In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte: “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”
While it was not ten thousand speakers, it was hundreds of APTA members who made their voices heard in the nation’s capital when APTA’s Annual Legislative Conference concluded and its Capitol Hill Summit began.
From March 13 to 15, more than 680 attendees gathered in Washington, DC to participate in these events.
They listened as speaker after speaker talked about the need for a well-funded, six-year, multi-modal surface transportation bill. They listened as a bipartisan array of Members of Congress reiterated that support for public transportation was in a precarious position, and that the time for timidity in lobbying for current and future support was gone.
The speakers—from federal agencies, transit systems, nonprofits, and Congress—confirmed that this year, 2011, is a critical one for the future of the federal transit program. With the Obama administration recommending steep increases in that program and Congress seeking to reduce the federal deficit by cutting funding for domestic programs, input from the transit industry on Capitol Hill is paramount.
* Send a focused message to Capitol Hill.” This was heard time and again. But, the speakers said, the message should not only be focused, it should convey urgency.
* Tell your elected officials that public transit moves their constituents,” the speakers said. Members of Congress in particular repeated these themes:
* Educate your Members. Connect transit to their communities, to their constituents.
* Explain in detail how many jobs will be lost should funding cease. Include not only transportation-related jobs, but jobs people cannot keep if they cannot travel to and from work because of service cuts.
* Do your homework and bring your facts and figures.
* Understand the level of difficulty in trying to convince newly elected officials who campaigned on cutting federal spending how critically important public transportation is to our nation’s mobility.
These attendees listened and acted. When the formal sessions ended at the conference, hundreds of APTA members took public transportation to Capitol Hill—comprising a large, enthusiastic contingent of advocates. As APTA staff noted, everywhere you went, you saw APTA members. The energy, the drive, and the focus were nearly palpable.
This was, everyone agreed, one extremely successful Legislative Conference.