Monday, January 30, 2012

New transit rules from the feds

We've been waiting months for the Federal Transit Administration to pop out with some supposed new guidelines for how the FTA will evaluate its transit projects. Is this it? "FTA proposes New Starts streamline," from the U.S. Department of Transportation's official blog, Fast Lane, says proposed new rules "will speed up the New Starts process and focus more on transit options that fit local needs."

Here's the press release.

I'm checking with CATS folks to see if the proposed changes might, for instance, help the proposed Red Line commuter rail to north Mecklenburg (and maybe Iredell but that's iffy), compete for federal funds. Currently it does not. Commuter rail projects, in general, have not met the FTA's standards for cost-effectiveness. That's the big reason CATS and the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Red Line task force have created the idea of pairing commuter rail with freight rail-oriented development. 

And by the way, the fact that Norfolk Southern says freight and commuter rail are incompatible may not mean the railroad is not willing to partner. Or it may.  It's worth remembering that the railroads have a reputation for driving a very hard bargain. Or being great negotiators, if you want to put it another way.