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October 25, 2010

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MORE FROM THE 2010 APTA ANNUAL MEETING

State DOTs Work to Build the New ‘Transconomy’
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Jolene Molitoris, director of Ohio DOT, coined the word “transconomy” to describe how transportation and the economy can only benefit as an inseparable unit when she addressed the General Forum, “Transit and the State DOT Commissioner: The Future is Multimodal,” at the APTA Annual Meeting.

“Transportation contributes to the economy in a way that nothing else does,” she said.  “A thriving economy needs good transportation. Transportation and economic competitiveness are intertwined. Our chance for change is here—and we need all of our multimodal partners to seize it.”

Molitoris noted that doing things in new ways can be difficult. “Members of a large organization know what they do well, they have culture and tradition, so for them to evolve is not easy,” she said. “As leaders of the industry, it is our challenge, our opportunity—and, for me, a thrill—to work with the department’s employees and all our partners—planning agencies, local transit agencies, railroads, ports, airports—as partners to create the transportation system that will make this nation second to none.”

She described how Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland convened the 60-member 21st Century Transportation Task Force to help the state determine the future of its transportation operations. “Within a month, the task force members realized something revolutionary: their job isn’t about transportation but about what transportation can produce: revitalization, population growth, development.”

The next step, she said, was to put the task force’s efforts into effect by creating the Ohio Transportation Futures Plan, a statewide, multimodal investment strategy to attract and retain business and grow Ohio’s population.  “Every transportation investment we make,” she said, “must show a positive return on investment. Economic and job development are at the top of the list.”

Martin Tuttle, deputy director-planning and modal programs for Caltrans, echoed Molitoris’ emphasis on integrating all modes of transportation across a state. “The future is multimodal; it’s the law in California,” he said. “People realize that, in California, transit is the big game in town.”

Tuttle referred to a state law, which became effective Jan. 1, that requires Caltrans to identify the components of a statewide integrated multimodal transportation system as part of an effort to achieve the maximum feasible greenhouse gas reductions. Transportation professionals across the state, he said, are building on their existing regional transportation and land use plans to create the California Interregional Blueprint, the first statewide effort to integrate modal plans into a single document.

“It’s an exciting time for all of us in the transportation business,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re really working well together. The idea of being multimodal has been talked about way too long; it’s up to the state DOTs to take it forward.”

Michael A. Sanders, transit administrator, transit and ridesharing, for Connecticut DOT, reported on his state’s role in transportation issues. The state operates Connecticut Transit branded services and oversees bus rapid transit between New Britain and Hartford; commuter rail and higher-speed rail serving New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield; and possible infrastructure upgrades for high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. It has a role in project-specific initiatives.

“Connecticut’s transit districts receive most of their money from us, but we don’t have direct control over policy decisions. We can set general statewide policies and metrics for the local agencies to meet,” he explained. “It dates back to the time when private transit providers were going bankrupt and local governments took over. If local governments didn’t do it, the states did.”

In answer to a question about commuters shifting away from private automobiles and toward public transit, Sanders said: “It may take time for the institutional culture to change, but we can work at the edges to affect the outcome.”

 

Participants in the session on transit and state DOTs were, from left, Jolene Molitoris, Michael Sanders, and Martin Tuttle.

 

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