On Feb. 25, 2020, CTAA’s Executive Director Scott Bogren spoke before the Senate Banking Committee on the importance of the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization. The other witnesses included: Mr. Paul Skoutelas (President and Chief Executive Officer, American Public Transportation Association), Mr. Patrick McKenna (President, American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials), Mr. Ed Mortimer (Vice President, Transportation and Infrastructure, Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America) and Mr. Larry Willis (President of The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO).
Chairman Mike Crapo kicked off the hearing stating the importance of the hearing. The FAST Act expires on September 30, 2020, which means the Committee has less than seven months to develop a new surface transportation reauthorization bill. This hearing marked the beginning discussion between the Committee members and transportation stakeholders.
During Chairman Crapo’s opening statement, he discussed the importance of addressing the solvency in the Highway Trust Fund, tackling the changing mobility landscape and how new technologies can be adopted into transit systems. His full opening statement can be found here
Ranking Member Brown then had an opportunity to speak on the topic. He focused on the many benefits of public transit, the importance of increasing funding for FTA programs and called for record investment in the Bus and Bus Facilities program, as well as the Low and No Emission Vehicle Program. His full opening statement can be found here (PDF).
Following the Senators opening statements, the witnesses each had an opportunity to speak for five minutes. Bogren spoke about CTAA’s top reauthorization priorities, the important work CTAA members are doing every day and the ways in which CTAA members will best support their communities.
His full remarks can be viewed below.
Once the witnesses delivered their testimony, the floor was open to the members of the Committee.
The videos below are Bogren’s discussions with each Senator.
Chairman Crapo (Idaho) represents a largely rural state and was curious to know how rural transit programs can be strengthened and expanded throughout the country. Bogren noted his work in this area and how much rural America has changed over the years. He noted that not only the regions have changed, but also the types of trips that are provided by rural transit systems (including trips to health care, higher education or employment.)
Ranking Member Brown (Ohio) asked whether or not the FTA’s Low or No Emissions program should receive an increase in funding. Bogren agreed, but also mentioned how technology is still focused on 30 – 40 foot buses. Most smaller systems aren’t able to buy low or no emission buses as they are developed now, because the larger buses don’t make sense for their services.
Senator Chris Van Hollen (Md.) opened his questions with a story about Ride On, a CTAA member and the local transit system in Montgomery County (Md.). He told of Ride On’s new solution to first-mile/last-mile issues; a new on-demand service that connects riders with transit hubs and other services. He wondered what other solutions exist when addressing first-mile/last-mile challenges. Bogren noted that he was a frequent rider of Ride On and commended their work. He also stated that when it comes to smaller communities, it’s important for customers to be involved in first-mile/last-mile discussions. For example, do they want to be fed into the fixed-route network, or are they seeking to go to a service?
Senator Tina Smith (Minn.) began her questioning with how many rural systems exist in her state, and how important it was to provide them with more local match flexibility. Bogren agreed and highlighted one of CTAA’s reauthorization priorities, which would seek to allow rural communities suffering under high levels of poverty or lack of health care to receive more operating flexibility from the FTA.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) discussed the important role public transit plays in her state’s access to health care. She mentioned how it doesn’t matter how good your doctor is, if you can’t get there. Bogren agreed and highlighted the expanded role public transit is playing in the health care space. He also stated that the health care industry is seeing this change and is now looking at how they can better work with public transit systems to create better health outcomes.
Senator Doug Jones (Ala.) opened with a story about Birmingham, Alabama and how the city has piloted a micro-transit program for their residents. He cited the innovation of this in a rural area and was curious to know how more rural areas could incorporate micro-transit pilots. Bogren noted that in rural communities a similar process needs to take place, but with more specific outcomes in mind. He highlighted CTAA’s work in West Virginia and the development of these pilots to support those seeking recovery from opioid addiction.
Senator Jones also asked about the census. He thought it was important to get on the record that the upcoming census will likely impact public transportation. He asked the panelists what they thought of the census and how potential challenges should be addressed. Bogren agreed that the census will have an impact on public transportation, particularly around rural areas and the potential of the areas being engulfed by an urban area.
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.