RISING GAS PRICES FOCUS THE NEED FOR NEW FUNDING RESOURCES AND NEW COMMITMENTS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AND OTHER AFFORDABLE TRAVEL OPTIONS
WHEREAS, gasoline prices are already more than one dollar per gallon higher than the prior year, and now exceed $4.00 per gallon; and
WHEREAS, this run-up in gasoline costs is unprecedented and is primarily driven by steeply rising oil prices, which have doubled since last year and more than quadrupled since 2002; and
WHEREAS, rising gas prices are adversely affecting individuals, families, public and private agencies and institutions, local and metropolitan economies and the U.S. economy; and
WHEREAS, the average American household is now spending more on transportation costs than on food and health care combined; and
WHEREAS, investments in public transportation and other travel options has been shown to reduce transportation costs for individuals and families; and
WHEREAS, a household using public transit can save more than$6, 200 per year in transportation costs, according to one recent estimate by the American Public Transportation Association; and
WHEREAS, in addition to public transportation use, it has also been shown that individuals and households can achieve significant savings in transportation costs through bicycling, carpooling, car sharing, intercity passenger rail, telecommuting, and walking, travel options that are more environmentally friendly, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions; and
WHEREAS, in 2007, 10.3 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation – the highest number of trips taken in fifty years according to the American Public Transportation Association - and in the first quarter of 2008, public transportation ridership continued this record pace by climbing 3.3 percent; and
WHEREAS, cities are working to significantly expand travel options, both immediately and over the near term, to meet this record growth in public transit ridership and other changes as people seek alternatives to single-occupancy automobile use; and
WHEREAS, many cities throughout the U.S., such as Charlotte, Denver, Honolulu, New York, Phoenix, Seattle and Tucson, among many others, are seeking to build new or expand rail transit service, efforts that are proving more difficult due to increased fuel and power costs, declining local sales and other tax receipts, and increased construction costs; and
WHEREAS, the success of these and other local efforts to expand the availability of public transportation while keeping these services affordable and provide other travel options for the public depends on increased public and private resource commitments, both immediately and over the near term; and
WHEREAS, local and state transportation decision-makers are fortunate that there are many features embedded in the current federal surface transportation law that provides states with the opportunity to use currently available federal transportation funds to increase investments for travel options that can reduce transportation costs to individuals, families and businesses, helping reduce total energy costs to local and regional economies; and
WHEREAS, among these provisions, states now have more than $4 billion in spending capacity under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, which could be directed to projects and programs targeted to the many local areas of the country with poor air quality, to pay the operating costs of new transit services, support expanded carpool and vanpool program, adjust traffic signal systems to enhance bus services and improve access for walking and bicycling, acquire new buses and rail cars, and many other improvements, at a 100 percent federals hare; and
WHEREAS, other provisions of the law allow states to use other federal program funds, totaling more than $2 billion in the current fiscal year, to fund projects, such as carpooling, vanpooling, signal preemption system for rapid bus services, pedestrian- and bicycling-related improvements, at a 100 percent federal share anywhere in a state; and
WHEREAS, current law allows states to direct a substantial share of their transportation program resources – as much as $20 billion in transportation funding in the current fiscal year –to dramatically increase investments in public transportation and other mobility alternatives, including the construction of streetcar and trolley systems, bus rapid transit systems, and commuter and light rail systems, among other investments; and
WHEREAS, legislation was recently approved by a key House transportation panel to increase current funding commitments to transit providers by more than $1.7 billion through September 30, 2009 to support transit providers in expanding transit services and helping keep transit fares affordable,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors calls upon the President and Congress to provide cities with additional financial resources and tools to create, promote and expand public transportation and other mobility alternatives, thereby improving the economic conditions of the American family, reducing the nation’s dependency on oil and improving the environment, especially reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls upon the President and the Congress to support immediate adjustments in existing federal transportation commitments by raising funding levels for public transportation above current spending authorizations and eliminate the bias in existing federal tax law that substantially favors parking benefits over transit and other commute benefits.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls upon the nation’s Governors to use the flexibilities that current law provides to allocate available federal transportation resources to bolster public transportation services and other mobility alternatives.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that The United States Conference of Mayors calls upon the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in concert with the Administrators of the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, to launch a broad public outreach and information campaign to advise officials in state transportation departments, metropolitan planning organizations, and local governments about the many flexibilities that exist undercurrent law to support investments in public transportation and other affordable travel options, so that the public can realize the financial, mobility and other benefits from changes in the use of federal transportation resources.