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FTA's Williams Keynotes Opening General Session at APTA Legislative Conference

FTA’s Williams Keynotes Opening General Session
Energized by a fast-paced video of public transit images backed by Justin Timberlake’s “Dance, Dance, Dance” (see it here), APTA members and industry colleagues kicked off the 43rd Annual Legislative Conference March 19 in Washington, DC.

APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. welcomed almost 650 attendees to the Opening General Session and introduced FTA ­Acting Administrator K. Jane ­Williams.

She spoke on behalf of U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao, outlining the administration’s proposed FY 2019 budget. She noted that it includes $11.2 billion for FTA to fully fund the FAST Act’s formula, competitive and research grants—paid through the transit portion of the Highway Trust Fund—at the levels authorized by Congress.

Williams discussed the administration’s commitment to reduce and eliminate unnecessary rules and regulations. “Frankly, this work is unprecedented,” she said, pointing to FTA’s efforts “to see where we may be creating roadblocks instead of express lanes.”

She also announced the release of FY 2018 partial-year apportionment tables, which can be viewed on FTA’s website, The apportionments reflect formula funds for public transportation. Carryover funding from FTA's competitive programs will be included in the full year apportionments notice.

Finally, she underscored the importance of rail transit systems to obtain FTA certification of their State Safety Oversight (SSO) programs by April 15, 2019. FTA is prohibited by law from awarding any new federal transit funds to a state’s public transit agencies if that state fails to meet the deadline and until certification is achieved.

She announced that Massachusetts and Hawaii have joined Minnesota, Ohio, Utah and the District of Columbia in receiving federal approval of their SSO programs, out of 30 states or territories with rail transit systems.

In his remarks, Ford summarized the progress made on his five priorities: Leadership and Advocacy, The New Mobility Paradigm, The Workforce of the Future, Leveraging Big Data and Enterprise Risk Management. He cited specific examples of accomplishments to date, such as:

* A summit, scheduled for July 12, titled “The Future of Mobility: From Transit Authority to Mobility Integrator”;
* New resources for APTA members on mobility innovation, the use of data and best practices in risk management and cybersecurity; and
* The development of online learning opportunities and the framework for an APTA skills training certification program.

Opening General Session speakers, from left: APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas, FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams and APTA Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr.

“We’re well on our way to achieving the goals I outlined last October when I became APTA chair,” he told the audience.

In keeping with the focus of the conference, Ford emphasized the issue of advocacy. “This is the time and place for our voices to be heard,” he said, urging attendees to visit their elected officials while they are in the nation’s capital.

APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas sounded a similar theme. In the struggle for federal funding, he said, “public transportation has always been the underdog; we’ve always had to fight harder. So, that’s our charge: to make sure our public officials understand why more investment in public transportation is so vital.”

He summarized public transportation’s myriad of pending issues, including finishing the FY 2018 appropriations process and beginning work on FY 2019, and continuing a robust state of good repair program and strong small starts and new starts Capital Investment Grant programs.

In reiterating APTA’s support for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s call for an increase in the gas tax to finance an infrastructure investment initiative and support the Highway Trust Fund, Skoutelas said, “One of our key advocacy strategies is to work closely with all of the relevant associations toward a ­common cause.”

He told attendees that only they could tell their compelling stories with authenticity about public transit’s involvement in great projects, in delivering great services and in adopting innovative technologies. “We need people to know that this multimodal system known as public transit is today’s mode and we’re making it the future’s mode,” he said.

During the session, both Ford and Skoutelas recognized the FTA team for its support and thanked Diana Mendes and Leanne Redden for their service as chairs of the Legislative Committee, as well as the conference’s sponsors: AECOM, Cubic Transportation Systems, Herzog Transit Services, Transdev and APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors Activity Fund.

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