Friday, August 6, 2010

JTC Transit Funding Meeting Number #2 is Today at Union Station

The second meeting of the JTC legislative study on transit funding is underway today and scheduled to go from 10-3pm at Sound Transit's board room in Downtown Seattle.

I'll be doing some light live blogging on the meeting right here. Also TVW is here recording and they tell me they will be putting the video up on their website next week.

The Agenda is jam packed today and includes:
1-A presentation on what is going on at the federal level with APTA President Bill Millar, who spoke at our event last night.
2-WSDOT will be presenting on the state's current role in public transportation with Katy Taylor director of the public transportation division taking the lead.
3-The panel will be engaging in two breakout sessions, one on the state's current role is and the other in the what the state's future role in public transportation should be.
4-The breakouts will report back to the larger group on some conclusions they came to, there will also be a voting exercise to identify where panel members current stand on the state role (which should be interesting).
5-There will be a section dedicated to performance management of public transit, the section is entitled "linking state goals and performance".
6-Lastly there is public comment.

Live blog:
Bill Millar is launching into his talk to give the federal picture of public transportation.

-This is not a WA State problem, this is a national problem.
-WA is one on the lower side of what they contribute to public transit
-Senator Haugen pointed out that this panel is about public transportation not public transit and asked Millar to focus on not just transit.
-Transit nationally was experiencing huge growth prior to being financially impacted by the major recession.
-84% of transit agencies nationally have cut service, raised fares, or laid off staff in this recession while the need for public transportation is still high.
-Gives update on the stall of a federal transportation re-authorization and highlights some of the major issues associated with re-authorization including multi-modal inter-connectivity, maintaining existing infrastructure, performance measures for federal spending, transit accessibility to rural and low-income residents, and the need for expanded transit infrastructure.
-Discusses the challenge with how to fund a future federal funding re-authorization (mix of tradtional sources like gas tax but new sources also needed).
-Summarizes how public transportation directly fits into many of the states economic, environmental.
-Re-emphasizes that WA state ranks low national in terms of State contribution towards public transportation, highlights that WA State does not put in any money to help match the federal dollars and attract federal spending to Washington.  Calls out that most large states do contribute to public transit to match federal spending and they usually come up with money because public transportation supports overarching goals of the state.

Barb from the consultant team is going over where the study is at right now based upon their work and the one on one interviews that they have conducted with stakeholder members.  Explains that the goals of today's meeting is to understand the current role of  public transportation in WA and to discuss the State's future role.

The specific questions that will asked today are:
-What should the state's role in public transportation?
-Are there roles that should be reduced or elimintated
-Are there roles taht should be enhanced or expanded
-Should the state take on new roles?

Areas they'll be investigating are: direct investments, policy/planing, funding, coordination and oversight.

The consultants are providing an overview on the white-paper the wrote on the current state role in public transportation.  The white paper can be found online here.

Next Up: Current State Role in Public Transportation in Washington (presentation by WSDOT)
Katy Taylor director of public transportation at WSDOT is staring her presentation with an introduction discussing how her division is integrated into the rest of the department and her vision is that public transportation should become one of the core functions of WSDOT.

The main existing programs of the division are:
-Fund CTR programs
-"Engage funders" in the GTEC program (a CTR program for large urban areas that funds great programs like Commute Seattle and Downtown on the Go, unfortunately the Legislature zeroed out GTEC funding in the last biennium.)
-"Provide and support vanpool investments"
-Administer regional mobility grants
-Providing funding and guidance of park and ride lots

After Katy Taylor's optimistic presentation, Rep. Moeller asked what some of the challenges with public transit in WA are, pointing to the fact that local transit agencies are cutting back across the state leaving communities disconnected not better connected.  Katy Taylor replied by explaining their creative partnership with private-public programs like the grape line that connect rural communities that are no longer served by Greyhound, but she did not specifically address what the agency can do or potentially do to address the  transit funding crisis and pending service cutbacks.

After a lunch break and breakout sessions are over.  The groups are now reporting out on the second breakout discussed that addressed what the state's role in public transportation should be in the future.

They are going through take aways that folks have from the breakout sessions.
Tom Jones had an interesting comment that for the first time he realized that transit service and GMA can be in conflict with each other.  If you are providing access service for rural areas so transit dependent people can get to services, you may also be providing commuter access to exurban and rural areas that under GMA goals we don't want people to move to.  Usually we think as transit being a crucial component of supporting the smart growth that GMA rightfully dictates, circumstances where transit can serve against GMA goals is an interesting twist to contemplate.

Katy Taylor is very optimistic the state of public transit in Washington and about the panel-the outcome that everyone is in it together in this process.

Jon Stanton from Microsoft is discussing the benefits of the Microsoft connector service and highlights that 70% of their connector costumers never rode a bus before Microsoft started their own service and wouldn't take public transportation if the Connector service got canceled.  He then highlighted the need for more public-private partnerships.  He also said that his kids think transit is cool in Europe but now here.

Rep. Marko Liias noted that he took the Sounder from Snohomish County this morning to attend the JTC meeting that he thought it was pretty cool, while he was relaxing and reading his book instead of sitting in traffic.  He suggested that ST and Metro provide potential transit routes that people could take to the next JTC meeting from their homes.  It might be hard for folks who live outside of the Central Puget Sound to get to ST headquarters from their homes, but surely they could utilize ST express buses of Sounder from the Eastside, Everett, or Tacoma depending on where they are coming from.  It would be interesting to hear what the committee members would say about their transit riding experience especially if they've never been on transit in Washington before.

Senator Haugen said we need to get electric cars to pay their fare share for the infrastructure they use as they replace gas cars (who's drivers pay gas taxes).

Meeting over. Thanks for tuning in.  Signing off for now, have a good weekend!

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