Good morning! I’m Jon Martz and I serve as the long-standing Chair of the Association for Commuter Transportation’s Public Policy Committee. It is my honor to present to you today the “2017 State of the Commute.”
I would like to begin, like many of these addresses begin, by saying that the State of our Commute is strong, but that would be a lie. The State of our Commute is in crisis. Let’s start with the facts. Our infrastructure is aging and government, at all levels, struggle to pay for what we have already built, let alone expand. The American Society of Civil Engineers recently released a report on our infrastructure that showed American Roads, Bridges, and Transit were failing.
Some of the stats are astounding:
• $90 billion in transit capital backlog
• $160 billion in wasted time and fuel lost in congestion
• 35,000 people dying on our roads, an increase of 7%
• 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic.
And, there is more sobering news, for several years, there was hope that our nation’s obsession with the car had subsided. Following the great recession of 2008, people were driving less and taking transit more. This proved to just be a blip on the graph as last year the Department of Transportation sent out a stark reminder… American’s haven’t given up the keys to their cars yet. The Federal Highway Administration released information [just this week] that shows U.S. driving reached 3.15 trillion miles in 2015, beating the previous record of 3.00 trillion miles in 2007.
The figures released by DOT crystallizes the reality that existing infrastructure spending at all levels of government (federal, state and local) is not enough to meet the needs of our current system, let alone the growing demands facing the nation’s roads and bridges. The ‘FAST’ Act, a 5-year Federal transportation bill, was a tremendous accomplishment that was nearly a decade in the making.
Many believed that Congress would not be able to pass a long term bill, but under the leadership of Senator Inhofe (R-OK), Senator Boxer (D-CA), Rep. Shuster (R- PA) and Rep. DeFazio (D-OR), Congress was able to summon the courage to find the $80-plus billion dollars needed to fund the Federal transportation program……at existing levels!
How can our country grow if we can only struggle to maintain an insufficient status-quo? Even if we were to significantly increase capital investment, we would still be left with the choice of devoting resources 1) to expanding the system or 2) to ‘fixing-it-first’. This is simply a false choice.
The prevailing thought is that this doesn’t have to be a choice if we simply invest more capital. But the truth is that money alone will not fix our problems, we could triple investment at all levels and still be well short of what is needed. This is in no way meant to diminish the accomplishment of passing the FAST Act, nor does it mean we don’t need additional funding!
However, we can no longer pretend that transportation is only about infrastructure.
Today, ACT joins with Members of Congress, municipal leaders across the nation, and transportation advocates in calling for greater investments in infrastructure! But we also call for smarter transportation policies at all levels of government.
The reality for many is now beginning to set in… there isn’t a metaphoric “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” It’s now time for policy makers at all levels to begin to focus on getting the most out of the transportation system we currently have.
This involves several basic principles.
1) Focus on People Rather than Vehicles
2) Placing value of delivering the best solutions and focusing on result-based planning and performance-based solutions
3) Integrating & Leveraging all Entities Delivering Transportation Solutions Including Employers, TMAs, and the Private Sector
4) Investing in New Technologies, Practices, and Business Models
Now for the good news. All is not lost, new technologies, business models, and partnerships are expanding the reach of where we can go and how we can get there.
Technology has transformed how we think about mobility. Smartphone apps and techniques that were unimaginable when federal transportation policy was originally written have fostered a myriad of transportation options. Technology can expand mobility, build ladders of opportunity, and help to optimize the efficiency of the road. The policies that dictate transportation decisions must not lag, but rather support innovation and help steer development of an outcome- based transportation system.
Studies show that when employers provide choices such as a transit benefit, telework, vanpools, or carpooling programs, one in five employees will happily kick their commuting habit—that’s a 20 percent shift. As real-time traffic information provider Inrix points out, it takes only a 3 percent reduction in vehicle miles to reduce congestion by 30 percent.
Private investment in mobility is increasing in size and scope and more American’s than ever are open to sharing rides and leaving their cars at home. Want proof, the number of vanpoolers in our country has nearly tripled over the past ten years. When looking at passenger-miles, the service provided by Enterprise and vRide alone would make us the 5th largest transit provider in the country. And, this does not include the miles provided by other providers in Washington State, and Tennessee.
Want more good news? Recent reports out of Seattle show that TDM programs there are not only fighting congestion, but they are winning the battle. Recent reports have shown that TDM programs have had a direct impact on decreasing congestion and reducing travel times. This is nothing to say of the millions of gallons of fuel saved and the tons of emissions that were not put into our air.
The recent incidents in Atlanta demonstrate the importance of investing in both transportation and infrastructure. With two primary commuter routes rendered ineffective, commuters have been able to turn to other options such as carpooling, transit, telework, and vanpooling. The work of TDM agencies and employer-based programs in the Atlanta region in response to this incident has demonstrated the effectiveness and benefits of supporting TDM programs.
Consider Arlington County (Va.) Commuter Services (ACCS), just across the river, which works with employers, developers, and the public to expand commuter options using customer-focused tools and technologies and marketing and sales techniques. With $10 million per year in federal, state, and local funds, the ACCS leverages $18 million in private-sector investments to effectively remove 41,000 vehicles a day from the road during peak periods.
Based off of figures used by the Federal Highway Administration, reducing that many vehicles from the road is the equivalent of adding $40-$105 million in new capacity. And this savings in public capital doesn’t include the cost of long-term maintenance. More people are transported for a fraction of the cost of capital expansion.
Many of these innovative programs are developed and managed by an army of unsung heroes–transportation demand management (TDM) professionals, like you, who work with local, regional, and state authorities; corporations; cities; universities; and transit management agencies that help reduce single-occupancy vehicles in favor of commuting by bus, train, rideshare, bike, walking, or telework. With too little funding or support, these public and private entities contribute to energy independence, better air quality, sustainability, urban mobility, and reduced congestion.
Yes, there are great challenges ahead, but also great opportunity, but as an industry, as an association, we cannot sit back passively and watch. There is too much at risk and the stakes are too high. ACT looks to address this challenge head-on.
We begin this week by talking with Congress and we join our colleagues in asking for an increased investment in infrastructure, but we also call for an investment in smarter and more efficient transportation system that taps into and leverages the ingenuity and resources of the private sector. We must focus on both transportation and infrastructure.
Over the next several months, the Association for Commuter Transportation will begin to unveil a variety of tools, programs, and policy recommendations that will help agencies at all levels of government better understand these basic principles.
In addition, ACT will work with its members and others in the stakeholder community on coming together to help these entities improve their transportation networks and expand options for commuters.
I am pleased to be joined by so many of my colleagues today in kicking off our first initiative, the 25×20 campaign which will seek to expand the number of employers who use the transit benefit. Already eight (8) cities and two (2) states have expressed an interest working with ACT to pass policies that will support the expansion of transit benefit usage. In addition to technical support, ACT is developing an all-inclusive workbook and background materials to provide municipal governments, stakeholders and others with the tools they need to develop and pass such policies.
Building off of that success, ACT will begin to develop a cookbook for local governments. This ‘cookbook’ will include the best examples of TDM policies from municipal governments across the nation. In addition to the case-studies, this cookbook will include examples of local ordinances, state policies, procurement processes and funding initiatives effectively used around the country. ACT will also look to create a coalition of local elected officials to work together, to share best-practices and to be recognized as commuter champions.
Finally, ACT will work with its members to help tell our story. We have a great story to be told. But we need to tell it better. That begins with gathering the right data and information. You will hear from two panels today that will talk about the importance of data and how the right data means everything.
ACT will also be working to create a standardized set of measurements and tools that can be used to effectively measure the value of TDM programs. It is our hope that this time next year, we will have a better look at how ACT members are having an impact on the State of the Commute.
This is just a small sample of what’s ahead. But the work begins today. Use the sessions today and tomorrow to learn from each other, to discuss best practices and lessons learned, and grow individually and collectively.
I am impressed by what ACT has done over the past ten years, but I am excited by what is coming.