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United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) 2020 Membership Meeting

08/11/2020

CTAA 2020 Membership Meeting 
Remarks of Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams (
as prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon. Thank you for that kind introduction, Scott. Now let me begin with a welcome message via video from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

I'm so grateful to Secretary Chao for taking the time to do a video greeting and I'm proud to serve on her team and in this Administration. Under her leadership, she has focused on balancing federal support to ensure that rural communities receive equity in funding. Noting that rural areas are not looking for handouts, but, instead, a more equitable approach to funding.

And so our partnership with CTAA cannot be more important.

Let me begin by saying a few words about Scott. I've worked closely with Scott over the last three years, and of the many people I have met in the transit industry, he is truly a leader who is clearly dedicated to helping all of you in your mission to serve your communities' transportation needs. You could not ask for a better advocate to represent you in D.C. Thank you, Scott, for all that you do for transit across America.

I am very happy to join you, even if it is virtually, to highlight FTA' s ongoing partnership with the transit industry -- specifically small urban and rural transit systems. CTAA is vital in its work to support public transpo1tation in communities across the United States helping people get to jobs, school, health ca re and other critical community services.

Safety has always been the Secretary' s number-one priority, and that has certainly been a focus for all of us during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Let me first say thank you! From the beginning of this public health emergency, the transit industry has provided essential transportation services to communities large and small across America. You have transported essential workers in healthcare, emergency response, and food services ... jobs that have sustained all of us over the past few months.

During this time of incredible challenges, you have demonstrated your resilience and dedication to provide critical transportation services for every American who counts on it every day. You continue to step up to help people in your communities, including partnering with local organizations to ensure that people, particularly those at high risk, receive food and access to essential services.

For example, TriValley Transit in Addison County, Vermont, is delivering food from food banks and the county Department of Health to community distribution points to help neighbors in need. They've also extended their service hours to help older adults travel to grocery stores to take advantage of special shopping hours and worked with local schools to deliver summer meals for kids.

Today, transit systems nationwide are continuing to perform critical roles in communities across the nation as local economies continue to re-open.

Under the CARES Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27, FTA received $25 billion dollars to support the transit industry. To date, FTA has awarded more than 87 percent of the funds through grant awards totaling $21.7 billion dollars to states and communities across the nation, helping keep America and its economy moving. It is so important that you prioritize spending this federal funding as local economies continue to reopen.

The transit industry will continue to play an increasingly critical role as agencies increase service to meet riders' demands. We are working to support you with personal protective equipment, or PPE. As many of you know, the Trump Administration distributed more than 100 million protective face coverings to critical transportation workers and sent additional shipments for agencies to distribute to their riders. As part of that effort, the Administration sent 14.2 million protective face coverings to the transit industry specifically for frontline workers and riders.

The distribution of face coverings is the latest example of the Administration's commitment to safety throughout the transportation industry.

FTA has also facilitated coordination between CTAA and APTA to develop a list of sources for products to help the transit industry recover. The vendor list provides links to over 200 vendors who offer products related to COVID-19 recovery and was posted on FTA's COVID-19 website last week.

Infrastructure investment has also been a priority of the Trump Administration, with a special focus toward balancing federal support between the nation's urban and rural areas. To address this disparity, the Secretary developed the TIFIA Rural Projects Initiative program as a part of the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success, or ROUTES initiative, to ensure we consider rural transportation infrastructure's unique challenges and keep our rural communities economically competitive.

The Rural Project Initiative makes TIFIA financing more accessible to small communities and offers some significant benefits and savings to rural sponsors. In fact, three transit agencies have filed letters of intent to notify the Department of their interest in accessing this funding.

Within FTA, we continue to include projects from rural and small urban America as part of our competitive grant selections. So, let me take a moment to highlight some of FTA's recent infrastructure investments.

Just this morning, Secretary Chao announced the Trump Administration's investment of nearly half a billion dollars in buses and bus facilities throughout the nation to repair, restore and rebuild our critical transit infrastructure and improve access and mobility for riders across America who depend on public transportation every day.

Much of the federal funding support from this program will reach rural areas and small urban centers. These areas have also received a significant share of other competitive programs. For example:

  • In June, rural and small urban areas were awarded $63 million dollars in FY 2020 Low or No Emissions competitive funding, which was 49 percent of the funding awarded through the program.
  • Also, in June, $2 million dollars, or 56 percent, of Mobility for All competitive funding awarded went to rural and small urban areas. As you know, this is one of our new programs that supp01t improved mobility options for older adults, individuals with disabilities, and people of low income.
  • And in January, FTA announced FY 2019 project selections under the Tribal Transit competitive program totaling $5 million dollars to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, which supported 39 projects in 20 states.

None of this would have been possible without FTA Associate Administrator Bruce Robinson, who, with his team, does great work to manage our rural programs and ensure our grantees get the funding and technical assistance they need to be successful in what is at times a complex grant process.

These FTA-supported projects imp rove access to critical services for people who need it most. For example, the Maine Department of Transportation will receive funding under FTA's Mobility for All program to expand bus service in the rural Presque Isle area from on-demand buses to daily routes and will use technology to fill gaps in service and improve access and mobility for older adults and individuals with disabilities in northern Maine.

Flint MTA also received a Mobility for All grant to expand its same-day, on­ demand transportation program for veterans and people seeking treatment from substance abuse disorders. The program makes it much easier for rural residents who have had to travel long distances to healthcare facilities.

And since we just observed the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am happy to say that FTA works every day to ensure accessibility in transportation across America, investing more than $50 million dollars in pursuit of accessibility through several initiatives, including the Mobility for All program.

Many of you know Secretary Chao has also made innovation one of her top priorities. I'm sure it's not lost on any of you how important it is to be more innovative during these unprecedented times in the transit industry. Innovation is key to meeting today's challenges and the expectations of riders on all modes of transportation.

FTA supports creative transportation solutions that incorporate 21st-century technology innovations to enable people to reach jobs, school, health care and other critical community services, especially in rural areas. In March, FTA announced selections for 25 projects under the Integrated Mobility Innovation, or IMI, program.

Under the IMI program, we expanded the field of innovation to improve the safety of riders, operators, and maintenance personnel during the COVID-19 public health emergency, with a focus on contactless payment systems.

Later this month, we plan to announce $14 million in funding for projects under the new Accelerating Innovative Mobility program, known as AIM. These grants help transit agencies across America advance new technologies that provide more efficient and frequent service, enhance the overall rider experience and lead to better mobility.

The selected projects are the latest in transportation technologies and services, including microtransit, multimodal mobility services, automation and contactless integrated payment systems. Our support under the AIM initiative will play a vital role in fostering innovation and promoting safety as the nation continues its economic recovery.

On behalf of Secretary Chao, thank you for all you do to deliver safe, reliable public transportation across America.

Last updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2020