Ridership and increased funding for public transportation were major themes as APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference kicked off with its Opening General Session at the Kansas City Convention Center on Sunday.
APTA President/CEO Michael Melaniphy spoke about the vital role public transportation plays in communities throughout the U.S., as well as its significant role, historically, in getting people to where they want to go.
Discussing the need for robust funding in the next surface transportation bill, Melaniphy touted public transportation’s many successes, including a 40% increase in alternative fuel usage since 1992, technologies that allow riders to better plan their trips and the “booming” of bus rapid transit (BRT) across the nation.
Most notably, Melaniphy discussed the record breaking 10.7 billion trips taken on public transportation in 2013 — the highest since 1956. In fact, Melaniphy said with its 37.2% growth, public transportation has outpaced the nation’s population growth (20.3%) and vehicle miles travelled (22.7%).
Through APTA’s work testifying on Capitol Hill and keeping an open discourse with key Congressional leaders, Melaniphy added what the industry would like to see in the new surface transportation bill, including a restoration of both the alternative fuel credit and the commuter tax benefit, as well as increased funding, is being heard loud and clear in Washington, D.C.
“The message is getting across,” said Melaniphy.
APTA Chair Peter Varga spoke about the need to send a unified message to Congress, with APTA putting together its “America’s Future is Riding on Public Transportation” toolkit, which can be customized by agencies to highlight their goals and successes. Varga said since using the materials in the toolkit, his agency, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based The Rapid, saw a brand lift of 29%.
Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) GM Mark Huffer also welcomed the crowd, discussing KCATA’s growth in the community, including improvements made through a $50 million FTA TIGER grant, the growth of its MAX BRT system and its streetcar line set to open next year.
Varga and Melaniphy also celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Bus Safety & Security Excellence Awards, honoring transit agencies including Cincinnati’s Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the first agency ever to win both the safety and security awards in the same year.
Additional winners included:
Bus systems with fewer than four million passenger trips annually
- GOLD Award for Safety – Mid-Ohio Valley Transit Authority, Parkersburg, W.Va.
- Certificate of Merit for Safety – Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, Minn.
Bus systems with more than four million and fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually
- Certificate of Merit for Safety – Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, Ky.
Bus systems with 20 million or more passenger trips annually
- GOLD Award for Safety – Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, Ill.
- Certificate of Merit for Safety – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, D.C.
- GOLD Award for Security – Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, Md.
- Certificate of Merit for Security – MTA New York City Transit.
Private companies providing contracted transportation management and services
- GOLD Award for Safety – National Express Transit, Solano County Transit, Vallejo, Calif.