May 7, 2010
The classifieds in this issue include three chief executive officer positions!
Rogoff: $775 Million More for Bus State of Good Repair; Keynote Speaker at APTA Bus & Paratransit Cleveland Conference
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), announced a new federal grant program offering $775 million in competitive grants for bus state of good repair—open to all bus operators, “large, small, urban, and rural”—during his keynote speech May 2 before an audience of approximately 630 transit professionals at the Opening General Session of the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Cleveland.
Rogoff discussed the new program in the context of possible flexibility regarding the use of federal public transit funding for operations. He explained that DOT and FTA are determined that assistance be “temporary and targeted” because they are trying to balance delivering “on the street” versus looking at the long-term capital needs of a system. Maintenance deferred long enough can become a critical safety issue, he said, but “if safety and the state of good repair are inextricably linked, as we know they are, what are we doing?”
The administrator spoke candidly about the current economic situation, and said: “I want to assure you that today’s FTA is facing these issues with our eyes wide open.”
He noted that one of his goals is to make FTA’s research office “more relevant to our analysis of what’s going on with transit in real time,” and pledged to continue improving the data collection and data reporting process. He said, “President Obama and DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and I are much more concerned with what’s going on right now and in the future than what happened three years ago [how long it currently takes to collect data and publish it].”
Rogoff discussed the administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget recommendation, stating that “far and away the largest percentage increase is just for state of good repair.” He took pains to make clear that “FTA is equally focused on the state of good repair on the rail and the bus systems.” Under the proposed budget. the bus share will be no less than it is right now and would provide bus riders with a predictable stream of formula funding that currently does not exist.
“And this,” he added, “is where you say—‘but wait, there’s more!’” He then discussed livability grants, including $100 million available from the Department of Housing and Urban Development—which has a transit component because FTA worked with that agency—and said LaHood will announce $600 million in available intermodal grants through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.
He concluded by thanking the participants for “showing that money in transit is money well spent.” Rogoff then said: “We need to step up our game even when financial times are hard—we need to do things harder and smarter. And as we are stepping up our game, we look forward to being your full partner as you step up yours.”
APTA President William Millar opened the session. “Welcome to my hometown, the home of rock and roll,” he told the audience. “As Drew Carey would say, ‘Cleveland Rocks!’”
On a more serious note, he said, “If you’re feeling tired, you should. You’ve been doing great work in your communities, and that’s in spite of many, many challenges. You’ve responded like the champs you are.” Millar noted that FTA “really came through for us with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.”
He said: “Last year, arguably the worst year in our economy since the 1930s, 70 percent of voters walked into that voting place to raise their own taxes, to say ‘yes’ to public transit.” He added that people clearly support public transportation, saying, “We have the ballot evidence to support that statement.”
APTA Chair M.P. Carter spoke next, saying that ARRA funding support alone, “while we struggle with reduced revenue, is simply not enough.” In discussing her several initiatives, including passage of a new surface transportation authorization bill, Carter urged conference participants to tell their story about the benefits of public transportation to elected officials, those who “hold the purse strings.” She also stressed the need, echoing Millar, for increased federal investment in the industry.
Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelley told the audience: “We all want you to have a great time here in Cleveland—learn a lot, listen a lot, share a lot—and, of course, spend a lot, because we could use more sales tax for RTA [the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority]!” He then showed a video that emphasized public transportation, using the “Cleveland Rocks” theme song from The Drew Carey Show.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson spoke next, saying: “I firmly believe that public transportation is part of our future.”
Peter Lawson Jones, president of the Cuyahoga County Board of County Commissioners, praised Millar and Carter, adding: “I can’t believe that Congress won’t listen to their voices and respond affirmatively on behalf on public transportation.” He then thanked the conference participants, noting: “No other industry does what you do and has the impact on the daily lives of the men and women and children of our communities.”
Rick Sander, president and CEO of ISE Corporation, which sponsored the opening session, talked about the importance of environmentally “cleaning up our fleets.” He added: “We must embrace and accelerate reducing emissions.”
Patrick Scully, chief commercial officer for Daimler Buses North America—sponsor of that evening’s reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—welcomed the audience and noted that a zero-emission Orion bus was parked outside.