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Opening Session Celebrates Public Transit Investment, Value, Access

At the official conference kickoff on Monday morning, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Valley Metro Interim CEO Scott Smith applauded APTA’s mission and the importance of public transportation.

“Phoenix is the poster child for how investment in public transit can change a city,” Stanton said. Calling attention to local taxpayers’ support for investing $8 billion in new infrastructure and partnerships with shared mobility services like Uber, he said “great cities need to support as many different transportation options as possible.”

Gallego explained that fighting for more federal money to support public transportation is personal. “Growing up in Chicago, the CTA was my ‘second parent’,” he said. “Transit took me to school, to my first summer job, to the museum and to a world beyond my neighborhood.”

Smith, a business leader and former mayor of Mesa, AZ, talked about public transportation’s ability to change the way people live, interact and invest. “Passenger rail changes lives ... and changes communities in ways they didn’t even know they could be changed,” he said. Smith called APTA’s efforts “a noble cause,” saying “when people have a chance to experience the benefits of public transportation, they become passionate.”

In opening remarks, APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes welcomed attendees to the conference, recalling his father’s affection for the legendary Super Chief passenger trains of the 1930s and ’40s.

“Some say those were rail’s glory days, but our greatest days are here now … and ahead of us,” said Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, who presided at the crowded session. “Rail’s popularity is clear: Ridership is up across the country despite low gas prices, and the public knows that public transportation is a magnet for economic growth.”

Barnes said one of the industry’s biggest challenges continues to be infrastructure needs, but he expressed optimism, asserting that public transportation has always found a way to turn challenges into opportunities.

Tom Waldron, global transit marketing director for HDR, the session’s sponsor, applauded the conference theme, “Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows” and presented a video about industry future trends.

Opening General Session speakers were, from left, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, APTA Vice Chair Doran Barnes, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Valley Metro Interim CEO Scott Smith.




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