Fixing the House bill: Cutting regulatory burdens and bureaucracyMarch 15, 2012
By Stephen Lee Davis
There are many issues that need to be addressed in the House’s transportation bill, including two provisions that result in unneeded redundancy, bureaucracy and regulatory burdens for our country’s transit systems and freight movement.
The initial House bill proposed eliminating all dedicated funding for public transportation, ending a bipartisan agreement that’s been in place since 1982. Though the current rumor is that the House will restore that funding after massive opposition from across the country, other provisions are still in place that will cut funds from larger transit agencies, create unneeded bureaucracy, and also result in a fragmented system of moving freight.
Under H.R. 7, transit providers that operate both bus and rail services would be barred from a program used to buy buses or build bus facilities.
The ironic consequence, under a bill advertised as reducing streamlining bureaucracy, is that large transit agencies — rather than forego $900 million in aid — would be forced to split into separate rail and bus agencies.
Rep. Gerold Nadler, who represents part of New York City, pointed this out during the markup of the bill in the House Transportation Committee, a fact that no one quite seemed to realize up to that point. It wouldn’t prevent large transit agencies from getting these grants for bus service, it would just employ a host of lawyers, he said, as every large U.S. transit agency like New York’s MTA splits into two agencies.
This shortsighted provision means that tax dollars that should be providing much-needed transit services in local communities are diverted to bureaucratic overhead instead. Amendments offered by several members (numbered 17, 59 and 136) would reinstate current law and eliminate this provision.
H.R. 7 also would foster bureaucracy in freight planning, according to Leslie Blakey from the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors, via a guest post at Transportation Issues Daily:
The new movement to relinquish federal responsibilities to states stands to fracture a comprehensive system of interconnectivity.
Our goods movement system is not confined to politically-designated state borders – rather, it is an expansive, holistic system that stretches from coast-to-coast and across international boundaries. Along our commerce system, bridges serve to connect states, single freight hubs provide service to several states in a 5-mile radius, and roads weave back-and-forth over state lines.
One key provision…encourages states to compose their own freight advisory committees and develop their own freight plans. Emphasis on the need for freight planning is a welcomed notion; however, planning for our national freight system must take place at the federal level.
So instead of having one national freight plan to keep goods flowing, H.R. 7 would create 50 different state freight advisory boards, with 50 state plans for freight movement. This fragmented, scattershot approach stands in stark contrast to the clear national focus for freight in the Senate bill.
Moving freight across the country is a national issue that needs a national plan, and if the House truly wants to streamline and cut unneeded bureaucracy, they should look closely at the national approach in MAP-21 and abandon their fragmented approach that would do neither.
With the House in recess and the Senate poised to pass a bipartisan transportation bill this week, we’ll be taking a longer look at a few other issues with the House transportation bill in the coming days — and how some of those issues can be fixed. Though they may have addressed one issue by restoring dedicated transit funding (reportedly, though not publicly confirmed), there are still other issues that need work to improve the bill and get a bipartisan majority of House members to support it.