APTA | Passenger Transport
October 12, 2009

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2009 APTA ANNUAL MEETING

Opening General Session: Transit Stays Strong
By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

More than 1,400 transportation professionals gathered on Oct. 5 for the Opening General Session of the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL. APTA President William Millar greeted the participants; thanked the host system, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) and its executive director, Linda S. Watson, for their hard work; and, in an unusual twist, urged them to turn their cell phones on! He then related how they could text APTA09 to 79649 to register themselves for automatic news alerts and updates on the meeting they were attending, following which, he asked them to turn their phones off!

Millar noted that the industry was not immune to the recession, and yet stayed strong, with a long-term trend showing Americans continuing to ride transit more often. He talked about American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for both public transportation and high-speed rail, citing, for example, how host system LYNX had received $32 million to work on various projects.

“Key to our efforts in convincing legislators and the public of the benefits of public transportation has been a new campaign we introduced in March,” said Millar. He discussed the “Public Transportation Takes Us There” campaign’s focus on “Three Es and a Q,” meaning that transit’s impact on the economy, energy, and the environment contribute to an improved quality of life.

He also mentioned two “firsts”: the Annual Meeting’s Products and Services showcase and a high-speed rail practicum next February, hosted by APTA and the International Union of Railways.

At the conclusion of his speech, he introduced outgoing APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D. She gave a brief overview of her initiatives and talked about her 30-year career in the industry.

She also spoke movingly of what being chair has meant to her. “Last year, when I became APTA chair, it was not lost on me that it was the first time that our Association’s leadership passed from one leader of color to another. Today, our Association marks another significant milestone as I proudly and enthusiastically pass this gavel to Memphis Area Transit Board Member—M.P. Carter—another female executive—and our new APTA Chair.”

After a video depicting Carter’s career, Scott passed the gavel to Carter, and Millar then gave a short introduction, citing her many years of service to public transportation.

In her first formal speech as APTA’s new chair—after expressing her heartfelt thanks to both her family and colleagues, Carter said: “Maybe you’re wondering what you can do to move our industry forward—beyond, I hasten to add, what you do already!” said Carter. “Well,” she continued, “I’ll tell you! You can go out and tell our story of the benefits of public transportation. And the way we tell our story is for you to tell your story.”

This proactive effort holds such importance that she stressed it will be her signature initiative. She then announced a task force to lead that effort, to be co-chaired by Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, the incoming vice chair-marketing and communications, and Tom Costello, the outgoing vice chair.

She called on all APTA members to share their successes in marketing, communications, outreach, and advocacy.

“In terms of climate change, pollution, congestion—we really are part of the solution,” Carter said. “And our best solution is to talk about our industry, make legislators invested, convince ‘choice’ riders that transit, indeed, is the only way to go.”

Carter spoke of the coming year as “a time of both opportunity and challenge for our industry…a time of a national focus on public transportation as a linchpin for decreasing carbon emissions, for making the best use of land, for reducing our dependency on foreign oil.” She noted the importance of creating a new five-year APTA Strategic Plan; instituting changes in the APTA governance structure; continuing the Workforce Development Initiative begun by Scott; and promoting passage of a federal transportation authorization bill.

The program included comments from Buddy Dyer, mayor of the city of Orlando and vice chairman of the LYNX Board of Directors; Watson; Richard Crotty, mayor of Orange County, FL; and Jean-Marc Janaillac, CEO of RATP Development, which sponsored the session.

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