Monday, January 18, 2010
Administrative law buffs will take note of the recent news that the Administration Loosens Purse Strings for Transit Projects (NYT).
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will make it easier for cities and states to spend federal money on public transit projects, and particularly on the light-rail systems that have become popular in recent years, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.
Administration officials said they were reversing guidelines put in place by the Bush administration that called for evaluating new transit projects largely by how much they cost and how much travel time they would save.
Transit advocates have long complained that such cost-effectiveness tests have kept many projects from being built — especially light-rail projects, since streetcars are not fast — and made it much harder for transit projects to win federal financing than highway projects.
Here's the DOT press release. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says
“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”
Sec. LaHood discusses it further on his Official Blog, Welcome to the Fast Lane. He states that under the new rule the feds will evaluate local projects by six criteria:
- Economic development
- Mobility improvements
- Environmental benefits
- Operating efficiencies
- Cost effectiveness
- Land use
For an example of how this federal rule change might affect one local government's light rail plans, see this Houston Chronicle analysis. The Federal Transit Administration will soon be initiating a rulemaking process, with notice and comment. Stay tuned.