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Public Transit's Future: Lead Change or Be Changed; Melaniphy Proposes Shared Mobility Initiative

On Monday, March 14, the opening day of APTA’s 2016 Legislative Conference, President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced an initiative to help prepare and position APTA for the new mobility paradigm being driven by emerging technologies and changing demographics.

Melaniphy called for APTA to convene a first-ever, cross-disciplinary summit on integrated, shared mobility next year, bringing together stakeholders and thought leaders from the public and private sectors. A key goal is to demonstrate APTA’s leadership in shaping this issue and the future of public transportation.

An edited and abbreviated version of his remarks follow.

Today, I want to talk about tomorrow—the tomorrow that’s coming sooner than many of us may think—and with it, the future of APTA and the millions of Americans who rely on us.

Yes, we can feel good about where APTA is today. We won congressional approval of a five-year authorization bill, a permanent commuter tax benefit, an extension of the alternative fuels tax and more time to install PTC safety systems. All of you worked for this. It’s a big deal.

That’s today. The question we must answer is this: What is public transportation going to look like tomorrow?

Every part of our society and culture—every industry, every organization and every company is going through fundamental change today. Change is everywhere. The choice is simple: If we do not lead change, we will be changed.

Understanding tomorrow’s change starts with understanding our customers. What they want will define our future.
They want personalized, customized solutions. They demand choice. And they expect the newest products and services to meet their needs. They want ideas that are designed around their needs, their wants and their schedules. Today, people want that one unique size that fits “just me.”

Much of this is being driven by the demographic shifts we see in ridership and in the accelerating rate of innovation. More than ever before, ­public transportation must be perceived to be my transportation.

To be precise, the future is about integrated, shared mobility. It means matching personal preferences with a growing array of transportation options to create a unique travel experience.

What does integrated, shared mobility look like? A lot of it is familiar to us. It is buses, subways and trains … and ferries and planes. It is high-speed rail, runways and waterways, trails and bike lanes. It is shared rides and seamless online ticketing. It is linking together regional transit networks. It is buses that communicate with smartphones and trains that talk with sign schedules. It’s paperless, cashless, wireless and as portable as a smartphone app.

For each rider, it’s an individual answer to get from A to B. In this new world of rider-selected solutions, it will mean things we can’t even imagine today.

But one thing is certain: Integrated, shared mobility must mean us—public transportation and APTA. We must lead it; we must own it.

What could be more personal or important, not just to us and not just to our riders, but also to public officials, community leaders and employers?

We’ll still be the American Public Transportation Association. And when people think about where they’re going today and tomorrow, they will think of us first as their problem solvers.

Our strategic plan, The Way Forward, is the launch pad to this new world—the blueprint to grow our communities and economic opportunities. To help us explore new ideas, we’ve signed up Lyft, Bridj, MOTIVATE and Uber to be APTA members. And tomorrow, APTA is releasing a new study titled Shared Mobility and the Transformation of Public Transit.

Still, we have a unique responsibility to demonstrate bold leadership. So, I plan to propose to the board that APTA convene a first-ever, cross-disciplinary summit on shared mobility next year.

We will bring together all key stakeholders from the public and ­private ­sectors­—business, tech­nology, government, finance and transportation. My goal is to begin a high-level, high-octane dialogue where the best ideas can be shared and the toughest challenges addressed. And long-term sustainable funding must be an essential part of the summit agenda.

APTA will be the pre-eminent authority on personal mobility. We must continue to be a thought leader, a catalyst for research and development, a knowledge center and clearinghouse for new ideas and the partner of choice for technology companies, auto companies, all kinds of transportation companies and every entrepreneur who wants to help move our riders.

As more providers of transportation services connect and collaborate, APTA will create new opportunities for you, our members, to be the leaders of integrated, shared mobility in your communities.

I began my remarks by saying I wanted to talk about tomorrow. If we embrace the transformative issues that lie ahead, we will have many great tomorrows to talk about.

By defining­­­—and leading—the emerging paradigm of shared mobility, we can shape our future. We know where America is going. No one knows it better than we do. And we must lead the way. Let’s get going!
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