Passenger Transport - March 22, 2013
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House, Senate Pass CR; President Expected to Sign

Both the House and Senate have voted to approve a continuing resolution (CR) that will continue funding for federal agencies through Sept. 30. The measure now goes to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it.

The House approved the CR March 21 by a 318-109 vote, a day after Senate passed it 73-26.

The measure appropriates funds to federal government agencies through the remainder of the current Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. Had the previous CR been allowed to expire March 27, the government would have shut down.

The approved resolution incorporates a number of adjustments to the original House version, such as fully funding MAP-21 FTA Formula and Bus programs, at $8.478 billion. It also provides $4 million to fund the new FTA transit safety program established under MAP-21 and includes technical corrections to the appropriations language for transit research and the New Starts program.

The CR does not alter the sequestration process, so, despite the restoration of MAP-21 Formula and Bus funding, those programs funded from the General Fund—including New Starts, FTA Research, FTA Administration, Hurricane Sandy Emergency Relief, and Amtrak—will still face cuts in funding of approximately 5 percent from the agreed-on FY 2013 levels. Sequestration cuts to the New Starts program will potentially affect even those projects with Full Funding Grant Agreements.

Budget Deliberations
Also on March 21, the House ended debate on the House Budget Resolution. The non-binding resolution passed the House by a vote of 221-207, largely on party lines.

The House Budget aims to balance the federal budget within a 10-year window, by FY 2023. As previously noted, the House Budget assumes no General Fund transfers to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in future fiscal years and restricts future transportation investments to tax receipts dedicated to the HTF. However, it does not alter any funding assumptions related to MAP-21 funding or programs in 2014.

The Senate began debate the same day on the Senate Budget Resolution, which passed through the Senate Budget Committee late last week along party lines. The Senate Budget Committee’s proposal continues to promote General Fund investment in transportation and infrastructure projects, with a one-time $50 billion infusion for capital investments in highways and public transit, as part of a larger $100 billion infrastructure package.

Neither the House or Senate budget resolutions address the need for a longer-term funding solution to the HTF shortfall.

Municipal Bonds
The Senate Budget Resolution also suggests the possibility of a cap being placed on tax expenditures in the future as part of any tax reform debate—which could include a cap on the exemption for interest earned on municipal bonds.

APTA recently joined the National Association of Counties and 57 other organizations in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to express concern over the proposal and outlined the negative affects it would have on infrastructure investment. APTA will continue to monitor developments on tax reform and weigh in accordingly, should the committees of jurisdiction attempt to limit the municipal bond interest exemption as part of any tax reform measure.

More information will be available on the APTA website.


LaHood: Think Big and Bold for Public Transit

BY DEBORAH BONGIORNO, Senior Managing Editor

Public transportation is strong, but “we can do better by thinking big and bold. America’s always been bold,” retiring DOT Secretary Ray LaHood declared during his keynote address before an enthusiastic standing-room-only crowd at a March 11 general session during the APTA Legislative Conference in Washington.

“As we look back, it’s clear we’ve made great progress—but the truth is that we have more work to do. We must continue to build on the momentum we’ve created and invest in the infrastructure that makes this country great,” LaHood said in what was likely his last appearance at an APTA conference before he steps down from his ­Cabinet post.

He went on: “But it’s not going to get better unless you march up there [to Capitol Hill] and talk about investments and about what public transit really does—it serves your friends and neighbors.”

The secretary reported on several DOT accomplishments during his four-year tenure, including the creation of more than 350 miles of new rail and Bus Rapid Transit, initiating 40 major capital public transit projects, and purchasing hundreds of railcars and thousands of clean-fuel buses. He credited these actions with helping to create jobs and revitalize American manufacturing.

Further, LaHood said, DOT made significant progress in instituting new safety measures that “make transit as safe as it can possibly be” and in reducing the amount of time required to launch New Starts, in response to one of the biggest criticisms he faced when he took office in January 2009.

“We took on that challenge and greatly reduced the amount of time for New Starts. Unfortunately, now there’s no money,” he added.

“I wish I could say that the future is as bright in terms of funding as it has been in the last four years,” LaHood continued. Further, he asserted that not only does MAP-21 fund public transportation at lower levels than DOT had requested, it also authorizes funding for only two years instead of five.

MAP-21 expires in September 2014, and LaHood encouraged conference attendees to advocate for improvements to the next version of the legislation by informing members of Congress that their constituents want more public transit, not less.

LaHood also touched on one of the conference’s hottest topics: sequestration, which cut federal spending nearly across the board, including $117 million from DOT.

“The debate underway isn’t about worth; it’s about how we pay for it,” he said. “There’s no question that we have to get our [fiscal] house in order, but not with a meat axe. That’s what sequester is. Let’s do it thoughtfully. We can have public transportation as a priority and still have balanced budgets.”

LaHood cited his former experience as a Republican congressman from Illinois who worked with the Clinton administration to develop bipartisan ­balanced budgets.

The secretary concluded his remarks by offering advice to the next secretary. “Get along with Congress. Every member of the House represents 700,000 to 800,000 people—plus, the House controls the money,” he said. “We’ve gone out of our way to be cooperative with members of Congress who want to cooperate, but we need resources. Charge up there. You put these people in Congress. They listen to you,” he encouraged the crowd, which responded with a standing ovation, the second of his address.

Following LaHood’s remarks, APTA Chair Flora Castillo and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy presented him with a framed proclamation to express APTA’s appreciation for his tireless leadership on behalf of public transportation. In part, the proclamation reads: “Whereas during Secretary LaHood’s time in office, public transportation has had a high profile within U.S. DOT, and has been positioned as an increasingly vital component of a balanced, forward-looking transportation system for America,” APTA and its “Board of Directors recognizes U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for his extraordinary accomplishments during his time in office."

House Considers Alternatives to FY 2014 Budget Proposal

As Passenger Transport went to press, the full House was discussing five alternatives to H.Con.Res. 25, a concurrent resolution establishing the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2014 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for FY 2015 through FY 2023, under a rule.

The alternatives under consideration are:

* An amendment that inserts the text of S.Con.Res. 8, the Senate Democratic budget resolution currently pending consideration in the Senate.

* The Congressional Black Caucus ­Substitute Amendment, which calls for $2.8 trillion in added revenue. This budget includes a $500 billion jobs bill that increases funds for infrastructure by $230 billion over 10 years, as well as funding for workforce development.

* The Congressional Progressive Caucus Substitute Amendment, which provides for more than $8.7 trillion in new spending including investments in infrastructure, aid to states, and public works jobs programs. It also seeks to reduce deficits by $4.4 trillion.

* The Republican Study Committee (RSC) Substitute Amendment, which seeks to achieve balance within four years.

* The Democratic Caucus Substitute Amendment, with spending at a level $5.1 trillion above the Republican budget.

In the Senate, consideration of a budget resolution is expected to begin this week. It had been delayed by ongoing debate regarding amendments to the Continuing Resolution.

While Congress debates the broad budget outlines, APTA continues to work toward specific measures that will strengthen Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account resources in preparation for the next surface transportation bill.

Shuster, Petri, Van Hollen Address Conference

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I), told attendees that he believes the nation’s transportation infrastructure—including public transit—has reached a state of disrepair and inefficiency and can only improve with increased investment.

“When the U.S. has an efficient transportation system, it drives down costs and gets products to market at a lower cost. That keeps us competitive in the global economy,” he said. “On the other hand, if we don’t make the investments we need, we’ll lose jobs. Without these investments, I predict a cut in the Gross Domestic Product by 2020.”

In his remarks at the “Get Started with Members of ­Congress” session, Shuster thanked APTA and its members for their support of MAP-21, the surface transportation authorization bill that passed last year. “APTA has always been in the forefront of moving ­people, and you’ve been a strong partner in MAP-21,” he said. “We appreciate all that you do as an organization and look forward to continuing to work with you.”

He emphasized the role of public transportation in taking people to their jobs, to school, to shop for food, and to visit their families.

Shuster described his efforts to work with T&I Committee members of both parties on an “aggressive agenda” for infrastructure issues, which will include the Rail Safety Improvement Act and the next authorization bill when MAP-21 expires in 2014.

“MAP-21 includes good reforms, but some people don’t think it went far enough,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing more there with the next bill.”

He concluded: “I have a challenge for you. As we move forward with different bills, we will call on you to educate people—at the grassroots level, but also members of Congress.”

Eighteen-term Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), chairman of the House T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, said the subcommittee’s goal is to enact a five- or six-year surface transportation authorization bill. “It’s important to both the industry and the public,” he added.

Petri noted that the current revenue stream cannot keep up with surface transportation needs and suggested ­superseding the gas tax with a form of vehicle miles assessment based on the length of trips.

He also said that innovative financing methods at the local level can generate community-wide interest in public transit. “If you have a fixed transit system such as rail, it’s possible to finance a lot of development around stops,” Petri said. “With movable stops such as bus routes, these can change to follow development.”

Petri also announced that his subcommittee plans to hold hearings to explore general oversight issues related to MAP-21. “I don’t just want to focus on problems; I hope we can paint a ­picture of areas where there is success,” he explained.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), ranking member, House Budget Committee, noted that increasing numbers of younger Americans are using public transportation instead of driving.

“We must tackle the issue of support for public transportation at all levels: local, state, and federal,” Van Hollen said. “In the current political climate, the word of the day for a lot of people is cut, cut, cut, even important investments—so we will need to shift the conversation.”

He continued: “When it comes to transportation, if the past is prologue, I would be on full alert. You may recall that funding for transportation as a whole dropped precipitously in last year’s House budget plan. Thanks to all of you raising the battle cry and a bipartisan group in the House, we blocked that.” In contrast, Van Hollen said, President Obama has proposed an additional $50 billion investment in infrastructure, which includes public transit and rail.

“Our challenge now is to find new revenue sources at all levels,” he said. “At the same time, the federal government wants to see that local jurisdictions and states are also committed to increased investment in public transit. In my view, this local support should not be a substitute for federal support; my message is that we’re all in this together.”

The session also included remarks from Jeff Nelson, chair, APTA Legislative Committee, and Marnie Primmer, chair, National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates.

APTA in White House Briefing on Public Transit

Photo by Steve Barrett

Members of the APTA Executive Committee and senior staff met March 12 with White House officials to discuss public transportation’s impact on economic development, health care, energy efficiency, and clean technology, among other issues. In attendance were, from left: front row, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, APTA Chair Flora Castillo, and APTA Vice Chair Peter Varga; center row, Executive Committee members Phillip Washington, Rosa Navejar, Joseph Giulietti, Crystal Lyons, and Angela Iannuzziello, and Bryna Helfer, DOT director of public engagement; back row, Petra Mollet, APTA chief of staff; Executive Committee member Chuck Wochele; Hector Lopez, MTA Long Island Rail Road; Doran Barnes, APTA secretary-treasurer; committee member Alan Wulkan; James LaRusch, APTA chief counsel and vice president-corporate affairs; committee member Ron Epstein; committee member Reginald Mason; Art Guzzetti, APTA vice president-policy; and Brian Tynan, APTA director, government affairs.

Reaching Out to the Hispanic Community

Photo by Mitch Wood

APTA has joined forces with the White House and DOT to build broader awareness of the importance of public transportation to the Hispanic community and encourage even more engagement in shaping transportation policy. At the request of the White House and DOT, APTA Chair Flora Castillo and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy convened a group of Hispanic public transportation leaders to discuss issues and develop outreach strategies. In conjunction with the Legislative Conference, they met with Julie Rodriguez, White House associate director of Latino affairs. Attending the meeting were, from left: Frank Alejandro, chief operations officer, Los Angeles Metro; Jose Bustamante, vice president of rail, RK&K; Flora Castillo, APTA chair and New Jersey Transit Corporation board member; Rosa Navejar, president, The Rios Group; Kathy Waters, APTA vice president-member services; Rodriguez; Melaniphy; Bryna Helfer, DOT director of public engagement; Terry Solis, the Solis Group; Brian Farber, FTA associate administrator; Angie Malpiede, board member, Regional Transportation District, Denver; and Maria Elena Juarez, DOT associate director, intergovernmental affairs. James de LaLoza, senior vice president, AECOM, participated by phone.

Melaniphy Addresses Lt. Governors

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy participated on a panel at the National Lieutenant Governors Association Federal-State Relations Meeting in Washington, DC, on March 20. From left are Joseph Boardman, president, Amtrak; Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray, session moderator; Ed Hamberger, president, Association of American Railroads; and Joseph Szabo, FRA administrator. The topic of the session was “How the Modern Economy Relies on Multimodal Transportation.”

ASCE Gives Public Transit Infrastructure A ‘D’

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives U.S. public transportation infrastructure a “D” in its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, and that grade should instill a sense of urgency for increased investment in the sector, said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

The rating is virtually unchanged from four years ago, the last time ASCE examined the state of America’s infrastructure. The report, Failure to Act, the Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future, was released March 19.

“I want to commend ASCE for highlighting the need for urgent investment in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure in its report,” ­Melaniphy said. “The report shows that there are devastating consequences to our ­economy and to our mobility when we do not make investing in America’s infrastructure a priority.”

According to the report, the U.S. economy lost $90 billion in 2010 due to the lack of investment in public transportation. Although public transit ridership increased by 9.1 percent over the past decade, ASCE reports, 45 percent of Americans still lack access to public transit.

“How many more reports do we need to tell us that we must make investing in America’s infrastructure a priority?” asked Melaniphy. “Our country must get serious about investing in infrastructure, including public transportation. APTA strongly supports ASCE’s message that our country must act now to invest in the nation’s infrastructure.”

The full text of the report is available here.

NVTC Appoints Coyner Executive Director

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) in Arlington, VA, has named Kelley Coyner its new executive director.

She will succeed Rick Taube, who is stepping down from the post after 29 years of service.

NVTC Chairman Jeff McKay said: “I am pleased at the unanimous decision by the NVTC board to ask Ms. Coyner to serve as NVTC’s next executive director. This is a critical time for transit in the region and I am confident that she will continue to lead NVTC in the right direction. I look forward to working closely with her to expand NVTC’s role in Northern Virginia and to continue to enhance our image throughout the commonwealth.”

NVTC funds and promotes public transit in a district including the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church.

Amtrak Chair Named

Amtrak announced the election March 18 of Anthony Coscia as its chairman. Coscia was elected by his fellow board members to replace Thomas C. Carper, an appointee of President George W. Bush whose term is expiring.

President Obama named Coscia, a partner at Windels Marx Lane & ­Mittendorf, to the Amtrak board in November 2009; he has chaired its Audit and Finance Committee since 2011. Coscia chaired the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from 2003 to 2011 and is a former chairman of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

Report Links Home Values To Public Transit Frequency

As Passenger Transport went to press, APTA and the National Association of Realtors® were preparing for the March 21 release of a study showing that, during the last recession, residential property values performed 42 percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with high-frequency service.

The study, The New Real-Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, investigates how well residential properties located within one-half mile of high-frequency public transportation—defined as heavy rail, light rail, and Bus Rapid Transit—have performed in holding their value during the recession compared to other properties in a given region.

Look for more information in the next issue of Passenger Transport and at the APTA website.


Castillo: Spread the Word About Public Transit

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

APTA Chair Flora Castillo called on the more than 700 Legislative Conference attendees to spread the word about public transportation in her ­Opening Session remarks.

“Right now we have a unique opportunity to influence the nation’s investment in public ­transportation,” she said. “MAP-21 was a step in the right direction, but we have more to do before it expires in September 2014. We need to ramp up our efforts now.”

Pointing to her theme, “It’s All About the People!”, Castillo noted that the public transit industry directly employs nearly 400,000 people and indirectly supports another 1.9 million jobs. “There’s strength in these numbers because there are people behind these numbers,” she said. “Every individual in this room has a compelling message about the value of public transit to people in your community. It’s time to make ­public transportation come alive for Congress by talking about the lives we change.”

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced at the session that “public transportation is more widely used, more valued, and more in demand now than at any time in our nation’s history.” He pointed to the 10.5 billion trips taken on public transit during 2012, a 1.5 percent increase over the previous year. (See related stories.)

“Two big reasons for the increased national ridership are high, volatile gas prices and, in certain localities, a ­recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Melaniphy. “Public transportation saves people money, and people save even more so when gas prices spike. Also, since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases are in the areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been added.”

Noting that people are ­changing their attitudes regarding travel, ­Melaniphy said: “There is a sea change going on in the way that people look at transportation. Americans want travel choices; they want to be able to choose the best travel option for their lives. This is an exciting time for the public transportation industry as more and more ­Americans support it and want it.”

Melaniphy also pointed out that ­voters across the U.S. approved 49 out of 62 transit-oriented state and local ballot initiatives in 2012: nearly 80 percent of the measures. “This extremely high rate of success demonstrates how important public transportation is to people and to communities,” he noted.

He called on conference participants to let their elected officials “touch transit” by inviting them to their properties. “The federal government must continue to invest in public transportation,” he emphasized. “Every dollar invested in public transit yields $4 in benefits. This is not the time to cut funding; now is the time to invest.”

RouteMatch Software sponsored the opening session.

FTA, FRA Administrators Report on Current Events

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

The sequestration process that went into effect March 1 cuts $656 million from the FTA budget and may lead to furloughs—a situation that FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff said “breaks my heart.”

In his remarks at the Opening General Session of the recent APTA Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, Rogoff said the sequester cuts push the FTA budget back to the 2009 funding level. He said these cuts could affect public transportation projects currently in the pipeline and may mean cuts to all New Starts projects—all at a higher cost to the taxpayer.

Rogoff emphasized that public transit professionals and their partners need to “make the case” to their members of Congress. “Let them know that even people who never use public transit themselves benefit from these investments,” he added.”

Sequestration is not the only threat facing FTA funding, he said. “We can’t accomplish our goals without support from Congress and from you,” Rogoff told the session audience. “However, the course of progress faces real and present threats.” He pointed to the House’s proposal, ultimately defeated, to eliminate the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.

Rogoff called public transportation an “engine” to improve the economy and said MAP-21 is “the culmination of many of the administration’s priorities,” which include instituting safety standards for public transit rail and streamlining the New Starts process to begin work faster.

Also at the session, FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo focused on federal and state achievements in rail as part of a move toward “achieving world-class transportation.” He said: “In order to remain the leading global economy, it is absolute that [the U.S.] must advance our transportation system . . . each mode working in unison with the others to ensure the efficient movement of people and goods.”

He reported that 2012 was the safest year in U.S. rail history and that intercity trains between Chicago and St. Louis, and Chicago and Detroit, now operate at 110 mph, the fastest service outside the Northeast Corridor. “The $19 billion this administration has invested in rail since 2009 is building, improving, or creating 6,000 corridor miles, 40 stations, 75 planning studies, and 30 state rail plans or service development plans,” Szabo continued.

Szabo also cited plans to upgrade the Northeast Corridor through both new construction and repair projects, as well as station enhancements in Boston, Washington, at BWI Airport, and the Moynihan Station project in New York City.

Two federal programs referenced by the administrator—the Rebuild America Partnership and the “Fix it First” program—would create jobs while also building and improving U.S. infrastructure. The Rebuild America Partnership leverages private-sector investment to create infrastructure jobs, while “Fix it First” targets the nation’s most urgent infrastructure repairs.

“Rail can be the most cost-effective, least oil-reliant, and most environmentally friendly mode to move people and freight,” he said. “Two railroad tracks can carry as many travelers in an hour as 16 lanes of freeway.”

The overhaul of U.S. rail will take time and resources, but, Szabo said: “The Interstate Highway System started with eight lonely miles in the middle of rural Kansas. It took 10 Administrations and 28 sessions of Congress to complete—but, year by year, piece by piece, we got it done.”


FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, left, and FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo

Panelists Call for Fixes to Transportation Funding

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Colin Peppard, transportation legislative assistant to Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), said Congress is currently in a process of “crisis governing”—making on-the-spot, short-term decisions about infrastructure investment measures.

“The Highway Trust Fund is structurally  insolvent; we’re seeing a longtime gap in revenue from federal gas tax,” Peppard said at the “Funding the Future of Transportation” session. “The Congressional Budget Office says we’re going to need another $114 billion just to maintain current funding levels. We don’t have the option of not acting. We can borrow money or make cuts, but neither is a very good option.”

Frederick (Bud) Wright, executive director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), emphasized the strong partnership between APTA and AASHTO and the importance of including public transit in federal transportation funding.

“We are spending about $14 billion more a year than we are collecting in revenues,” said Wright, who worked for 33 years at the Federal Highway Administration before his appointment at ­AASHTO in February. “The issue isn’t about which specific option to take; it’s about political will, timing, and the political process.”

He proposed a gas tax increase of about 10 cents per gallon as one way to sustain Highway Trust Fund levels, but said congressional leaders would have other proposals.

“We must sell the public on why we need to invest in public transportation,” Wright added. “Voters can’t identify with us when we talk about trillions of dollars. We have to show the American public what an investment in transportation means in daily life.”

Steven E. Sandherr, chief executive officer, Associated General Contractors of America, said people understand the need to raise taxes for infrastructure: for example, Wyoming has voted for tax increases to fund infrastructure improvements.

Deron Lovaas, director, Federal Transportation Policy, Energy and Transportation Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, noted the “conundrum” raised by gas tax legislation. Between rising fuel economy standards and declining vehicle miles traveled, revenues will continue to decline with a per-gallon gas tax.

“We have to change the way the federal surface transportation program looks now; the Interstate Highway era ended 20 years ago,” he explained. “We need to define the current program and make sure it emphasizes smart investments in roads and public transit, state of good repair—really focusing on people knowing what value they get for their money.”

Christopher Boylan, director, governmental and strategic partnerships for the General Contractors Association of New York Inc., moderated the session.


From left: Christopher Boylan, Deron Lovaas, Steven E. Sandherr, Frederick (Bud) Wright, and Colin Peppard. 

Former House Member: Compromise Key to Progress

Special to Passenger Transport

Political gridlock and its fallout—especially as regards the federal budget and appropriations processes—will continue in Washington, DC, until politicians on both sides of the aisle find ways to compromise, former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) said during a March 11 breakfast session sponsored by APTA’s business members.

“Everybody’s got to have a little give. We got into this mess together, we need to get out of it together,” he said.

LaTourette, a longtime Washington insider, was known on Capitol Hill for his bipartisan, plain-spoken approach to politics before he announced his retirement from the House in 2012. He is currently president of the Main Street Partnership, a Washington-based ­Republican think tank.

“If politicians would look at issues in the big sense of the word, you [public transportation] would win. The only way it gets better for everyone is that everyone needs to be in it. We need to support people who want to come to the center, who put country before party,” he said, adding: “Today’s political attitude is that unless you can get victory on everything, there’s no point in getting a victory on anything. That’s just nuts.”

He also noted that conflicting priorities complicate funding allocations: “Is transit more important than education, for example? And after you leave, the construction guys come to town—the concrete and asphalt guys. They’ll be advocating for more [highway] lanes, more construction,” he said to emphasize his point.

LaTourette further pointed to conflicting priorities as a contributing factor to the shortcomings of the current transportation authorization law. “MAP-21 stinks,” he said, “not because it’s a bad bill, but because it’s a horrible way to conduct businesses. It’s better than another extension, but it didn’t solve the basic problem of investment.”

During his tenure as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and vice chair of its Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, LaTourette helped preserve the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in the run-up to the passage of MAP-21.

Like nearly all speakers at the conference, LaTourette also discussed sequestration and the lack of a “Grand Bargain” between House Republicans and the Obama administration.

“Why did we get sequestration?” he asked. “The supercommittee couldn’t cut $1.3 trillion [in federal spending] over 10 years. You [public transportation leaders] could do that in your sleep. They didn’t do their work, so we get sequestration. But it could be a whole lot worse, especially in your part of the budget,” he said, referring to the Mass Transit Account of the HTF, which is exempt from sequestration.

“It doesn’t matter how worthy an initiative is if there’s no money,” LaTourette said, adding that reforming “middle-class entitlements” is key to solving larger budget issues. “When people refuse to make difficult decisions on middle-class entitlements, the rest of the budget—non-defense discretionary spending—gets squeezed.”

LaTourette urged conference attendees to go to the Hill and encourage members from both parties to agree to a Grand Bargain. “Rise up and recognize the politicians in the middle,” he said. “Tell them you’re behind them, you have their back. Tell them to find a way to reach the big deal. Tell them to reform Social Security so it survives and to reform entitlement programs so they survive to help people they were intended to help. Make the pie bigger so we [transportation] won’t be cannibalizing other worthy causes.”

Pundits Weigh In on Today’s Political Landscape

“Welcome to ­Washington, where we put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction,” said John ­Feehery, columnist for The Hill (a congressional newspaper that ­publishes daily when Congress is in session), political commentator, and president of a Washington-based communications firm, in his opening comments at the March 10 General Session.

Joining Feehery at the session was A.B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist for The Hill and a national political commentator on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, PBS, and other networks.

The two panelists each provided insights into the current state of politics and policy in the nation’s capital and its impact on the economy and public transportation, among other topics.

Political support for public transportation is “a regional thing,” Feehery said. “The Midwest and Northeast love mass transit. [Speaker of the House] John Boehner, [a Republican] from Ohio, has an appreciation for mass transit. Bill Shuster [R-PA, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee] does too,” Feehery said.

However, the commentator called MAP-21 “insufficient” as far as public transportation’s need for stable funding. “Shuster wants to do the right thing. He wants to conduct a bipartisan committee to get stuff done,” Feehery said. But he added that consequences exist for Republicans perceived for going outside the party mainstream.

Feehery pointed out that Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, proposed swapping the state’s gas tax with an increased sales tax as a better way to pay for transportation in the traffic-congested state.

“He’s getting crucified—almost as much as Chris ­Christie did for welcoming Obama to New Jersey after ­Hurricane Sandy,” he added.

In her remarks, Stoddard described the difficulty in covering such issues as public transportation in the national media. “[DOT Secretary Ray] LaHood has been a great messenger for public transportation, but it’s difficult,” she noted. “Policy discussions can’t get past the budget fights. Not much does.”

Still, she pointed to bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for public transportation, innovative partnerships, infrastructure investments, and economic growth.

Stoddard said she sees some indi­cations that Republicans and ­Democrats might be ready to compromise: “There’s a growing number of ­people in both parties looking for ways to work together. Maybe there’s an appetite to solve ­problems. The American people really can’t tolerate anymore gridlock. Both parties recognize this so maybe we’re seeing signs of hope.”

URS Corporation sponsored the session.

Three Days of Public Transportation Advocacy



APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, left, and APTA Vice President-Government Affairs Robert Healy with Rep. Corinne Brown (D-FL) at the Capitol Hill Reception.

Hundreds of public transportation professionals were entertained during the Sunday “Welcome to Washington” session featuring John Feehery and A.B. Stoddard.



Members of the Leadership APTA class participate in educational discussion sessions during the conference.

Photo by Mitch Wood

The five co-chairs of the Authorization Task Force met during the Legislative Conference. From left: Carl Sedoryk, Monterey-Salinas Transit; Nuria Fernandez, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Randall Chrisman, Dallas Area Rapid Transit board; Sharon Greene, Sharon Greene and Associates; and Carolyn Flowers, Charlotte Area Transit System.



Castillo, left, and Melaniphy, right, join the presenters at the March 10 General Session, from second from left: pundits John Feehery and A.B. Stoddard; Tom Downs, chair, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; and Susannah Kerr Adler of session sponsor URS Corporation.

Retiring DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, second from right, accepts an APTA proclamation following his remarks. Presenters include, from left, Tom Lucek, general manager, CityLink, Peoria, IL; McBride, CityLink board treasurer; Castillo; and Melaniphy.



APTA Vice Chair Peter Varga, left, and Secretary-Treasurer Doran Barnes were among the members of the APTA Executive Committee who participated in a March 11 event at the White House.

Photo by Mitch Wood

The conference provided many opportunities for public transit professionals to network and share ideas.



A Legislative Conference tradition, the Capitol Steps present musical political satire during the March 11 luncheon session.

During the March 12 reception, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), left, shakes hands with Paul E. Davis, general manager and CEO, Tri-State Transit Authority, Huntington, WV.



Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), left, and David Garten of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority chat during the reception in the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria.

Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, left, spoke at the March 11 breakfast sponsored by APTA’s business members. Joining him are, from second from left, BMBG Chair Angela Iannuzziello, Castillo, and Melaniphy.



Members gathered at a packed breakfast session before hearing from Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tom Petri (R-WI).

Photo by Mitch Wood

APTA Chair Flora Castillo addresses the March 9 meeting of the APTA Board of Directors. Seated from left: Melaniphy, Vice Chair Peter Varga, and Secretary-Treasurer Doran Barnes.



Staffers from key congressional committees discuss the status of passenger rail legislation, specifically the Passenger Rail Infrastructure and Investment Act and the Rail Safety Improvement Act, at the “Rail Policy and Legislation in the 113th Congress” panel. Speakers, from left: Joseph Giulietti, executive director, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL, and member, APTA Executive Committee; Ian Jefferies, majority staff member, and Dan Neumann, minority staff member, Senate Commerce Committee; and Mike Friedberg, majority staff director, and Jennifer Homendy, minority staff director, House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Congress is likely to address key policy aspects of MAP-21 in the reauthorization process, examining the sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund, and improvements to the Buy America bill, according to key congressional staffers at the “View from the Hill” panel discussion. From left: moderator Peter Varga, CEO, Interurban Transit Partnership, Grand Rapids, MI, and panelists Dena Brown, majority clerk, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies; Homer Carlisle, majority staff member, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; and Jim Tymon, majority staff director, and Helena Zyblikewycz, minority staff member, both with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.


Ridership Rises to 10.5 Billion Trips in ’12

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

For the seventh consecutive year, public transportation ridership has exceeded 10 billion trips, with 10.5 billion taken in 2012, 154 million more than in 2011 despite the shutdown of public transit service on the East Coast caused by Superstorm Sandy.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced the ridership figures during APTA’s Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, in March.

The strong report shows “a growing demand for public transportation. Every mode of public transportation showed an increase in ridership. Public transit ridership grew in all areas of the country,” ­Melaniphy said.

“Since nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transpor­tation are for work commutes, it makes sense that ridership increases in areas where the economy has improved and new jobs have been added,” he said.

Ridership on light rail showed the greatest increase at 4.5 percent. Heavy rail increased by 1.4 percent, bus increased by 1 percent, and commuter rail by 0.5 percent.

APTA staff interviewed several public transit officials from small, medium, and large agencies to investigate some of the factors affecting ridership in specific systems. Several themes emerged, including rising gas prices and an improved economy; however, many agency leaders also cited service improvements. A summary follows:

Ann Arbor Transportation ­Authority, Ann Arbor, MI: Officials reported an increase of 6.6 percent, which reflects a record ridership. They attributed the increase to fluctuating gas prices, an improving economy, a mild winter, and access to service.

NJ TRANSIT, Newark, NJ: Systemwide ridership increased by 2.1 percent (rail by 0.8 percent, light rail by 0.3 percent, bus by 3 percent), in spite of the impact of Superstorm Sandy. Officials attribute the increase to economic and employment growth in the region, combined with high gas prices and toll hikes. Record-high rail on-time performance and special events at New Jersey venues also drew riders. Prior to Sandy, ridership was trending 5.1 percent ahead of the previous year.

Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, Charleston, SC: Officials reported an increase of 9.1 percent. They attributed their record ridership to economic growth, improved service, fare-free trolley service in downtown Charleston, and an improving image of public transit. Also, Boeing located a new facility in ­Charleston (employing an additional 5,500 people), which is located on express and local routes.

Denton County Transportation Authority, Lewisville, TX: Ridership increased by 10.6 percent. The agency added trips to a midday schedule, and noted improvements on all fixed-route bus service and better connectivity among modes.

Valley Metro, Phoenix, AZ: Officials reported an increase of 6.7 percent, which includes the highest light rail ­ridership since the system opened in 2008, due to a greater acceptance of public transit, an improving economy, and unstable fuel prices. They also report that ridership increased overall despite a six-day strike in March when it declined by 10 percent.

These brief anecdotes are a representative sample of public transit systems that experienced increases in ridership, not all such systems. The report reflects calendar year ridership, not fiscal year. Find the complete report here.

About the Ridership Survey Report

The 2012 APTA ridership report is a compilation of quarterly data reported by member public transportation systems online in a secure database and analyzed by APTA’s policy and research experts. APTA has been issuing annual ridership numbers since 1926 and quarterly or monthly numbers since the early 1950s.

The report is based on four data items: ridership for an average weekday for the current calendar year, monthly totals for the current calendar year, and annual totals for the past two calendar years. Details for each system are only reported if there are data for some or all months in the current year (up to and including the current quarter) and the previous year. The data reflect ridership for a calendar year, not a fiscal year.

The data for this special report are for public transportation systems in the United States. For more information, contact Matthew Dickens.

Ridership is defined as the number of unlinked passenger trips, which are the number of passengers who board public transportation vehicles. Passengers are counted each time they board vehicles, regardless of the number of vehicles they use to travel from their origin to their destination.

Bus systems are categorized in groups based on the population of the area they serve.

Largest-sized systems: those operating in areas with populations greater than 2 million
Large-sized systems: those operating in areas with populations between 500,000 and 2 million
Medium-sized systems: those operating in areas with populations between 100,000 and 500,000
Small-sized systems: those operating in areas with populations less than 100,000

Passenger Transport also invites readers to submit information at the single most significant factor that affected ridership in their systems in 2012. Share these insights with Passenger Transport (100 words or fewer, please), and we’ll publish a round-up in the April 8 issue.


APTA Ramps Up Efforts to Communicate Benefits of Public Transit

With MAP-21 expiring in ­September 2014, APTA is busy working on what the next bill will look like. APTA is rolling out its RCA campaign (Research, Communications, and Advocacy) for 2013-2014 to strengthen awareness among Americans of public transportation’s value and to persuade Congress to fully invest in ­public transit and its infrastructure.

This year’s initiative builds on the “Public Transportation Takes Us There” program originally launched in 2008 with events, activities, and reports that emphasize the vital role of public transportation in economic development, jobs, and energy independence.

From promoting a new study on the impact of public transportation investment on residential real estate properties to coordinating the annual “Dump the Pump Day,” APTA’s activities focus on developing unified messages and programs to support national and local outreach. For example, APTA issues a monthly transit savings report that shows how much money an individual can save by taking public transportation. In addition to such regular reports, APTA is also developing a calendar of special events. Highlights through June follow:
APTA will distribute information related to public transportation infrastructure in conjunction with the 2013 report card published by the American Society of Civil Engineers that assesses the state of the nation’s infrastructure. (See related story.)

APTA’s policy department and the National Association of Realtors conducted new research that examines the impact of public transportation investments on residential real estate values. The report, The New Real Estate Mantra: Location Near Public Transportation, is scheduled for release on March 21. (See related story.)
To celebrate Earth Day on April 22, APTA will publicize the energy and environmental benefits of public transportation and highlight activities that many public transit systems conduct to heighten awareness of their environmentally friendly practices.

APTA’s Safety Comparisons Study will quantify public transit safety versus auto safety.

APTA will conduct a survey of its members to gauge the impact of state and local funding on public transit fares and service.
APTA will publicize the annual ­survey of public transit use by ­summer travelers, “Travel Like a Local.”

APTA will conduct a survey to assess the public’s support of high-speed rail and will incorporate data and messages in ongoing outreach activities.

APTA will highlight its efforts in workforce development as part of National Public Transportation Career Day, May 9.
June 20 is National Dump the Pump Day. This annual event is one of APTA’s largest outreach efforts to encourage individuals nationwide to try public transit.

APTA will issue its first quarter ­ridership report for Fiscal Year 2014.
Other efforts underway focus on surveying Americans to determine the best messages that resonate about public transit. This will be the basis for new communications and advertising materials that can be localized by members.

Activities focusing on grassroots activities and building stronger relationships with coalition partners will be detailed in future issues of Passenger Transport. In addition, APTA will continue to develop the campaign to take advantage of breaking news, special events, and emerging partnerships. For details, contact Mantill Williams.

BMBG, Wulkan Fund Scholarships

Photo by Steve Barrett

Alan Wulkan, second from left, donated $50,000—in conjunction with the APTA Business Member Board of Governors’ (BMBG) third $50,000 donation—to fund a new scholarship to be known as the “APTF Business Member/Janie Wulkan Memorial Scholarship,” in honor of his wife who died in 2012. Joining Wulkan at the check presentation ceremony during the March 10 APTF meeting were, from left, APTF Chair Bonnie Shepherd, BMBG Chair Angela Iannuzziello, and APTF Vice Chair Huelon Harrison.


APTA Named 'Friend of Transit'

Friends of Transit, an Arizona-based coalition that advocates for public transportation, presented its “Friend of Transit” award to APTA in recognition of its grassroots outreach and support for the coalition. Posing with the award at association offices are, from left, APTA staff Art Guzzetti, vice president-policy; Rich Weaver, director of planning, policy, and sustainability; Nicole DuPuis, program manager, policy and planning; and President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

VTA Acts Green While Building BART Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension

BY LINH HOANG, Media Relations Supervisor, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is working to ensure compliance with environmental requirements during construction of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension Project: a 10-mile, two-station rail line that travels into Santa Clara County.

VTA planners and engineers are adhering to sustainability guidelines while also promoting and incorporating environmentally conscientious building methods.

“It is crucial that we consider air, water, land, plant, and animal life during construction activities, to protect the ­environment and existing habitats throughout the life of the project and beyond,” said ­Bernice Alaniz, BART ­Silicon Valley director of communications.

At the site of the future Berryessa BART Station campus in San Jose, VTA took nesting surveys and protective measures to ensure that birds were not harmed during demolition and early construction activities.

The Berryessa Extension Project also incorporates a biological restoration effort known as the Upper Penitencia Creek Improvement Project. Before creek work began, biologists relocated fish, including federally protected California steelhead trout, downstream. The project also included efforts to move the nearby feral cat population safely out of designated construction areas.

VTA further implemented measures to reduce waste by recycling and reusing existing materials, such as trees and their roots. To stabilize the creek bank, create creek bank wildlife habitats, and provide shading for federally protected species, project workers used root balls from removed trees throughout the project. Fifty different types of trees in the area were identified for removal, and trees that didn’t meet the requirements for reuse were chipped into mulch for use offsite.

Leftover materials from the Berryessa Extension project’s demolition activities, including wood, steel, and concrete, were recycled or stockpiled to be recycled or reused at a later time.

“Reusing and recycling all possible raw materials we encounter on this project is not only efficient; it is a sustainable method that maximizes the earth’s resources,” said Environmental Mitigation Engineering Coordinator Rachael Keish.

As of October 2012, VTA and its Berryessa Extension Project contractor reported the diversion of 99.84 percent of all project waste materials generated to date through recycling, salvaging, and reuse.


Ducks and other wildlife enjoy the newly restored creek at the site of the future Berryessa BART Station, along Upper Penitencia Creek in San Jose.

San Antonio Welcomes Proterra Electric Buses to Downtown Service

VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, recently introduced to service three battery-electric, fast-charge buses from Proterra Inc. The buses are operating under the name “the Arc.”

The three composite body buses operate on VIA’s downtown circulator routes and they will be recharged at the Robert Thompson Transit Station at the Alamodome. The energy used to charge the batteries is generated either by solar panels installed as part of the project or by turbines in West Texas wind farms as part of VIA’s Windtricity agreement with CPS Energy.

“VIA is excited to have the oppor­tunity to bring electric buses to San Antonio,” said Jeffrey Arndt, VIA’s interim president and chief executive officer. “The Arc service marks a first for VIA as we introduce a completely emissions-free way to provide transit service to the central business district.”

VIA funded the Arc through a $5 million federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant. It was the only ­public transit agency in Texas to receive TIGGER funding and one of 43 grant recipients nationwide. The program encourages the use of cutting-edge ­environmental technologies.


Meet Deborah Y. Chin!

Deborah Y. Chin
Program Manager, Systems, Department of Capital Program Management
MTA New York City Transit
New York, NY
Member, Leadership APTA Class of 2012
How many people does your agency employ?
MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) employs about 45,000 people. That includes operators and engineers.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I’m marking 25 years this year.

How long have you been an APTA member?
I have been active in APTA off and on since 2007. I was in the Leadership APTA Class of 2012.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
You could say I accidentally fell into working in public transit. In the late 1980s, I was employed in the defense industry in New York City. At that time, NYC Transit was undertaking its second capital program—which meant lots of jobs for engineers. I joined the agency, thinking I’d be here for a short time period, and I’ve worked here ever since.

When I worked in the defense industry, I was employed by a naval architecture and engineering firm that did a lot of work on U.S. Navy ships like aircraft carriers. What drew me toward public transportation was the fact that NYC Transit needed engineers to work on its capital program. I found that working with new systems and technologies was really interesting.

My job focused on helping to implement new technologies like signaling systems and communications-based train control. I worked on NYC Transit’s new rail control center, which centralizes all subway operations to a single point. I spent the last 15 years doing that for all the numbered subway lines and now, as a program manager, I plan to bring that same technology to all the lettered lines.

The rail control center also provides real-time train arrival information and sends it directly to subway system platforms—an obvious benefit for the public.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
In my opinion, the most important member benefit is either the ability to contact APTA staff or the chance to network, reaching out to people at peer agencies. For example, say you’re looking for vendors who do a certain type of work. You can talk to people at other systems about what they’re looking at without having to begin the search from scratch. This way, public transit professionals can share their experiences. In a couple of weeks we’re hosting the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) at our rail control center because MARTA is undertaking a similar project.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
Most directly, the benefit comes from sharing lessons learned. When we run projects, we try to mitigate our risk. Sometimes we can share information about specific vendors: what functionalities come with what they’re selling, procurement strategies, how we could work with them to put out a project that implements new technologies.

More integrated systems require the owner—public transit agencies—to take a more active role in systems integration and areas about which they previously didn’t know much. While we still use consultants, we’re taking more of a leadership role internally to manage these projects. We don’t want the possibility of having to delay service; we want to minimize impact while implementing the best and most reliable technology.

What do you like most about your job?
I love coming to work every day. It’s working with the different people. It’s the challenges of seeing, trying to create projects and implementing them, then seeing the outcome of all our hard work. It may not seem that way when we’re working on a project day-to-day, but after four years when it’s completed, we can see the benefits.

What is unique about your agency (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
What I find interesting is that the New York City subway still operates 24-7. Many subway agencies shut down the system—at least for a couple of hours during the night—to do maintenance. NYC Transit is getting positive feedback from the public for its relatively FastTrack program to shut down individual lines for maintenance. Riders understand that if they want to see system benefits faster, we have to shut down the lines periodically to maintain or implement new technology. We’ve been getting a lot of support for that choice, both internally and from our riders.

Make sure you see Deborah Y. Chin’s video, now that you've read this!


Meet Kevin Dow!

Kevin Dow
Program Manager-Technical Services
Member Services Department

What are the top job elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?
One primary responsibility is working with the public transit community to develop standards and recommended practices. Within the Standards Development Program, I support work groups that develop physical and cyber security standards through a consensus process based on the American National Standards Institute model. I’ve also worked with rail transit, technology procurement, and software standards groups.

It’s exciting to work with the best and brightest minds in public transit to document best practices that can be applied throughout the industry to improve safety and security; reduce procurement, operating, and maintenance costs; share risk; reduce liability; and reduce the need for regulation.

When I’m not working with standards development, you’ll likely find me planning for conferences. I manage content for Intelligent Transportation Systems Transit Best Practices workshops, Multimodal Operations Planning workshops, and significant portions of the Rail Conference. Of course, the credit for pulling the expertise into these conference panels most often goes to the great committees that I work with: the Automated Transit, Multimodal Operations Planning, and Capital Projects subcommittees. They are the experts in the public transit community, and they never fail to provide great speakers with cutting-edge content.

I’m also responsible for maintaining relationships with several partner organizations. We often share interests with these organizations, and we work together to mutually benefit our stakeholders. Our partners include FTA, the ITS Joint Program Office at the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, ITS America, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and the Transportation Research Board.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Occasionally we’ll get requests for information on publications that have been out of print for awhile. Recently I talked with a few members about a particular security feature that had been listed as a requirement in a procurement Request for Proposals, but no one knew where to find the feature’s specifications. After a brief conversation with APTA’s unofficial chief historian, John Neff, we found the document in our reference library. I was able to scan the relevant chapter and fulfill the request by e-mail. This led to our scanning the whole document so we’d have an electronic copy on file for the next time the information is needed.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
One of the most notable deliverables I’ve had a part in was the Security and Emergency Preparedness Plan template, produced by the Security Risk Management Standards Work Group. This Recommended Practice was the first document completed by the work group, and probably the one we’ve received the most feedback on.

For public transit agencies that are required to have such a plan in place but don’t have the staffing to do the necessary research on how to build one, this document provides a complete template, customizable to an agency’s needs.

The group has recently completed and published its first revision of the document. It is available free, along with all the other APTA Standards, online.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I’ve worked at APTA nearly eight years. Like many of my colleagues in transportation, I simply fell into it.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry?
APTA was my first affiliation with public transportation. The closest tie I had to APTA before I came to work here was in experience working with other nonprofits.

What professional affiliations do you have?
I’m a Project Management Professional certified through the Project Management Institute.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
In my early career I was a high school science and math teacher. Loved it!

Make sure you see Kevin Dow's video, now that you've read this!


5 Ways the Next U.S. Secretary of Transportation Will Be Forced To Follow Ray LaHood’s Lead

BY EMILY BADGER, Staff Writer, The Atlantic Cities

This column originally appeared on on Jan. 29. ©2013. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Ray LaHood is probably best known to the broader public as the ­bureaucrat who has spent the last four years railing against distracted driving. Under his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, his department launched a public service onslaught warning of the modern ­perils of texting while driving (our favorite detail: the federal government now runs a slick website called

LaHood himself told Politico last year that he thought his biggest ­legacy would be his record on safety. But, in fact, to policy wonks, this unlikely crusader—formerly a Republican congressman from ­Central Illinois—will soon leave the job as the man who in many ways fundamentally shifted how Washington thinks about transportation and the federal government’s role in it. After much speculation, LaHood finally announced this morning that he will step down for Obama’s second term.

Whoever takes over the Department of Transportation next (and we’ve got some thoughts on that front) will inherit an agency in the midst of a number of seismic transitions. LaHood may well be remembered as the agency head who got many of these movements underway. And we suspect—and hope—that there will be no turning back from any of them.

1) Transportation is about more than just highways. The federal DOT grew up alongside the Interstate Highway System, and for decades roads have been its focus. Now, that emphasis is shifting at the federal level to include a broader menu of mobility options, from high-speed rail to local transit to biking and even walking.

2) And that changes the goals of transportation policy. When we move away from a laser-like focus on highways, suddenly the ultimate outcomes of transportation policy become less about moving cars faster through congestion, and more about connecting people to opportunity and improving quality of life. Under LaHood, the DOT finally began talking about smart transportation as an essential ingredient in creating more “livable” and sustainable communities.

3) Transportation is ­inseparable from housing, education, the environment, and the economy. This seems like an obvious revelation to anyone who has ever decided where to live by looking at a mass transit map. But it’s a novel idea for the federal government. For the first time, the DOT, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are all now thoughtfully coordinating policy, in recognition of the fact that decisions made in one silo have a direct impact in all of the ­others. LaHood frequently spoke in the same sentence about transportation and jobs, and the impact of our infrastructure on whole regional economies.

4) Meaningful transportation planning requires bottom-up problem solving. As Brookings transportation scholar Robert Puentes puts it for us: “We’re moving from transportation’s late 20th century federalism model where the federal government provides resources that rain down unencumbered to the state and metropolitan level. Most of that took the form of the interstate highway program.” In the 21st century model shepherded by LaHood, state and metropolitan leaders have to come up with their own innovative (and cost-effective) approaches to transportation problems, coordinating with the federal government. That means, Puentes adds, “closer connections between transportation and things states and metros care most about (e.g., economic development, livable communities, safety, etc.).”

5) Technology is changing how we get around. LaHood doesn’t want you to text while you drive. But, argues Transportation for America’s David ­Goldberg, he and his team recognize that smart phones “are also enabling a massive shift toward on-demand mobility. You can now book a shared car or find a bikeshare station, see when the next bus is coming, or report problems with congestion or a train line. It’s not automatic anymore that you jump in your car and join the traffic jam every time you leave your house.” The DOT now recognizes, ­Goldberg says, that the world is rapidly changing, and that the conventional responses—“let’s pour more concrete”—will be insufficient to address it.
Emily Badger is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times.