Spring 2015 Issue

Pen Station/Letters

Design Quality Too Often Ignored for Infrastructure Projects

Darius Sollohub makes a compelling case for both the aesthetic and economic reasons to treat excellent design as an essential element of successful infrastructure projects (Fall 2014, “Does Design Matter?”). All too often sound design is the first element of a new public project to be jettisoned in an often misplaced effort to cut costs.

Darius carefully points out the fallacy in this approach and cites evidence of the intrinsic value that good design brings to projects that must serve and survive for generations. Hopefully his message will be embraced by the decision makers who will be in charge of the planning of the many essential infrastructure projects that have for so long been scandalously ignored. This article is must reading for anyone who is responsible for the implementation of any future public project.

—Joseph J. Maraziti, Jr.
Maraziti Falcon, LLP
Short Hills, New Jersey

Eliminating Transit Funding from Highway Trust Fund would be shortsighted

There has been bipartisan support for federal investment in public transportation through the federal gas tax since 1983 when, under President Reagan, fuels tax revenues were dedicated to public transportation through the Mass Transit Account of the surface transportation legislation. It is important to note that from 1983 on, dedicated revenue for public transit has never been diverted from highway dollars in the Highway Trust Fund.

Kansas City Streetcar Authority
Public transportation is also an essential part of the nation’s integrated, interdependent surface transportation system. Public transportation use leads to less cars on the roads, which in turn reduces congestion and allows our existing highway system to function more efficiently. According to the latest report from the Texas Transportation Institute, without public transit, drivers would have suffered an additional 865 million hours of delays.

To suggest that Congress should eliminate funding from the Highway Trust Fund, as some members of Congress did recently, is shortsighted. Such an action would be catastrophic for public transportation systems nationwide and hurt the millions of Americans who use it every day in growing numbers. (In 2013, 10.7 billion trips were taken on public transportation—the highest ridership number in 57 years.) Additionally, public transportation is an important economic lifeline for Americans in all size communities, since nearly 60 percent of the trips taken on public transit are for commutes to and from jobs. Removing Americans access to jobs is not good policy.

Within the Federal Transit Administration program, funds go to all states, based on formula programs that distribute funds on the basis of both relative need, and state and local government effort. Federal public transit funds are also specifically directed to rural areas as well as urban areas. Under MAP-21, the formula program for rural areas was increased by 29 percent (2013), while funding for the urban formula program grew by only less than one-half of 1 percent. In fact, many rural states depend on the federal transit program for a larger share of their transit spending than more urban states.

Now is the time to increase investment in public transportation, not reduce it. The quality of our transportation system and the competitiveness of our country depends on it.

—Michael Melaniphy
President and CEO,
American Public Transportation Association (APTA),
Washington, D.C.