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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

An Update from the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee: Pennsylvania IL Advocates Partner in Supporting Act 89 Changes, Set Eyes on MAP-21 Successor

Transportation is an issue that is not merely unto itself, but impacts numerous factors of one’s life. This is an issue not clearly understood by many public policy makers and at times, the public. Lack of transportation limits where one can work, receive healthcare, and live in any community independently. With limited transportation options, an individual or family is often more dependent on others for community resources.

Like many other sectors of society, the disability community in Pennsylvania has similar but distinctive needs that could not be addressed without vital partnerships. This was accomplished through the Pennsylvania Transportation Alliance, an ad-hoc cross-disability organization that includes the PA SILC and numerous other disability organizations, and later through the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition (KTFC).

The transportation interests represented in KTFC is comprehensive: transportation providers, bicycle users, rails to trails, engineers, agriculture, highway and bridge materials suppliers, seniors, dirt and gravel road advocates, various private sector industries, chambers of commerce, human service organizations, and others.

The disability community had not been active with KTFC and asked about where the organization was on the needs of People With Disabilities (PWD), including PWD Shared Ride; transportation hub accessibility (over half of Pennsylvania’s 24 Amtrak stations are not up to ADA standards with accessible ramps, parking, and other disability friendly features); and cultural competency issues pertaining to people with disabilities. We were told that there was not a problem with addressing our needs and what we elaborated on was important to the discussion. KTFC had been active since at least 2010, when we testified on disability community’s needs to the Pennsylvania Senate during Governor Rendell’s tenure.

Fast forward to 2013. Pennsylvania has another Governor, a Republican who ran on a ‘no new taxes or fees pledge’ with a Republican House and Senate, where a number of cuts and policy changes that hurt the disability community had occurred in the prior two years, not to mention an economy still in recovery. Senator Rafferty (R) had started work on this issue back in 2010 and had our organization testify on the disability community’s transportation needs. He introduced the first bill in 2013, which was later passed through the PA Senate, but slowed down in the PA House mid-summer. Work continued through the summer.

The Governor, who had both recommendations from the prior administration and his own TFAC report, had been lukewarm. He said it was an issue of importance, but didn’t seem to have the grist to move forward. Over the course of the summer, Governor Corbett, PA House Speaker Sam Smith (R), and Representative Micozzie (the new House Transportation Chair, who understood our issues from working with local advocates and his experience in state government) heard about the needs from various transportation advocates, including the disability community. There was opposition from conservative members on revenues (changes to fees and taxes). Pushback came from progressive members after conservative members added language to exempt local projects under 100K from a prevailing wage mandate (some unions opposed this language and argued that prevailing wage should apply to all projects, without exceptions). The Governor and House Speaker worked with everyone get something passed that had bipartisan support in late November 2013, now known as Act 89.

While it didn’t address everything that we wanted (and parties representing other transportation interests in Act 89 would say the same thing), it addressed the following:

  • In the Act 89 Advisory Committee, a person with a disability would be appointed to one of the slots. Consistent with our position paper for Pennsylvania, we provided Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) the name of a person with a disability who is an active user of various transportation modes (and who had a key role in crafting disability recommendations).
  • Act 89 included a shared ride pilot that would look at issues with the Shared Ride program: crossing county lines and adding hours for evenings, weekends, and holiday for the program; and adding Allegheny County to the existing 65 counties with the PWD shared ride program.
  • Agreement to address the needs of mass transit. In Allegheny County, Port Authority Transit (PAT) has had cuts that have cut routes by more than half (from over 230 to just over 100). Current routes will be saved and a few cuts will be restored. SEPTA (covers Philadelphia and its 4 surrounding PA Counties) and other transportation providers and counties stayed level or received some increase.
  • Amtrak: Amtrak services are funded mainly through Federal and state dollars, along with some monies received from fares and local matching funds where possible. Frequently, the Keystone West Route (between Harrisburg-Pittsburgh) has been threatened with elimination. Amtrak has 24 stations in PA and over half are not up to ADA standards although our DOT has been working to address this. Now, the services and accessibility upgrades can continue for Amtrak.

As a result of our groups great work with public policy makers in state government, KTFC asked us to join in making recommendations at the Federal level for the successor to MAP-21, which is slated to expire September 30, 2014, but funding appears to be exhausting by June or July this year. We provided related recommendations to KTFC here and continue mutual cooperation on Pennsylvania issues.

For a copy of the Pennsylvania Transportation Alliance recommendations for Pennsylvania or for MAP-21 successor, you may contact Jeff Iseman at JLIseman@pasilc.org or 717-364-1732. Jeff is Co-Chair of the NCIL Transportation Subcommittee and is active on several other NCIL Committees.

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