While the APTA EXPO drew transit industry crowds in New Orleans last week, the Occupy Wall Street movement began its spread across the U.S., and the media started paying attention. The ongoing demonstrations are intended to call attention to what participants see as “corporate greed and corrupt politics” ruling U.S. policies, according to the website.
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union lent its support to the movement’s increasing numbers. Kevin Harrington, acting vice president of Local 100, told WNET that the workers joined Occupy Wall Street because the agency’s debt woes have been tied to Wall Street for the past five decades and repayment seems impossible because of Wall Street’s “usurious loans, and a good portion of the Transit Authority’s budget is paying back the interest on these loans without even attacking the principal.”
View a video of the transit workers at the protests here.
Meanwhile, at EXPO last week, while not at all gloom-and-doom, the mood regarding public transportation’s future was optimistic but with a fair amount of concern.
Past and current Presidents Michael Melaniphy and Bill Millar as well as the 2011-2012 APTA chair and president of Dallas Area Rapid Transit Gary C. Thomas, discussed funding challenges and cited the biggest hurdle as the pushback from conservative lawmakers on Congress passing a long-term reauthorization bill.
Members of the Banking Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told attendees they are working on a bill that would restore current funding levels without depleting the Highway Trust Fund, which would spur public transportation cuts closer to 50 percent or 60 percent, instead of the 30 percent cut proposed in Chairman Mica's bill. Attendees talked to me about their hopes for the “Jobs through Growth Act” bill, which despite popularity with the public, was recently shot down by the Senate.
Highlighting these ongoing financial problems that are putting the status quo of U.S. public transit systems into question, we saw in this week’s news announcements of layoffs in the hundreds from Chicago Transit Authority and Detroit’s Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation.
With budget issues becoming ever more dire and with less and less help from conventional resources, I can understand why N.Y. MTA transit workers got behind Occupy Wall Street. Have these demonstrations come to your town? If so, what do you think of them and how have they impacted your operation?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "'Missing the boat' with your transit simulator?" here.
It drives me nuts when people litter. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people throw trash out of their car windows while they’re driving. I’m always tempted to honk my horn when I see drivers slyly ditching cigarette butts through their open window. Listen up, people. We see you!
Agencies that use Twitter to respond to users’ complaints or answer questions get more positive Twitter reaction and more civil discourse online, according to Lisa Schweitzer the author of a recent study analyzing tweets of public transit agencies. “It’s about the marketing potential of social media — a lot of public transit agencies are simply tweeting their problems to the world by blasting out late service announcements. That’s not a good use of Twitter,” she says. “Transit agencies can influence the tone of the discussion by interacting with patrons online,” Schweitzer explains. “It gives people something to respond to, and it reminds people that somebody is listening.”
Usually by early January, I will hopefully have taken down the last of our holiday decorations and eaten or given away the remaining sweets that have become a part of my regular diet during the month of December. Then, of course like most people, I’ll think about ways I want to improve myself for the coming year. Whether it be exercising more (walking from the parking lot to my office doesn’t count), eating less ice cream or managing my email better. The latter practice alone would help improve my efficiency at work immensely. I’m sure you probably feel the same way.
A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.
June 20 will mark the 8th annual National Dump the Pump Day sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, in partnership with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.