Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Northern Mariana Islands Creates First Transportation Office

Posted by Whitney E. Gray 

Currently in our eleventh year of the Accessible Transportation Coalitions Initiative (formerly called Mobility Planning Services Institute), ESPA has assisted many communities in improving accessible transportation, and teams from past years continue to make big strides in their communities. The 2003 ATCI/MPS Team from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) recently helped accomplished a significant milestone—the creation of a transportation office. “MPSI was a great learning experience, and it finally paid off!” Thomas J. Camacho, a member of the CNMI team, stated.

Team CNMI wanted “people with disabilities, their families and the Man'Amko (elderly) [to] have available [an] accessible, flexible, reliable transportation program and services of their choice.” Just last month, after many years of advocacy work on public transportation, CNMI established its first transportation office called the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority. On May 27, the Honorable Benigno R. Fitial signed into law HB. 17-43 (now PL. 17-43) establishing the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority within the Office of the Governor. On August 11, Governor Fitial affirmed and officially established the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority within the Office of the Governor and concurrently appointed Thomas J. Camacho, a member of the CNMI team, as his Special Assistant for Public Transportation.

In addition to establishing the first transit authority office, PL. 17-43 and the Governor's Memorandum re-designated the FTA Consolidated Formula grants from the CNMI Public School System to the new Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority. The Saipan Call-a-Ride Transportation Services for People with Disabilities and the Elderly has been privatized, as well, and continues to be in demand. This service is also recognized as the ADA Paratransit System that will compliment CNMI’s future public transportation system or fixed-route system.

To learn more about other ATCI/MPS teams and their accomplishments, stay tuned for ESPA’s upcoming product, Mobility Planning Services Institute Retrospective: Celebrating Ten Years of Expanded Accessible Transportation Options in Our Communities. Due out this fall, this new retrospective highlights the work of a sampling of MPS/ATCI teams from 2001 to 2010 and concludes with several of the lessons we learned from these remarkable MPS/ATCI teams and communities.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

President Obama Urges Congress to Act on Transportation Legislation

Posted by Jennifer Dexter, guest contributor

On Wednesday, August 31st, the White House held an event in the Rose Garden where the President asked Congress to protect critical jobs and invest in our national transportation infrastructure by passing an extension of transportation legislation. The legislation that authorizes almost all highway and transit programs expires on September 30th, 2011. The current legislation is working under a series of short term extensions that allows for the continued operation of many programs and projects. If Congress does not act to extend the authorization, these programs and projects will halt. The legislation includes transit programs that enable independent living for people with disabilities including paratransit, general public transit, other transportation modes, projects that increase the accessibility of pedestrian environments, and transportation coalition building projects that make it easier for communities to coordinate various federal funding streams for transportation services that serve people with disabilities and older adults. The legislation also includes technical assistance centers and research efforts that support the enhancement of multi-modal accessibility at the local, state and federal level. The President noted the strong connection between jobs and critical transportation infrastructure projects. Easter Seals was honored to be present at this event and to work closely with Congress and the Administration to ensure that the needs of people with disabilities and older adults continue to be addressed in transportation legislation.
Pres. Obama speaks from the Rose Garden. Pictured with Pres. Obama from left to right are U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood; David Chavern, e.v.p. and COO, Chamber of Commerce; Richard Trumka, president, AFL-CIO, Hector Sealey, safety director, Ft. Meyer Construction Corporation