It’s been said that history may not be a song that repeats itself but it has verses that rhyme. Public transportation is one of those songs, and this past year has been one of those verses that rhyme with past ones. But it’s always been a hopeful tune, and what happened this year and likely in the next will be hopeful as well.
Here are some specific examples of what I mean. We have seen fights about the future of federal funding before, maybe not like the current one, but close enough. In 1995, the Newt Gingrich-led Congress, confident of its conservative mandate from the 1994 mid-term election, turned around and passed the largest public transportation bill in history at the time, TEA-21, just a year later. We might see a similar step forward this time: at press time, a bipartisan group in Congress is calling for a gas tax increase to rescue the Highway Trust Fund.
The past year has also seen voter approval of more than 70% of the ballot initiatives put to them that involved public transportation investment, continuing this success streak that started more than 20 years ago. Sure, some high-profile measures were not approved, such as for Austin’s rail project, but many others were, such as in Clayton County, Ga., which voted to join the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s service area, expanding that system for the first time in 40 years.
It’s farewell from me, but not goodbye
This edition of Metro Magazine marks the end of the 110th year of its or its predecessor magazines. It began as Electric Traction, a publication devoted to streetcars, which we’re seeing a strong interest in again. The magazine covered our industry’s further evolution into buses, public takeover of private companies, and of course, the public-private partnerships we are seeing today. In other words, it finds a way to stay in business, because it has support.
It also marks the end of my 33-year involvement with the magazine on a full-time basis. When I started, the industry was about $12 billion (operations and capital spending). Today it’s about $60 billion each year, more than five times the size it was.
This edition is my last as the publisher. I leave it in good hands with a great editorial team and the latest addition to the team James Blue as GM. That doesn’t mean I am completely stepping away, as I will continue to work in a reduced role, focusing on special projects and various assignments.
I am very proud of what we have accomplished in growing the magazine and offering you more services. I expect only more from James and the team in the future. That’s because what has always made me hopeful about the industry is that we may not know what will be next, but we always know it will be of the same great tune.