Reauthorization was a hot topic at APTA’s Annual Meeting, attended by nearly 2,000 North American transit industry leaders.
The event, held in San Jose, Calif., Oct. 9 to 11, featured 35 educational sessions and technical tours, as well as awards ceremonies recognizing the industry’s top leaders, operations and marketing campaigns.
During the general session, APTA President Bill Millar touted the industry’s successes, including those in the areas of ridership and security funding.
“It’s certainly important that we get more money and not less from the Department of Homeland Security,” Millar said. “We are working with them to fashion a long-term piece of legislation, and we continue to make progress.”
Millar also noted the work being done with transit agencies across the nation to develop an emergency preparedness program that will help mitigate the effects of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
“We hope to be where we have signed agreements for neighbor to help neighbor,” Millar said. “We have 125 [transit agencies] signed up so far, and we would like all 400 to sign up.”
Howard Silver, who was unanimously elected to chair APTA for the upcoming year, outlined the goals of the association over the next year. “Working on the next reauthorization and financing the future of the industry is a primary goal,” he said.
A highlight of the event was a speech by newly appointed FTA Administrator James S. Simpson in which he shared his experiences as a public transportation user and former bus company owner. He also discussed his transition from the private to public sector.
“We need to treat public transportation like a business, where it’s all about the bottom line,” Simpson said. “We need to seek more customers, in other words, a bigger market share.”
Simpson also extolled the virtues of “embracing technology to improve performance and increase productivity. Transit agencies need to become entrepreneurial.”
Other opening session speakers included Angelos Pangratis, deputy head of delegation for the European Commission to the United States. He discussed the importance of transit issues as part of the global relationship between the U.S. and the European Union.
“It is in our best interest, from an economic point of view, to work together and share information,” Pangratis said. “That is especially true when talking about technology and innovation, energy issues and the environment. We work together, and together we either get it right or we fail.”
APTA also honored top public transportation leaders during the four-day event. Dwight D. Brashear, CEO/general manager of the Baton Rouge, La.-based Capital Area Transit System, was given a leadership award for his work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Other honorees included Cal Marsella, general manager/CEO of Denver’s Regional Transportation District, who received the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award. Dan Reichard Jr., one of the founders of GFI-Genfare, and former APTA chair Shirley DeLibero were inducted into the APTA Hall of Fame.
Beaver County Transit Authority (Rochester, Pa.); Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (Canton, Ohio); Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Syracuse); and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority were recognized as the Outstanding Public Transportation Systems of the year.