Today, the House Subcomittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials held a hearing to address “Challenges and Opportunities for Commuter Railroads”.
According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), topics covered during the hearing included rail ridership, safety, and investment in commuter rail infrastructure.
“We strongly urge Congress to increase federal funding for public transportation, including commuter rail,” said Paul Skoutelas, APTA President and CEO, in his testimony before the committee. “The federal, state, and local partnership is essential to ensure that critical investments are made to our public transportations systems.”
Some key points from Skoutelas's testimony included the emphasis on public transportation as the safest form of surface transportation. The APTA president pointed out that every year, 32 commuter railroads across America safely carry more than 500 million passenger trips, and that traveling by commuter and intercity passenger rail is 18 times safer than traveling by car.
Skoutelas also made mention of the fact that commuter rail has enjoyed nearly constant annual ridership growth, growing by more than 42 million passenger trips (9.2%) over the last decade. APTA is urging Congress to authorize for commuter rail a total of $1 billion over six years for operations and maintenance of positive train control and $1.5 billion for highway-rail grade crossing safety initiatives.
Other APTA members joining Skoutelas on the panel include Jim Derwinski, CEO/Executive Director of Metra in Chicago; Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit in Seattle; and Stephanie Wiggins, CEO of Metrolink in Southern California.