

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced $4 million in economic development funding for Native American communities, including funding for rural transportation improvements. (USDA)

Public transportation workers are taking steps to try to control the spread of the H1N1 virus. (WMUR)

Local leaders discussed possibilities for funding improvements in rural transit in Arizona. (Sierra Vista Herald)

SAFETEA-LU Set to Expire Soon with Extensions Looming

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, the current transportation authorization legislation that is set to expire on Sept. 30.  House Democrats, including transportation committee chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) hope to pass new legislation by the end of the year.  The Senate has not yet acted, but it seems to favor a much longer 18-month extension, which is also what the White House is calling for, pushing a new deal into 2011.

Funding Announced for Transit Projects to Reduce Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. DOT announced $100 million in Economic Recovery Act funding for 43 transit agencies on Sept. 21.  Transit providers nationwide competed for the $100 million in stimulus funding under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program.  The criteria for choosing the winning proposals included reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, return on investment, readiness to implement, applicant capacity, degree of innovation, and national applicability.

Much of the funding went to urban transit agencies, but some went to small urban and rural areas as well.  For example, Productive Alternatives/Transit Alternatives of Fergus Falls, MN received $845,000 for a variety of building energy-efficiency upgrades, hybrid vehicle upgrades, wind generator power systems, and the equipment needed to convert cooking oil to a blend with vehicle fuel to operate some of their buses. The Thunder Bay Transportation Authority in Alpena, MI received $2.59 million to replace 4 diesel buses with 4 series plug-in hybrid buses. Data on operating hybrid buses in a non-urban/rural area will also be collected over a two-year span.

A few other small urban areas also received funding.  The full list of winning proposals can be seen here.

NDSU President Speaks about Transit

President Joseph Chapman spoke about the importance of transit in the growth and success of North Dakota State University during his keynote speech on September 21 at the 2009 Dakota Transit Association Fall Conference in Fargo.

Metro Area Transit is key a partner to NDSU which has seen its student body and downtown campus grow tremendously in the past decade.  During the first eight days of service this fall, transit routes serving NDSU provided nearly 40,000 new trips.

Watch President Chapman' comments at Chapman DTA Keynote 2009 Pt. 1 and Chapman DTA Keynote 2009 Pt. 2.

Transportation Seminar on Generating Public Involvement in Transportation Decision Making

A Transportation Seminar titled "Generating Public Involvement in Transportation Decision Making" will be held Sept. 22, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 422 of the IACC building on the North Dakota State University campus.

Despite the critical role that transportation plays in our economy and quality of life, the public often chooses not to be involved in public policy decisions related to planning and financing. This seminar presentation will discuss a recent initiative undertaken by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute to generate public involvement in transportation decision making and subsequent efforts to share research findings with key elected officials.

U.S. Senate Passes Transportation Appropriations Bill

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations today.  The legislation permits $122 billion in spending for fiscal year 2010, which the AP reports is a 12% increase over current levels. The NRC reports that this includes $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.

The Senate bill is similar to the version the House passed in July. The NRC detailed the funding levels within the federal transit program in the House bill.

SURTC Conducting Transportation Surveys of Older Adults and People with Disabilities

The AARP’s North Dakota State Office conducted a survey last fall of its members to explore their views on important topics such as health care, economic security, and transportation.  They released a report in February summarizing the findings.  SURTC collaborated with AARP in formulating the transportation questions and has conducted a more in depth analysis of this section of the survey.  SURTC’s findings will be published later this fall.

One of the major findings is that people with disabilities have greater transportation concerns.  Seventeen percent of the 1,042 respondents age 50 or older identified themselves as having a disability. These people were less likely to think that they have adequate transportation options and were substantially more likely to report problems using public transportation.  Many of these people with disabilities do currently drive, but they are more likely to forego driving during certain conditions such as poor weather or darkness, and they are more likely than others to desire more trips, with transportation more often being a limiting factor.

These results tie into a recently launched SURTC study titled Assessing Existing and Needed Community Transportation for People with Disabilities in North Dakota, which will include a survey of people with disabilities in the state.  Using information obtained from this study, state, regional, county and local public and private transportation and human service agencies will be able to assess their existing transportation services, identify gaps and needs, and plan improvements.   One of the goals of the study is to create a survey instrument that could be used by communities and states beyond North Dakota for collecting similar information.

Dakota Transit Association to hold 25th Anniversary Fall Conference

The Dakota Transit Association is holding its 25th Anniversary Fall Conference and Bus Roadeo Sept. 19-23 in Fargo, ND.  SURTC staff will be on hand Sept. 20 and 21 to discuss the launching of our blog.

Funding for Rural Transit Down in Minnesota while Demand is on the Rise

Minnesota Public Radio reporter Dan Olson recently chronicled the struggles being faced by rural transit providers.  The story is specific to Minnesota, but likely familiar to others across the country.  He reports that demand for service has been increasing due to an aging population and an increase in the number of people unable to afford a personal vehicle.  At the same time, however, funding for rural transit services is down.  He writes:

No shortage of demand but a definite shortage of money. Already Mn/DOT has cut $400,000 to rural transit providers. Another cut of a million and half dollars is on the horizon.

The cuts take a toll on public transit providers and also some private nonprofits who get state transportation grants.

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