Category Archives: Transportation

What everyone should know about their state’s budget

Source: Urban Institute, 2017
[tool was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation]

State and local governments educate schoolchildren, train the future workforce, care for the sick and elderly, build roads, patrol neighborhoods, extinguish fires, and maintain parks. In short, they’re pretty important. But few Americans understand where their state and local tax dollars go and to what effect. It’s not just the amount of money spent that matters, it’s why that money is spent the way it is.

Through this web tool, we aim to fill that knowledge gap. The tool allows users to get under the hood of their government and understand not only how much a state spends but also what drives that spending.

To do this, we apply a basic framework to all major areas of government spending. The framework says that state spending per capita is both a function of how many people receive a service and how much that service costs the state for each recipient. ….

…In this tool, you’ll see the spending per capita breakdown for all states and the District of Columbia across all major functional categories. It allows you to see how each state ranks, and you can sort by any factor you choose. (One frequent outlier is DC; though included in the rankings, it often functions more like a city than a state) We’ve included some annotations to guide you along the way. By exploring the tool, you’ll gain a sense of how much each state spends on any given area and why states spend what they do. ….

Infrastructure Financing: A Guide for Local Government Managers

Source: Can Chen, John R. Bartle, ICMA and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), 2017

From the summary:
Local governments play a key role in funding, operating, and maintaining local roads, bridges, airports, transit facilities, drinking water, sewer systems, and other types of infrastructure. Yet, as is widely publicized, these jurisdictions face a serious infrastructure deficit. While municipal bonds continue to be the key options for how local infrastructure is financed, local governments are exploring new ways to finance needed expansion, upgrades, and repairs.

According to a new white paper, “Infrastructure Financing: A Guide for Local Government Managers,” issued by ICMA and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), alternative financing sources, properly selected and managed, can complement traditional sources to meet infrastructure needs. Tapping these sources not only leverages new resources, but also can make it possible to complete certain projects more quickly.

Across the United States, local governments face a serious infrastructure deficit and are exploring new ways to finance needed expansions, upgrades, and repairs. Despite the fact that eroding infrastructure is seen as one of the most urgent issues facing the country, in 2012, infrastructure funding was at its lowest percentage of total local government expenditures in more than 50 years.

Prepared by Drs. Can Chen of Florida International University and John R. Bartle of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the white paper explores how local governments are addressing the challenge of bridging infrastructure financing gaps. In this context, they:
– Describe the full range of infrastructure financing methods currently in use.
– Document emerging methods in local infrastructure financing.
– Illustrate cases where local governments have explored alternative methods of infrastructure financing.
– Offer recommendations for local government managers who are considering the use of alternative infrastructure financing options.

State Expenditure Report (Fiscal 2014-2016)

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers, 2016

This annual report examines spending in the functional areas of state budgets: elementary and secondary education, higher education, public assistance, Medicaid, corrections, transportation, and all other. It also includes data on the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and on revenue sources in state general funds.

– The total state spending growth rate slowed in fiscal 2016, following a 10-year high in fiscal 2015.
– Medicaid continued to increase as a share of total state spending, while K-12 remained the largest category from state funds.
– Transportation led the way in spending growth from state funds in both fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2016, while Medicaid experienced the largest gains from all funds.
– Revenue growth slowed considerably in fiscal 2016 as states saw weaker collections from sales, personal income, and corporate income taxes.

SPOTLIGHT: Aging States

Source: Capitol Ideas, November/December 2016

Articles include:
Facing a wave of aging baby boomers, many states are trying to make it easier for seniors to stay in their homes—as many prefer—instead of moving into more costly nursing homes. With high stakes for state budgets, many states are undertaking long-term planning to pay for long-term care.

What is the best state for retirement? It’s a popular question among baby boomers, who increasingly seek more livable communities that will allow them to age in place. How are states responding? Drawing from an AARP scorecard on state long-term services and supports, here’s a look at top states for retirement and aging.

For many seniors, staying active in their golden years depends on staying mobile. But in many states and communities, transportation systems haven’t been developed with seniors or individuals with disabilities in mind. That’s changing as states are taking steps to improve transportation mobility for older adults.

Elder financial abuse costs older Americans $2.9 billion per year, but the harm to seniors caused by fraud often extends far beyond the checkbook. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum shares key steps her state has taken to strengthen elder abuse prevention and response.

When state leaders discuss the fiscal challenges of an aging population, the focus is often on costs for senior services. However, as CSG Senior Fellows Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene point out, declining tax revenues are also a concern.

Acute Sleep Deprivation and Risk of Motor Vehicle Crash Involvement

Source: Brian C. Tefft, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, December 2016

From the summary:
Previous research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has estimated as many as 7% of all crashes, 13% of crashes that result in hospital admission, and 21% of fatal crashes involve driver drowsiness. However, the relationship between specific measures of sleep deprivation and crash risk has not been quantified in the general driving population. The results of this study indicate that drivers who usually sleep for less than 5 hours daily, drivers who have slept for less than 7 hours in the past 24 hours, and drivers who have slept for 1 or more hours less than their usual amount of sleep in the past 24 hours have significantly elevated crash rates. The estimated rate ratio for crash involvement associated with driving after only 4-5 hours of sleep compared with 7 hours or more is similar to the U.S. government’s estimates of the risk associated with driving with a blood alcohol concentration equal to or slightly above the legal limit for alcohol in the U.S.
Fact Sheet
Slide Show

Impact of Sleep on Crash Risk

An Analysis of the Labor Market for Uber’s Driver-Partners in the United States

Source: Jonathan V. Hall, Alan B. Krueger, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 22843, November 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Uber, the ride-sharing company launched in 2010, has grown at an exponential rate. This paper provides the first comprehensive analysis of the labor market for Uber’s driver-partners, based on both survey and administrative data. Drivers who partner with Uber appear to be attracted to the platform largely because of the flexibility it offers, the level of compensation, and the fact that earnings per hour do not vary much with the number of hours worked. Uber’s driver-partners are more similar in terms of their age and education to the general workforce than to taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Most of Uber’s driver-partners had full- or part-time employment prior to joining Uber, and many continued in those positions after starting to drive with the Uber platform, which makes the flexibility to set their own hours all the more valuable. Uber’s driver-partners also often cited the desire to smooth fluctuations in their income as a reason for partnering with Uber.

Disruptive Change in the Taxi Business: The Case of Uber

Source: Judd Cramer, Alan B. Krueger, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 22083, March 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In most cities, the taxi industry is highly regulated and utilizes technology developed in the 1940s. Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, which use modern internet-based mobile technology to connect passengers and drivers, have begun to compete with traditional taxis. This paper examines the efficiency of ride sharing services vis-à-vis taxis by comparing the capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers with that of traditional taxi drivers in five cities. The capacity utilization rate is measured by the fraction of time a driver has a fare-paying passenger in the car while he or she is working, and by the share of total miles that drivers log in which a passenger is in their car. The main conclusion is that, in most cities with data available, UberX drivers spend a significantly higher fraction of their time, and drive a substantially higher share of miles, with a passenger in their car than do taxi drivers. Four factors likely contribute to the higher capacity utilization rate of UberX drivers: 1) Uber’s more efficient driver-passenger matching technology; 2)the larger scale of Uber than taxi companies; 3) inefficient taxi regulations; and 4) Uber’s flexible labor supply model and surge pricing more closely match supply with demand throughout the day.

Funding and Financing Highways and Public Transportation

Source: Robert S. Kirk, William J. Mallett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44674, November 1, 2016

Almost every conversation about surface transportation finance begins with a two-part question: What are the “needs” of the national transportation system, and how does the nation pay for them? This report is aimed almost entirely at discussing the “how to pay for them” question. Since 1956, federal surface transportation programs have been funded largely by taxes on motor fuels that flow into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). A steady increase in the revenues flowing into the HTF due to increased motor vehicle use and occasional increases in fuel tax rates accommodated growth in surface transportation spending over several decades. In 2001, though, trust fund revenues stopped growing faster than spending. In 2008 Congress began providing Treasury general fund transfers to keep the HTF solvent….

Highway Bridges: Linking Funding to Conditions May Help Demonstrate Impact of Federal Investment

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-16-779, September 14, 2016

From the summary:
Bridge conditions have generally improved nationwide from 2006 to 2015, based on GAO analysis of federal bridge data. For example, the percentage of structurally deficient bridge deck area (the surface area that carries vehicles) decreased from 9 percent to 7 percent nationwide during this period. The number of structurally deficient bridges also decreased from 13 percent to 10 percent nationwide. However, some states have substantially higher percentages of structurally deficient deck area than others. Bridge conditions may become more challenging to address as bridges age, because the number of bridges and amount of total deck area increased dramatically from the 1950s through the 1970s, generally with a 50-year design life. Analysis of federal bridge data shows that the amount of structurally deficient deck area is greatest for bridges built from 1960 through 1974, indicating an expected need for additional maintenance, replacement, or rehabilitation.

Federal funds obligated for bridge projects have remained relatively stable from 2006 to 2015, between $6 billion and $7 billion annually in most years. During this period, the use of federal funds on bridges shifted somewhat from building new bridges to projects that preserve existing bridges, such as bridge rehabilitation or preventative maintenance. While the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates total funds dedicated to bridges and collects data on bridge conditions nationwide, it does not track the linkage between federal funds and changes in bridge conditions. GAO has previously reported that linking performance outcomes with resources invested can help agencies to more clearly determine how changes in invested resources may result in changes to performance. Using such performance measures would help FHWA demonstrate the link between federal funding and outcomes for bridges.

Officials from the selected 24 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) reported little change in the way they have funded and managed bridges since 2012. Officials from 21 states and D.C. reported bridge funding has been stable since the federal bridge program was consolidated in 2012. Officials from 3 states reported an increase in bridge funding since that time. The general stability in bridge funding may be a result of the long time frame for planning bridge projects; for example, bridge funding cycles can be 5 years or longer, a time span that means any changes would not be apparent for several years. Officials from 10 states mentioned increased flexibility in their ability to use federal funds for bridge projects. Changes from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act provided states flexibility to determine whether to spend federal highway funds on bridges or other highway needs. Further, officials from 18 states and D.C. reported that they have not changed how they prioritize bridge projects relative to other transportation projects. With respect to challenges, officials from 14 states described inadequate funding as a challenge, and officials from 13 states reported aging bridges as a challenge. For many of these states, the challenge of maintaining aging bridges is intertwined with the challenge of inadequate funds.

Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation

Source: American Public Transportation Association (APTA), September 2016

From the press release:
The most effective life-saving traffic safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily metro transit pass.  A new study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) shows that a person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90 percent simply by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car.  This means traveling by public transportation is ten times safer per mile than traveling by auto.  

In the study, The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation, authors reveal that transit-oriented communities are five times safer because they have about a fifth the per capita traffic casualty rate (fatalities and injuries) as automobile-oriented communities.  This means public transit cuts a community’s crash risk in half even for those who do not use public transit.  Public transportation communities spur compact development which reduces auto miles traveled and produces safer speeds.  The study was prepared by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute for APTA…..
Fact sheet