Research Roundup: Transit Benefits & Costs, Highway Funding, Bus & Rail Transit, Security & Procurements

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute has just published a new guidebook describing how to create a comprehensive framework for evaluating the full impacts (benefits and costs) of a particular transit service or improvement.

Their “Evaluating Public Transit Benefits And Costs: Best Practices Guidebook” (120p. PDF) discusses best practices for transit evaluation and identifies common errors that distort results. It discusses the travel impacts of various types of transit system changes and incentives, and describes ways to optimize transit benefits by increasing system efficiency, increasing ridership and creating more transit-oriented land use patterns. The guidebook also compares automobile and transit costs, and the advantages and disadvantages of bus and rail transit. It includes examples of transit evaluation and provides extensive references, while may of the techniques includes can be used to evaluate other modes, such as ridesharing, cycling and walking. (Image via Flickr)

A new report (34p. PDF) from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that nearly all states received more funding than they contributed in highway taxes since 2005. This was possible because more funding was authorized and apportioned than was collected from the states and the needed to be augmented with general revenues.

Federal funding for highways is provided to the states mostly through a series of grant programs collectively known as the Federal-Aid Highway Program. Periodically, Congress enacts multi-year legislation that authorizes the nation’s surface transportation programs. in 2005, Congress enacted the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU), which authorized $197.5 billion for the Federal-Aid Highway Program from fiscal years 2005 through 2009.

The Highway Trust Fund was instituted by Congress in 1956 to construct the Interstate Highway System, which is currently 47,000 miles in length.

The U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB) last week published “Bus And rail Transit Preferential Treatments In Mixed Traffic: A Synthesis Of Transit Practice” (212p. PDF).

This synthesis is offered as a primer on the topic area for use by transit agencies, as well as state, local, and metropolitan transportation, traffic, and planning agency staffs. This synthesis is based on the results from a survey of transit and traffic agencies related to transit preferential treatments on urban streets. Survey results were supplemented by a literature review of 23 documents and in-depth case studies of preferential treatments in four cities—San Francisco, Seattle, Portland (Oregon), and Denver. Eighty urban area transit agencies and traffic engineering jurisdictions in the United States and Canada were contacted for survey information and 64 (80%) responded. One hundred and ninety-seven individual preferential treatments were reported on survey forms. In addition, San Francisco Muni identified 400 treatments just in its jurisdiction.

Also last week, TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) released “Reconciling Security, Disclosure, And Record-Retention Requirement In Transit Procurements” (80p. PDF) as part of its Legal Research Digests series. The following statement from the publication’s introduction sums up the scope of this document as follows:

Part of public transit agencies’ security efforts must include taking steps to ensure that information that would facilitate such attacks does not become readily available. At the same time, there is also a clear, well-established public interest in ensuring that publicly-funded projects are transparent and that information to provide oversight is publicly available.

This tension plays out in the area of procurement and contract management. Material in bid solicitations, responses, and contracts that contains potentially harmful information not otherwise available must be kept secure, while safeguarding the public interest in open government. Accordingly, public transit agencies must balance the competing legal and public policy interests manifested by requirements for full disclosure of the public’s business on the one hand and security concernson the other.