The recent changes to how APTA will elect its officers and govern itself recognize the growing partnership between the public and private sectors in our industry. Now more than ever, the operating/policy and supply sides need to work together in this new governance framework to build the larger and stronger industry that the country is demanding.
This trend toward greater cooperation has been going for a while. In the 1980s, the Business Members of APTA (then called the "Associate Members") were allowed to sponsor social events and help plan other non-core activities. Today, private sector members have five of the current positions on the Executive Committee, the organization's most senior decision-making body, and others from the private sector have key roles in shaping policy positions, contributing content and funding key studies. Private sector members are also involved in other important activities of the association, in addition to the sponsorship and social activities they have always supported in the past.
This closer cooperation also reflects a blurring of the lines between private and public aspects in public transportation. Many cities, including Phoenix, Denver, San Diego and Miami, contract all or part of their operations to the private sector — not just paratransit but also rail and fixed-route bus services. Many cities are looking for more private sector participation in funding infrastructure projects. This has also produced a situation in which prominent transit leaders routinely take leave from the public sector to take jobs in the private realm, only to jump back again to the public sector, and vice versa.
Making the case
All of the industry's sectors need to work together to make the case for additional public transportation investment and service. Through a variety of communications activities, as well as the next round of elections for leadership of the industry's most important association, all of us interested in the future of the industry can make a difference. Each of us have points of view that might resonate differently with elected officials, though all of these viewpoints add up to the same theme: invest more now for a stronger, healthier country and world.
In many ways, it's also a return to the way the industry started.