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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis December 14, 2012
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2012: The Policy Year in Review
BY ART GUZZETTI, APTA Vice President-Policy

This year can be characterized by new APTA partnerships, new inroads into thought leadership, and in rolling up our sleeves to figure out new challenges brought on by enactment of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and other new policy directions.

Public transportation as a central element of energy policy. In 2012, APTA became involved in energy discussions at a greater level than ever before.

A broad coalition of energy interests, working through a special commission established by the Alliance to Save Energy, launched an initiative to develop policy recommendations that would result in doubling the rate of energy productivity between now and 2030.

The coalition report will cover the full spectrum of energy interests, including power generation, buildings, appliances, and industry. APTA took the lead in working with diverse partners to develop recommendations covering transportation, land use, and accessibility.

The transportation sector accounts for 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption. The largest consumer of petroleum is the automobile, and too many Americans have no choice but to drive for many of their trips. Consistent with the report’s overarching theme of “unleashing investment,” APTA has urged investment in a balanced transportation system that allows energy-efficient transportation options.

Energy policy will be an area of ongoing interest in 2013. The call to increase development of domestic energy sources needs to be coupled with policies that encourage energy efficiency.

New thinking has identified public transportation as a component of a forward-looking strategy for energy efficiency, balanced transportation options, and community choices that greatly reduce the amount of energy necessary for the conduct of daily life.

Funding the growing demand for public transportation. The APTA Board of Directors devoted significant attention this year to “Funding the Future of Public Transportation.” This topic was the focus of presentations, roundtable discussions, and conference calls, resulting in an action plan approved in July.

The plan identified specific action for leveraging partnerships, thought leadership on new funding and financing models, and tapping into the grassroots as ways that APTA and its members can lead the way forward.

Separately, APTA’s Transit Board Members Committee held monthly webinars throughout the year to hear about innovative financial strategies and revenue initiatives that have successfully been implemented by public transit systems throughout North America.

From the toll-road concession that helped build the A-Train in Denton County, TX, to the Eagle P3 project in Denver; from the America Fast Forward initiative in Los Angeles to naming rights programs in Philadelphia and the Dulles Corridor extension of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Metrorail Virginia, funded through a combination of highway tolls, airport passenger facility charges, tax-increment financing, and special tax districts—public transit systems across the U.S. have found numerous ways to move projects forward, even in challenging economic times.

Voters continued to support public transit at the ballot box in 2012. Voters approved public transportation measures in 49 of 62 transit elections, an approval rate of 79 percent.

MAP-21 implementation: a new framework. MAP-21 set a new tone for the federal surface transportation program. Themes including performance measurement, asset management, state of good repair, expedited program delivery, core capacity, program consolidation, safety oversight, and innovative finance each require considerable thought as the legislation itself omits many details.

Implementation of these new programs has been a focus since President Obama signed the bill into law on July 6, 2012.

Thought leadership. APTA stepped up to add clarity on a number of topics. In a new military veterans and public transportation initiative, APTA is working with many partners to help find ways for public transportation to help returning veterans and their families re-engage in civilian life. Military veterans also seem particularly well suited to careers in public transportation.

APTA is also working with its chair, Flora Castillo, and health organizations to bring attention to the importance of the access to health services made possible through public transportation. The American Public Health Association estimates that 3.5 million health appointments per year are missed due to transportation issues.

In 2012, APTA had access to the White House as it has never had before, participating in more than 15 meetings on topics including job creation, wellness, safety, and technology.

And the list goes on and on. Nationwide ridership grew more than 5 percent in the first quarter of the year. An APTA report showed how each spike in gas prices builds and retains ridership. When there were threats to take public transit out of the federal Highway Trust Fund, an APTA report showed how such an action would undermine local finance and destabilize private sector suppliers.

Other reports probed economic benefits, demographic change, and growing trends toward the broader role as mobility managers. And APTA has been asked to provide ideas for the administration’s second term, an update of a document provided for the 2008 transition.

The year 2013 promises to be bigger yet!

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