With the State of the Union over and the new residents in town all settled in, it seems like some people in Washington are ready to go to work for their employers – the American taxpayers.
The last two weeks have given the transportation world much to be hopeful about. Initial committee work has begun on the Hill and both sides of the aisle are talking about being agreeable. In releasing a six year, $478 billion budget proposal last Monday, POTUS is definitely giving our industry much deserved love. And after releasing a futuristic blue paper for transportation in 2045, our Secretary, The Fantastic Mr. Foxx, has been beating the transportation drum from DC to Silicon Valley.
It is with this background that Washington is gearing up for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s first hearing of the year on a comprehensive Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill. The good news is we’re all in agreement that more funds are needed all around and questions of modal allocation of transportation funding have been tabled for the time being. The hearing will be followed by #StuckInTraffic, a Twitter Town Hall held by Secretary Foxx and Chairman Shuster to engage the people and set an example for bipartisanship on transportation.
WHERE WE ARE
Everyone recognizes that our roads, bridges, and freeways are deteriorating and in desperate need of repair, upgrade, and investment. Mass transit ridership is growing faster than ever, but struggles to meet demand and help reduce congestion as fleets age and budgets remains static. We all care about transportation because it is literally the lifeblood of how our day-to-day lives are operated and because the people care, so should policymakers.
As we work towards a long-term transportation bill, the defining question posed by Secretary Foxx is how will we align decisions and dollars to invest the trillions of dollars our transportation system needs in the smartest possible.
Through MAP-21, Congress attempted to assess our current system’s condition and make real data-driven investments toward improving state of good repair. Congress has set the stage for us to assess where we’re at today and put us on a trajectory toward a transportation network that enables very efficient flow of goods and people, eliminates wasted hours spent in traffic, and accounts for environmental impact.
WHERE WE COULD GO
Meanwhile, this afternoon’s #StuckInTraffic Town Hall further emphasizes the infusion of technology and innovation in the transportation and infrastructure industry, a sector considered archaic for a very long time. For that, the entire team at Transit Labs is very thankful! With the arrival of 43 years young Foxx (and Fast Company’s 7th Most Creative Person in Tech), we’re seeing the Department move toward technologies it has thus far been unable to leverage.
The technology of today has the power to inform us, with certainty, on how to build an efficient transportation and infrastructure network with real-time data analytics and predictive models. And the time has come for us to look at our commitments using data analytics and see what’s working where.
That’s why today, we’re releasing a new interactive data visualization that enables policymakers and taxpayers alike to track and follow how much money states and cities are receiving for transit and highway via the website http://followthemoney.transitlabs.com.
Using data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Transit Database (NTD), we created an interactive data visualization that traces the transportation funds appropriated by Congress, through DOT, down to the states and cities who are on the frontlines of our transportation projects.
ON THE FRONTLINES – STATES AND CITIES
While the growth of federal funds has stagnated, states and cities aren’t going to just call it quits. Year after year, more and more state and local elected officials have gone directly to their voters and received overwhelming approval. 72% of local and county transportation ballot measures were approved in 2014.
But make no mistake, states rely on the federal government for over 50% of their highway and bridge capital investments. The amount is closer to ⅔ in Georgia. Failure to pass a long-term transportation funding bill has forced the Georgia Department of Transportation to delay over 70 projects indefinitely.
In the coming weeks and months, elected officials and government workers across the country will be hard at work to provide solutions to our transportation challenges and put our communities and nation on a path towards economic success and prosperity.
The words of Governor Nathan Deal (R) during the week of his inauguration last month should give hope to all transportation enthusiasts across the nation –
“We all, of course, agree that we need to have additional revenue for our transportation in this state. Some will have a preference for more transit than others will have, but that’s just the nature of where people come from and who they are in terms of their constituency. But I think that those are the kinds of things, that at the end of the session, we’ll resolve them. And they won’t be marked by partisan bickering.”