January and aspirations. They are inextricably linked. The beginning of every new year encourages us to dream even bigger, strive more boldly, and be better at what matters most. It’s a time for self-improvement, a time to set priorities and make resolutions. It’s a time to ask ourselves: “What do I want to accomplish this year?”
For our industry, the answer to that question has never been more important. Our 2013 aspirations matter because of the tens of millions of people who rely on us every day. And this year, they need us to deliver on new promises more than ever.
And we are off to an incredible start already this year, as we secured both parity in the transit commuter benefit and the alternative fuel tax credit in the first week of January. Clearly our industry resonates with the Congress and the public.
Building on our many achievements in 2012, which were highlighted in our Annual Report last fall, we look forward to many more accomplishments in the new year.
Listening to Voters
It’s impossible to know where you’re going if you don’t take stock of where you’ve been. In November 2012, Americans nationwide approved 49 of 62–or 79 percent–of public transit initiatives. That represents our best showing at the ballot box since APTA and the Center for Transportation Excellence began tracking these ballot measures in the year 2000!
These public transit projects are game changers for the residents of places like Orange County, NC; Columbia, SC; Virginia Beach, VA; Arlington, VA; Grand Rapids, MI; Kalamazoo, MI; Muskegon, MI; Toledo, OH; and many more large and small communities. Regardless of political affiliation, voters put their trust in public transportation on Election Day. Now, we need to deliver on the promise of access, service and reliability. If we do what Americans voted for, not only will we change lives and strengthen communities, we’ll also garner even greater support for future public transit initiatives.
Return on Investment
If last year’s victories at the ballot box were not compelling enough, public transportation continued to raise the bar for our aspirations in 2013. In a nationwide survey, the public told us what it thinks—and what it wants:
* 81 percent value public transit’s affordable mobility;
* 79 percent believe public transportation offers opportunities for every segment of the population;
* 76 percent favor increased funding for public transportation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve America’s economic security;
* 75 percent support using tax dollars to expand and improve public transportation; and
* 73 percent say a strong transit system leads to economic growth in their communities.
Given these results, our mandate is clear: Keep fighting for those public transit dollars that have proven to be an engine for growth and a lifeline to mobility. In the new year, this will indeed be a challenge. As Congress and the White House seek ways to reduce federal spending and lower the deficit, every sector will need to prove its return on investment. 2013 is the time we’ll redouble our efforts to educate more people, win new allies, and demonstrate public transportation’s essential role in a national recovery.
The passage of MAP-21 legislation last summer has provided some stability and predictability in federal transportation programs. We can all take comfort that the new law provides a way forward to seek longer term investment. Now we must resolve to make implementation of MAP-21 successful. We will continue our strong relationship with the Federal Transit Administration as it works through the daunting task of implementing the many facets of MAP-21, such as the new transit safety program, asset management, and performance measurement, among others.
At the same time, APTA has already begun to plan for life after MAP-21. This year, we will work to develop recommendations for the next bill and we will be an influential player in discussions about a multi-year transportation bill.
We’re looking forward to working with both the veterans and new members of the 113th Congress, including new Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster.
This year, we will also advocate for the creation of a high-speed and intercity passenger rail section in the renewal of rail legislation, which expires in September 2013, and we’ll seek modifications to current law mandating installation of positive train control (PTC) on commuter and freight railroads by 2015.
We’re also seeing activity in openings and expansions. Just some examples: Salt Lake City is opening three new light rail and streetcar lines; Hawaii is moving forward with an exciting new light rail line; streetcars are experiencing a renewal in New Orleans; and Tampa is preparing to open a Bus Rapid Transit route.
For the first three quarters of 2012, we saw ridership increases, and we will build on this momentum with the anticipation that the economy will continue to improve. And Americans are demanding even more public transportation. By 2050, 100 million more people will be living in this nation. And that means we will need more public transportation, including high-speed rail, to reduce congestion, strengthen the economy, and serve the needs of an increasingly diverse population.
More people of all ages are relocating to urban areas. Transit-oriented development development (TOD) is revitalizing communities, as residents seek a lifestyle with easy access to work and leisure. Many developers are recognizing the pent-up demand for TOD and have initiated new development trends with this in mind. Many developers are recognizing the pent-up demand for TOD and have initiated new development trends with this in mind. Some of the strongest – and newest – supporters of public transportation are the Gen X and Yers, who seek economic ease of mobility and want to contribute to reducing their carbon footprints.
And it’s not just the younger generations that want more public transportation options.
As our country’s population ages, public transportation needs to be available to older Americans who choose not to drive or cannot drive any longer. Additionally, 2013 will see an increase in the needs of special populations, such as persons with disabilities, rural residents, and returning veterans.
Public transportation is indeed a lifeline for individuals, which is why APTA Chair Flora Castillo’s theme this year is so appropriate: “Public Transportation: It’s All About the People.”
In study after study, engineers and public safety officials have sounded the alarm about our country’s crumbling infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country a “D” rating, and called for more than $2 trillion in new spending over five years to correct the problem. This is only the beginning. Experts from the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia – including former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation Samuel Skinner and Norman Mineta – concluded that an additional $134 billion to $262 billion per year will be needed to repair, rebuild and upgrade the nation's rail, road and air transportation systems through 2035.
According to FTA, $78 billion is needed to address existing public transit infrastructure needs alone. Assuming a 3.53 percent annual growth in ridership, a total of $60 billion is needed annually for capital investments. Unfortunately, the current level of funding from the federal government is not adequate to address the current backlog of needs, let alone growing ridership demands.
This is why enacting a well-funded, multi-year, long-term surface transportation legislation is APTA’s top priority. By achieving this goal, public transit systems will be able to plan for the future and expand multimodal services for a growing population.
All this means our jobs will be even bigger in 2013. So will the public’s expectations and needs. That’s what comes with success … and we have the aspirations to meet and exceed our New Year’s goals.
The economic recession tested and stretched the resources of our business members and our public transit systems across the country. As a result, we learned important lessons that will serve us well in 2013.
Last year, we proved that public transportation is an integral element of this country’s future. With your support, hard work, and creativity, we’ll capitalize on this victory and write the next chapter of accomplishments for our industry in the coming months. I look forward to working alongside all of you.
Happy New Year!