Improving Public Transportation Services through Effective Statewide Coordination

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Current budget constraints are driving states to make better use of separate but extensive transportation networks to achieve multiple goals. Public transportation is often viewed as a solution to congestion, but as a costly and only marginally effective mechanism for serving disadvantaged populations, particularly in meeting their employment needs.

Local and regional public transit agencies maintain substantial systems in many metropolitan regions and in some rural areas. Public and private organizations also provide an extensive range of transportation services to meet other needs. These transportation services are largely supported by public funds, but each tends to take place in its own sphere and toward its own purpose, often with limited impact.

Effective state coordination can untangle these transportation webs and provide broader and better transportation access and service without major new transportation investments. Coordination among providers and agencies that provide transportation services holds the potential to:

  • increase transportation availability and access to jobs;
  • enhance service quality;
  • eliminate duplicative efforts; and
  • substantially improve the cost effectiveness of transportation dollars.

Several states have established comprehensive coordination mechanisms to achieve these goals. Where successful coordination efforts are underway, key factors to success have been identified, including:

  • leadership – advocating, generating support, and instituting mechanisms for coordination;
  • participation – bringing the right state, regional, and local stakeholders to the table; and
  • continuity – assuring an ongoing forum and executive leadership that stays focused on overall transportation goals and responds to ever-changing needs.

By establishing and supporting formal transportation coordination mechanisms, Governors have the opportunity to leverage state, federal, local, and private resources to provide more effective transportation solutions that can lead to reduced congestion, better access to jobs, and more efficient provision of transportation services.

This report identifies the benefits of transportation coordination, the range of programs and potential players, mechanisms that states are using to create effective coordinating bodies, and potential challenges to and available resources for achieving broader state transportation goals.

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