Federal rules changes could benefit Metro, other transit projects

Some significant transit news out of Washington D.C. today: The rules that govern which major transit projects receive federal funding have been eased so that theoretically more projects can qualify.

Why does this matter to Los Angeles County?

Metro is currently seeking federal funds for the Westside Subway Extension and Downtown Regional Connector projects from the federal New Starts program. In the past, decisions on which projects received New Starts were largely made on the basis of whether a project met certain “cost-effectiveness” guidelines.

Here’s the first sentence from the press release from the Federal Transit Administration:

In a dramatic change from existing policy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out. The subway and regional connector projects may have qualified for some federal funding even before the change. But there’s little doubt that the broader the requirements, the more arguments that can be made for funding.

Here’s a link to a previous post explaining the New Starts program and which transits projects it will fund in the next fiscal year. Hint: none of them are in Los Angeles County.