From the Senate Reports Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [Omissions are marked by ellipses: "* * * * *"]
Calendar No. 504 104th Congress Report SENATE 2d Session 104-325 _______________________________________________________________________ DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, 1997 _______ July 19, 1996--Ordered to be printed _______________________________________________________________________ Mr. Hatfield, from the Committee on Appropriations, submitted the following R E P O R T [To accompany H.R. 3675] The Committee on Appropriations, to which was referred the bill (H.R. 3675) making appropriations for the Department of Transportation and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 1997, and for other purposes, reports the same to the Senate with amendments and recommends that the bill as amended do pass. * * * * * BUREAU OF TRANSPORTATION STATISTICS (AIRPORT AND AIRWAY TRUST FUND) Appropriations, 1996.................................... $2,200,000 (By transfer, highway trust fund)................... (20,000,000) Budget estimate, 1997................................... 3,100,000 (By transfer, highway trust fund)................... (25,000,000) House allowance......................................................... (By transfer, highway trust fund)................... (25,000,000) Committee recommendation................................................ (By transfer, highway trust fund) (25,000,000) The Bureau of Transportation Statistics [BTS] was established in section 6006 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act [ISTEA], to compile, analyze, and make accessible information on the Nation's transportation systems, collect information on intermodal transportation, and enhance the quality and effectiveness of the statistical programs of the Department of Transportation. Financing of BTS operations is authorized as contract authority out of the highway trust fund, by transfer from the Federal-aid highways program, and is subject to the obligations limitation on that program. For fiscal year 1997, a funding level of $25,000,000 is authorized for BTS programs. BTS offices include the Director, Statistical Programs and Services, Transportation Studies, and the Office of Aviation Information [OAI]. In addition, effective January 1, 1996, the responsibility to collect motor carrier financial data was transferred to the BTS after the sunset of the Interstate Commerce Commission. In Public Law 104-50, the Office of Aviation Information was transferred from the Research and Special Programs Administration and the fiscal year 1996 appropriation of $2,200,000 went directly to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics as a new account. The Office of Aviation Information collects and compiles financial and traffic (passenger and cargo) data. This information provides the Government with uniform and comprehensive economic and market data on individual airline operations. This program includes a small field office located in Anchorage, AK, which provides consumers and the Government with airline data related to essential air service and the intra-Alaskan mail rate program. For 1997, the administration is requesting an appropriation of $3,100,000 from the airport and airway trust fund for the OAI, a 41-percent increase above the fiscal year 1996 enacted level. The majority of this increase is associated with contract costs and computer equipment to be used in developing a software program and data processing system to directly access origin and destination data from airlines' computer reservation systems, for both domestic and international flights. The Committee lauds the OAI's efforts to improve and upgrade the 25-year-old airline data retrieval system. The statistical aviation data compiled by OAI includes: airline passenger traffic statistics, ontime performance data by carrier, financial performance and certification data, fuel purchase and consumption, and other business and consumer directed statistics. These statistics are vitally important to the Federal Government and the aviation industry. In some cases, it is statutorily required that these statistics be used by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation in allocation of trust funds, aviation bilateral negotiations, and other Federal transportation policy decisionmaking. Offsetting collections.--The Committee has deleted House bill language requiring that all airline statistics activities be offset by user fees charged for those activities. In calendar year 1995, Office of Aviation Information data sales totaled only $177,000. Though the Committee believes that these offsetting costs should be maximized to the extent possible (and holds the same belief concerning the sales of all BTS- generated data products), it is unrealistic to expect the OAI to completely offset its operating costs through data sales and user fees in fiscal year 1997. However, the Committee agrees with the House assertion that BTS contract authority funds could be made available for the compilation of aviation statistics, and has, therefore, included a provision making up to $3,100,000 of BTS's ISTEA contract authority available for OAI, and has not provided either airport and airways trust funds or general funds to finance the operations of the Office of Aviation Information. Two ways that BTS can decrease expenditures in order to more readily absorb the costs of OAI are more efficient collection of funds from agency reimbursable agreements and tightening staff travel. BTS worldwide web site/National Transportation Library.--In order to promote the private sector development of magnetic levitation (maglev) technologies, and recognizing the wealth of information previously collected by Government and industry on maglev technology, the Committee directs the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect statistical and other relevant information regarding the application of maglev technologies and to make available such information to the public by means of the National Transportation Library, part of BTS's dedicated worldwide web site accessible via the internet. The Committee expects that the Bureau will utilize the expertise and existing data collections of the High-Speed Rail/ Maglev Association Foundation in collecting and reviewing such information. General provisions.--The Committee has not included the provision requested by the administration which gives Bureau of Transportation Statistics the authority to enter into grants and cooperative agreements with other agencies, institutions, and individuals to collect data on the impact of natural disasters on transportation systems. The House bill did not contain this provision. Since BTS is absorbing new additional costs for OAI activities and motor carrier data collection, the expenditure of up to 5 percent of the agency's resources could potentially limit the allocation of funds to ongoing data and analysis programs. The Committee believes that BTS should request this natural disaster authorization in the next ISTEA, which is due for reauthorization in 1997.