Update from the American Public Transportation Association 2014 Rail Conference

by Nossaman LLP
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The American Public Transportation Association (“APTA”) held its Rail Conference on June 15 through 18, 2014, in Montréal, QC.  In addition to the technical sessions for which APTA is well-known, a main theme of the Rail Conference was the nexus between transit and economic development.  The shift in themes demonstrates transit organizations’ changing philosophy from building and operating transit infrastructure to also catalyzing transit-oriented communities.  Much of the focus on transit and economic development relates to joint development and Transit-Oriented Development (“TOD”).

The on-going discussion tying transit infrastructure to land use and development started at APTA’s committee and subcommittee meetings before the Rail Conference.  For example, the APTA Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee (under the Planning and Policy Committee) has focused on this relationship between transit and shaping communities since its inception.  The agenda of the subcommittee at the Rail Conference included updates on the (1) Federal Transit Administration’s (“FTA”) new Joint Development Circular, (2) the FTA’s TOD Planning Pilot Notice of Funding Availability (“NOFA”), and (3) tools that are to be developed by APTA, such as developer procurement documents.

The FTA first provided notice requesting comment on its draft Joint Development Circular in early March 2013.  Since then, the FTA has reviewed comments and participated in a variety of listening and technical sessions related to joint development and TOD.  The transit industry has eagerly anticipated this updated circular, and the FTA indicated in the Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee meeting that the circular will be available in the next couple of weeks.

Additionally, at the Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee meeting the FTA announced the status of the TOD Planning Pilot.  Under the current surface transportation authorization (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or “MAP-21”), the planning pilot was authorized to provide funding to advance planning efforts that support TOD associated with new fixed-guideway and core capacity improvement projects.   Congress appropriated $10 million to the TOD Planning Pilot in both Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014.  The FTA anticipates providing a NOFA for the $20 million (total) planning pilot before the end of June.

Finally, the Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee discussed the suggestion that APTA create tools related to joint development and TOD that can be used by members.  The first tool that is anticipated is a template Request for Qualifications for developers.  The template RFQ would provide some standardization of qualifications solicitation documents across the transit industry.  APTA has provided similar tools in the area of rolling stock procurement (buses and rail vehicles).

The thread that started at the committee and subcommittee meetings preceding the Rail Conference was picked up with sessions at the conference.  Slightly more than 20% of the sessions at the Rail Conference focused on the relationship between transit and land use and development.  Issues covered at sessions included streetcars and urban circulators and their relationship to development, value capture of development along transit infrastructure, innovative business models and Public-Private Partnership opportunities in transit, and prioritizing transit infrastructure through stakeholder input and land use planning.  A significant volume of information related to these topics, as well as technical topics addressed during Rail Conference sessions, is available through the Transit Cooperative Research Program.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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