October 12, 2009
Check the classifieds for nine public transit positions, including three chief executive jobs!
Sec. LaHood Tells APTA Annual Meeting: Transit Has a ‘Partner at DOT’
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
“You have a partner at DOT to do anything that needs to be done,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to the more than 1400 attendees at the Opening General Session Oct. 5 at the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando. The Secretary also noted that President Barack Obama and his administration understand the importance of reliable, modern public transit systems for all areas of the U.S.
“In my first nine months at DOT, I’ve seen the impact transit has on the quality of life throughout America,” LaHood said, citing Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line extension, which serves African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods in East Los Angeles; an intermodal facility under construction in Miami, which will connect the airport to bus and rail; New York
City, where the five boroughs are joining together with the suburbs to modernize one of the nation’s oldest heavy rail systems; and transit-oriented neighborhoods in Chicago, Detroit, and Dubuque, IA.
With $8 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as a “down payment” for U.S. high-speed rail, he said: “People who visit Europe don’t understand why we in America don’t have high-speed rail service. We’re in the ballpark with this, and with your help it will be America’s vision as well.”
He also reported on the Distracted Driving Summit he convened Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C. He called for a clampdown on distracted drivers—including transit personnel who could potentially endanger their passengers—and proposed permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones for calling and texting while driving: for example, bus operators who text while working should lose their commercial driving license.
ARRA mandated that agencies obligate 50 percent of their funding by September 1, 2009. Millar recognized LaHood’s efforts of nearly doubling that amount by a margin of almost two to one, having disbursed over 90 percent. He noted that the $8.4 billion invested in public transit through ARRA will support and create 252,000 jobs.
“We want to thank you for the oil we won’t have to import; for the carbon that won’t go into the air; and, most of all, for the jobs that have been created,” he said. At that point in the session, 12 LYNX employees took the stage and held up signs in large bold letters that read “252,000 JOBS!”
“These are the proverbial shovel-ready jobs,” Millar said, presenting LaHood and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff with commemorative shovels. "These shovels represent the ‘gold standard’ you delivered on the promise, and we thank you very much,” he said as the audience gave the officials a standing ovation. Added Millar: “You “dig” us!”
In his introduction of LaHood, Rogoff pointed to the secretary’s tenure as a member of Congress from Illinois and as a former chief planner for a Metropolitan Planning Organization. “In Ray LaHood, we have a no-nonsense public service who’s interested in results. He’s looking for benefits to communities of all sizes … He is a great friend of public transportation,” said Rogoff.
Reps. Brown, Mica Speak
Reps. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and John Mica (R-FL) also addressed the attendees.
“Transportation is bipartisan,” said Brown, who chairs the Railroads and Pipelines Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I). “We work across the line as far as transportation is concerned….What moves the economy? Transportation” She noted that the requirement in ARRA that funding go to transit agencies rather than state governments has helped with the timely disbursement of the grants.
Mica, ranking member of the full T&I Committee, echoed Brown’s comments. “There aren’t any real partisan issues when it comes to transportation, although there may be some disagreements,” he said. He described working with T&I Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) toward a six-year, or 72-month, transportation authorization bill rather than the 18-month bill championed by the administration: “We need a solid federal commitment to put forth a long-term effort, develop a finance plan, then execute it. I think that situation will improve; we’ll work together and see what we come up with.”
In addition, the session featured comments on the status of the authorization legislation from Mitch Warren, majority professional staff, Senate Banking Committee; Shannon Hynes, minority professional staff of the same committee; and Joyce Rose, minority professional staff of House T&I.
AECOM sponsored the session.