FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — February 9, 2011
All Aboard Ohio Executive Director
CLEVELAND – All Aboard Ohio is urging the Ohio Department of Transportation to increase its public transportation budget for operating and capital assistance to $250 million per year to help ensure half of Ohio’s population will have access to jobs, health care, education and shopping. Instead, it appears ODOT wants to reduce its already token-level transit budget to far meager levels that will further isolate Ohioans from jobs, worsen the state’s “Brain Drain” and sentence the poor, disabled and elderly to house arrest.
The current administration wants ODOT to step backwards to serve the Ohio of 1950s and 60s when driving was increasing and fossil fuel was cheap. In late-2010, ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Committee recommended spending $646.2 million for Tier I new-capacity highway projects over 2012-13. All Aboard Ohio urges a fiscally responsible moratorium on highway expansions and pulling back the public’s tax dollars to help communities expand public transit and maintain existing roads and bridges rather than build more roads which ODOT cannot afford to sustain, and return the Ohio Highway Patrol budget from the deficit-ridden general fund back to the gas tax.
In the past year, ODOT used $10 million in non-gas tax state funding to leverage $40 million in federal funds for transit. However, All Aboard Ohio points to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics which estimates 4% of gas taxes come from non-highway users (agriculture, marine, state, county, and municipal activities, industrial and commercial use and construction vehicles, etc). In Ohio, where taxes collected from motorists must, by law, be spent on highways, that could mean that more than $40 million of state gas tax revenues may be flexible for use in non-highway transportation. Combined, the $50 million would be enough to leverage another $200 million in federal funds for Ohio’s transit needs.
That fiscally responsible investment strategy would acknowledge 21st-century transportation priorities and realities:
- That would raise Ohio, the 7th-most populous state, to 12th in the nation in per-capita investment in transit (SOURCE: American Public Transit Association).
- Ohio ranks 12th in the nation in transit use (SOURCE: ODOT).
- Hundreds of Ohioans jammed ODOT statewide public hearings in 2008, with requests for increased transit investment being a dominant theme (SOURCE: ODOT).
- More transit investment will respond to citizens’ basic needs as 8.5% of Ohio households have no car (SOURCE: Census).
- To meet that need, 8.5 percent of ODOT’s biennial budget should go to transit, or $210 million per year (SOURCE: ODOT).
- A more robust figure of $250 million per year for transit operating and capital assistance would acknowledge that nearly 3 million Ohioans must share cars (living in 1.2 million one-car households), and 2 million Ohioans are 65 years or older (SOURCE: Census).
Yet this does not account for dramatic changes in the transportation market that ODOT will ignore with its FY2012-13 budget request:
- Generation Y (ages 21-30, the largest demographic group in American history) represents just 14% of miles driven vs. 21% for the prior, smaller generation in 1995 (SOURCE: Kiplinger Business Research).
- The second-largest group, the Baby Boomers, starts turning 65 years old in 2011 and will become less physically able to drive as often or as far. They will represent 20% of Ohio’s population in 2020 (SOURCE: Census).
- America imports two thirds of its oil, and an equal amount is used for transportation. U.S. motorists’ fuel consumption alone accounts for 11% of global oil production (SOURCE: USDOT, Bureau of Transportation Statistics).
- Global oil use outpaces new oil discoveries, with the world using about 12 billion more barrels per year than it finds (SOURCE: International Energy Agency).
“When I travel to small- and medium-sized towns throughout Ohio that I’ve visited in decades past, I notice something very disturbing,” said All Aboard Ohio President Bill Hutchison. “I see a lot of old people and I see a lot of poor people. I see fewer young people and middle-class families which are the lifeblood of communities. Although Ohio’s metropolitan areas have experienced net losses of young adults, the effect of Ohio’s ‘Brain Drain’ is more clearly visible in the rest of Ohio. It is also an economic blood drain. Our state’s highway-dominated transportation policies are a major factor in this by not offering the kinds of travel choices young people want. They have no choice but to move and leave a weaker Ohio behind.”
Hutchison noted that young adults are attracted as much to a community’s quality of life as they are to jobs. Many will work lesser jobs if their location can offer a quality of life they want, according to “Creative Class” researcher Richard Florida. That includes having choices in how to travel other than just by car. Many young people view driving as a waste of time, preventing them from using smart phones or reading.
The increasing isolation of Ohio is clearly evident in these two intercity public transportation maps:
“Ohio must respond to the needs of its people who need to get to work, the doctor, to school and to shopping,” Hutchison said. “Instead, this ODOT budget responds to the needs of powerful oil and highway industry lobbyists, including ODOT’s own director who was president of Flexible Pavements, the asphalt industry lobbying group. To ignore changes in Ohio’s population demographics and the worsening global energy crisis risks even more economic blood-letting for Ohio.”