More than 700 members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) gathered in Washington, D.C., for the association’s annual Legislative Conference March 6 and 7. Pressing topics of discussion included the implementation of SAFETEA-LU, transit security funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), issues facing the next reauthorization bill and federal New Starts.
At this year’s conference, APTA members heard from two top administration officials — Maria Cino, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Michael Jackson, deputy secretary of DHS. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from several Congress men and women who represent transportation interests on Capitol Hill, including U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) and Representative Thomas Petri (R-WI).
Throughout the show, sessions featuring experienced, reputable industry experts became a theme. Several of these seminars focused on issues related to funding transit. One of them, titled Financing the Future, involved a discussion between Joseph Giglio, vice chair of the Hudson Institute, Ed Mortimer, director of transportation and infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The Highway Account of the Federal Highway Trust Fund could have a zero balance by as early as 2008, before the end of SAFETEA-LU, with the Mass Transit Account not far behind, according to the panelists. In the meantime, Congress has created two study commissions to consider revenue needs and funding options, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Hudson Institute have identified other solutions.
An informative session concentrating on transit security also boasted an impressive lineup of speakers. Dennis Louwerse, chair of the APTA Legislative Security Task Force, Kerry Thomas, director of national preparedness for the Office of Grants and Training at DHS and Kathy Kraninger, majority professional staff member for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, underlined ways in which agencies can take advantage of programs and funding made available by DHS and SAFETEA-LU.
Meanwhile, APTA announced that Howard Silver, board member of Golden Empire Transit District in Bakersfield, Calif., became chair, replacing Ron Barnes. Barnes left his position with Miami-Dade Transit in February to pursue other employment, making him ineligible to serve as chair under APTA’s bylaws. Board members at the legislative show discussed how to fill the first vice chair vacancy created by Silver’s move.
The APTA Business Member Board of Governors also met to catch up on important business issues of the day. Among topics ranking high on the list of priorities was the use of SAFETEA-LU funds and Buy America reforms.