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Executive Director's Report



House Proposal on Highway Funding
May 30, Washington DC

In a sign of how far we have traveled away from a user-fee financed transportation system, the House Republican Leadership has proposed that the beleaguered Highway Trust Fund be replenished with savings from the elimination of Saturday mail delivery. The conservative Heritage Foundation likened this idea to bailing out one trust fund with savings from another.

FTA Guidance on MPO Board Representation
June 2, Washington DC

MAP 21 included a new statutory requirement that the boards of large metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) like MTC include “representation by public transportation providers.” The Federal Transit Administration has issued guidance interpreting this quite general requirement to mean that large MPO boards should include at least one voting member “specifically designated” to represent public transit. This exceedingly narrow interpretation apparently would not be satisfied by the current composition of the MTC commission, which includes board members from 13 different public transit providers in the Bay Area. This “baker’s dozen” is represented by elected officials who sit both on MTC and their local transit board. In fact, three of our commissioners each sit on two transit boards. MTC staff will be consulting with the commission about what next steps to take. As you well know, MTC’s board composition can only be changed by an act of the California Legislature.

APTA Transit Finance Conference
June 12-13, Montreal

At the invitation of the American Public Transportation Association, I participated in two different panel discussions on value capture and user-based fees as a means of providing new funding to public transit service and projects.

Cap and Trade Framework Adopte
June 14, Sacramento

After several months of back and forth negotiations among the Brown Administration, legislative leadership, and numerous stakeholders, the State Legislature adopted an FY 2014-15 state budget that included $872 million in appropriations from Cap and Trade revenue in the budget year as well as percentage-based, continuously appropriated categorical programs for future year revenues. Roughly 60% of future year revenues would be allocated in program areas of concern to the commission, including 15% for public transit capital and operating purposes, 20% for affordable housing and sustainable communities, and 25% for the proposed high-speed rail network.

While the percentage allocations are favorable to our interests, the overall Cap and Trade framework is a mixed bag because the categorical programs are mostly under the control of state agencies rather than delegated to the regional level as we had advocated. Thus, 2/3 of the public transit funds will be administered by the California State Transportation Agency and the CTC; the affordable housing and sustainable communities funds will be administered by the Strategic Growth Council (at last in the early years); and the high speed rail funds will be administered by the state agency building that system. There are many devilish details still to be hashed out, so we will be able to continue our advocacy for a greater MPO role in the allocation of this important new funding source to implement Plan Bay Area and its sister regional plans around the state.

MTC Wins Emmy
June 14, San Francisco

Our resident video journalist Mark Jones and graphic artist David Cooper have won an Emmy award for their coverage of the Bay Bridge new east span project from the Northern California division of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Congratulations to both Mark and David. Their winning videos can be viewed at this web link:

Mineta Transportation Institute
June 21, San Jose

I chaired my last meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) before handing over the reins to Stephanie Pinson, who is the President of Gilbert Tweed Associates, a well-known “head hunter” in the public transit industry. At the graduation ceremony that evening, MTC’s own Leslie Lara received her Master’s Degree in Transportation Management. Naomi Armenta – a member of our Policy Advisory Council – was valedictorian of the Master’s Degree class of 2014. Finally, the evening ceremony also marked the retirement of Rod Diridon, who has served as MTI’s Director since its founding in 1993. Rod is a former MTC Chairperson as well.

Bay Area Council Survey

The latest Bay Area Council public opinion survey contained some provocative and contradictory results for transportation and housing policy makers. The survey identified the cost and availability of housing as the region’s most serious problem, but the same respondents ranked “building more housing” at the bottom of a list of 13 goals for Bay Area government leaders to pursue. On three related housing questions, 41% of respondents strongly agreed that the Bay Area is “facing a crisis in housing costs”, but only 15% strongly support building new housing in their neighborhood and even fewer (11%) strongly support building higher density housing in their city. A final interesting tidbit from the demographic section of the poll: 40% of the respondents do not have a landline telephone.

MTC Operational Statistics

The monthly report on the performance of MTC’s operating programs:

Upcoming Events

June 26-27 — TRB Executive Committee, Washington DC
July 10 — TRB Financing Conference, Irvine
July 16 — Transportation for America Meeting, Boston