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New report outlines seven tools for improving transportation system

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A new report released today by Reason Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Transportation for America proposes cost-effective recommendations that Congress should consider as part of the pending transportation bill that will stretch limited transportation dollars, save money in the long run, cut congestion, and better maintain the existing system.

The jointly written report, "The Most for Our Money: TaxpayerFriendly Solutions for the Nation's Transportation Challenges," introduces innovative approaches that will expand the efficiency of infrastructure while keeping costs in check.

"The obstacles facing our transportation system are large, especially given the current state of the economy and difficult funding climate," said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.  "But by making smart, selective choices about how our vital dollars are spent -- fixing what we have first and looking for ways to better utilize the system that we have -- we can maintain our current network and better meet changing transportation needs."

The report outlines seven specific tools - some big, some small - that would significantly improve the nation's transportation system by reducing future congestion, plan for the future, better utilize existing capacity and increase the safety of our roads and bridges.

"Staring down the barrel of trillion-dollar budget deficits, federal taxpayers are demanding more bang for their buck, and transportation spending is no exception," said Erich W. Zimmermann, Senior Policy Analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Our work highlights a number of opportunities to do more with less. For example, scenario planning, modeled on strategic military planning, enables a community to consider various options and choose the one that best suits its fiscal and transportation needs.

For example, using Transportation Scenario Planning allows  local decision-makers to assess forecasted data on transportation demands and develop "what-if" scenarios to indicate how potential systems would function as populations expand. Legislators, businesses, and the public then assess these scenarios to decide on the most favorable solution. Many communities find that changes to "business as usual" result in a more efficient transportation system at a lower cost. Chicago used scenario planning in its "GO TO 2040" plan to develop a new transportation system by 2040 that would meet the city's growing population and transportation needs.

"For too long, we've been planning communities around outdated assumptions about how they'll grow and what kind of homes, businesses and roads we'll need. Scenario planning gives local governments the tools they need to look at different options and pick the one that fits best. Instead of building for a future you think is inevitable, towns can pick how they want to grow and make decisions to support that future," says Dave Engstrom, Director of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

Minnesota is showing national leadership with several of these transportation options:

·       Ramp meters, an example of ITS, have improved highway flows in the Twin Cities since the early 1990s and have reduced crashes by at least 30 percent.

·       Best Buy, headquartered in Minnesota, is an international leader in telework, with their "results-only work environment," (ROWE) which they say increases productivity 35%.[1]

·       Minnesota's own Jefferson Lines provides private intercity bus service all across the state and region.

Another innovative approach the report recommends is to reduce congestion on the road by expanding the use of High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, already in use in the Twin Cities.  HOT lanes are reserved for buses and other high-occupancy vehicles. Single-occupancy vehicles pay a fluctuating rate based (based on traffic volume) to access the less congested HOT lanes. In Southeast Florida alone, HOT lanes saved commuters nearly $9 million in just six months. 

"While HOT lanes and Bus Rapid Transit are certainly not new or flashy innovations, the purpose of our recommendations is to encourage Congress to rethink the way we finance and design our transportation systems and support the expansion of these types of low cost, efficient solutions," said Shirley Ybarra, senior transportation policy analyst for Reason Foundation and former Virginia secretary of transportation. "We're offering innovative ideas, free-market solutions, and simple fixes that will help us get the most for our money."

"Minnesota has long strived to be a leader in transportation, and this new report shows that we embraced some of the best ideas like telwork and HOT lanes. But we still need to do more, including more bus rapid transit, better coordinated planning, and better local street connectivity," says Ethan Fawley, Transportation Policy Director for Fresh Energy.

The report also recommends five additional strategies, including: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT); Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS); Intercity Buses; Teleworking; and Local Street Connectivity.

"Successful regions in the future will be those that appreciate and implement multimodal transportation options. Businesses will demand these cost effective initiatives to move goods and people. Employees will expect them as part of their quality of life," says Charlie Zelle, Chair Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and President Jefferson Bus Lines.

"It is imperative that Congress seriously consider these tools in the next six-year transportation reauthorization," said Corless. "These strategies are easy ways for Congress to make America's transportation more effective, efficient and convenient without breaking the bank."

To view the report, please visit