APTA | Passenger Transport
June 21, 2010

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Rogoff: FTA Stands Prepared to Take on Future Challenges; FRA’s Rae Stresses Rail and Sustainability
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

“We’ve got a lot to be proud of, but we’re not sitting idly by. FTA is mindful of the struggles we’re going to have to face.”

With those words, Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), emphasized in his keynote address before about 1,200 attendees at the June 7 Opening General Session of the APTA Rail Conference in Vancouver, BC, that FTA will continue in the effort to secure a transportation authorization bill and build on its concerns including safety issues and State of Good Repair.

Rogoff called public transit workers “unsung heroes” for their efforts “balancing rider needs, maintenance, work requirements, and political responsibilities—all in an uncertain economy.” Specifically, he said, “The sky is not falling. Rail transit is still the safest mode of surface transportation…and riders are safer on transit than on the highway.”

He noted that the legislation that would give FTA jurisdiction over rail transit safety is “not designed to impose the FRA regulations on all systems in a one-size-fits-all manner. We want to develop a better emergency management system” in the wake of rail transit accidents.

Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), also a keynote speaker, compared the way transit rail agencies have faced the challenges of the past year as “like driving while building the car and paving the road.” She linked future high-speed rail development with sustainable urban development, calling the $8 billion for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “a down payment on a network that will link livable communities.”

Rae continued: “We have to create a balance through our actions at FRA. We have to look at the whole picture, not just the individual components.”

APTA President William Millar announced that the Senate Banking Committee is considering the Public Transportation Preservation Act, which provides $2 billion in emergency funds for transit operating assistance, in his welcoming speech. His remarks also touched on federal climate change legislation, transportation appropriations, and a new transportation authorization bill.

In addition, Millar stated that U.S. public transit ridership in 2009 remained above the 10 billion mark for the fourth consecutive year. However, despite that “historically high” level of success, he noted, overall U.S. ridership in the first quarter of 2010 was down 2.7 percent compared with the same quarter last year—a slower rate of decline than the 3.8 percent reported in the fourth quarter of 2009. (See related story.)

U.S. light rail ridership actually improved by 1.5 percent for the quarter, he said, mainly due to system expansions. Heavy rail declined 1.45 percent and commuter rail ridership was down 3 percent in the same period.

The ridership decreases are “sobering news, but not a surprise,” Millar continued, with unemployment levels around 10 percent nationally.

“About 60 percent of all rides on public transportation are for going back and forth to work,” he explained. “When fewer people are working, we’ll see less transit use—but our members are seeing the situation start to turn around.”

APTA Chair M.P. Carter reported on the initiatives she has championed during her tenure, pointing to the approval this spring of both a new APTA five-year strategic plan and bylaw changes enabling a reorganization of the governance and committee structure. She also joined Millar in emphasizing the necessity of passing a surface transportation authorization bill the provides funding at the level transit agencies need.

In promoting her signature initiative, “Telling Our Story,” she said: “What’s the best way to convince those who hold the purse strings that we need so much more than we’ve gotten before? It’s by telling your story. And by telling your story, you join us in the industry in telling our story …. With all this outreach and more, what kind of ‘returns’ can we expect? With legislators, more revenue! With stakeholders, more partnerships! With the public, more riders!”

Also offering greetings during the session were Ian Jarvis, chief executive officer of the host system, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink); Michael Roschlau, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association; and APTA Vice Chairs Joseph J. Giulietti, commuter and intercity rail, and Gary C. Thomas, rail transit.

Michael Melaniphy, chair of the APTA International Public Transportation EXPO Advisory Committee, invited conference participants to make plans for EXPO 2011 in New Orleans.

The session was sponsored by Bombardier.


Speakers at the Opening General Session include, from left: APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit Gary C. Thomas; FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae; CUTA President and CEO Michael Roschlau; TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; APTA Chair M.P. Carter; Michael Melaniphy, chair of the EXPO 2011 advisory committee; Joseph J. Giulietti, vice chair-commuter and intercity rail; and APTA President William Millar. 



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