Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Funding America’s Transportation Needs

Shawn Conrad

Major media outlets across the United States are streaming headlines of the implications of the midterm election results. Analysts debate what the loss of congressional seats from the president’s political party will have on future legislation. While many may think I am referring to our most recent election results, these events were after the midterm elections of George W. Bush’s first term in office, when his party lost numerous congressional seats. What comes around goes around, or as New York Yankees great Yogi Berra stated, “Deja vu all over again.”

While Capitol Hill sorts through all of the upcoming changes and a wave of new government aides replace the old guard, it’s anyone’s guess what effects these changes will have on transportation reauthorization or fending off the insolvency of our nation’s transportation fund.

The issues being discussed and receiving the most attention are immigration, health care, potential tax reform care and, yes, the Affordable Care Act, which is going to get another review. While these are important topics and deserve attention, it’s important to remember that transportation funding runs out May 31, 2015.  Our colleagues at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) are showcasing options to raise the necessary transportation funding. These options include an increase on taxes for gas and diesel fuel consumption or charging drivers for miles driven. Of course, these ideas have their critics. But is not funding roads, bridges, highways, transit, light rail, and intermodal centers really an option?

As legislative leaders return from their victory parties or from licking their wounds, let’s collectively seek their attention on our nation’s worn infrastructure and investing in mobility.  An investment will have a positive effect today and help drive economic growth tomorrow.

New British Proposals Affect Parking

Patrick headshot 2012 cropped

As you enjoy  your summer holiday, you are (wisely) probably not thinking too much about the challenge of the British government’s proposals on local authority parking, which they published in late June. But I’m afraid those days of sun and sea will soon pass and our focus will be back on the job!

Following significant lobbying by the British Parking Association (BPA) and other organizations, including the Local Government Associations and London Councils as well as individual local authorities, we succeeded in persuading the government that banning closed-circuit television (CCTV) in its entirety was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  At least the Transport Minister saw sense and has ensured, in the publication of his response to the consultation, that he intends to permit CCTV to continue to be used, but only in specific circumstances of his choosing.

The BPA will lobby on our members’ behalf to ensure that CCTV can continue to be used in the circumstances for which it was intended, namely to relieve congestion on our streets and improve road safety.  We will be working over the summer with members of the House of Lords as the Deregulation Bill, which the government amended in June, makes its way through the Lords on its way to Royal Assent, probably at the end of the year.

There are many uncertainties at present around how the government’s proposals will turn out, and there are a number of opportunities to improve the position from the perspective of local authorities and the wider parking profession, at the same time ensuring that we place the consumer at the heart of our thinking.

The most extraordinary outcome from the government’s published response is that the responsibilities for implementing these changes are shared between the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.  When a government is at loggerheads with itself, organizations such as the BPA must redouble their efforts to deal with two sets of officials and two sets of Ministers.

I do hope that the government is united in developing these proposals as fractures within the policy- and law-making organizations does not make for good legislation, and, as we know, in other circumstances bad legislation can make life very difficult for those who have to implement and enforce it.

I hop you will put in your diary the date of our Annual Conference in October, where we will have very interesting and, I hope, constructive debates about where we have been on this subject and where we are going in the future.

Ordinances Aim to Enhance Safety

Mark Wright

Two local jurisdictions recently responded to vehicle-into-building crash tragedies with code changes intended to prevent vehicle incursions into storefronts:

Florida: Miami-Dade County amended its zoning code on July 3, 2012, with Ordinance No. 12-47 to require the placement of “anti-ram fixtures” in shopping centers. According to a statement from Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, the measure’s sponsor, the ordinance “stipulates that these anti-ram fixtures will be placed in shopping centers when head-in parking is located adjacent to a storefront installation. The fixtures will be installed along the outer edge of the sidewalk to visually and physically separate the vehicular and pedestrian areas.”

New York: The Town of Amherst has been working on a change to its building codes for a number of months now, in an effort led by Councilman Guy Marlette to reduce injuries and property damage from such incidents. (The Amherst Bee reported earlier this summer that there had been 32 of these crashes in the area over the course of a year — a number considered average by the local police.) The ordinance would require “vehicle impact protection” adjacent to certain parking spaces and structures specified in the law.

“The changes that I will be presenting to the Amherst Town Board will serve to provide a safer environment for the public,” Marlette says. “While bollards are one such solution, we are also looking to include landscaping and a reinforced structure internal to the outside wall. Our changes to the building codes will also afford the developer the opportunity to redesign their parking lots to reduce the potential for vehicle/wall impacts, resulting in an overall safer design.”

Have similar ordinances been proposed or passed in your community? Let us know in the comments below.