As we edge closer to our retirement years, news reports about the concerns of seniors begin to generate more than passing interest. For example, a recent Harris Interactive study on behalf of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) showed that 87% of seniors “strongly agree” with the statement, “As I get older, maintaining my independence and ability to get around is extremely important.”
Another survey indicates that 21% of Americans 65 and older do not drive. With the Baby Boomer generation beginning to turn 60, I think you can see why it’s becoming increasingly important that public transit enlarges its role in ensuring that seniors, as well as the rest of the general public, have access to transportation. Which is why we can’t sit back and cool our heels while the folks in Washington, D.C., make key decisions about implementation of SAFETEA-LU.
It’s worth repeating
As you know, pressure still needs to be applied on Capitol Hill to ensure that implementation fulfills the promise of the long-awaited transportation bill. Advocacy efforts by transit systems and the transportation supplier community must not be allowed to hibernate, not even for a few months. We’ve got to stay aggressive and look to the next scheduled reauthorization in 2009, which will be here soon enough. I know that I’ve mentioned this need for urgency before in these pages, but I don’t think it can be overemphasized.
We have to get involved in the SAFETEA-LU process, not just about how it will affect funding but also about how it’s going to impact Buy America, coordination of services, MPO planning, the Job Access and Reverse Commute program and the Elderly and Disabled program. We should be peppering the FTA with comments and questions about these programs and any others that come into play.
Although it was signed into law last August, SAFETEA-LU is still a work in progress. The FTA has been holding informal two-day listening sessions in cities across the country to address questions about the law’s implementation and its program requirements. More are scheduled in the coming months. For information about these sessions and general information about SAFETEA-LU, visit www.fta.dot.gov/17003_ENG_HTML.htm.
To help you better understand the nuts and bolts of SAFETEA-LU, Senior Editor Janna Starcic has written a helpful “cheat sheet” that will enlighten those of us who don’t fully understand the legislation (that’s probably all of us). Please take a few minutes to read Janna’s article, “15 Things You Need to Know about SAFETEA-LU” (pg. 24). She was guided in her research by some of the industry’s most plugged-in and knowledgeable people. It would be a shame if these insights didn’t get passed along.
Staying focused with (PT)2
Now, having pressed again for your attention to matters dealing with Capitol Hill and SAFETEA-LU, I’d like to address a critical tool in public transportation advocacy — the Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow (PT)2.
This APTA program was established in 2000 to heighten awareness of the benefits and importance of public transportation. It played a key role during the reauthorization of TEA 21, helping to generate record guaranteed transit funding in SAFETEA-LU. It also opened the eyes of the general public to the importance of public transportation in helping to reduce congestion, create job opportunities and curtail tailpipe emissions.
Although (PT)2 fulfilled its mission in regard to the reauthorization, the program is not obsolete. On the contrary, as an instrument for public education, the program should be retained and bolstered. We need to keep the vital role that public transportation plays on the nation’s front burner. (PT)2 will help to do just that.