October 20, 2008
The 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego was a huge success!
Read all about it.
Perspectives Shared on Authorization
By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
Staff members from the federal Congressional committees overseeing surface transportation authorization spoke about the future of this legislation at an Oct. 6 session during the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego.
Amy Scarton and Joyce Rose represented the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at the session; Aaron Klein and Shannon Hines represented the Senate Banking Committee. Scarton and Klein work for the Democratic majority of their committees, while Rose and Hines represent the Republican minority.
“While there may be a perception that we are lacking a federal vision,” Scarton noted, “[House T&I] Chairman [James] Oberstar [(D-MN)] and [Highways and Transit Subcommittee] Chairman [Peter] DeFazio [(D-OR)]have been attempting to bring the committee back to the level of hard work and deep insight on the issues that affect you every day….The themes we have hit include metro mobility and rural connectivity, as well as energy independence and planning for future population and economic growth.”
She also noted that legislation sponsored by Oberstar authorizing $1.7 billion of capital and operating funds over two years for public transit agencies passed overwhelmingly in the House, with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) having introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“The committee this year introduced H.R. 6052 because we understand that transit systems are struggling, the cost of fuel has gone up, ridership has gone up, and government has not caught up,” she said. “The bill passed the House with a veto-proof majority.”
She called for federal support of both transit capital and operating expenses, adding, “We need to support transit across the board,” and noted the committee’s support for the federal Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program (Penta-P).
Rose called U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the T&I Committee, “the strongest friend to transit in the House Republican conference. He will be with Oberstar to make sure transit is adequately funded and has a program that will carry it into the future.”
She also spoke about H.R. 2095, a combined package of Amtrak and intercity passenger rail authorization and rail safety, which passed both houses and is expected to become law.
“Transit is a top priority of [Senate Banking] Chairman [Christopher] Dodd [(D-CT)],” Klein said, “but it was not the top priority in the last Congress…Going forward, transit will be at the top of his agenda.”
Klein commented on the changes in the world since SAFETEA-LU passed in 2005: “We’re seeing gas at $4 a gallon; we’re in a recession but transit ridership is increasing—people thought we were crazy believing that it would, but that’s the world we live in. Even if gas prices should fall, people’s mindset has changed.”
In contrast, Hines said she does not know if the changes in attitude necessarily translate into different legislative ideas. “When you say our ridership is the highest it’s ever been but we need more money, it’s difficult for people to understand,” she explained. “You need to give Congress some perspective: say that you want your system to be more efficient, it’s more advantageous for you to buy CNG buses, but you need to buy 50 buses and can only afford 25. That’s going to be our biggest challenge.”
She also spoke about the importance of implementing public-private partnerships, and called for more integrated, cross-modal transportation planning.
Stephanie Negriff, one of three co-chairs of the APTA Authorization Task Force and director of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, CA, presented an overview of the task force’s activities in the past year. She noted that APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., is continuing the efforts of Immediate Past Chair Michael S. Townes to place authorization as APTA’s number one priority.
“The APTA recommendations represent the diversity of those who helped us craft them,” she said. “We as an industry can come together with one voice and work collaboratively to craft a bill that stresses transit’s relevance in this time of climate change and sustainability. We understand that transit has a key role to play in these areas.”
Christopher P. Boylan, outgoing APTA vice chair-government affairs and deputy executive director, corporate affairs and communications, for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, moderated the session.