Realizing the fight to maintain funding for public transportation isn’t over and seeing what infrastructure investment can do for a city firsthand were key themes of the Opening Session at APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference in Reno, Nev., on Monday morning.
Starting off the program, several Reno dignitaries, including the RTC of Washoe County’s Executive Director Lee Gibson, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), touted the growth the city has experienced due in large part to transportation investments made in the area, which have not only increased transportation options for residents of both Sparks and Reno but also improved decaying infrastructure after the region was hit hard by the Great Recession.
After playing a round of trivia with some of APTA’s attendees, Schieve said she was proud of the job the RTC has done to dramatically improve the region, and discussed how the city is turning around to become one of the fastest growing regions in the nation, including being the new home for Tesla.
Meanwhile during his comments, Amodei applauded the public transportation industry for the work it does, as well as its ability to effectively communicate the role public transit plays in their communities, while also challenging attendees to continue spreading the word on Capitol Hill. He also voiced his support for raising the Federal Gas Tax to help pay for public transportation in order to bring predictability and stability to the industry.
“When you can pay for it in a reasonable way, why wouldn’t you just do it?” said Amodei.
Meanwhile, APTA’s Acting President/CEO Richard White discussed the industry’s recent victory in the FY2017 budget, which includes $2.4 billion for the previously threatened Capital Investment Grants program, before warning the crowd that their work isn’t done since the FY2018 budget recommendations are just a few weeks away.
Key to that outreach, White said, will be the industry’s ability to share the facts with congressional leaders to help them understand how much impact public transportation investment can have, as well as the impacts that would occur if those investments were not made.