Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

03/18/2010 01:00 PM TRANSPORTATION

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01:02:16 PM Start
01:03:33 PM SB152
02:12:33 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
           SB 152-TRANSPORTATION; TRANSIT AUTHORITIES                                                                       
VICE CHAIR LINDA MENARD announced the consideration of SB 152.                                                                  
1:03:33 PM                                                                                                                    
JODY SIMPSON, Staff to Senator Charlie Huggins, introduced SB
152 on behalf of the sponsor. She spoke to the following sponsor                                                                
statement: [Original punctuation provided.]                                                                                     
     The  Municipality   of  Anchorage  and   the  Matanuska-                                                                   
     Susitna   Borough   have  approved   a   Memorandum   of                                                                   
     Agreement  that commits  both entities  to cooperate  in                                                                   
     the  development   of  a   Regional  Transit   Authority                                                                   
     ("RTA") for  the purpose of increasing  commuter service                                                                   
     between the two communities.                                                                                               
     It is  important to  plan for  regional transit  service                                                                   
     in  South-central Alaska  now  so that  we are  prepared                                                                   
     for  the future.  Conservative  estimates indicate  that                                                                   
     more  than  14,000  people commute  between  Mat-Su  and                                                                   
     Anchorage  every day  and this  number  is projected  to                                                                   
     grow  to  30,000  within  15  years.   Fluctuating  fuel                                                                   
     costs  and   over-capacity  roadways  are   driving  the                                                                   
     public  demand  for  transit service  to  record  highs.                                                                   
      Park-and-ride  lots are  overflowing  and bus  services                                                                   
      in both Anchorage and Mat-Su are experiencing double-                                                                     
     digit  ridership  growth,  with  over 700  people  on  a                                                                   
     waiting list for vanpools.                                                                                                 
     Thousands of  RTAs exist in communities large  and small                                                                   
     across  the  nation  and  are  a  proven  effective  and                                                                   
     efficient  approach  to  managing   cross-jurisdictional                                                                   
     service. These  authorities plan and deploy  multi-modal                                                                   
     services  that  are  funded  by a  variety  of  sources,                                                                   
     including  federal, state,  and local contributions  and                                                                   
     "fare box" revenue.                                                                                                        
     Enabling legislation  is required to create  RTAs  There                                                                   
     is   precedent    in   Alaska    for   forming    multi-                                                                   
     jurisdictional   authorities:     The   Municipal   Port                                                                   
     Authority  Act,   Alaska  Statutes  29.35.600   -  .730,                                                                   
     provides  for the establishment  of port authorities  by                                                                   
     one  or  more municipalities,  and  the  Regional  Solid                                                                   
     Waste   Management   Authority  Act,   Alaska   Statutes                                                                   
     29.35.800  - .925,  provides  for the  establishment  of                                                                   
     regional  solid waste  management  authorities.  SB  152                                                                   
     will  provide the  framework  to authorize  the RTA  and                                                                   
     empower   it    to   enter   into   contracts;    accept                                                                   
     contributions,  grants,  or  loans from  any  public  or                                                                   
     private agency;  incur obligations and issue  bonds; and                                                                   
     acquire,   manage,   and   convey   real   property   in                                                                   
     furtherance of its mission.                                                                                                
     The  creation  of an  RTA  is  recommended in  both  the                                                                   
     Anchorage and  Mat-Su Borough Long Range  Transportation                                                                   
     plans, as  well as  in a 2002  Commuter Rail Study  that                                                                   
     was commissioned by the Alaska Railroad Corporation.                                                                       
     By  planning regionally,  we  can best  meet  increasing                                                                   
     demands  on  Alaska's  busiest   commuter  corridor  and                                                                   
     manage the integrated system as it matures.                                                                                
1:14:24 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SIMPSON  noted that this  framework differs from  the Regional                                                              
Solid  Waste Management  Act and  the  Port Authority  Act in  two                                                              
ways. First,  the requirement for  a public vote was  not included                                                              
in this legislation.  Second, a taxing authority  is not included.                                                              
Ms.  Simpson offered  her understanding  that,  "By deleting  this                                                              
from the  template that we  have here in  front of us,  thereby we                                                              
do have taxing authority for this RTA."                                                                                         
She  highlighted  key  actions for  transitioning  to  a  regional                                                              
transit  authority  including public  involvement,  identification                                                              
of services and resources, and planning.                                                                                        
1:17:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD asked how many other states have established RTAs.                                                                 
MS. SIMPSON offered to provide the information.                                                                                 
CHAIR MENARD  asked what  other municipalities  have expressed  an                                                              
MS. SIMPSON  replied received inquiries  from the  Fairbanks North                                                              
Star   Borough  (FNSB)   and   the  Southwest   Alaska   Municipal                                                              
Conference  (SWAMC).   She  added   that  the  Interisland   Ferry                                                              
Authority was created years ago under the Port Authority.                                                                       
CHAIR MENARD asked if she'd heard from the Kenai Peninsula.                                                                     
MS. SIMPSON said no.                                                                                                            
SENATOR PASKVAN asked  where the taxing authority is  found in the                                                              
MS. SIMPSON  replied, "The  bill is silent  on that at  this point                                                              
because  the other  templates  include a  section  that says  they                                                              
will not  have taxing  authority. By virtue  of omitting  that for                                                              
this bill, it is included."                                                                                                     
SENATOR PASKVAN  referred to AS  29.35.756 and pointed out  that a                                                              
taxing authority  is not defined within the definitions  of powers                                                              
and duties.                                                                                                                     
MS. SIMPSON  deferred further  explanation  to the Mat-Su  Borough                                                              
SENATOR  DAVIS  expressed a  desire  to  hear from  Department  of                                                              
Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF).                                                                                   
1:21:15 PM                                                                                                                    
NICK  SPIROPOULOS, Attorney,  Mat-Su Borough,  explained that  the                                                              
Alaska  Constitution says  the state  may  delegate taxing  powers                                                              
only to  cities and boroughs  and they  must have a  minimum level                                                              
of   tax-levying  jurisdiction.   When   the   bill  was   drafted                                                              
Anchorage, which is  a Home Rule municipality, was  of the opinion                                                              
that  it might  one day  explore  the idea  of whether  or not  it                                                              
could   delegate  taxing   authority  to   the  regional   transit                                                              
authority.  He  opined that  as  a  second class  borough,  Mat-Su                                                              
would not have that authority under state law.                                                                                  
1:24:39 PM                                                                                                                    
BRUCE  CARR,  Director  of  Strategic  Planning,  Alaska  Railroad                                                              
Corporation  (ARRC),  described  SB  152  as  a  step  forward  in                                                              
developing a public  transportation system in Alaska.  He reported                                                              
that  the sole  purpose  of the  2001-2002  report  that the  ARRC                                                              
commissioned   was   to   identify   specific   requirements   for                                                              
implementing commuter  rail service between the Mat-Su  Valley and                                                              
Anchorage.  The primary recommendation  coming  out of the  report                                                              
was to establish an RTA.                                                                                                        
MR.  CARR pointed  out  that current  federal  policy is  shifting                                                              
funds  away from the  federal highway  system  in favor of  public                                                              
transportation.  Because the federal  highway system in  Alaska is                                                              
90 percent  federally subsidized,  this could  have a  significant                                                              
impact on the  availability of funds to maintain  highways such as                                                              
the   Parks,  Glenn,   Richardson,   and   Sparrevohn.  Mr.   Carr                                                              
encouraged  the  committee  to  include  in  the  legislation  the                                                              
ability  for RTAs  to use  financial tools  even if  there are  no                                                              
plans to use them initially.                                                                                                    
1:28:12 PM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER WITT,  Chief of Planning,  Central Region,  Department of                                                              
Transportation  and Public  Facilities (DOTPF),  said neither  the                                                              
department  nor the  administration have  taken a  position on  SB
152.  However,  she  was  asked to  provide  information  for  the                                                              
MS.  WITT highlighted  that  fare box  receipts  generally do  not                                                              
cover  the cost  of operation  in  public transportation  systems.                                                              
Ultimately  support from  local government  is needed. This  isn't                                                              
addressed in  the bill. The bill  is also silent on the  impact an                                                              
RTA  might  have  on  the  existing  Anchorage  Metropolitan  Area                                                              
Planning Solutions  (AMATS). It  could trigger the  requirement to                                                              
expand the  AMATS boundaries  to include those  of the  RTA, which                                                              
would  change  the representation  on  the  metropolitan  planning                                                              
organization  (MPO). The  unintended consequence  is that  because                                                              
of  the  way DOTPF  administers  federal  money  to the  MPO,  the                                                              
combined  funding  for  Mat-Su  Borough  and  Anchorage  could  be                                                              
CHAIR  MENARD  asked  if  she feels  that  the  legislation  would                                                              
dilute AMATS.                                                                                                                   
MS. WITT  replied it would  complicate the decision-making  and if                                                              
Mat-Su became an MPO it would reduce the federal funding.                                                                       
1:31:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN asked  her  to comment  on  Mr. Carr's  statement                                                              
that establishing  RTAs fits  with the  federal policy  shift away                                                              
from federal highways toward public transportation.                                                                             
MS. WITT  said she  agrees and  DOTPF doesn't  know how  this will                                                              
affect funding.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  DAVIS asked  why DOTPF  hasn't  taken a  position on  the                                                              
bill and  what it is doing  to assess whether or  not establishing                                                              
an RTA is the right direction to go.                                                                                            
MS.  WITT deferred  the  question  and offered  her  understanding                                                              
that the administration has not taken a position.                                                                               
SENATOR  DAVIS mentioned  the  concern that  an  RTA could  affect                                                              
AMATS   and  asked   if  this  has   been  a   problem  in   other                                                              
MS.  WITT replied  it's  fairly  clear that  re-designation  would                                                              
have  to  occur  to  include the  Mat-Su,  but  this  hasn't  been                                                              
confirmed absolutely.                                                                                                           
1:36:14 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DAVIS  questioned  how  DOTPF  could  have  analyzed  the                                                              
fiscal impact as zero.                                                                                                          
MS. WITT deferred to Ms. Simpson.                                                                                               
SENATOR DAVIS  responded that she  wants any information  she has,                                                              
but she also wants to hear from the department.                                                                                 
MS. SIMPSON  said she has had  a number of conversations  with the                                                              
department  and  at  this  time  there is  no  request  for  state                                                              
funding  to  put this  in  place.  She  provided examples  of  how                                                              
transit authorities nationwide fund their efforts.                                                                              
MS.  SIMPSON  acknowledged  that  DOTPF  hadn't  spent  much  time                                                              
vetting  the bill  and  that changes  were  likely.  She cited  an                                                              
April 2009  letter from the MOA  and the Mat-Su Borough  to deputy                                                              
commissioner Frank  Richards describing how they  would handle the                                                              
potential  expansion of  the  MPO. She  added  that Anchorage  has                                                              
applied for  a $284,000  block grant  through the U.S.  Department                                                              
of  Energy that  would go  toward  developing an  RTA. The  Mat-Su                                                              
Borough applied  for a similar  $50,000 grant and  she understands                                                              
they have been appropriated.                                                                                                    
1:41:54 PM                                                                                                                    
ALTON  STAFF,   Planning  Manager,   People  Mover,  said   he  is                                                              
available to answer questions.                                                                                                  
1:42:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRIS ROSE  representing himself,  told the  committee that  he is                                                              
also  the  executive  director  of  the  Renewable  Energy  Alaska                                                              
Project (REAP). He  said there are many good  reasons to establish                                                              
RTAs and efficiency  is high on the list. This  basic structure is                                                              
in place  nationwide and is necessary  to move Anchorage  and Mat-                                                              
Su  into the  21 century  of  transportation.  A lot  of work  has                                                              
already  been  done to  establish  commuter  rail service  in  the                                                              
area, but the  service can't be put in place  without establishing                                                              
an RTA. This  has been a stumbling  block for almost a  decade. He                                                              
pointed out how  much money the community exports  to buy gasoline                                                              
and  that those  dollars  could  be  re-circulated back  into  the                                                              
community if more people were able to use public transportation.                                                                
1:46:38 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK MASTELLER, representing  himself, said he is  the director of                                                              
Cascadia Region  Green Building Council  and a member of  the Mat-                                                              
Su  Borough Planning  Commission. He  stated support  for SB  152,                                                              
the  enabling  legislation  for   establishing  RTAs.  This  is  a                                                              
critical   tool    to   help   with   energy    conservation   and                                                              
transportation  planning. He  said he would  like the  legislation                                                              
to provide the RTA with revenue raising authority.                                                                              
1:48:24 PM                                                                                                                    
BRAD  SWORTS,  Transportation Planning  Manager,  Mat-Su  Borough,                                                              
stated  support  for  SB  152  to allow  creation  of  an  RTA  to                                                              
regionally coordinate  transit services  for a more  efficient and                                                              
financially  stable system.  It will  reduce congestion,  increase                                                              
safety,  and reduce  wear and tear  on highways,  he said.  Public                                                              
transportation  in the area  is already  at capacity.  Pursuant to                                                              
signing the  MOA, Anchorage  and Mat-Su appointed  representatives                                                              
to work  on the project  and authorized  funding requests  for the                                                              
RTA in  their annual  legislative budgets.  He confirmed  that the                                                              
Mat-Su Borough has received $50,000 to do planning for an RTA.                                                                  
1:51:57 PM                                                                                                                    
TIAYA WAGGONER,  Alaska Youth  for Environmental Action,  reported                                                              
that  about 14,000  cars  commute between  the  Mat-Su Valley  and                                                              
Anchorage  every  day. By  2025  Mat-Su  is  projected to  have  a                                                              
population  in excess of  500,000 and  she foresees more  gridlock                                                              
and more pollution  contributing to global climate  change. Public                                                              
transportation  between   the  Mat-Su  Valley  and   Anchorage  is                                                              
already  inadequate. She  urged the  committee to  pass SB  152 in                                                              
order  to  create  an  RTA  and make  it  possible  to  develop  a                                                              
reliable transportation system in Alaska.                                                                                       
1:54:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CAITLIN   HIGGINS,   Executive   Director,   Alaska   Conservation                                                              
Alliance and  Alaska Conservation Voters,  said that SB  152 would                                                              
allow RTAs  and clear the way  for municipalities to  innovate and                                                              
cooperate  to  meet  transportation  needs.  Cities  and  boroughs                                                              
could   share    resources,   get    the   most   from    existing                                                              
infrastructure,  and  ensure  thoughtful   decision  making  about                                                              
transportation.  According to the  American Public  Transportation                                                              
Association,  there were about  578 RTAs  nationwide in  2007. The                                                              
RTA in the Anchorage/Mat-Su  area would decide on the  best mix of                                                              
public transportation  options and would  likely be the  entity to                                                              
operate commuter rail.                                                                                                          
As  the  federal   government  dedicates  more  funds   to  public                                                              
transportation,  Alaska   can  expect  to  receive   less  federal                                                              
transportation  funding   for  roads.  Forming   regional  transit                                                              
authorities  would give  communities  an advantage  in  attracting                                                              
federal transportation  funds and  help them  get the most  out of                                                              
these funds through wise expenditures.                                                                                          
MS. HIGGINS  encouraged the committee  to include in the  bill the                                                              
ability for  the RTA to raise  revenue to ensure  ongoing reliable                                                              
funding of transit.  Public transportation reduces  congestion and                                                              
road  maintenance while  it  increases safety,  and  cuts down  on                                                              
particulate and  greenhouse gas  pollution. Promoting  RTAs brings                                                              
Alaska  one step  closer  to safer,  less  congested  roads and  a                                                              
healthier environment.                                                                                                          
MS. HIGGINS encouraged  the committee to pass SB 152  or a similar                                                              
bill  this  year.  It  creates  more  transportation  options.  By                                                              
planning  regionally Alaskans  can better  meet increased  demands                                                              
on  transportation  and  manage  an  integrated  system  into  the                                                              
future, she said.                                                                                                               
LAMARR  ANDERSON,  Interim Executive  Director,  Mat-Su  Community                                                              
Transit   (MASCOT),   related   that   MASCOT   is   a   nonprofit                                                              
organization  that provides  public and partransit  in the  Mat-Su                                                              
Valley  and  commuter service  to  Anchorage.  Between  70 and  80                                                              
percent  of their service  is to  meet transit  needs of  seniors,                                                              
the  disabled, and  human  service agency  clients.  The need  for                                                              
community   public  transportation   is   abundantly  clear,   but                                                              
operational funding is the Achilles' heel, he said.                                                                             
MR. ANDERSON  said that MASCOT is  a prime example of  the problem                                                              
of Alaska's  sustainable  operational funding  sources for  public                                                              
transit  organizations.  Due to  a  shrinking supply  of  eligible                                                              
matching funds, MASCOT  has had to cut its drivers,  vehicle hours                                                              
and miles  traveled by about half  since last fall.  Needs haven't                                                              
changed,  just the  ability to meet  these needs.  In Alaska  only                                                              
federal and  local funds  are available  for operational  expenses                                                              
and  the federal  funds require  a local  match. Local  nonprofits                                                              
have  been  very supportive,  but  local  funding is  limited  and                                                              
provides    no    assurance   of    long-term    continuity    and                                                              
sustainability.  "Senate Bill  152 would  be a significant  remedy                                                              
of help  and addition to  the equation,  not just for  MASCOT, but                                                              
for all public transit in the state."                                                                                           
2:01:48 PM                                                                                                                    
LOIS EPTEIN,  Director, Alaska  Transportation Priorities  Project                                                              
(ATPP), said  she is an  engineer and she  is paying  attention to                                                              
regional transit  authorities nationwide. She reported  that as of                                                              
2007   the   American  Public   Transportation   Association   had                                                              
identified  578 RTAs  located in  every state  except Wyoming  and                                                              
Alaska.  It  would   make  sense  for  Alaska  to   move  in  this                                                              
direction,  she  said.  It  would  make for  a  smarter  and  more                                                              
efficient decision-making process.                                                                                              
ALLI  HARVEY,  Sustainable Communities  Program  Director,  Alaska                                                              
Center for  the Environment  (ACE), said ACE  is fully  in support                                                              
of  SB  152,  the  enabling  legislation  to  allow  formation  of                                                              
regional  transit authorities.  ACE focuses  primarily on  quality                                                              
of life  issues in Southcentral  Alaska and  this bill is  a giant                                                              
step forward.  Thousands  of people commute  daily between  Mat-Su                                                              
and  Anchorage,  which is  expensive  and  time consuming.  It  is                                                              
important  that  there  are  other  options  available  for  these                                                              
people  to  get   to  their  jobs.  The  Alaska   Center  for  the                                                              
Environment  encourages   the  committee  to  move   SB  152  from                                                              
committee, she said.                                                                                                            
2:05:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MENARD closed public testimony.                                                                                         
SENATOR DAVIS  said she certainly  supports the bill  and believes                                                              
it's needed.  That's been  the overwhelming  testimony, but  DOTPF                                                              
isn't providing any  guidance for moving forward  and doesn't have                                                              
any more information  to provide than  it did a year ago  when the                                                              
bill was first  introduced. For example, the bill  doesn't address                                                              
the taxing authority  or planning. Public testimony  may be closed                                                              
but, "At this  point I'm not ready  to move this bill  out of this                                                              
committee," she stated.  Maybe finance will address  some of these                                                              
questions,  but the  transportation department  should be  driving                                                              
this legislation and it isn't even taking a stand.                                                                              
2:07:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  PASKVAN echoed  Senator  Davis' comments.  The fact  that                                                              
the  department's  chief  planner  for  the region  has  taken  no                                                              
position  on  the bill  is  troubling,  he  said. If  the  federal                                                              
government  is going  to be  moving subsidies  away from  highways                                                              
toward  regional  transportation  authorities, then  DOTFP  should                                                              
provide the committee  with their understanding of  that and their                                                              
plans for the future.                                                                                                           
2:09:14 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SIMPSON  related  that  the bill  was  introduced  late  last                                                              
session and the  municipalities renewed their MOA  in October. The                                                              
sponsor didn't  want to do  more work on  the bill until  that had                                                              
been signed  so it's  not DOTPF's  fault that  a year has  passed.                                                              
This conversation is just beginning.                                                                                            
CHAIR MENARD stated support for the bill.                                                                                       
SENATOR  PASKVAN said  he thinks  there is  unanimous support  for                                                              
the bill, but it needs work. He asked the sponsors intention.                                                                   
MS.  SIMPSON replied  the  sponsor  realizes that  this  is a  new                                                              
issue  and although  it  has great  support,  there are  a lot  of                                                              
questions to  address. Clearly,  DOTPF needs to  be a part  of the                                                              
CHAIR MENARD announced  she would hold SB 152  awaiting clarifying                                                              
information  from  the  Department of  Transportation  and  Public                                                              
Facilities (DOTPF).                                                                                                             

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