The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking earlier this week. The proposal allows the FTA to streamline steps in the approval process for public transit projects that could interest private investors.
The newly proposed Private Investment Project Procedures appear to be in response to the Trump Administration’s plan to use private sector resources to help rebuild America’s infrastructure.
Under the proposed PIPP system, recipients of Federal assistance can request the FTA to modify or waive specific FTA requirements. The recipients must demonstrate that those requirements discourage the use of public-private partnerships. The FTA administrator would then be able to grant a modification or waiver of a requirement if certain criteria are met. (The PIPP could not, however, be used to waive any requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act or any other provision of Federal statute.)
“As more public transportation project sponsors find willing and able private partners, we must ensure that federal regulations or procedures do not stifle innovation,” said Matthew Welbes, FTA executive director. “FTA’s Private Investment Project Procedures will help us maintain procedures that are truly beneficial while allowing for discretion to waive those that simply impede good projects.”
In my view, the FTA should eliminate, for all projects, requirements that are not truly beneficial and simply impede good projects. Then it would not need a bureaucracy to handle waiver requests.
Arizona Displays Student Art
Valley Metro is featuring student artwork titled “The Journey Begins Here” on a bus and light rail train for one year.
The design is by Cactus High School student, Sofia Garcia. In May, she was named the first place winner of Valley Metro’s 2017 Design a Transit Wrap Contest.
Garcia also won the contest two years ago. Now a senior, she plans to attend Arizona State University in the fall on an art scholarship. She hopes to pursue a career in graphic design.
“I was really inspired by how public transportation brings people together,” she said. “It connects people from all walks of life. They come together for a moment on their individual journey. It’s really special.”
Valley Metro chose Garcia’s design out of more than 150 entries submitted by high school students across the Valley in Phoenix, Arizona.
Mike Stanley Proposes Pod Travel
Local engineer Mike Stanley is talking with officials in Marlborough, Massachusetts, about adopting his Transit X public transportation system. He also hopes to interest other nearby communities in his futuristic system.
Transit X uses a 100-pound, elliptical-shaped pod car that is suspended under a thin rail about 14 feet above street level and is powered by solar energy. The pod cars travel under the rail at speeds of 45 mph on main roads and 135 mph on highways. Each pod car can carry a single rider or a family of five to their destination.
“Technically, it’s like a roller coaster with a circular pod hanging from it,” Stanley explained.
Although most local leaders are skeptical about adopting the system, Mark Oram, city councilor, said he thinks it is a “fantastic idea.”
Making Commutes Healthy?
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to remove some subway seats to make room for more passengers. New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer recently questioned whether the MTA could find a healthy “silver living” in their plans. .
Cars on the L hold 198 people standing and 54 sitting. When the MTA’s pilot project removes all the seats, the expected capacity will be 277 standing — a net increase of 25 riders.
Dwyer points to the popular notion in office circles that it is healthier to work at a desk while standing. He suggests that the health benefits of standing just might be an overlooked “silver lining” to MTA’s plans.
Jim Wilson, BWAT General Manager