Peter Rogoff

Tuesday night, the Transportation Choices Coalition hosted its annual event, right in the midst of APTA’s yearly powwow and also the biggest local service change of modern times.  With national transit professionals descending upon the city in droves, TCC managed to snag a very high-ranking transit VIP for their keynote speaker– Federal Transit Administrator Pete Rogoff.  Flanked by Metro GM Kevin Desmond and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, Rogoff spoke about transit happenings at the federal level and their local implications.

Rogoff focused a large portion of his speech on the passage of MAP-21, the federal transportation bill that will be in effect for two years.  He praised the bill’s authorization, a process that began with a battle over whether or not transit could be even funded at the federal level.  According to Rogoff, MAP-21’s passage changed the discussion from “stripping” transit out of trust fund dollars to a consensus in favor of preserving funding for both roads and transit.

More below the jump.

He also praised specifics of the bill, including the incorporation of comprehensive transit safety policies as well as a key stipulation which now requires metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to include local transit agencies as voting members.  While the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the local MPO, has already included all local transit agencies on its membership roster, the move is a huge positive for numerous other metropolitan areas, particularly those that skew planning policies toward roads and suburban growth.

Despite the pros of MAP-21, Rogoff also lamented the cons, namely the bill’s failure to adequately provide a robust funding lifeline for transit.  The bill, which will only last for two years, was scaled back from the five-year timeline that President Obama originally proposed. The longer version would have been funded by troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He commended other federal programs, particularly the TIGER grant program, which has helped trigger a “streetcar renaissance” across the country under Secretary LaHood.  According to Rogoff, “transit solutions” have received more than a third of TIGER funds. Many transit advocates would argue that is wholly inadequate, given the pressing need for transit capital investments across the country.

Rogoff then spoke at length about the local transit picture, first bemoaning Seattle’s once virtual inability to build anything good, and then commending the region’s successes in the past decade, including the implementation of commuter rail, light rail, and a network of RapidRide lines he humorously termed “BRT.”

The crowd got a good laugh when the Administrator quipped about Washington State’s insatiable desire to bring everything “before the voters.” He remarked on an exchange he had with Senator Murray, who told him that doing just that seemed to be a maxim of the State Legislature, despite their status as elected representatives.  Despite his tongue-in-cheek tone, Rogoff’s words expressed a serious concern, particularly with the Legislature’s lukewarmness towards transit worrying agencies across the state.

While Rogoff’s speech was rife with positives, there was no doubt an air of caution.  Support for TCC and like-minded organizations was the theme of the night and of particular importance, with huge transit battles looming on the horizon– Clark County’s measure for bus and light rail funding, Pierce Transit’s Proposition 1, and of course, Metro’s search for stable taxing authority before time runs out in 2014.

12 Replies to “An Evening with the Federal Transit Administrator”

  1. ‘So what does your legislature do?’ was without a doubt the quote of the night. A few days later and I’m still chuckling over it.

  2. I certainly hope that while Mr. Rogoff was in town, he used nothing but our glorious new “rail on wheels” to get around.

    Because, seeing as he attached such rigid specifications for speed, service, and features to his funding award, I am quite sure he would have found the results to be wholly satisfactory.

    1. As watered down as RapidRide is, I’ve been craving RapidRide’s 3 doors and off-bus readers. While Metro didn’t manage to get the off-bus ORCA readers in place (huge fail), they will eventually. Is it BRT? No. It’s the minimum we should be expecting for all of our frequent service, heavily traveled routes, which should be most of the network. Take Oran’s map and make almost all of that RapidRide and then we’re talking.

      1. In the case of RapidRide D, it’s nothing more than the 15 local, with all of the issues that plagued it and now featuring zero service to half of downtown, all of Pioneer Square and the stadiums. Signal priority and the eventual off board payment system figured out will help slightly, but there is still a long way to go to set it above the old 15.

      2. Anon,
        I’ve ridden the D line several times downtown, and that is the no. 1 complaint I overhear. No one (other than those on this blog) realized that it would cut off half of downtown on it’s way to W Seattle.

        It’s one thing to walk from Columbia to Pioneer Sq. but another thing entirely to walk all the way to Seneca. Sure you can catch any bus and then transfer at 3rd and Pike, but you never know when it’s coming, so making that transfer involves a lot of waiting.

      3. Craving…off-bus readers

        Well, they’re nonexistent at the single most important southbound stop (Market) and at the two most important northbound stops (downtown), and will be nonexistent for the forseeable future.

        So no slaked craving for you.

        Let’s face it: RapidRide is (fail)cubed.

        Mark: when a transfer is required in the evening to get to RR, I’ve already found myself going out of my way to plan alternate routes. No schedule, no real-time signs, no OneBusAway add up to no patience from me and no interest from car owners.

      4. Honestly the fact that RapidRide turns away from downtown takes away a lot of its usefulness for me. 15 was a frequent route for me between lower queen anne and king street station area. A couple of my trips have become much more complicated.

      5. I refuse to ride RapidRide until they change the horrible letter-inside-a-block signage on the back of the coach. It’s impossible to read. Almost as bad as that one Breda with the BRIGHT WHITE readerboard.

  3. For those who went: did any of you try to sell Rogoff a time-share in the beautiful Lower Ninth Ward?

    We all know he’ll buy pretty much anything. #OpportinityKnocks

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