Congress is once again ramping up the process of authorizing surface transportation programs, and the members of APTA are ready to offer their recommendations.
For over a year, APTA members of all types came together with a singular goal: advancing public transportation in our country. This past December, after months of thoughtful debate and consensus building, our members approved a recommended series of changes to the current federal public transportation program that we believe would benefit the industry as a whole.
While the industry provided consensus recommendations in the past, this time around I am particularly proud of the work APTA’s members accomplished. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) adopted a number of APTA’s recommendations to the previous authorization law, which we were very pleased to see. However, our industry also identified a number of changes to MAP-21 and the prior law that they felt would better advance public transportation investment and policy in the future.
Recognizing that all systems—large and small, bus-only or rail—across the country are in this fight together, our members adopted recommendations that benefit public transportation as a whole. Instead of pushing for changes that would benefit some systems at the expense of others, we recognized that in order for the industry to grow at all it needs to grow together.
We found common ground on a number of contentious issues and approved consensus recommendations that would benefit everyone. I am particularly proud of this iteration of APTA’s Surface Transportation Authorization Recommendations, our final report, which you can find on APTA’s website.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, given the looming expiration of MAP-21, Congress has left us with no time to stand around and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. A number of the committees of jurisdiction, including the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have begun holding initial hearings on reauthorizing the surface transportation programs; now is the time for APTA members to make their voices heard.
The APTA recommendations provide a path for growth and prosperity for our nation’s public transportation systems and the businesses that serve them. In adopting our recommendations, Congress could send a strong signal that they recognize the importance of our industry and that we have their support.
If you recall the last authorization process, the public transportation industry was faced with a serious challenge to its funding and dedicated revenue stream. While we do not expect a repeat of that legislative battle, APTA members need to recognize the weight their voice carries with members of Congress and the necessity of voicing their opinions with lawmakers.
The APTA Legislative Conference is the premier event for networking with other public transportation industry insiders about Congress, the administration, and the future of transit. This year, the annual event, now in its 39th year, will again feature discussions with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, FTA and FRA officials, state and local government officials, as well as our partners from Capitol Hill. Additionally, there will be an entire session devoted to social media and how it is being used to connect, inform, and advocate. We will also have an Advocacy Resource Center, open all week, where you can find useful materials on current legislative topics of concern.
We ask all conference attendees to use the conference as an opportunity to inform themselves about the state of the industry, APTA’s reauthorization recommendations, and the major issues and challenges facing public transportation. Following the conference, we want you to ask “What am I doing to advance the state of the industry?” We all work very hard, day in and day out, to provide the best possible service to our riders, but Congress wants to hear directly from us, and so we need to go the extra mile.
If you’re an APTA business member, have you hosted a site visit for your member of Congress? Lawmakers need to know about the jobs that depend on their support for surface transportation legislation, and nothing makes a better statement than hands-on exposure. If you work for a transit property, have you weighed in with Congress about the importance of your property to riders, both commuters and those who are transit dependent?
We cannot expect others to make the case for us; we are our own best advocates. If you are unsure of messaging or how best to make an impact, the staff in APTA’s government affairs and communications and marketing departments are your go-to resource for assistance. They know the Hill, inside and out, and can help you make an impact, but as we have seen time and again, lawmakers want to hear directly from their own constituents. That’s why we need you to get involved.
I know that, working together, we can make the case before Congress and the Administration to provide the investments in public transportation that our communities need to grow and prosper.
This “Commentary” section features different points of view from various sources to enhance readers’ broad awareness of themes and views that affect public transportation.