STPP History

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The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership (STPP) is a national collaborative working to ensure safer communities and smarter transportation choices that enhance the economy, improve public health, promote social equity, and protect the environment.

STPP is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. It started its life as the Surface Transportation Policy Project in 1990, funded by individual donations and a range of national foundations. The initial focus was the then pending restructuring of the Federal surface transportation program.

STPP became the convener for a diverse group of organizations (e.g., environment, planning, safety, bicycling, transit, housing, etc.) who wanted to “reform” the traditional approach to transportation planning, design, and implementation. The goal was to reorient the focus of transportation policy to include a wide range of community needs and interests, and to make the transportation decision-making process more open and transparent.

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From Baltimore’s Stay On Sidewalks campaign in the 50s

In May of 1991, the group published four goals and related reform provisions in Acting in the National Interest. The goals reflected the belief that the national transportation system played a critical role in:  the Economy; Energy Efficiency; Environmental Quality; and Enhanced Communities. The leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works – Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and John Chafee – released a bill incorporating most of STPP’s proposals less than two weeks later. The initial result of this collaborative effort was the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), a land-mark statement of Federal transportation policy and the start of a new era in transportation through changed funding priorities.

Over the next two decades, STPP helped lead efforts to see the goals of ISTEA institutionalized in transportation decision-making. The broad-based coalition of interests that came together to help conceive and pass ISTEA continued to meet under the auspices of STPP to monitor trends, to assess proposed policies, to help inform the public, and to advocate for important priorities. Many special studies were published (see the STPP archives). And, the STPP coalition played a significant role in the evolution of subsequent reauthorizations of ISTEA (e.g., TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU).

Over the past few years, STPP has opted to hand-off its lead role in transportation reform to other organizations (e.g., Reconnecting America, Smart Growth America, and Transportation for America). New issues, new agendas, and new constituents made this a logical step.

Today, STPP enjoys something akin to an “emeritus” status in the transportation reform movement. STPP continues to monitor trends, emerging issues, needs, and new policy proposals. The STPP Forum periodically convenes a diverse group of people (most with decades of experience in transportation) to consider and assess challenges to the continued progress of transportation reform.

And, STPP houses two on-going major initiatives: the OneRail Coalition and the National Park Service Transportation Project.