At a March 12 General Session, “The Transit Coalition: Partners in Transportation Authorization,” representatives of stakeholders in the authorization process discussed their respective organizations’ advocacy efforts on behalf of a surface transportation bill and called for quick passage.
Moderator Ronald L. Epstein, chair, APTA, Finance and Tax Policy Subcommittees, and chief financial officer, New York State DOT, Albany, NY, opened the session, calling the panelists powerful advocates for public transportation and surface transportation in all modes.
John Horsley, executive director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, told the audience that the states want, and need, transportation in the Highway Trust Fund: “The states were solid together with public transportation and APTA.”
America can’t move forward without a transportation bill, Horsley said, and we “simply have to get a bill through the House.” He urged APTA members to visit every Congressional member they could.
Janet F. Kavinoky, executive director, congressional and public affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and vice president, Americans for Transportation Mobility, said there is finally “light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have to fight our way through the House bill.” She said that it was a “terrific time” to be in Washington: the House needs to pass a transportation bill and get into conference with the Senate, while Congress is focused on the nation’s debt.
“We eat, sleep, and breathe transportation,” Kavinoky said, “but some are just now waking up to it now.” As APTA members prepared to go to the Hill that afternoon, she advised them that “what matters in Washington are stories. We need to be better storytellers,” specifically why transportation matters.
Dale J. Marsico, executive director, Community Transportation Association of America, noted that “every other interest group is in the same place” as APTA. “It’s just not something we can control based on the good work we do,” he said.” There are serious things wrong in the political process. More people need to get involved.”
He said all the partners need to find a way to engage those members who represent them, both in Washington and at home: “We need to take our story to them and make it simple. Not only do we need to talk to our members, we need to stand on our soapbox and say: ‘I am the most important investment you are going to make with our tax dollars. Without us, millions of Americans will not be able to get to work. Tell them public transit moves people and makes their lives possible.’”
Dave Bauer, senior vice president of government relations, The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, said the audience members are “all partners in public transportation; we’re not just people who work together when it is convenient.” He noted that public transit and highways are interconnected and, echoing the theme of the session, emphasized the necessity of partnerships.
Jeffrey Soth, assistant director, Department of Legislative and Political Affairs, International Union of Operating Engineers, said no federal legislation is more important to operating engineers than the transportation bill: “The country is in a recession but the construction industry is in a depression.” Noting his industry has lost two million jobs already, he said, “This makes us anxious about the future in the context of transportation.”
Photo by Todd Parola
Participants in the session include, from left, Dave Bauer, Jeffrey Soth, Dale Marsico, Janet Kavinoky, John Horsley, and moderator Ronald L. Epstein.