November 15, 2017
It was my pleasure to serve as the acting chair for our November meeting. We began discussions about the future of transportation funding in our region and the potential extension of the half-cent sales tax in the coming years. We learned about the important role the TPC played in the 2004 tax extension, and how the current transportation plan was developed that was ultimately approved by voters. Securing continued transportation funding is a big task that will require significant collaboration among elected officials, local government staff, business representatives, and the public throughout the region.
Staff discussed the history of past transportation funding initiatives, the importance of studies and experience from experts, regional cooperation, and the key role the private sector played in helping develop the plan and in funding the campaign to pay for it. It is clear we will need that level of cooperation and expertise again to be successful in securing the next round of transportation investment. We also discussed the vital need for public outreach and participation to ensure our plan meets the needs of residents. Depending on whether an election is held and in what year, possibly 2020, 2022 or 2024, we will need to define a timetable for getting the vital input needed to develop a comprehensive plan that all residents can support.
Preceding our discussion about a potential extension of the sales tax was an intriguing conversation about the emergence of autonomous vehicles. The rapid changes in technology have some experts predicting that as many as half of all vehicles will be at least partially autonomous by 2030—just 13 years from now. How these vehicles are used could have a major influence on travel choices, ridesharing, land use, safety, and more efficient transit. This creates many planning uncertainties and the need to develop a nimble and flexible planning process.
We know that as policy makers, we have a tremendous challenge ahead of us. At the same time, it is energizing to think about the exciting possibilities our future holds. We have seen the success of the past, and as Mesa Mayor John Giles noted, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. We look forward to putting our own shoulders to work as we push ahead to create the next transportation blueprint.
Mayor Jenn Daniels
TPC Vice Chair
The TPC heard a proposal for improvements to the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) Material Change Policy, in order to provide for greater accountability in delivering the Regional Freeway and Highway Program. Staff informed members that changes have occurred since the policy was initially approved in May 1998. These changes include the formation of the Transportation Policy Committee in 2002 to advise and recommend policy to the MAG Regional Council on matters related to the program, and the subsequent extension of the half-cent transportation sales tax approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.
Recommended updates to the Material Change Policy included revising the approval process to account for the Transportation Policy Committee, and further defining “Program Amount” to reinforce the Regional Council approved budgets for implementing projects within the program. Another change was a clarification of what constitutes a material change, specifically, that material changes are considered cumulative, not individual. Staff noted that this is important to prevent multiple project changes which, when added together, exceed the material limits identified by the Regional Council.
The changes also defined an annual schedule for material changes to be heard and acted upon annually, unless a project's schedule dictates otherwise. An administrative change to the policy included updating the name of the program to the more accurate “Regional Freeway and Highway Program.”
The TPC recommended approval of the revisions, which will be heard by the MAG Regional Council December 6, 2017.
State statute requires that MAG issue an annual report on the status of projects funded by the half-cent sales tax. The tax is authorized by Proposition 400 and funds the MAG Regional Transportation Plan. The report addresses factors such as project status, financing, and the outlook for implementation. The 2017 Annual Report is the 13th report in the series and covers the status of the life cycle programs for freeways and highways, arterial streets, and public transit. MAG held a public hearing on the 2017 Annual Report on November 14, 2017.
Staff noted that forecasts of Proposition 400 half-cent revenues are 3.1 percent lower over last year's report for the period FY 2018 through FY 2026. This decrease reflects a combination of a lower base-year revenue estimate and the recently implemented annual withholding to cover administrative costs for the collection of the tax. Forecasts of total MAG federal transportation funds for FY 2018 through FY 2026 are 19.3 percent higher than last year's estimate, largely due to the assumed increase in Federal Transit Administration discretionary funding with proposed light rail extensions.
Highlights from the Freeway/Highway Life Cycle Program in 2017 include five projects completed, three projects advertised for bid or under construction, and construction underway on the Loop 202/South Mountain Freeway. A key achievement came with Regional Council approval of the rebalancing of the program, with an ending cash flow balance of $194.1 million.
Major achievements in the Arterial Life Cycle Program in 2017 include two completed projects, additional funding for the Gilbert Road Bridge over the Salt River, and additional funding for the Gilbert Road light rail extension. More than $88 million was distributed to member agencies in 2017 and $746 million has been reimbursed to date. The ending cash flow balance is $26.9 million.
In the Transit Life Cycle Program, service improvements were made on three routes, and new or improved service is planned for nine routes from FY 2018 to FY 2022.Construction efforts continued on the 50th street light rail station and the Gilbert Road light rail extension. The ending cash flow balance is $283.9 million.
Staff reported on the policy and planning implications of connected and autonomous vehicles. Autonomous Vehicles, are defined as self-driving cars that are capable of sensing the environment and navigating without human input for at least some of the time. Connected Vehicles have internal devices that connect to other vehicles or data communications, which enable real-time driver advisories and warnings of imminent threats and roadside hazards.
Vehicles that are increasingly automated and connected have the potential to dramatically change personal, freight and public transportation. Staff noted that 94 percent of crashes nationwide involve human error, and 3 million Americans aged 40 and older are blind or have poor vision.
The metropolitan Phoenix area is a center for testing autonomous vehicles and billions of dollars are being invested in the new technologies. Benefits for consumers can be foreseen in areas such as safety, congestion, emissions and mobility, but could also pose many planning challenges. As many as 50 percent of vehicles are predicted to have at least partial automation by the year 2030.
Staff noted that the advent of self-driving vehicles is creating uncertainty in the planning process. Will it change what infrastructure is needed? Will land use patterns change? Will autonomous vehicles increase or decrease congestion? Staff noted that MAG will work to develop a range of scenarios that will be continually reassessed as we move into the next edition of the Regional Transportation Plan.
At the May 2017 Transportation Policy Committee, an initial discussion was held on some of the issues related to a potential future extension of Proposition 400, the region's transportation sales tax. Staff provided a history of the Transportation Policy Committee, including its formation, composition, and role in the development of Proposition 400. The TPC was created in 2002 and held its first meeting in September. The committee was later codified in state statute with a prescribed 23-member composition (currently at 22 due to the dissolution of the Citizens Transportation Oversight Committee, which was one of the identified members). The TPC was tasked with developing and recommending approval of the Regional Transportation Plan.
Staff noted that Proposition 400 will expire December 31, 2025. Total collection expected by the end of the 20-year tax is $9 billion. If the tax were extended in a “Proposition 500” scenario for another 20 years at the same one-half cent level, it would generate an estimated $13-15 billion. The TPC discussed the importance of additional transportation funding and potential interim funding increases, such as raising the gas tax. Additional policy discussions will need to take place on issues such as accounting for maintenance costs and other system improvements.
Staff noted that work in process includes a Regional Commuter Rail System Study Update, a Regional Transit Framework Study Update, continued analysis of the impact of technology, development of long-term revenue projections, and development of benefit to cost analyses. Committee members raised concerns about ensuring input from all communities as the plan is developed, as well as sought greater details about the process that will be used to develop the plan and the role municipal staff will have in that process. Several committee members also noted that whatever plan is developed will need to resonate with voters. Staff emphasized the importance of public input in the process and that focus groups and surveys are planned.
Maricopa Association of Governemnts
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Phoenix, Arizona 85003
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