Cover Image

Not for Sale

View/Hide Left Panel
Click for next page ( 22

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement

Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 21
21 considering new transit lines to balk, despite any cost savings transit project. Although this proposal planned to take away that might be had from colocating them with freeways. a freeway lane of travel, the contraflow lane was created by Seeking lower cost solutions, many cities developed multi- taking the inside lane from the off-peak direction of travel. By modal corridors in the 1980s, 1990s, and into the new millen- taking away a lane during the peak period from the excess nium using less expensive transit modes. The model for this capacity in the nonpeak direction, the demonstration project trend was the El Monte Busway in Los Angeles. Hailed as a avoided public outcry and resistance. So while this project only success virtually from its opening, the busway originally con- attracted about 6,400 bus riders, the low cost of implementa- sisted of a single, exclusive, reversible bus lane along the I-10 tion plus the introduction of a carpool lane to this congested (San Bernardino) Freeway corridor--somewhat ironically, a freeway corridor were enough of a success that Houston went freeway that occupies the former Pacific Electric Interurban Rail on to plan, build, and operate a total of six high-occupancy right-of-way between El Monte and downtown Los Angeles. vehicle (HOV)/BRT lines on its region's freeways. The busway has one-way bus lanes built in the median strip or San Jose was next, and as in Chicago's Eisenhower corridor, alongside the freeway, which are separated from the general- this Silicon Valley hub decided to build its light rail line at the purpose traffic lanes by concrete barriers or a buffer lane with same time that they built the adjacent freeway. San Jose was traffic posts. Downtown distribution is provided by city streets. quickly followed by Denver's Central/I-25 Corridor in 1994; These attributes dramatically cut costs of construction and Los Angeles' light rail Green Line/Century Freeway Corridor operations compared to its heavy rail predecessors. Buses are in 1995 and Harbor Transitway BRT line in 1996; BART's substantially cheaper to purchase, maintain, and operate than Dublin Heavy Rail line in San Francisco's east bay suburbs rail cars. A single, reversible lane needs much less right-of-way in 1997; Portland's MAX Airport/I-84 Red Line extension in to operate than double- or triple-tracked heavy rail rights-of- 2001; Los Angeles' Gold LRT Line in the I-210 corridor in way. Using city streets to distribute buses instead of acquiring 2003; and Denver's LRT T-REX extension in 2006. Of these dedicated rights-of-way means substantially lower land acqui- 10 multimodal corridors built since 1980, all but one (BART's sition costs and fewer disruptions of established land uses. Dublin Line extension) used either some variant of bus rapid Unfortunately, these cost-cutting measures also reduce the transit or light rail for the transit component. capacity and performance of the corridor's transit component. A single-direction, reversible lane means the line is only serving peak-period commuters in the corridor. Buses may be cheaper A Brief History of Multimodal than rail, but they carry fewer passengers and can cost more Project Funding per rider compared to a high-ridership rail line. Although using city streets to distribute buses at the destination end of a Funding multimodal projects in the United States has always corridor substantially reduces right-of-way costs and enables been a challenge. Since World War II, transit systems have more flexible and direct routing opportunities, buses must fight suffered both from declining ridership and insecure financing, downtown traffic and are subject to delays and unreliability. while highways and the automobile have become the primary Despite these challenges (and the subsequent opening of the means of surface transportation and have benefited from exclusive bus lane to carpools), the El Monte Busway garnered steady and relatively generous funding. This modal imbalance upwards of 25,000 daily bus riders in the 1980s, elevating it to has made it difficult to plan, design, and build balanced, multi- a preeminent status as the "granddaddy"3 of U.S. bus rapid modal systems. Meanwhile, changing social attitudes toward transit systems. It has been held up as a model for the potential these two modes have brought political and institutional of low-cost multimodal corridor transit systems. changes to multimodal project funding as well. In response to Other cities took their cues from the El Monte, seeking these economic, political, and institutional changes, approaches to drive down the costs of transit in freeway corridors while to planning, designing, and building multimodal corridors maintaining service and performance as much as possible-- have changed over time as well. for both the freeway and the transit components. Houston was next, with a BRT demonstration project that opened in 1979 The Federal Aid Highway Act and on the I-94 freeway north of downtown. Houston picked up Transit's Increasing Government Dependence where Los Angeles left off, finding even more inventive ways to effectively cuts costs and woo skeptical voters to support a While the automobile had become the favored mode of surface transportation in the United States prior to World War II, this dominant position was cemented by the pas- 3 sage of the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956. This legisla- Trombley, W., "El Monte Busway Is Rousing but Solitary Success in L.A.," Los Angeles Times, September 26, 1985, tion set the blueprint for building and operating the nation's news/mn-1357_1_el-monte interstate highway system. Its success was due in no small part

OCR for page 21
22 to a dependable revenue stream based largely on user fees col- inability to find reliable funding sources for transit projects lected through gasoline taxes and tolls. With this act, the fed- found a sympathetic ear in the Democratic administration eral government created a strong institutional link between of John F. Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. themselves, the states, and the voters. Despite the fact that the In 1964, the Johnson administration championed the forma- interstate system was and still is subsidized by taxpayer re- tion of a federal transit aid program, at that time under the ceipts (currently roughly 30 percent),4 the general perception administrator of the Housing and Home Financing Agency. has been that it is self-supported by user fees. This funding In 1968, Congress transferred the transit program to the stream and the projects it built became increasingly impor- United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and tant, bringing economic development and political benefits created the Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA).5 to all levels of government. These programs and new institutions were intended to help Meanwhile, transit systems around the country, many of bring funding and political parity for transit with freeways. which had been privately owned and operated, suffered from But in the case of Chicago's Kennedy/Blue Line and Dan Ryan/ declining ridership, revenues, and physical infrastructure. To Red Line corridor projects, these developments were almost maintain viable multimodal alternatives in their communities, too late. For the first time, federal assistance for transit capital many local governments acquired their local transit systems expenditures was available, but the freeways for these corridors and subsidized their operations. Unfortunately, the strong and had already been funded, built, and opened before the transit effective use of user fees to fund large portions of the interstate components had begun construction. Local voters had been system has not been a successful model for transit funding asked to pay for these transit improvements, but it was not due to declining ridership and farebox revenues. until 1966 that they approved a bond measure based on the As a result, multimodal projects in the United States were promise of UMTA funds to follow.1 The delay in transit funding for these projects effectively decidedly highway-focused throughout the 1950s and 1960s. solidified their freeway components as the top priority for their The multimodal corridor projects built during this period, respective corridors. Before the transit lines could be com- largely in Chicago (see description above), were typically free- pleted, the freeways had a head start in attracting patronage and way construction or widening projects, with transit included influencing corridor land uses. Nevertheless, the multimodal either because it was already there (as in the case of the Eisen- corridor projects that followed were more balanced in their hower Blue Line) or as a freeway congestion reliever service. designs and funding between freeway and transit components. Reaching for Parity: Freeway Revolts and Attracting Scarce Federal Funds the Urban Mass Transit Administration through Marquee Transit Projects Almost at the same time as the passage of the Federal Aid Even after the establishment of UMTA and a dedicated Highway Act in 1956, freeway construction projects began transit capital funding source, multimodal corridor projects to encounter local resistance. Starting in the mid-1950s in faced a severe disadvantage vis--vis freeways. Until 1983, the San Francisco, local residents turned activists began to oppose federal government funded UMTA using general revenues-- freeways planned to cut through existing urban neighborhoods. as opposed to Highway Trust Fund (HTF) monies. Transit Often, public transit was seen as a viable and necessary alter- had no dedicated federal funding source. To help rectify native to urban freeway projects and antifreeway activists often this imbalance, Congress passed the Surface Transportation found themselves in political alliances with protransit advo- Assistance Act of 1982 (STAA) that created the Mass Transit cates and their allies in government. This local resistance to Account (MTA) and funded it using a portion of revenues specific freeway projects also found friendly support from the from the federal motor fuel tax for public transportation uses. nascent environmental movement, which increasingly saw STAA also increased the federal gas tax from 4 cents per gallon freeways and the automobile as prime culprits in threatening to 9 cents per gallon and specified that 1 cent of the 5 cents per the environment. So-called "freeway revolts" spread across the gallon increase (20 percent) would fund the newly created MTA. country and put pressure on the federal government to narrow Since then, for each increase in the federal gas tax, 20 percent the funding gap between highways and transit. has been deposited in the MTA.6 At the same time, concerns in urban municipal governments about the deterioration of their transit systems and their 5APTA, "APTA Primer on Transit Funding," August 2009, gap/policyresearch/Documents/Primer_SAFETEA_LU_August_2009_Update.pdf 6APTA, "APTA Recommendations on Federal Public Transportation Autho- 4"Highway Statistics 2007, Funding For Highways and Disposition of Highway- rizing Law," Adopted October 5, 2008, Revised November 1, 2009, http:// User Revenues, All Units of Government, 2007." information/statistics/2007/hf10.cfm. Retrieved 2009-06-19. recommendations.pdf

OCR for page 21
23 Despite these improvements in funding parity, transit the responsibility to meet air quality mandates (reinforc- remained a second-tier priority in most multimodal planning ing earlier highway and air quality legislation making efforts, particularly prior to the passage of STAA. To overcome such calls) these hurdles, transit projects needed to take the center stage. The elevation of MPOs to a prominent role in urban trans- San Francisco's BART system was the first heavy rail transit portation planning, decision-making, and financing system built in the United States in the post-World War II era, A mandate that state DOTs adopt an intermodal approach much of it within already built or planned freeway corridors. to transportation planning7 With backing from a Department of Defense-led study that A mandated link between transportation and land use recommended a rapid rail system for the Bay Area and strong planning local political support, its initial system was planned, designed, and built using no federal funds. However, its high-profile Whereas the federal government had traditionally provided status as the forerunner of a new generation of heavy rail highway funds directly to state departments of transportation transit systems helped win federal funding for future exten- (DOTs), ISTEA elevated the status of metropolitan trans- sions. Therefore, and somewhat ironically, the sheer scale and portation organizations (MPOs), essentially bypassing the expense of this heavy rail investment may have helped elevate states and putting substantial highway funds directly into its profile and have given it an edge in winning federal funding local hands. At the same time, federal mode-specific funding support. requirements were loosened, allowing MPOs to use these funds Soon after, WMATA and MARTA won federal funding more flexibly. As a result, highway funds need not be used for support for constructing BART-like heavy rail systems, again, building or maintaining highways, but can be used for transit often within existing freeway corridors. Multimodal corridor and nonmotorized projects. alignments took on new importance during this period, This shift in the transportation finance landscape has where the efficiencies of lower costs of right-of-way acquisition elevated the profile and viability of multimodal corridor and construction could be a useful selling point to UMTA and projects. The name ISTEA begins with the word "intermodal," Congress. Multimodal corridor alignments also represented indicating its authors' interest in encouraging multimodal the realization of political compromises between highway projects. During this period, multimodal corridor projects and transit interests. WMATA was funded and built explicitly have been growing in number and changing in design and as a compromise between these factions, who often fought approach. Increasingly, project sponsors sought lower costs vigorously, corridor by corridor, for whether a freeway or a through light rail (Portland's Blue and Red Line MAX, San heavy rail transit line would be built. Jose's Guadalupe line, and Los Angeles's Green Line) and bus rapid transit (such as Los Angeles' El Monte and Harbor BRT projects and Houston's BRT network) while the marquee and Approaching Parity: Flexible Funding expensive heavy rail projects became more of a rarity. This and the Intermodal Surface Transportation low-cost priority can appear somewhat ironic, since it came Efficiency Act during the same period that local interests gained more control One of the most important changes in the transportation over federal funding, which would suggest that cost would legislative landscape was the Intermodal Surface Transporta- be less of a concern. However, the requirements for federal tion Efficiency Act (ISTEA), signed into law in 1991. Prior to funding--as specified in the "Full Funding Grant Agreement" ISTEA's passage, multimodal corridor projects were difficult which places the risk of cost overruns squarely on the local to undertake successfully. ISTEA provided the incentives sponsor--have also given them a new perspective on the risks and the impetus for agencies to undertake multimodal cor- of expensive megaprojects, fulfilling the promise of ISTEA's ridor projects. other implicit priority, efficiency. The ISTEA legislation brought a number of key innovations into practice, including policies specifically directed at breaking Current Financial and Process Barriers down the barriers that have impeded multimodal projects. to Multimodal Projects Among these were Financial barriers to multimodal corridor development Flexible funding of transportation projects, providing arise because there are separate regulations for funding highway new funds that Metropolitan Planning Organizations and transit projects. First, any multimodal project that includes (MPOs) can use to fund various projects: highways, streets, transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and others 7 Goetz, A. R., et al., "Assessing Intermodal Transportation Planning at State A direct link between transportation and environmen- Departments of Transportation," World Review of Intermodal Transportation tal planning, specifically giving transportation planners Research 2007; Vol. 1, No.2 pp. 119145.