Of course, everyone who reads these pages knows — but we need to remind our elected officials, again and again. Even some of the most conservative members of Congress know as well. No better evidence of that is how all but a small group of very hardcore members defeated a proposal to take public transportation out of the Highway Trust Fund and give it all to highways. Even in red states, such as Utah and Texas, public transportation ballot measures have passed repeatedly. People at the local level get it.
More important than ever
If we are to see a full appropriation for what the new federal law authorized this year and next, the economic development message will be why it happens. Rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy on the east coast demonstrated the need for this investment, but the weird fight over whether it was going to pass the House — something no other disaster aid has faced in my memory — will show that this will be a tough crowd, even when we’re right.
To the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) credit, they know this too and have produced several new reports, including “The Business Case for Public Transportation Investment.” Other projects will soon follow, including an updated database that documents all of the private sector companies involved in public transportation, organized by Congressional district.
We need to redouble our efforts to get what the country’s economy needs passed into law, not just this year and next, but beyond, in the form of a stable source of revenue for the Trust Fund to fully fund the program. The business members of APTA and other private companies I talk to all of the time are willing to help make this point, as “living examples” of how more than three of every four dollars of federal transit investment ends up in the private sector creating jobs. These companies can help in another way, by reaching out to their individual business networks, such as the local chambers of commerce and other organizations in communities where their facilities are located.
All hands need to be on deck — especially the private sector — this year.