Reauthorization was a hot topic at the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) Annual Meeting, attended by nearly 2,000 North American transit industry leaders.
The event, held in San Jose, Calif., October 9-11, featured 35 educational sessions and technical tours as well awards ceremonies recognizing the industry's top leaders, operations and marketing campaigns.
During the general session, APTA President Bill Millar gave a rousing speech touting 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 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."
Millar recognized Howard Silver, who was unanimously elected to chair APTA for the upcoming year.
"Working on the next reauthorization and financing the future of the industry is a primary goal," said Silver of his tenure.
A highlight of the event included a speech from newly appointed Federal Transit Administrator James S. Simpson, where he shared his experiences as a public transportation user, former bus company owner and 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 — a hybrid organization."
In closing, Simpson promised the audience he would work to "streamline" the system to help the industry.
Other general session speakers included San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzalez, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority General Manager Michael T. Burns and Hon. Angelos Pangratis, deputy head of delegation for the European Commission to the U.S.