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APTA Annual Meeting 2015


Therese McMillan, Acting Administrator
Federal Transit Administration

Safety and Security Committee
Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you.

It’s great to be with you again.

The fact that we ARE here with you today means that the Federal government did NOT shutdown last week.

That’s great news, because it allowed us at the FTA to continue without interruption.

And it made it possible for us to travel to San Francisco to listen to you and to answer your questions – and we’re looking forward to doing that.

First, though, I want to highlight some of the things we’ve accomplished together in the last year, and I want to give you a sense of where we’re heading.

For me, personally, and for the FTA leaders who’ve joined me today, it is a real honor to work alongside the nearly 550 women and men of the Federal Transit Administration – those in the regional offices and at our headquarters in DC. You probably only get to interact with just a handful of them, but let me tell you: each and every one of them is working to support this industry and the American people.

This partnership – going on now for more than 51 years – has been a quiet and enduring success.

And we believe the key to building on that record of success lies in listening to one another and making it easier to work shoulder-to-shoulder.

We’ve streamlined our processes so that you can get projects started – and finished – quicker.

We’ve worked to ensure that we fulfill our oversight responsibilities in a way that accomplishes the goal while remaining fair and predictable.

And we’ve done all this with the full knowledge that transit operators of different sizes, in different places – and over time – will require adaptable, risk-based solutions that acknowledge those differences.

Our most recent effort to keep that two-way communication going is called XPEDITE – our Expedited Public Transportation Improvement Initiative.

It’s a web-based tool that allows you to submit ideas that will help speed up the planning, approval, and delivery of capital investments in transit, while better supporting innovative methods of financing projects, such as through P3s and Value Capture.

So my first “ask” today is that you go to FTA’s web site, check out the XPEDITE link, and give us your suggestions and comments.

We intentionally left it open for submissions through October 16 so that we could make sure each of you here today knows about it and has the opportunity to take advantage of it.

I: Meeting Demand

Streamlining our processes, speeding up projects, and making sure taxpayers investments are paying off – all of these are essential if we’re going to be able to meet growing demand for transit services.


That’s why we’ve improved our Capital Investment Grant process to help get New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity grants.

A big step in that direction was the CIG Final Interim Policy Guidance we issued in August.

It streamlines the process while maintaining its analytical rigor.

It also gives you greater detail about the methods we use to evaluate potential projects.

And it defines what “Core Capacity” means and allows for simpler requirements since those projects are focused on established transit corridors.

Our goal is to invest in successful transit projects that have the power to be truly transformative.

In the last year, we’ve:

  • Helped open Connecticut’s first Bus Rapid Transit service;
  • Expanded light rail service in Sacramento;
  • And opened Portland, Oregon’s, new MAX Orange Line – which includes the nation’s first multimodal bridge solely for transit, bikes, and pedestrians.

We helped break ground on LA’s Purple Line Extension and BRT projects in Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida.

And we signed construction grant agreements to extend Boston’s Green Line and Orlando’s SunRail commuter rail, and for BRT services in Oregon, Washington, Florida, and California.

Today, there are 66 projects at some stage of the CIG pipeline – proof of the extraordinary demand for public transportation services in communities across the country.

As we prepare for FY 2017, the Obama Administration will continue to push for funding levels that match up with that demonstrable demand.


TIFIA has been another invaluable tool for supporting public transportation projects.

In the past year, we signed new TIFIA loans for Chicago’s Blue Line, DC’s Silver Line train to Dulles International Airport, and an extension of light rail from Seattle to Redmond, Washington.


And finally, we’re looking forward to joining Secretary Foxx in announcing this year’s TIGER grants sometime this Fall.

As you know, transit and multi-modal projects have won a significant number of those grants in the past, benefitting communities across the country.

II: Ladders of Opportunity

All of these projects do more than expand mobility: they also help build ladders of opportunity in surrounding communities.

In fact, since Secretary Foxx’s arrival at DOT, you’ve heard us speak a lot about Ladders of Opportunity.

It’s no secret that public transit is the mode that’s in the best position to connect people with jobs, education, healthcare, and all the opportunities their communities offer.

That’s true because of the work you do every day to provide safe and reliable service to the people who depend on you.


This year was the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it was a good reminder both of how important this industry is and how hard you’ve worked to expand access.

Today, 99.8% of public transit buses are accessible – as are more than 90% of heavy and light rail cars. Every new rail station since 1990 has been built with accessibility in mind, and among older rail systems, 98% of “key stations” now meet that standard.

The stats are encouraging – and even more encouraging is the number of Americans whose lives have been made richer because you have worked to live up to the ADA.

ADA Circular

At FTA, we’ve just published guidance that explains ADA requirements in detail and provides examples of good practices – including helpful scenarios and sample templates.

Undergoing a station renovation? Check the Circular for a sample rail station checklist.

Want to know how to accommodate service dogs, but don’t know where to find that in the ADA regs? Our Circular is well-organized and cross-linked.

Keep in mind that the Circular does not amend DOT’s ADA regulations and it definitely doesn’t add any new ones.

It simply clarifies the requirements to help you better understand what you need to do to be in compliance.


Another essential rung on the ladder is job creation, and it remains a key focus.

We’ve worked together to make sure that more traditionally disadvantaged businesses have the opportunity to contribute to projects and benefit from our investments.

Within the past two years, FTA’s top-50 grant recipients have increased their achievement of DBE goals by18 percentage points.

Workforce Development Grants

Critically, we have a great and growing need for well-trained workers in public transportation – and a calling to better link people from disadvantaged populations to those jobs, in particular.

The need is so great, in fact, that the Obama Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act proposed spending 10-times as much each year on FTA’s workforce development programs to catch up and get ahead.

The scope of the challenge is daunting. Recently, the US Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor released a joint report that projects our transportation workforce needs out to the year 2022.

It predicts we’ll need 4.6 Million new workers in transportation as a whole. That would more than double our current transportation workforce.

And we’re already behind, because the number of new workers needed is 68% larger than the number of students enrolled in related educational programs.

To help meet this looming challenge, FTA’s Innovative Public Transportation Workforce Development program recently awarded $9.5 Million in grants to 19 projects in 13 states.

This round of grants highlighted training efforts that reached low-income individuals, minority populations, and women – groups where the ladder has often been tougher to climb.

TOD Technical Assistance Initiative

All of these are ways we can maximize the benefits of our investments in public transportation – to make them about more than moving people from place to place.

To further expand the impact of those investments, FTA has started a new National TOD Ladders Technical Assistance Initiative that will support transit-oriented development activities that benefit economically distressed communities.

It will bring together resources and training on public transportation, transit-oriented development, land use, urban planning, affordable housing, and community-based economic development to help local governments get the most out of transit investments.

I’m pleased to announce today that Smart Growth America has been selected to lead that effort, and we’re looking forward to talking more about the initiative in the near future.

Rides to Wellness

Another new initiative we’re very excited about is Rides to Wellness.

It brings together leaders from the transit and healthcare industries to explore ways that we can better connect public transportation with the array of services that provide good health – and thus improve the lives of those we serve.

It’s estimated that 3.6 Million Americans miss or delay non-emergency medical treatment every year simply because they lack transportation.

Our common goal is to support good healthcare practices that are now more accessible thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Through the National Center for Mobility Management, we launched a Rides to Wellness planning grant program that has awarded $400,000 in competitive grants to projects in 16 communities to come up with solutions that improve healthcare access and overcome the most persistent challenges.

For instance, in Buffalo, New York, a community health clinic is testing the idea of placing a personal “travel navigator” in the ob/gyn’s office to help pregnant women develop travel plans to ensure they don’t miss pre-natal appointments.

In Worcester, Massachusetts, healthcare providers are experimenting with a web-based app that searches for the most convenient public transportation options when they schedule appointments, hoping to reduce no-shows.

These are just two of the ideas among many from around the country that promise to help keep people healthy and out of the hospital.

At the federal level, our partnerships are growing stronger every day:

  • We are working with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services to implement cost-sharing models, so that programs like Medicare and Medicaid can treat transportation as a necessary aspect of healthcare;
  • Our partners at the Department of Agriculture will soon announce the ability of local partners to use funds from the Food and Nutrition Service to match FTA grants;
  • And, for the first time in eight years, we are going to host a meeting of the United We Ride Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility on the topic of health and transportation, to explore next steps at the national level.

Together, we’re working to make sure that Americans of all incomes, at all stages of life, can stay healthy with the help of a wide array of affordable transportation options.

III: Safety

None of these benefits matter, however, if transit itself isn’t also safe and reliable.

That’s why FTA asked for transit safety oversight authority – and why we’ve included you every step of the way.

This year we published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on State Safety Oversight that gives states greater responsibility for overseeing the safety of fixed guideway rail systems.

We published an NPRM on Bus Safety that establishes minimum safety standards for new transit buses and streamlines the procedures used at our Bus Testing Facility.

We issued an Interim Safety Certification Training Program.

And we have been “on the ground” working to assist individual transit agencies with specific safety needs.

Now, there are two pieces we need your help with.

The first is the NPRM for our Public Safety Program Rule. If you haven’t reviewed it and submitted comments, please do so before comments close on October 13.

This is the rule that formally adopts Safety Management Systems as the foundation of FTA’s safety oversight and regulatory approach.

It establishes procedures for inspections and enforcement actions.

And it paves the way for the National Transportation Safety Plan.

The second NPRM that’s open for comment now relates to Transit Asset Management Plans, which are a requirement introduced in MAP-21.

This is the rule that defines “State of Good Repair” and establishes which performance measures we’ll use so that you can set your targets.

To make it easier on smaller operators, the proposed rule offers a two-tiered approach that would allow certain grantees to participate in a Group TAM Plan that would be developed by the State or other direct recipient.

By identifying and prioritizing maintenance repair needs for transit vehicles and infrastructure, we expect to increase reliability and performance, reduce delays, increase resilience, and contribute significantly to the overall safety of transit systems.

Public comments on that rule are open through [[DATE]].

IV: Closing

Whenever we take the time to engage one another, our industry is the stronger for it:

  • Rules are more effective; grantmaking is streamlined; investments have a greater impact.

Of course, there are demographic trends outside of our control that have helped increase the demand for transit. Those of us here today can’t take credit for everything!

What we CAN take credit for is the quality of those services, their safety and reliability.

We can demonstrate how we’ve worked to improve access and build Ladders of Opportunity in communities across the country.

We can show that we’re good stewards of the investments taxpayers have made in existing services and in new ones.

And it’s no coincidence that, over the last seven years, we’ve had the support of a President who not only understands the power of transit, but is also willing to turn to you to help solve enormous challenges, from putting America back to work … to combating climate change.

Together, we can continue that momentum.

Over the next year we can make positive improvements that last.

And we’ll be able to say with certainty that we’ve made the most of this moment.

Thank you.

Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
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