February 19, 2010
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Telling the Story: Our Story
BY GREG EVANS, M.Ed., Vice President, Lane Transit District Board of Directors, Eugene, OR
Recently, a co-worker approached me with a confession. “I started taking the bus to work and I love it,” he said.
This person once told me, “My feet will never touch public transportation,” and he meant exactly what he said.
This about-face in attitude, choice, and habit is happening with greater frequency across America. As we enter the second decade of this young millennium, more Americans are choosing to take public transit as never before—and with good reason. Americans face rising fuel prices, increases in the expense of operating and maintaining personal vehicles, an expanding carbon footprint, waning economic opportunities, and increases in traffic and related congestion issues.
Public transportation—America’s best-kept secret—is leading the way toward a new and exciting transformation in the ways we live, work, and play.
The transportation challenges Americans face as a nation are numerous and complex. Public transportation provides viable, concrete solutions to our present and future transportation needs as a society.
However, public transportation itself faces a large problem. Few people outside our industry know “our story”: the story of public transportation in America.
* “Our story” has not been widely shared. Few Americans know the rich history of U.S. public transportation, its evolving advancements, and our role in America’s destiny. Public transportation is a critical element in economic development, reduction of fuel consumption, and is necessary for efforts to create a more sustainable, healthy environment for current and future generations.
* “Our story” tells of a $48.4 billion industry that employs more than 380,000 people and impacts job creation and economic development opportunities for millions of Americans.
* “Our story” is the story of buses, trains, streetcars, cable cars, trolleys, tramways, monorails, ferries, and water taxis, along with paratransit services for seniors and persons with disabilities. More than 35 million times each weekday, Americans board some form of public transportation.
* “Our story” is the story of providing access to opportunities: to travel to work, attend school, buy groceries, or go to medical appointments. Public transit provides millions of Americans with personal mobility options and access they otherwise would not realize.
* “Our story” is the story of reducing America’s fuel consumption and a reduction of congestion costs in the billions of dollars. Public transportation saves the U.S. 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually, and households located near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households that have no access to transit.
* “Our story” is the story of preserving our environment through the reduction of our carbon footprint. As people modify their travel habits by using public transit, they realize significant reductions in household carbon emissions.
* “Our story” is also my story. Growing up in my hometown of Cleveland, I was the product of a transit-dependent household. My father passed away when I was 4 years old; my mother never learned to drive and could not afford an automobile on a limited income. Our family depended on the Cleveland Transit System, which later became the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. The system’s buses and trains “took us there”—to work, school, shopping, weddings, funerals, and family holiday functions. Public transit took me to college, ultimately to earning a bachelor’s degree. And today, having worked in the industry as a customer service representative for the Lane Transit District and now serving as a transit board member for that same authority, I continue to use transit in my commute to work each day.
* “Our story” is the story of millions of Americans who have traveled the road to the American dream on a bus, a train, or a ferry. Many Americans share “my story”; now it is time for all of us to join APTA in telling all of “our stories.”