Now the heavy lifting begins. The public transit industry and the private bus community have been campaigning for several years now for a robust reauthorization of TEA 21, the six-year federal transportation law that expired back in September 2003.
The latest extension of TEA 21 the sixth expires May 31. We need to keep pressuring Congress and the White House to finally push through the reauthorizing legislation at a spending level that will continue to help bus and rail operators expand their presence and vitality in communities across the country. (For an in-depth look at this legislative struggle, see Managing Editor Joey Campbell’s story that begins on pg. 26.)
Let’s apply the pressure
How do we do this? After so much delay and disappointment, we need to put the last few years behind us and start a fresh and furious campaign to convince the folks on Capitol Hill that the reauthorization is essential for a healthy and secure public transportation system. We all know that this is true. But our job is to convince others of this truth.
And that requires commitment. Some of you have already shown this commitment by planning to attend the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference is coming up soon (March 6 to 8). If you haven’t registered to attend this critical meeting, please reconsider. Now more than ever, we need to press our campaign. What better way is there than a face-to-face meeting with your representatives on Capitol Hill? Visit www.apta.com for more information.
Remember, too, that the 109th Congress is in place. That means that you might have new representatives in the House and Senate. If you’ve got new lawmakers on the Hill, it’s imperative that you educate them on the benefits of public transportation. They might be new to the process. Even if your legislators haven’t changed, you can bring new developments to their attention.
Key among these developments is the wave of voter approval of transportation initiatives last November. As I’m sure you’re aware, a record number of transportation-related ballot measures were carried. These 22 victories were registered not just in major metropolitan areas, either. Small and medium-sized communities also expressed their desire to see the construction or expansion of transportation projects. The overall message is clear: Americans support public transportation and its effects on reducing congestion, creating jobs and fostering cleaner air.
That’s why it’s so critical that you make an effort to get to Washington. We need you to make these arguments to your representatives or their staffs.
The grassroots approach
If you can’t make it to Washington, however, there are other things you can do. Sending letters and
e-mail to Congress will provide evidence of grassroots support. Involve your local business community in the effort. And don’t forget your customers. They’re the ones who will be hurt the most if Congress continues to delay reauthorization. You could use your Website to encourage your customers to contact their legislators in Washington. For more information on grass-roots activism, visit www.apta.com/tranitaction.
Another great APTA resource is its Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow (PT)2 program (www.publictransportation.org). (PT)2 has been a marvelous information tool and advertising campaign for the industry. One part of the program that requires your participation is the series of GIS maps that pinpoint the locations of transit agencies and industry suppliers based on their congressional districts. These maps educate lawmakers about the presence of public transportation-related constituents in their district. If you haven’t listed your agency or company, contact APTA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As in years past, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., for the Legislative Conference. I hope to see you there.