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FTA Looking For Comments New Starts, Small Starts Evaluation

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Image from portlandonline.com

Image from portlandonline.com

TO HEAR WEBINAR RECORDING CLICK HERE. (You must "register" before you will be redirected to the recording.)

The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold an informal webinar to solicit comments on how to improve the criteria used by the Federal Transit Administration to evaluate transit projects seeking federal funding.

As part of its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), the FTA wants to hear from transit riders, local and state governments and other interested stakeholders on how to take a more holistic approach to evaluating the cost-effectiveness of New and Small Start projects, as well as evaluating economic development and environmental benefits.

FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan and senior FTA staff will be available online to explain the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which was published in the Federal Register on June 3, and to take questions from the public.

Register online for the webinar here.

At the end of the webinar, instructions will be provided for submitting comments. Aug. 2 is the comment deadline. The web seminar will be available for on-demand viewing within four hours after the end of the live event.

In January 2010, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the department would establish a broader set of evaluation criteria for New and Small Starts projects that would account for a wider range of benefits.

Of the six project justification criteria -- cost-effectiveness, environmental benefits, economic development, transit supportive land use patterns and policies, operating efficiencies and mobility benefits -- the proposed rule changes focus on the first three.

Under the current definition of cost-effectiveness, projects are rated based on the travel time savings of transit users compared to the cost of the project.  Other benefits are assumed to be directly proportional to these mobility benefits. A major focus of the proposed change is on how explicitly to expand the measure of cost-effectiveness to include a wider range of benefits.

Currently only EPA air quality status is used to assess environmental benefits. To assess benefits in the area, the FTA relies on a subjective assessment of the policies in place that will foster economic development. The proposed change asks how environmental and economic development benefits can be more accurately assessed during project selection and to approach the Federal Transit Administration’s decision-making process with a more holistic approach.

The FTA has been holding outreach sessions around the country since June 7. The next sessions are scheduled June 29 in Chicago, June 30 in San Francisco, July 12 in Dallas and finally July 15 in Washington, D.C. More information on these is available here.