APTA | Passenger Transport
December 21, 2009

In This Issue


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High-Speed Rail Tops New Policy Directions for 2009
BY ART GUZZETTI, APTA Vice President-Policy

As much as any year in recent memory, 2009 saw the emergence of new directions in transportation policy: high-speed rail as a national priority; increasing attention to climate change; new directions put forth by the Obama administration; and the need to align APTA’s governance and committee structure with long-term changes.

New Policy Themes and Approaches
The Obama administration has sought to connect transportation policy with broader themes of economic recovery, energy, environment, and urban development.

APTA’s initial work with the Transportation Transition Team, President Obama’s group tasked with identifying key transportation issues for the administration to pursue, has translated into ongoing dialogue on new, cutting-edge issues. Attention early in the year was on shaping economic recovery programs, including new programs focused on high-speed rail, multi-modal approaches, energy, and climate-friendly transportation approaches.

In June, DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced an interagency partnership for sustainable communities to develop federal policies that could help support and shape state and local land use decisions and infrastructure investments.

Work also has continued in numerous other policy areas, including state of good repair, performance measures, safety, and greenhouse gas reduction. A highlight was DOT’s sponsorship of a transit panel at the recent international climate change talks in Copenhagen. The panel, “Buses, Trains, and Commuter Vans: Reducing Carbon Through U.S. Public Transit,” included presentations by APTA members.

High-Speed Rail
The administration introduced high-speed rail as a signature issue in February and unveiled a national vision in an April White House ceremony. Since then, its activities have included discussions of a National Rail Plan; a U.S. Rail Manufacturing Summit; and working with APTA’s membership, DOT, and other key industry partners to help shape an ongoing, vibrant national high-speed rail program.

To set direction to key partnerships, APTA and the International Union of Railways (UIC), the organization representing high-speed rail systems around the world, developed an International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States, to be held in Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles in February 2010.

APTA also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the States for Passenger Rail coalition, and established a separate MOU with UIC. The association has forged many additional strategic partnerships on high-speed rail, including the One-Rail coalition, a group with membership of all components of the rail industry including freight rail and rail labor.

Changes in Governance and Committee Structure
A comprehensive assessment of APTA’s governance and committee structure began in January 2009. The APTA Board of Directors approved bylaws changes in October that will align APTA’s governance model with the themes of APTA’s TransitVision 2050 initiative and the issues that will confront the public transportation community over the next 40 years.

Some of these changes would include members of the APTA Executive Committee serving without portfolio and chairs of designated committees serving on the APTA Board of Directors, and strengthening the role of committees and the board. The changes are aimed at broadening opportunities for participation in APTA governance, and providing a path to leadership.

A vote is currently underway by the full APTA membership to approve the related changes to the bylaws.

New Policy Research
In January 2009, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, established by Congress in SAFETEA-LU, released recommendations on transportation funding. The report acknowledged an enormous backlog in federal transportation needs and identified numerous revenue options, many of which will be required in combination to address the magnitude of the funding shortfall.

Through the assistance of APTA business members, an April 2009 report—“Impacts of the Financial Crisis on the Transportation Industry: Challenges and Opportunities”—assessed the full impact of the economic collapse on transportation finance, and how transit agencies and businesses were affected.

Also released in April was “Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: An Update,” which examined the job-creation impact of transit investment.

The report found that every $1 billion in public transportation capital and operations supports an average 36,000 jobs, which in turn results in approximately $3.6 billion of business sales and the generation of nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

In November, APTA issued “The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation,” which provides vital information to private investors as they consider investments or future expansion into the public transportation industry.

A landmark report, “Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” analyzed the full range of transportation solutions and concluded that bundling together such strategies as land use, road pricing, and public transportation was necessary to achieve the greatest impact.

Development of this report was a collaboration among APTA, the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), FTA, EPA, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, Shell Oil Company, and the Urban Land Institute.

Other policy initiatives explored tactics and strategies for enacting transportation ballot measures; surveys to gauge the impact on transit of the economic hard times; and a report on how regional planning and governance can be strengthen to the benefit of transit.

New Monthly Lecture Series
Also this year, APTA introduced a new monthly lecture series—“Transportation Tuesdays at APTA”—where transportation officials, stakeholders, and key partners convene at the APTA offices in Washington for a presentation and discussion.

Recent speakers for this program have included FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator Karen Rae, and FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez.

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