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Policy Statement 494 - Public Transportation

 
Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on February 26, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 11, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 11, 2020

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the robust funding, planning, design, construction, operation, and long-term maintenance of public transportation systems as a key component of a comprehensive, integrated, multi-modal transportation system. Further, ASCE

  • Recommends the federal government, through US. Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration policymaking, funding, and programmatic initiatives, continue to support the improvement and continued operations of public transportation in the United States.
  • Urges the federal government to continue to financially support public transportation through a portion at least as large as the existing Mass Transit account's share of the federal Highway Trust Fund.
  • Encourages additional investment in public transportation from all levels of government, in order to reduce the substantial and growing backlog of rehabilitation needs.
  • Urges governments and transit systems to budget for and fund critical maintenance projects and use asset management best practices to prioritize projects to achieve a state of good repair. 

Issue 

America's public transit infrastructure plays a vital role in our economy, providing vital mobility accessibility to millions of people in urban, suburban, and rural communities.  The ASCE 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave the nation's transit systems a D-a decrease from a D in 2013.

Demand for public transportation in the United States continues is at a historically high level. American transit systems carried 10.5 9.8 billion passenger trips in 2018.This is a near 1 billion trip increase from 20 years ago, when transit carried 8.6 billion trips. Twenty-one percent of American adults reported taking public transportation on a daily or weekly basis in 2017. Communities across the country are planning for new rail lines, extending existing rail lines, launching commuter bus and train services, and expanding bus routes into areas never served by transit. Communities are also expanding transit possibilities by partnering with new mobility providers, including ride hailing, carsharing, and scooter providers to expand the reach of traditional transit services. These actions are in response to roadway traffic congestion, changing transportation patterns and schedules, and a desire to improve social equity, community livability, and environmental sustainability. Compared with 1997, there were 17 additional commuter/ hybrid rail systems and 20 additional light rail/ streetcar systems along with a variety of real-time information sources for passengers.  In turn, new transit options frequently lead to new development and redevelopment in the surrounding area. 

The demand for, and benefits of, public transportation are evident, and sustaining and expanding public transportation options would seem an obvious course. However, in many jurisdictions, insufficient funding has put public transit agencies under tremendous pressure, even forcing some to reduce or eliminate service. Long deferred maintenance and capital projects have led to a nationwide $90 billion transit rehabilitation backlog, which has affected the condition and performance of transit systems infrastructure. According to the American Public Transit Association (APTA), failure to invest in public transportation infrastructure modernization, also known as a State of Good Repair (SGR), results in a loss of $340 billion in cumulative business sales from 2017-23. This translates to a loss of $180 billion in cumulative gross national product (GNP) and a loss of $109 billion in household incomee.

In addition to dedicating additional attention and funding to the transit vehicles and infrastructure itself, cities and regions would benefit from dedicating right-of-way to transit. When transit can operate in dedicated right-of-way, its reliability and efficiency improve significantly, making it a far more appealing option for travelers. Encouraging regions to dedicate bus lanes, streetcar lanes, and other dedicated space for transit should be a low-cost financial effort that can generate a very large return on investment. 

Rationale 

Continuing to expand and improve the condition of existing public transportation infrastructure is necessary to meet travel demand and provide the safe, convenient, and affordable travel services expected by the public. An efficient public transportation system can improve accessibility, mitigate traffic congestion, enhance air and water quality, conserve fuel, reduce carbon emissions, encourage a more equitable transportation system, help sustain economic development, and promote more sustainable communities. The benefits of public transportation are numerous and include demand responsive transit programs that provide mobility to elderly individuals and people with disabilities; allow lower income workers and their families accessibility to reach jobs and meet their daily needs; provides commuters the convenience of taking transit, even if they have other transportation choices; provides businesses with greater access to a larger pool of workers who themselves have more reliable commutes; reduces automobile commuters which can result in more efficient goods movement, as well as cleaner air; result in an increase in property values and development potential in high quality transit areas; and provides the safest mode of surface transportation, orders of magnitude safer than automobile use, and as modal shares of transit increase, the aggregate safety of surface transportation also increases.

ASCE Policy Statement 494 
First Approved in 2002 


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