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Easter Seals Project Action hosts public audio conference: "Service Animals and Transit: How to Develop a Working Relationship."

You are invited to dial in Tuesday, June 19 to the next in a series of free, public audio conferences sponsored by Easter Seals Project ACTION. The topic will be, "Service Animals and Transit: How to Develop a Working Relationship."

Co-presenters Dave O'Connell and Donna Smith will describe their successful strategies for creating an environment to support passengers and their service animals using transit. Donna's dog Saturn also will be present for the call but is not expected to speak.

Easter Seals Project ACTION will host the program from 2-3 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 19. To join the call, dial 1-800-860-2442 or 412-858-4600. Tell the operator you wish to join the Easter Seals Project ACTION conference call.

Staff request that callers email any questions one week ahead of time to give presenters an opportunity to learn about the interests of participants. The questions and interests can be sent to distancelearning@easterseals.com and should have "June 2006 Audio
Conference" in the Subject line.

This conference call will be transcribed, and the text made available in regular and alternate formats some 30 days after the call.

Easter Seals Project ACTION is pleased to offer this opportunity as a way of advancing accessible community transportation. For more details and to RSVP, visit Project ACTION's Web page about the audio conference. We look forward to your participation.

Congress Passes Final Transportation Bill: Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users new

This is a brief summary of some areas of interest in the final transportation bill.  The bill is enormous, so more and more data will be filtering out of national groups over the next few weeks.  This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just a list of items that have been important to partners of the Transportation Equity Network .

  • Funding for Metropolitan Planning. MPOs will receive, as a whole, 57 percent more in funding under SAFETEA-LU than under TEA-21.  That should mean that they have more resources to do the right thing (like public involvement, accountability, transparency, using better tools for planning, etc.).
  • Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program (S. 1117).  Congress preserved this program, which gives out grants to local communities for comprehensive planning efforts, and funds it at $25 million in FY 2005, and at $61.25 million for each year from 2006 through 2009.
  • Safe Routes to School Program (S. 1404).  Congress created this new program to help communities fund infrastructure and non-infrastructure related projects to make it safer for children to walk and bike to primary and middle schools.  The program is funded at an average of $122 million each year between 2005 and 2009.
  • Roadway Safety Improvements for Older Drivers and Pedestrians (S 1405). Congress created a program to fund projects to make is safer for elderly drivers and pedestrians to get around.  The program is appropriated annually and has no guaranteed funding.
  • Grant Program to Prohibit Racial Profiling (S 1906).  Sets aside $7.5 million annually between 2005 and 2009 for grants to states that have anti-racial profiling laws on the books to cover the cost of collecting data on stops, evaluation of data, and programs to reduce racial profiling and train law enforcement officers to not profile by race.
  • Transportation and Local Workforce Investment (S. 1920).  Sense of Congress that federal transportation projects should facilitate locally developed collaborative efforts to increase local workforce participation in the construction of projects.  This language is intended to overturn existing federal prohibitions on local hiring.
  • Community Enhancement Study (S 1925).  Congress mandates a study to be completed by 2007 that would examine how surface transportation programs can strengthen community (through public involvement), protect public health, promote economic development, and enhance planning efforts.  The law sets aside $1 million annually for this study, which will be submitted to Congress.
  • Metropolitan Planning (Section 3005).  Some important changes include:
    • Adds to the planning factors the goal of promoting consistency between transportation improvements and State and local planned growth patterns.
    • Emphasizes coordination in the planning process by recipients of federal transportation dollars.
    • Changes the planning process timeline to every five years, instead of every three years. That means that MPOs must update their Transportation Plan (used to be referred to as the long range transportation plan) every five years.  MPOs for areas with air quality problems would need to conduct updates every four years.  MPOs can always elect to do updates more frequently than that.
    • Plans must use a 20-year horizon, identify transportation facilities, mitigation activities, financial plans, operations and management strategies, capital investment strategies and enhancement projects.
    • Requires MPOs to develop a "Participation Plan" with a range of stakeholders, including representatives of users of public transportation, the disabled, and users of pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities, among others.  The plan should include accessible and convenient meeting locations and times, employ visualization techniques, and utilize the Internet.
    • The Transportation Improvement Program would be updated every four years, instead of every three years.  Projects can be included only if they can anticipate full funding.
    • The US DOT must issue regulations for the "annual list of projects" within 180 days establishing standards for the list requirement.
    • MPO certifications are held every four years instead of every three for areas with 200,000 or more residents.  The US DOT has the option of withholding up to 20 percent of the funds granted to that metropolitan region under federal transportation law.

  • Statewide Planning (Section 3006). Some important changes include:
    • Public participation in the State Long Range Transportation Plan must involve stakeholders mentioned above, but also employ convenient and accessible meeting times and locations, visualization techniques, Internet access.
    • The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program shall cover a period of four years and be updated every four years or more frequently.
    • The State must cooperate in the development of the annual list of projects requirement for metropolitan areas.
    • A project can be included in the STIP only if there is reasonable expectation of full funding.
    • The Secretary must approve of the Statewide planning process every four years

  • Clean Fuels Grant Program (S. 3010).  Congress continued this program, but it will continue to be earmarked since it is no longer a formula program, at $49 million in FY 2005 increasing to $51.5 million in FY 2009.
  • Capital Investment Grants (S. 3011).  This section involves a number of programs:
  • Fixed Guideway Systems (New Starts):

o Establishes an alternatives analysis, intended to be a streamlined version of TEA-21, that requires that there be a set of alternatives examined before a locally preferred alternative is selected.

o Requires that a project can be approved only if it does not require a reduction in existing public transportation service or level of service to operate the proposed project.

o Requires that the Secretary must consider the degree to which the project increases the mobility of transit-dependent populations and promotes economic development.

o A new policy guidance on fixed guideway projects is due out within 120 days of the law being enacted.

Fixed Guideway Systems (Small Starts):

o Creates a new category of projects that can be funded that cost less than $75 million

o Formula Grants for Special Needs of Elderly Individuals and Individuals with Disabilities (S. 3012).  Funding for this program begins at $94.5 million in FY 2005 and increases to $133.5 million in FY 2009.  The new law doesn't allow these funds to be spent on operating costs, but does create a pilot program for a handful of states that will allow it.  The new language also makes it easier to come up with a local match for the program.  Our allies in the senior community also succeeded in creating a new Senior Transportation Technical Assistance Center.

o Formula Grants for Other Than Urbanized Areas (S. 3013).  In SAFETEA-LU Congress places greater emphasis on public transportation on Indian reservations.  The funding formula is also designed to reflect both land area and population density.

o Job Access and Reverse Commute Program (S. 3018).  Congress turns the program into a formula grant to the states.  Eligible uses of the funds remain largely the same, except that states now have the flexibility to use their grants on either Job Access or Reverse Commute projects.  The formula itself is somewhat complex: 60 percent goes to areas with populations of more than 200K, but among those areas this 60 percent is distributed according to the number of low-income persons in that area in comparison to areas in the same population category; 20 percent go to urban areas with less than 200K total population; the remaining 20 percent goes to rural areas.  States are expected to establish their own competitive processes for these funds.  States have the ability to transfer JARC funds to rural or urbanized formula transit programs for JARC eligible projects.  The federal match for the program is increased to 80 percent, which will make it easier to develop and support these projects.  JARC funds may now be used for operating expenses.  Projects must be part of a coordinated public transportation human needs service plan.  This program will receive more than $700 million over six years.

o New Freedom Program (S. 3019).  Congress created this new program and kept it distinct from the 5310 program.  This is meant to address the access to jobs needs of people with disabilities.  The formula used and other structural elements are similar to that used for the JARC program.  It will receive $78 million in FY 2006.  This increases to $92.5 million in FY 2009.

o General Provisions (S. 3023).  While some language is tweaked in the public involvement element, it is not weakened, and in some cases may actually strengthen it.  For example, under prior law, an agency could choose not to hold a public hearing on a project if no one impacted by it requested one.  SAFETEA-LU requires that all projects with a significant impact involve a public hearing.

o Special Provisions (S. 3024).  SAFETEA-LU lessens the scope of coordination required by law and limits such coordination to the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Other agencies, like Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, etc. were listed under prior law.

o Allocations for National Research and Technology Programs (S. 3046).  Some of the programs created in this section are the Center for Transit Oriented Development, the Transportation Equity Research Program, a Human Services Transportation Coordination project, a Public Transportation Participation Pilot Program, a National Bus Rapid Transit Institute.  TEN was involved in the creation of the Transportation Equity Research program.

o Clean School Bus Program (S. 6015).  Authorizes up to $55 million in FY 2006 and again in FY 2007 for the replacement and retrofitting of diesel school buses.  This program is not guaranteed any funding and is subject to the appropriations process.
In addition to these sections of the bill, our allies report the following:

o Funding for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program increased by 27 percent in SAFETEA-LU over TEA-21 levels.

o Funding for the Surface Transportation Program increased by 11.25 percent.

o SAFETEA-LU created a new safety program for rural roads and funded it at $90 million annually.

o Congress did not equalize tax breaks between transit and carpooling and parking benefits.

o Congress failed to establish a storm water mitigation assistance program in the final agreement.

o Lawsuits against projects must be filed under NEPA within 180 days (instead of the 90 days that had been proposed by the Administration).

Report provided by Rich Stolz, Center for Community Change rstolz@communitychange.org.

National Archives:

Washington Update August 16, 2005 (Word)

Washington Update May 19, 2005 (Word)

Washington Update March 28, 2005 (Word)

Need to better understand the federal budget process?   Further Resources and Tools are available:
House Budget Committee - Budget Tutorial: http://www.loc.gov/
Senate Budget Committee - Budget Background (Republican website): http://www.loc.gov/
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities , "Introduction to the Federal Budget Process," http://www.cbpp.org/

(Go to "read background on the FY06 budget," then click on "For information on how the Federal budget process works.”)

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