APTA | Passenger Transport
October 11, 2010

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Authorization, Economy, Infrastructure, Inclusion; Multiple Topics Jump Start APTA’s 2010 Annual Meeting in San Antonio
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

“San Antonio is known as a city of missions,” said APTA President William Millar in his welcoming remarks at the Opening General Session of the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. “And we are here with a mission of our own: to share knowledge, create opportunities, and advance public transportation.”

Speaking to nearly 2,000 transportation professionals in a packed meeting room, Millar presented highlights of the past year, including the first quarterly increase in total U.S. transit ridership in six quarters: public transit agencies nationwide provided more than 2.5 billion passenger trips in the second quarter of 2010. “History shows that as the economy grows, public transit ridership tends to increase,” he said, “so this rise in ridership offers hope that we may be coming out of the recession and ridership may continue to move upward in many parts of the country.”

In recounting outgoing APTA Chair M.P. Carter’s year-long Telling Our Story initiative, Millar called on the membership to “keep telling that story.” He also urged attendees to sign the online petition supporting increased federal investment in public transportation.

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, presented the keynote address at this session. (See related story.)

Texas Secretary of State Esperanza (Hope) Andrade, a former board chair of VIA Metropolitan Transit, host system for the meeting, and former chair of the Texas Transportation Commission, described the unique and sometimes contradictory qualities of Texas. She noted that the state contains both the most urban and the most rural parts of the U.S. and has the 11th largest economy in the world.

“Sustaining our quality of life is important. We recognize that public transportation plays a key role in this economy,” she said. “As secretary of state, I continue to tout the benefits of transit.”

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro remarked that his city, the seventh largest in the nation, “is the new face of the American Dream” and said public transportation “is the intersection of the quality of life and economic development. Transit can be the catalyst for completely turning around the trajectory of cities across the nation.”

Representing the host system were Henry R. Muñoz III, chair of the VIA Board of Trustees, and Keith T. Parker, AICP, VIA president/chief executive officer.

Parker called his agency “a hidden gem among public transit providers…a fundamentally strong system, but we aspire to be more.” He added that while VIA currently provides only bus service, it is making plans for a multimodal future incorporating streetcar lines.

Muñoz pointed to the city’s “rich public transportation history” and said that while San Antonio is one of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas without rail, its bus service is among the best in the nation.

In her remarks, Carter described the “amazing journey” she has undertaken since joining the Memphis Area Transit Authority board 19 years ago, saying: “I could not have anticipated that I would end up in this spot.”

She discussed each of her initiatives, which included passage of the new governance structure; enactment of the five-year APTA Strategic Plan; and executive committee approval of the final report of the Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel.

“But the initiative I have poured my heart into,” she said, “is Telling Our Story.” She continued: “And you have taken opportunity after opportunity to tell your story. In doing so, you’ve helped raise awareness nationwide—of the tremendous benefits of public transportation.”

She invited the audience to sit back and watch a short video highlighting both the year’s Telling Our Story initiative and the special event held Sept. 22 on Capitol Hill. She made the point that this effort will live on with the newly launched online video wall—where hundreds of testimonials are posted. With that, she introduced one such posting—from Ed Begley Jr., a longtime environmental and public transportation advocate.

After concluding her remarks with “that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it,” she participated in the traditional “passing of the gavel” to incoming Chair Michael Scanlon.

Millar then provided a heartfelt introduction of Scanlon, noting they first began working together more than 35 years ago in Pittsburgh.

After expressing thanks to his family for their continued support, Scanlon identified what he plans to concentrate on for the next 12 months. He announced that “inclusion and relationships” will be the focus of his term as APTA chair.

“We have no higher priority than authorization, but we have to include everyone in getting it passed,” he said. “We have to get all the stakeholders involved—and many stakeholders have no idea they are stakeholders. They have no idea of the impact transit has on the environment, the economy, the nation’s energy needs. We need to go way beyond our members to form new partnerships. We have so much in common with so many people today; we just need to be respectful of how each and every person sees the world.”

Scanlon said: “With authorization at the top of our list of priorities, APTA must play a central role as the messenger and advocate for the changes we know must take place. We can be the vehicle—pun much intended—for a revitalized economy, putting people to work on critically needed infrastructure projects.”

He also picked up on the “Telling Our Story” theme, saying: “We’re going to have to keep telling our story day in and day out.”

“We can be drum majors for the administration’s commitment to livability, because the services we provide will be at the heart of a transit-friendly, sustainable, environmentally and economically sound—and walkable!—America,” he said, adding: “We have a big agenda—no question—but it is matched by our ambitions and by our energy.”

The session concluded with an energetic invitation to attend the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans, LA. Justin Augustine, chief executive officer of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, and Michael P. Melaniphy, chair of APTA’s International Public Transportation EXPO Advisory Committee and vice president, public sector, for Motor Coach Industries Inc., threw iconic Mardi Gras beads to the audience and stressed the energy and planning that have already gone into this effort, noting that more than 15,000 people are expected to attend from around the world. Augustine then asked everyone to watch a video extolling the rich culture and history of his city.

The session opened to the sounds of a mariachi band—led by Jesse Quintero, a 45-year employee of VIA Metropolitan Transit.

Trapeze Group sponsored the session; its chief executive officer, Mark Miller, spoke briefly about technology’s role in public transit.



APTA Chair Michael J. Scanlon 

Nearly 2,000 people attended the opening session.



Speakers at the Opening General Session include, from left: standing, Henry Munoz, Michael Scanlon, M.P. Carter, Michael Melaniphy, Justin Augustine, Peter Rogoff; seated, William Millar, Texas Secretary of State Esperanza (Hope) Andrade, Mark Miller of Trapeze Group, and Keith Parker.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro


Michael Melaniphy, left, and Justin Augustine promote EXPO 2011 in New Orleans. 


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