FTA Warning Shot
December 29, New York
A recent letter from the Deputy Federal Transit Administrator to a key New York state official expresses numerous concerns about the ongoing project to construct another set of rail tunnels under the Hudson River to serve New York City. The existing tunnels are over 100 years old. This is probably the most important transit project underway in the country, and the letter appears to signal that the Trump Administration has found yet another policy area in which to reverse course from its predecessor. This is a worrisome development for major capital projects nationwide.
Future Interstate Committee
January 5, Washington DC
I attended the latest meeting of my Transportation Research Board (TRB) committee on the future of the Interstate Highway System. We hope to wrap up the first draft of the report mid-year, after which it will be subject to a few months of TRB peer review. Publication is scheduled by the end of 2018. While in Washington, I attended the winter Board of Trustees meeting for the Mineta Transportation Institute.
CTC Commissioner Update
January 12, San Francisco
MTC Chair Jake Mackenzie and I attended a briefing of the Bay Area’s three members of the California Transportation Commission (CTC): Chair Bob Alvarado, Jim Ghielmetti, and Carl Guardino. We covered a range of subjects of mutual interest.
New High Speed Rail Chief
January 16, Sacramento
The California High Speed Rail Authority has selected Brian Kelly to serve as the next CEO of the organization effective February 1. Brian has served as Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency since it was created in 2013. He has been a great friend of MTC both as cabinet secretary and a long-time senior staffer in the California State Senate. We wish him all the best in one of the toughest transportation jobs in California.
Alameda County City Manager Meeting
January 17, San Leandro
Alix Bockelman, Brad Paul and I attended the monthly Alameda County city manager meeting to provide an update on the work of MTC and ABAG and to hear what is on their mind in terms of how the consolidated staff can serve them better. This is part of a tour of the region to each of the city manager meetings that we started last fall in Marin and Napa Counties.
CASA Technical Committee
January 17, San Francisco
The CASA Technical Committee met at the Bay Area Metro Center to discuss potential elements of a “grand bargain” of policy initiatives that would make progress on the 3 P’s that we have focused on throughout the CASA project: protection of current tenants, preservation of existing affordable housing, and production of more housing for residents of all walks of life. The CASA Steering Committee will take up the same conversation at its next quarterly meeting on January 24.
Social Media Survey
As part of a project to enhance MTC’s social media presence, a consultant conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 residents last year in which respondents were asked whether they had heard of MTC or its related operating programs on any social media platform. We intend to do a similar social media assessment for ABAG in the coming months. Some noteworthy results from the MTC survey:
- Programs that MTC sponsors like Clipper and FasTrak are far better known than MTC is itself.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents hadn’t heard of MTC through social media channels, but of those who had, positive impressions outnumbered negative impressions by a ratio of 4 to 1.
- Attitudes about Clipper and FasTrak are quite positive, with 73% of respondents feeling positive about Clipper and 89% having positive feelings about FasTrak.
With passage of SB 1 in 2017, California has joined the ranks of 38 states – both red and blue – and the District of Columbia that have stepped up in the face of Congressional inaction and passed legislation to raise their own state gas taxes since Congress last did so in 1993. This map reaffirms that infrastructure investment can, and often does, transcend party lines, or as Norm Mineta used to say: “There is no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican road.” The largest transportation investment in state history, SB 1 will invest $52 billion in California’s roads, bridges and transit systems over the next decade with ongoing annual revenues of over $5 billion per year thereafter.