CTAA Annual Conference – Palm Springs, CA
Remarks of Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon. Thank you for that kind introduction, Scott [Bogren, CTAA executive director]. You know, I’ve gotten to know Scott over the last two years and am always impressed by his dedication to transit and his advocacy for transit providers. You could not ask for a better person to represent you in D.C. I’d also like to thank Lauren Skiver, who hosted me this morning at SunLine Transit. I really enjoyed seeing the good work SunLine is doing to incorporate innovative technologies into their bus fleet and the chance to learn more about their Center of Excellence, which will help workers expand their skills in maintaining advanced-technology buses.
Let me add my congratulations to the CTAA award winners, who have been recognized for taking positive steps to improve how they deliver transit in their communities, too.
And lastly, I’d like to thank each of you for your continued partnership as we work together to improve public transportation across America’s communities.
I am happy to be here today to highlight US DOT’s support of transit -- particularly smaller transit systems -- over the past year. Joining me today is Ray Tellis, FTA’s Region 9 Administrator. He picked up the reins to lead one of our largest regions earlier this year and is already doing an excellent job leading our work throughout Region 9. Many of you already know him for his work directing FTA’s Los Angeles Metro office.
I’m also joined by Bailey Wood, FTA’s Director of Communications and FTA Chief Safety Officer Henrika Buchanan, as well as members of FTA’s program management office: Acting Associate Administrator Bruce Robinson and his team: Marianne Stock, Elan Flippin, Kelly Tyler and Jasmine Clemons. They all do great work to manage our rural programs and ensure that our grantees get the funding and technical assistance that you need.
Our work to support transit agencies across the nation is strengthened by partnerships with groups such as CTAA. Your organization does important work supporting public transportation in communities across the U.S., including rural and small urban areas, helping people get to work, school, healthcare and other critical services. Your systems are vital for people who have few transportation options or who don’t – or can’t – drive.
I appreciate CTAA all the more because I grew up in rural America. While I have worked in Washington, D.C. for many years, I was raised in a small town in northeastern Maryland, where my family ran an automobile dealership and owned a few acres where we grazed cows and horses. So while I enjoy working in the city and making a difference as much as I can at the national level, I understand firsthand the needs of rural America.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, testifying to Congress last month about the President’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020, emphasized the Administration’s interest in balancing federal support to ensure that rural communities receive equity in funding. She drove home the point that rural areas are not looking for handouts, just a more balanced approach to funding.
President Trump has made clear that infrastructure investment is a priority for the country. The President’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020, released in March, includes a total budget request for transit of $12.4 billion dollars. In addition to $10.2 billion dollars in formula grants, the FY 20 budget includes $500 million dollars above the FAST Act-authorized level for the competitive Bus & Bus Facilities program and to meet the industry’s State of Good Repair needs.
That 40-percent increase over previous funding levels demonstrates the Administration’s commitment to public transportation and is a very positive take-away for transit.
Adding to that positive news, I’m pleased to announce today that we have selected 37 projects in 37 states to receive a share of $9.6 million dollars in FTA’s Access and Mobility Partnership grants. FTA is happy to support creative transportation solutions that incorporate 21st-century technology innovations to enable people to reach health care and other critical services, especially in rural areas.
For example, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving rural Appalachian communities in West Virginia will receive a grant to provide transportation for their clients using vans and SUVs. This will offer a much-needed alternative for those who lack cars and have to travel – sometimes as long as a full day – to access appointments using an infrequent bus service through the winding mountain roads of southern West Virginia. In rural Mississippi, a nonprofit health services center will receive FTA funding to launch a route-matching application and mobility-on-demand web portal that allows riders to book trips, manage rides and access real-time trip information through mobile phones or computers. And right here in southern California, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will receive funding for an automated phone and web reservation system to increase efficiencies for paratransit customers.
We received 126 proposals requesting four times the funding we had available, so we know the need is out there.
As our brief video demonstrated, a significant portion of FTA’s funding goes to small- and medium-sized agencies. Let me reiterate some of FTA’s recent infrastructure investment.
FTA formula funding is by far our largest program to support transit. In FY2018, FTA provided $11.7 billion dollars through formula programs. For example, FTA’s Enhanced Mobility of Seniors & People with Disabilities program provided approximately $340 million dollars in grants.
FTA also supported infrastructure investment through a number of competitive grant programs. In 2018, FTA announced $366 million dollars in funding to 107 bus modernization projects nationwide. Forty-three percent of the grant funds went to states for projects in small urban and rural areas. For example, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet received a $7 million grant to help transit agencies in rural areas throughout the state replace vehicles, expand fleets, and construct and renovate bus facilities. The state agency told us in their application that most of the areas served by rural transit in Kentucky have both high unemployment rates and significant populations of seniors and people with disabilities, meaning that transit is especially important for their mobility, independence and quality of life.
FTA’s program supporting low and no-emission buses remains popular. In 2018, FTA awarded $40.4 million dollars – nearly 50 percent of the available funding -- under the Low- and No-Emission Discretionary Grant Program to small urban and rural areas.
In addition, FTA awarded 20 grants totaling $58.2 million dollars under the Passenger Ferry Program. And FTA’s Tribal Transit Competitive Program supported 36 projects totaling $5 million dollars.
FTA recently announced more grant opportunities for infrastructure investment, including $423 million dollars for the Buses and Bus Facilities Infrastructure program and $5 million dollars under the competitive Tribal Transit program. Earlier this spring, we issued notices of funding for the 2019 Passenger Ferry and Low-No programs – we are currently evaluating those applications and will announce awards this summer.
Switching to FTA’s most recent efforts to promote safety in the industry. You have all probably heard me say that safety is Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s number one priority.
Last month, FTA launched a new Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative, which includes two funding opportunities totaling $4 million dollars.
The grants will help transit agencies address human trafficking and prevent other crimes such as transit operator assault.
The funding is available for a broad range of transit safety investments, so please review the notice carefully before the application period ends next week. We hope you apply for these resources to help you with public awareness campaigns and other safety investments.
We also just announced a new program supporting mobility on demand technology, fare card integration and transit vehicle automation that will build on FTA’s popular Mobility on Demand Sandbox program. The Integrated Mobility Innovation program provides $15 million dollars in funding to support new ways of thinking about public transportation service models, payment systems and automation – all to improve mobility in the 21st century.
Together, these competitive grants will provide significant support to transit agencies to improve safety and reliability and look to technology to help enhance mobility for transit riders across the country.
In closing, we at FTA are focused on improving transportation in America’s communities. We remain committed to partner with each of you in rural America as you deliver safe, reliable public transportation in your communities.