SWTA Visits Delegation in Washington, DC
December 11, 2017
SWTA made its fourth visit to Washington, DC, to share good news stories with members of Congress about the excellent transit work being done in the SWTA Nation! I try to target different areas of the region, keeping a balance between Senate and House as well as sections of the region. The choice of who I visit is typically because there is targeted messaging or because a SWTA member has requested a visit or shared a story with us.
TEXAS, KANSAS, OKLAHOMA and ARKANSAS delegation members were visited in November.
This trip, the focus was on three messaging areas, after sharing the local successes:
1. Fully appropriate the FAST Act as it was authorized.
2. Infrastructure Investment needs to include transit vehicles and building projects.
3. Pending Safety Regulations - one size does not fit all. The data supports that rural transit is safe and that over-regulation can be burdensome for small/rural agencies in the form of time, resources, and money. Programs should be data-driven and results-oriented for success.
November 29-30, 2017
SWTA met with members of two key Texas congressional offices, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-8th), Chair of Ways and Means and Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-13th), Chair of House Armed Services Committee.
In both meetings, we brought personal stories of transit achievement from their districts.
Chairman Brady’s office heard how transit supported first responders with over 15,000 rescues in the Chairman’s district
and about infrastructure partnership projects between transit agencies and city/county programs, that will help alleviate future flooding. Harris County Transit, Houston METRO and Brazos (Bryan/College Station) all provided information for our meeting.
I was truly surprised when the Chairman’s staff member said he had NOT seen the infamous Buses on the HOV Lane photo from Hurricane Harvey news stories. It goes to show you that Show and Tell at the congressional offices is truly important. We may see all of our marketing efforts, but it doesn’t mean they do.
Chairman Thornberry’s office heard how Wichita Falls has formed great partnerships with MSU, Vernon College, and Sheppard AFB to get constituents to jobs and educational opportunities. We also shared that Panhandle Community Services has applied for an operating grant from the VA to provide transportation for veterans and their families. The Chairman’s staff was surprised that 80% of Lylene’s fleet is past its useful 12-year life.
For Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-3 rd ), County Commissioner Steve Klikka directed me to discuss the issue of “empty-bus syndrome” and the creative Micro-transit solutions Johnson County is working on. In addition, they are looking at major arterials where congestion is heavy and public transportation, in all its forms is needed. The County is partnering with KCATA to bring about sustainability and creative solutions.
Staff from Senator Roberts’ (R) office heard about Topeka METRO’s newly negotiated contract with the School District to provide trips to school for 4000 high school students. 24/7 service to get people to work in the South Topeka Industrial Park was of interest as was 24/7 service for people with disabilities.
I met with staff from the offices of Senator James Lankford (R) and Congressman Tom Cole (R-4th ). Lawton Area Transit System (LATS) is partnering with the school district to provide rides to school for grades 6-12 plus staff members. The service is averaging 5700 trips every month! A design contract will be awarded for the downtown transfer center. (JOBS!)
Senator Lankford’s staff was highly interested in the community benefits for increased access to jobs, health and education seen as a result of adding night routes, something that hasn’t been seen in OKC for FOUR DECADES! These routes have the fastest growing ridership of any EMBARK service. We also discussed the need for the Senator’s support for the proposed first bus rapid transit route and that 34% of the EMBARK fleet is CNG.
JAMM Transit, in Congressman Cole’s district, helped us make the case for why transit is crucial in rural areas to provide access to healthcare. With transit, seniors are able to get to their follow up and care appointments (chemo, dialysis), saving tax payers on skyrocketing readmittance costs. JAMM shared two personal stories that ended in two of the Congressmen’s constituents getting to services through partnerships between transit, Department on Aging and DHS. Of the 141,829 trips made by JAMM, 23,276 are for senior independence. This is important to the Congressman.
It pays to know your Congressman’s heritage. Chickasaw Transit is not only in Congressman Cole’s district, but this is his tribal heritage. I was able to share that federal FTA funding (around 1 million) will complete a wash bay facility and parking lot for the new administration building project with an estimated start date is in January of 2018 (JOBS!). This funding also assists and supports many ofour Native American citizens as well as the general public with daily job access.
Senator Tom Cotton’s (R) staff hosted us to talk about transit successes. It was incredibly helpful to have the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) weigh in prior to the visit. Out of 75 counties in Arkansas, 59 are
served with transit, but in the coming year, that number will be up to 67b counties. This means more access to JOBS, Healthcare and EDUCATION. In addition, Staff was interested in the statewide transit coordination plan to find ways to maximize federal dollars by identifying service gaps, overlaps and assess transit needs.
Fort Smith Transit has completed the conversion of their entire fleet to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and the staff has completed training on identifying Human Trafficking using the online Truckers Against Human Trafficking (TAT) course.
Ozark Regional Transit has not been without their challenges and success stories this year. I was able to tell how TRANSIT (yes YOU) stepped up with vehicles and support after their devastating fire, sharing resources to keep service on the street and people in JOBS! We were able to provide information about a competitive grant that would help make the system whole in 24 months with this funding. I am hopeful the Senator’s staff will look into where the grant is in the process.
Rock Region Metro provided a great case for transit in central Arkansas illustrating if you “follow the money” of $1.65 mil in
grants, you can see that Rock Region is providing safe and efficient service by wisely investing in CNG, an Arkansas natural resource. Rock Region has produced a successful universal pass program for HIGHER EDUCATION and the Little School District – getting people to school and to jobs across their service area, expected to generate 191,000 for the
remainder of 2017. In addition, they have successfully assisted the Little Rock Port Authority in a TIGER grant application for better access to JOB CENTERS and have launched nine modified routes to more effectively service the area.
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