TRANSIT: Transit dips, Miami’s Tri-Rail paused by funding lack, Poll indicates U.S. sketchy on transit funding increases

News roundup from around the U.S.

Funding News June 25, 2015
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Bit of a dip

According to a report issued by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) approximately 2.6 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation systems in the first quarter of 2015, representing a 0.7% dip compared with the same period in 2014.

 

“On a national level, public transit ridership was basically flat for the first quarter, although increases were seen on heavy rail (subways) and commuter rail,” said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a statement. “A very cold and snowy winter and lower gas prices impacted public transportation use. The winter was colder than the one in 2014, and in New England, the snowfall amounts reached historic proportions.”

 

On the upside, heavy-rail ridership increased nationwide 0.6% in the quarter. Of the 15 systems included in the data, eight reported ridership gains, APTA officials said. Total commuter-rail ridership also rose 0.6% in the first quarter.

 

In the light-rail sector, total ridership fell 1% in the quarter, although 13 of 28 such systems logged gains. Following the opening of a new line, last June, Minneapolis’s Metro Transit reported a 151% leap in ridership, APTA officials said.

 

Wanted: Funding

Miami’s Tri-Rail has made progress trying to obtain funds to operate passenger trains out of the downtown area, but must still secure the dollars needed to actually deliver the service, according to a statement issued by Tri-Rail executive director Jack Stephens. The project presently has a “drop-dead” deadline of July, which Stephens expects will come and go without serviceability.

 

“All of the agreements are still in what I would consider negotiation,” Stephens said during an appearance before the editorial boards of el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. “None of them have been finalized in ink yet. They are all in the process. I have not seen anything that would tell me that it’s dead.”

 

So far, Stephens said, some $27 million has been “promised” by various government entities including the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County. Yet missing are two key pieces of funding, one for more than $20 million from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the other from Miami’s Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, totalling $17 million.

 

The Tri-Rail plan, first outlined earlier this year, called for $69 million to implement the downtown Miami service. The amounts cited by Stephens on Tuesday do not amount to $69 million, but Tri-Rail officials said the figures remained “fluid” since none have been finalized. It is now hoped that 2016, or perhaps early 2017, will see the new service fully on line and operational.

 

We want it, sort of

According to a recent poll by The Associated Press-GfK, a sizable percentage, albeit a minority one (44%), would be willing to trade in a single-family home in the ‘burbs for a smaller house in the city, if it meant a short drive to work or the opportunity to use public transportation, bike or walk.

 

The share of Americans who prefer suburban or rural living (53%) is identical to the percentage who believe the government should increase spending to build and improve roads, bridges and interstate highways. Americans are more divided over building and improving public transportation system such as rail and bus. Four out of 10 say spending on public transportation should be increased, but just as many say current spending is about right, and 18% say transit spending should be cut.

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