October 20, 2008
The 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego was a huge success!
Read all about it.
Opening General Session for Annual and EXPO 2008 Convenes in San Diego
By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
More than 2,000 attendees from across the country and around the world converged at the San Diego Convention Center Oct. 6 for the Opening General Session of the 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO.
At that session, APTA President William W. Millar welcomed attendees by saying: “Here at EXPO 2008, you’ll find solutions for every transportation problem or challenge. And as you walk through aisle after aisle, you’ll see that we really are the ‘green’ industry.”
The session also included the passing of the gavel between outgoing APTA Chair Michael S. Townes and incoming Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D. Townes summarized his year in office, citing significant milestones in both the transportation authorization and TransitVision 2050 processes.
In her remarks, Scott presented the three initiatives she will focus on this year: workforce development, authorization, and APTA’s new strategic plan. She emphasized the need for APTA members to “leave our industry better than we found it.”
She continued: “These are in no way just ordinary times. There is a profound convergence of forces and events at work on every level: economic, demographic, environmental, and global. Bottom line, working together we are a lot stronger than we are apart.”
Simpson: U.S. Must Invest in Transit to Stay Competitive
The rest of the world is building and maintaining its infrastructure, including public transportation, and the U.S. must keep up if it wants to remain competitive and not fall behind.
That was the message Federal Transit Administrator James S. Simpson gave during the Opening General Session, when he called for new dedicated sources of federal funding in addition to the existing motor fuel tax.
“As Charles Dickens famously wrote: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’” Simpson said. “Our industry is now front-page news on a regular basis. Ridership is at its highest level in 50 years—up 11 percent in July 2008 over the prior year—and transit is on the Congressional radar. And yet, the richest nation on earth can’t find the capital to fix a transportation infrastructure that’s increasingly outmoded and in disrepair.”
He said that surface transportation must be viewed as a national priority, noting that “Infrastructure is the circulatory system of the economy.”
Change the Funding Paradigm
Simpson called for a change in “the financing paradigm for major transportation projects,” and termed the recent measure passed by Congress to bail out the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund “only a stopgap measure, not a solution.” He said: “It’s abysmal to let the infrastructure fall into disrepair.”
“The truth is,” he said, “that the gas-tax revenues that have traditionally funded the trust fund will not sustain federal commitments to transportation in the future.”
He described public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a promising tool and “a good way to attract private capital and innovation—and share some of the costs and risks. PPPs are not a substitute for public investments in infrastructure, but rather an approach to realizing complex projects that federal, state, and local governments may not be equipped to develop on their own.”
The administrator, a regular presenter at APTA conferences, noted that the San Diego meeting would be his last as administrator.
In summation, Simpson said: “We have to get green and show the world….Now more than ever, we need to explore bold and innovative approaches to financing, constructing, and operating new and expanded transportation systems.”
Also at the Session
Other speakers included California DOT Director Will Kempton; San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; Harry Mathis, chairman of the board of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System; and MTS Chief Executive Officer—and meeting host—Paul Jablonski.
The session concluded with the cutting of the ceremonial ribbon to mark the opening of International Public Transportation EXPO 2008, the world’s largest public transportation exhibition. About 800 companies filled 282,400 square feet of exhibit space at 2,824 booths in the convention center.