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New regional advisory committee for progressive transportation strategies

The Regional Advisory Group (RAG), has been established to act as liaison between the community and the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) in an effort to help rebuild our economy and revitalize Buffalo-Niagara region through progressive transportation strategies seen in other cities across the United States.
As gasoline prices continue to rise, the advisory group is urging transportation officials to bring balance to predominantly automobile-focused regional planning through an increased focus on alternative modes of transportation. This includes such measures as better public transit (with adequate transportation service for people with limited income and/or personal mobility), more bicycle infrastructure, and coordinated planning initiatives such as walkable neighborhoods.
“The Buffalo-Niagara region could become a national leader in sensible, progressive transportation policy,” says RAG member Gladys Gifford of the Citizens Regional Transportation Corporation, noting the region should be doing much more to address unsustainable transportation patterns by focusing more on public transit, transit-oriented development, and walkable/ bikeable, mixed-use neighborhoods.
As we near the re-authorization of the federal transportation bill our country is facing a looming crisis. The federal highway trust fund is scheduled to go bust. Why? It is funded by the federal gasoline tax which is based on volume of gasoline, not cost. So as we consume less gasoline, because it’s becoming more expensive and automobiles are becoming more fuel efficient, we are contributing less to the highway trust fund.
This perfect storm is occurring at the same time as inflation costs for construction are skyrocketing. Frank McArdle, a member of the National Surface and Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission stated that the highway trust fund erodes in value by 10% each year. He went on to further state that for our transportation system to maintain the same buying power as we have today, congress will have to raise the federal gasoline tax by three cents per year each year.
In addition, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) has stated that in the next federal transportation bill less funding needs to be allocated to new or expanded highways until deficiencies in current facilities are eliminated; currently 1 in 4 bridges are structurally deficient, and then only if highway projects show a reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT). The only way to accomplish these goals is to enhance pedestrian, bicycle and transit access.
With our current amount of transportation resources in the region facilitating our dependence on the automobile and urban sprawl, the Regional Advisory Group hopes to foster a paradigm shift that would make alternative transportation modes more widely useable and attractive. There are many competing voices at the national level debating over how this will play out; here locally we need to begin to implement progressive strategies as a way to combat this looming storm.

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