October 11, 2010
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Rogoff Keynotes APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
Using the famous opening line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”—Administrator Peter M. Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) kicked off his keynote speech during the Oct. 4 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting to describe the ups and downs faced by public transportation in the past year.
Rogoff then affirmed his and the Obama administration’s “commitment to a multimodal surface transportation bill, not a bill for roads and a little bit for the other modes,” calling the president’s advocacy for transportation issues the strongest since Dwight Eisenhower in the days of the Interstate Highway System. He commented: “Who would have believed $8 billion for transit [in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act]? The only other federal program to receive that kind of funding was high-speed rail—also transportation.”
With Obama’s Labor Day call for a long-term transportation authorization bill, front-loaded with $50 billion, Rogoff said: “With a predictable funding source like a six-year bill, you can go to bed knowing that your system will stay open. This commitment will return us to the days when transit agencies could make plans more than a year in advance with a secure federal funding stream.”
During the session, the administrator announced the imminent release of grants totaling $776 million under FTA’s new State of Good Repair discretionary program—including two grants to VIA, the conference host, totaling $7.1 million.
Rogoff noted that these grants will enable transit providers to replace older maintenance facilities and to put clean, fuel-efficient hybrid buses on the road.
FTA made the money available in response to the needs cited in DOT’s National State of Good Repair Assessment Study, released in June, which estimated that the cost of bringing the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into a state of good repair is close to $78 billion.
“I think I’ve made the case as to why this is the best of times for transit; however, in some cases, it’s also the worst of times,” Rogoff continued. “Unemployment is still too high, poverty rates are too high, and every transit agency faces the possibility of cutbacks as their tax revenues fall …We know why the cuts had to be made, but that doesn’t make them any less painful. Even with that,” he said, “I remain optimistic.”