Thursday, December 3, 2009

NTPP’s Call for Federal Surface Transportation Policy Reform Continues in Minneapolis

We held our third public forum in Minneapolis on November 23rd at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. With an engaged audience of over 150 attendees, we discussed our blueprint for surface transportation policy reform Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy. The forum, featured as part of the Martin Olav Sabo Lecture Series, held in partnership with the University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, attracted prominent local and state transportation policymakers, academics, business leaders and other key transportation stakeholders, as well as the interested public. Speakers grappled with both challenges and opportunities of implementing the recommendations of our report in a region like the Twin Cities. Sponsorship for the event was provided in part by The McKnight Foundation.

Overall a resounding sense of urgency flavored conversations through the event. There was consensus among forum speakers and audience participants that now is the time for reform. Policy and revenue discussions, necessary for strengthening the next authorization bill, have the potential of going on for months, if not years. It was made clear by speakers during the event that the American people and our national economy cannot afford to wait. Now is the time to act on authorizing a national transportation bill that, among other things, puts mechanisms in place that prioritize program funding and project spending in line with well-defined national goals.

Panelists who spoke at the event generally agreed that real reform has to come from Washington. States and localities are exhausted and operating under severe budget constraints, leaving less time and energy for innovation. As the NTPP report argues, this situation is likely a result of historically misguided policies and funding mechanisms. By offering increased flexibility and rewarding innovation federal funding could help invigorate local transportation planning and investment. Some attendees remained skeptical of these conclusions, stating that program design and data collection methods left up to individual jurisdictions leaves room for wasted time, inferior methods, and error, and that a top down approach might in fact be superior. This highlights the foundations of the proposed NTPP framework, that states and localities have grown accustomed to doing things a certain way, as dictated by the federal government. The U.S. transportation system would be more functional, efficient, and cost controlled if states and local jurisdictions were rewarded for demonstrating performance of each dollar invested.

The event also marked the release of an NTPP research paper, Performance Metrics for the Evaluation of Transportation Programs authored by Richard Mudge, Vice President, Delcan Corporation and Keith Jasper, Senior Associate, Delcan Corporation. This paper highlights the fact that transportation investments have a profound ability to stimulate national productivity and economic growth, and though increased investment is necessary to maintain national transportation infrastructure in this country, it is essential that any future investment be made wiser and held accountable for demonstrating beneficial results.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, NTPP member, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and Senior Policy Advisor to John McCain’s presidential campaign gave a keynote speech during lunch of this event. Dr. Holtz-Eakin talked about how understanding near term economic events and likely future economic outcomes, such as the housing finance crisis that occurred in this country and the larger financial market crisis triggering the most severe economic downturn experienced in the United States since the 1930s, are critically important for thinking about our nation’s transportation policy.

Other featured speakers during the Minneapolis event included:
Former U.S. Congressman and NTPP Co-Chair Martin Sabo;
• Minnesota State Senator and Chair of the National Conference of State Legislatures' Transportation Committee D. Scott Dibble;
• Minnesota State Representative Mary Liz Holberg;
• Peter Bell, Chair of the Metropolitan Council;
• Peter McLaughlin, Commissioner of Hennepin County;
• Tom Sorel, Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Transportation;
• Mike Erlandson, Vice President - Government Affairs of SUPERVALU, INC. and NTPP member;
• Charlie Zelle, President of Jefferson Lines;
• Laurie McGinnis, Acting Director of University of Minnesota's Center for Transportation Studies;
• Humphrey Institute Dean J. Brian Atwood; and
• Lee Munnich, Director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey Institute.

A full video recording of the event can be viewed here.

A number of news pieces ran in the days following the forum:

Retooling transportation policy,
Fleet Owner by Sean Kilcarr

Oberstar waiting for green light as U conference urges reform of nation's obsolete transportation system, by Steve Berg

U of M forum takes aim at transportation funding issues,
Minnesota Public Radio by Dan Olson

The next NTPP forum will take place in New York City on Monday, January 25th at the Kimmel Center at New York University (NYU).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Strengthening the Detroit Metro Region through a Call for Federal Transportation Policy Reform

The nation’s existing surface transportation law SAFETEA-LU expired yesterday, and while Congressional action on reauthorization remains muddled and misguided NTPP is continuing to engage key transportation decision makers across the country in discussions about future policies necessary to shape our nation’s transportation system.

We most recently held a public forum in Detroit on September 21st to discuss our blueprint for reform entitled, Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy, and the impact of our recommendations on the Detroit metro region. This forum was the second to be held in a series of events that we are holding across the country. It attracted leading local, state and national transportation policymakers, academics, and other key transportation stakeholders, as well as the interested public.

Panelists who spoke at the Detroit event agreed that reforming federal transportation policy is critical, not only for maintaining necessary infrastructure in the State of Michigan, but for stabilizing the region and the nation's economy. During the event NTPP Co-Chairman and former Mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer stated that “the current structure of federal transportation programs does not recognize the key role that transportation investment plays in economic growth and access to jobs. Detroit would benefit from a program and funding framework that is based on economic performance and outcomes.”

Our recommendations call for U.S. transportation policy to be more performance-driven, more directly linked to a set of clearly articulated goals, and more accountable for results. One of the goals of our framework is that transportation investment be measured and held accountable for generating economic growth. Speakers at the forum urged local citizens, as well as Congress, to push for these recommendations in the next transportation bill.

This event was held in downtown Detroit, in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber. It attracted transportation experts from across the state including: State Representative and Chair of the House Transportation Committee Pam Byrnes; Gregory Johnson, Chief Operations Officer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT); Paul Tait, Executive Director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments; John Woodrooffe, Head of the Transportation Safety Analysis Division at the University of Michigan; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano; Richard Wallace, Senior Project Manager at the Center of Automotive Research; and Tim Johnson, Strategic Opportunity Manager for the Sprint Nextel Corporation.

A full video recording of the event can be viewed here.

A number of news pieces ran in the days preceding and following the Detroit NTPP forum:

Map a new course for U.S. transportation funds,

Detroit Free Press by Dennis Archer

Federal policies ignore transportation’s role in economic growth, ex-mayor says,

Crain’s Detroit Business by Bill Shea

State help sought to reform U.S. transportation funding,

Detroit Free Press by Matt Helms

The next NTPP forum will take place in Minneapolis on Monday, November 23rd at the University of Minnesota.

Friday, September 11, 2009

NTPP Advocates for Federal Transportation Policy Reform at Seattle Forum

With less than a month to go before the nation’s surface transportation law is due to expire, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) is hard at work facilitating debate and engaging key transportation decision makers across the country in discussions about the future of our nation’s transportation system.

The NTPP held a public forum in Seattle, Washington on August 27th to discuss its blueprint for reform entitled, “Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy,” and the implications for the Puget Sound region. The forum, the first of many to be held around the country, attracted leading local and national transportation policymakers, academics, and other key transportation stakeholders.

Panelists who spoke at the Seattle event agreed that federal transportation policy, which hasn’t been overhauled in decades, needs immediate reform. NTPP Co-Chair and Former U.S. Senator Slade Gorton urged local citizens, as well as Congress, to push for such reform.

The Seattle forum discussion focused on the importance of greater flexibility in local and regional spending based on performance, as well as highlighted the need for innovative solutions to increase the capacity and performance of the transportation system. A research paper by Thomas A. Horan, Ph.D. on “The Critical Role of Information Technology in Improving Surface Transportation Performancewas released at the forum, calling for an acceleration of ITS innovation in the context of a performance-based federal transportation system.

Held at the Arctic Club Hotel in downtown Seattle, the forum attracted transportation experts from across the state, including State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen; Charlie Howard, Transportation Planning Director for the Puget Sound Regional Council; Dan O’Neal, Commissioner, Washington State Transportation Commission; Steve Marshall, Senior Fellow, Cascadia Center for Regional Development; Joni Earl, Chief Executive Officer, Sound Transit; and J. Tayloe Washburn, Foster Pepper PLLC and Chair of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

A full video recording of the event can be viewed here, as well as a selection of photographs here.

NTPP Co-Chair former Senator Slade Gorton was interviewed following the August 27 event by Jeremy Grater on Seattle’s KOMO Newsradio.

As a result of the Seattle forum a number of news articles and blogs that ran, including:

Transportation dollars should be allocated to maximize larger society goals,

The Seattle Times by Slade Gorton

A Call for Federal Transportation Reform,

Business Improvement Area Blog

New Direction and Goals Unveiled at National Transportation Forum,

Cascadia Prospectus by Mike Wussow

Forget Pork. When It Comes to Transportation Spending, Think Sugar, What’s Wrong with Transportation Policy and How to Get it Right,

The Daily Green by Jim DiPeso

Slade Gorton: Federal transpo dollars should follow clearly stated national objectives,

The Bellingham Herald (Traffic Talk Blog) by Jared Paben

The next NTPP forum will take place in Detroit on Monday, September 21st at the offices of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Invited speakers include: Dennis Archer, NTPP Co-Chair and Former Mayor of Detroit, Jack Basso, NTPP Member and Director of Program Finance and Management at AASHTO, Michigan State Representative Pam Byrnes, among others.