“If the president of the United States can make the case for public transit, surely you can do the same thing,” Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), told a packed audience at the Oct. 3 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans.
“You tell me the last time a president stood up to talk about the importance of funding public transit,” said Rogoff, emphasizing the important role of public transportation in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act. Given that FTA is such a small agency, he noted: “It’s kind of spooky to have our efforts at the center of the president’s recovery agenda. It’s a time when nobody can sit on the sidelines.”
Rogoff traced the administration’s strong support for public transit back to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—months before he addressed APTA’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.
“When I gave my first speech to APTA as FTA administrator, I told you that how we worked in putting the Recovery Act funds to work would affect everything thereafter. We got billions of dollars on the street rapidly,” Rogoff noted. “But the reward for work is often more work: now the administration is asking for $9 billion for transit in a single year.”
He emphasized, however, that these are contentious times for infrastructure funding, with two sides proposing fundamentally different approaches. While the administration wants to increase public transportation funding in addition to the $9 billion investment up front, the proposed House bill would cut funding by one third in a single year. He reiterated the necessity for APTA members to contact their elected officials to urge them to vote for the American Jobs Act, saying that DOT support just wasn’t enough to convince Congressional legislators that investment in public transit infrastructure not only makes travel safer and more efficient—it creates jobs.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood contributed remarks by video. “You want safe, reliable, convenient, and affordable public transit,” he said, “and the Obama administration is fighting alongside you.” LaHood noted that the proposed jobs bill includes an immediate investment in laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of track for intercity trains and rail transit; $9 billion in repair jobs; and $5 billion for a scaled-up TIGER program.
“In communities across America, transformations are underway because of you,” LaHood continued. “We need you to bring that same commitment to the critical push for the American Jobs Act. This is our chance to put people to work building transit. Transit is not an end in itself, it’s a means. It’s the way we lead our lives and pursue our dreams. If we come together, fight to break through the status quo, we can give American people the transportation choices they demand and deserve. Now’s the time to act.”