March 24, 2017
» The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority seeks a general manager and chief executive officer. [More]
» Laketran, Lake County, OH, is looking for a general manager. [More]
» The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System seeks proposals for procurement of 60-foot low-floor CNG transit buses. [More]
View more Classified Ads »
TO PLACE AN AD: E-mail the requested date(s) of publication to: Mailing address is: Passenger Transport, 1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005. Ad copy is not accepted by phone. DEADLINE: 3 p.m. EST, Friday, one week prior to publication date. INFORMATION: Phone (202) 496-4877.

Legislative Conference Features Public Transit Industry Experts and Washington Insiders; Attendees Gather to Hear about Transportation's Impact and Investments, Policies and Politics

The following brief reports recount some of the highlights from the APTA Legislative Conference.

APTA, FTA Leaders Focus on Jobs, Rebuilding

APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes opened the 42nd annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, March 13, with an upbeat video illustrating public transportation’s impact on jobs and economic growth.

“We need to deliver that message,” he said. “And not just today, but throughout this entire legislative cycle,” said Barnes, executive director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA.

Citing APTA’s research projects and advocacy tools, Barnes told the nearly 550 attendees that its resources enable all members to be great advocates. He encouraged the audience to use APTA’s materials to make our industry’s voice heard “loud, clear and often.”

FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes representing U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao, said the secretary’s top priorities are safety, jobs and innovation, and said she understands public transportation’s important role in contributing to productivity growth, revitalizing communities, expanding mobility and ensuring safety.

“All of those benefits are at risk if we fail to repair and replace our aging infrastructure,” he said. “The time is now for a program of national rebuilding.”

He outlined FTA’s agenda to accelerate the time it takes to get projects started and finished; revisit proposed and final FTA rules to further streamline projects and reduce unnecessary administrative burdens; examine discretionary programs to target resources more effectively toward critical, nationally-significant infrastructure needs; and explore new ways to unleash private sector investment in our nation’s infrastructure.

“APTA’s experience is needed to identify obstacles, help us craft our new policies and implement the programs that will revitalize the country’s infrastructure,” Welbes said.

Acting President & CEO Richard White called on all APTA members to mobilize and continue advocating for stronger federal investment, calling public transit “the backbone of a multimodal lifestyle.”

“We’re in the midst of an unpredictable political environment, but the facts are on our side,” he said, noting that “87 percent of trips give people the chance to make money and spend money, which drives the economy.”

White said APTA is working closely and aggressively with its partners, Congress and the administration to leverage opportunities and defend against potential threats.

Howard: Define Terms of Infrastructure Proposal
Jack Howard, senior vice president, congressional and public affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, called on APTA members to help define the terms of the infrastructure proposal forthcoming from the Trump administration, which he said he hoped would be underway by August.

“We want a focus on real projects that will result in long-term economic growth,” Howard said during “The ‘Insider’ Perspective for the Transit Industry,” a breakfast session sponsored by the APTA Business Member Activity Fund.

Further, he said, public transit supporters must make Congress understand that “infrastructure is more than just highways. We must make that case.”

APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes, left, and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White, right, with speaker Jack Howard of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, second from left, and BMBG Chair Jeffrey Wharton.
He pointed out that public transit advocates have an advantage in setting the terms of the discussion, in that the administration has no existing blueprint for its infrastructure plans. “You can help fill in a lot of blanks,” Howard told the transit advocates. “It’s a great opportunity for you.”

Howard noted that more than two-thirds of Republicans serving in the House were elected since 2010, meaning that they have never worked with a president of their own party until now and are used to serving as the opposition.

He also reported on the challenges facing Congress and the president, including the upcoming issue of whether to raise the debt ceiling and the April 28 deadline to pass FY 2017 appropriations bills before continuing resolutions expire that day.

Jeffrey Wharton, chair of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors; member, APTA Board of Directors; ­member-at-large, APTA Executive Committee; and president, IMPulse NC LLC, Mount Olive, NC, presided at the session. “I’m proud of business members’ role in building partnerships,” he said, ­noting that APTA business members have planned a fly-in for later in the year.

APTA is a longtime member of the U.S. Chamber-led Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition and has worked with business, labor and highway interests on recent authorization bills, a partnership that will continue on new infrastructure investment proposals.

Strong Transit Leads to Vibrant Cities and Neighborhoods

Robust public transportation strengthens the heart of city and regional development by leveraging investments, revitalizing neighborhoods and supporting jobs, said panelists at the “Public Transportation: A Catalyst to Local Economic Development” session.

Panel moderator Valarie J. McCall, left, with Robin-Eve Jasper, Tom Murphy and Scott Rowe.
Moderator Valarie J. McCall, APTA immediate past chair and member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees, described the city’s two successful BRT lines, the Cleveland State University Line and the HealthLine, which helped revive Euclid Avenue, one of the city’s main thoroughfares.

McCall cited a study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy reporting that the HealthLine returned $114 for every $1 invested, “the highest ROI of any public transit project in North America, regardless of mode.”

Pittsburgh’s former mayor, Tom Murphy, now with the Urban Land Institute, encouraged attendees to take advantage of changing employment patterns and shifting lifestyle choices by people who want to live in cities.

“Take advantage of this moment,” Murphy said. “Will we think about transit as we have for the last 30, 40 or 50 years or look at what’s happening today?” he asked. “It’s up to us.”

Scott Rowe, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Upper Marlboro, MD, described the evolution of TOD at a shopping center on ­WMATA’s Yellow and Green Metrorail lines.

“You can afford to wait; you only get it right once,” he said, adding that agencies should use their influence to advocate for TOD-friendly regulations.

Robin-Eve Jasper, NoMa Business Improvement District, Washington, DC, described transit’s role in the neighborhood, which includes a stop on ­WMATA’s Red Line that opened in 2004.

“Ten years later in 2014, 2.6 million square feet of office, 270,000 square feet of retail and 3,300 residential units had been added,” she said.

The Transit Coalition: Partners in Funding
APTA’s coalition partners in the surface transportation authorization process discussed in a session how their organizations and members are advocating for additional infrastructure investment under a new administration.

Diana C. Mendes, member, APTA Board of Directors; vice chair, Legislative Committee; HNTB Corp., moderated the session. Referring to the current political landscape, Mendes said, “we need to think creatively and build all the partnerships we can to advance our shared outcomes.”

HNTB’s Diana Mendes, vice chair, Legislative Committee, moderated a panel of public transit coalition members, including, from left, Jim Tymon, AASHTO; Sean O’Neill, Associated General Contractors of America; and Dean Franks, ARTBA.

Jim Tymon, COO/director of policy and management, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said his organization represents all modes of transportation and “we are committed to multimodal solutions to transportation issues. We don’t just look at things from the highway perspective.”

He added that it was “great to get the FAST Act for multiyear projects,” but said the problem is that five years of “predictability and stability doesn’t mean a whole lot if Congress is not able to pass yearly appropriations bills.” Without a full year 2017 appropriations bill, Tymon said, “states and transit agencies are behind the eight ball because we’re looking at the upcoming construction season.”

Sean O’Neill, senior director, congressional relations, infrastructure advancement, Associated General Contractors of America, said his members’ focus in the short term is on the FY 2017 appropriations bill being passed into law.
He expressed concern as well about the upcoming construction season and said state DOTs “won’t let projects happen whether they be transit projects or construction projects.”

Dean Franks, vice president, congressional relations, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, echoed the need for a full 2017 bill.

One of his association’s focuses, he added, is the possibility of including a Highway Trust Fund fix in any tax reform package considered by Congress.

Welcome to Washington: The Insider Perspective

During “Welcome to Washington,” Amy Walter, national editor, Cook Political Report, and Robert Costa, national political reporter, Washington Post, shared their insights on the dynamics between the new administration and Congress.

Paul Wiedefeld, member, APTA Board of Directors, and general manager/CEO, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, welcomed attendees.

Walter said the traditional “rules of the game we have played by, that certain rule of political gravity that campaigns had to follow, got thrown out and we had an untraditional, unorthodox candidate. Now we have an untraditional, unorthodox president and it’s either going to work or it’s not.”

What’s working, said Walter, is that Trump has a Republican base that is committed to him. And, she noted, he still has a 90 percent approval rating among Republicans.

Session speakers included, from left, Gregory R. Yates, AECOM; Paul Wiedefeld, WMATA GM/CEO; Amy Walter, Cook Political Report; Robert Costa, Washington Post; APTA Chair Doran J. Barnes; and APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White.
What’s working against him, she said, is that he is not doing much reaching out to the other [Democratic] side.

She encouraged attendees to watch what is taking place in the Oval Office and not get caught up in the distractions.

Costa recounted the more than 50 interviews he has had with Trump since 2013, during which the president talked often about immigration, trade and rebuilding America.

Costa also spoke about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who “truly believes in things like infrastructure and transportation.” He said Bannon is “at the heart of this presidency and is the one, in fact, who proposed the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that was floated to Trump.”

Saying he’s known both men for a long time, Costa said, “I can tell you they are not Republicans at heart, but in Bannon’s words, he is kind of a populist nationalist. And Trump is a Trumpist—he wants to win and he is willing to change.”

Upcoming hearings on Capitol Hill, he said, will forecast much of what is in store. AECOM sponsored the session.

Words and Pictures

Supplement these articles by watching videos of the Opening General Session and the General Session featuring members of Congress. Find them here.
« Previous Article
Return to Top
Next Article »

© Copyright American Public Transportation Association
1300 I Street NW, Suite 1200 East, Washington, DC 20005
Telephone (202) 496-4882 • Fax (202) 496-4321
Print Version | Search Back Issues | Contact Us | Unsubscribe
Twitter Flickr Blog YouTube Facebook