Gordon Linton, the longest serving Federal Transit Administrator, has announced he will leave the FTA at the end of this month to form a transportation consulting and innovative financing firm.
During Linton’s tenure, the transit industry has grown dramatically, catalyzed by higher funding levels as well as a detectable shift in related policies at all levels of government. For example, TEA 21, the huge funding bill enacted in 1998, has already stimulated record levels of equipment investment on the heels of the hugely successful ISTEA bill passed in 1991.
TEA 21 is reponsible for yet another record high transportation funding bill, including $5.8 billion for federal transit assistance, on its way to President Clinton’s desk, who has said he will sign it. In addition, the US House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 171, congratulating APTA for “25 years of commendable service to the transit industry and the nation.” All this would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.
Such investment has led to an estimated average two-year order backlog for rolling stock manufacturers for both railcars and buses; in some companies the order books are even thicker. TEA 21 and related local investment is expected to increase by a compound annual growth rate of more than seven percent in every market segment in the U.S., according to data compiled by METRO Magazine researchers.
The boom has also stimulated manufacturers’ creative energies. An unprecedented number of joint research and marketing ventures and new products are being announced at APTA’s Expo 99 in Orlando next week. In just the latest example, ElDorado National has announced it will bring a low-floor heavy-duty transit bus designed by Germany’s MAN to the American market, fully compliant with Buy America and other U.S. requirements. It will be an American version of the bus that garnered “bus of the year” distinctions at a Spanish show last year for MAN, according to industry reports.
More European entries are expected in both the supplier and operator sides of the industry. Watch this space for additional such announcements following APTA, Railtex in London, Bus World in Belgium and other large industry conferences and exhibitions this fall.