Transit Funding, Elections Loom Large Over the Industry

Posted on June 16, 2011 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

Page 4 of 5

InfraConsult LLC
Alan Wulkan
Managing Partner

How has the lack of a new authorization bill impacted projects/consultant industry?

From an InfraConsult perspective, we have not been dramatically negatively impacted by a lack of a bill. We've been fortunate to work with some projects that already started, had significant local money and our clients have proceeded with those projects. There is no question it varies by industry. Everything that I can see says that the supplier industry — rail manufacturers and bus manufacturers, for example — are beginning to see a dramatic slowdown in orders, because ARRA and other stimulus money has just about expired.

There's no question that a lack of reauthorization is beginning to have its impact on the kinds of orders, the kinds of procurements that are longer term. In fact, it's very interesting, with a lack of a reauthorization, one area we're seeing an increased interest is in private public partnerships. So, it's kind of a two edged sword right now, in that part of our market is doing well, but there's no question suppliers are hurting very badly because of the lack of reauthorization.

What can the consultant industry do to help public transportation agencies that are struggling at the moment?

We need to continue to be creative and not just do projects the way we've done them in the past. One way is by exploring every kind of project delivery method that we know works around the world. Whether that be design-build or design-bid-build or other creative ways of accelerating projects, we need to cut down on the number of steps that are involved from the time you start planning to the time you actually open a project. I think the consultant industry has a role in helping clients become far more innovative, and that also applies to looking at the use of private capital and coming up with help on financing plans.

A lot of the consultant industry's challenges are going to be less technical. We know how to design projects, we know how to plan projects, and I think it's getting to understand the projects from beginning to end and figuring out how we help our clients accelerate project delivery.

What is your outlook for the future?

There is no question in my mind that we are going to be much more involved at every level, Washington as well as local, in the politics of infrastructure. And, as an industry, we are clearly seeing the need to reinforce the roles of federal involvement of infrastructure in public transportation in addition to state and local support.

There is no question that we have done a really good job of making the case for the need of public transportation, and now, we need to step up the political involvement and engagement at all levels for people to communicate and advocate for increased spending. We can't just do business as usual. We are going to have to do more advocacy than ever before, continue to make that case, and probably, spend a significant amount of money on advertising and marketing what we do best to keep our issue in front of the American public.

Legacy Resource Group
Huelon Harrison

Will the public transportation industry continue its growth during these difficult financial times?

I think they can, but the players in the industry need to be a little more aggressive, a little more creative in monitoring the marketplace and taking advantage of opportunities as soon as they arise. You used to have to stay on top of the marketplace, now you've got to stay in front of it.

What can the consultant industry do to help transit agencies that are struggling?

Just try to provide good service and be as responsive, the best you can be, to their needs. Also, if there's a need to help address their concerns, put your hat in the ring and say 'let me help make a difference.' I find myself working conferences the whole time I'm there; trying to talk to people to get information, share best practices, get ideas and solutions, and then, as I go back to the market, take those solutions back to people I can help. A better educated industry is a better performer in the marketplace.

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