January 19, 2009
Public Transportation Business Opportunities
By Jeffrey Wharton
Chair, APTA BMBG Business Development Committee
Executive Vice President/GM
IMPulse NC, Inc.
Mount Olive, NC
The strain our industry is facing as a result of the current economic conditions is certainly cause for concern. However, this is also a time to be bold, visionary, and proactive. As chair of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors Business Development Committee and the International Subcommittee, I see great opportunities through business development, ingenuity, and technology.
Our committees are committed to the promotion and facilitation of business development and business opportunities in both the global and domestic marketplaces. APTA’s public transit and business members receive access to a variety of research, trade missions, expositions, and information exchange among domestic and international stakeholders in the public transportation industry. We work closely with the Federal Transit Administration to define missions and populate trade delegations, plus we provide support for foreign delegations that visit the U.S. seeking the rich technology and quality products and services that APTA members can offer.
From my company standpoint—as a manufacturer of overhead contact system hardware—we are seeing a higher demand for product quality and life cycle for public transit systems as a direct result of increased ridership. The transit system demand is causing accelerated wear on the electrification systems and associated infrastructures.
We find, however, that with reductions in operational budgets, limited maintenance personnel, and shrinking inventories of spares, maintaining reliable and affordable public transit is facing its greatest test. This is why it is so important to use the highest-quality, technologically proven equipment designed to meet and exceed the rugged environmental and electro-mechanical endurance conditions both for today’s demand and to withstand tomorrow’s requirements as well. Companies that invest in product design improvement, technology enhancements, and time-tested quality products will be better suited to weather this economic storm. They also will be more likely to be around in the future.
Not only in the U.S. but also internationally, we are seeing an increase for high-end products and designs to provide the required dependability and longest service life. While price is always important and usually the first issue to come up between customer and provider, the total cost is becoming much more important in that it evaluates reliability, safety, maintenance, operation, and replacement expense.
The public transit industry must react quickly and seize the opportunity to provide greater public mobility with long-lasting environmental contributions while securing a high quality of life for future generations. Today’s best bet is to invest in public transit.