Isn’t it inspiring to witness someone working passionately at their job? In fact, don’t you think that person is lucky to have found a career that drives them with such fervor? In early May I was fortunate to see a thousand transit industry professionals convene for the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) annual Bus & Paratransit Conference in Nashville. Led by über-exuberant APTA president, Bill Millar, we were all inspired to make mass transit the preferred means of transportation. Bill’s opening remarks, followed by those of Nashville’s mayor, transformed an opening session into a pep rally to launch the conference that followed over the next days.
The APTA bus conference and the upcoming rail conference are my introduction into the management world of mass transit. With a background in business development and publishing, my perspective of mass transit had been from the customer side, and it has been a wholly positive one. Daily mass transit has not been an option for me, but I’ve always sought out bus and rail when traveling. Leaving the driving and navigation to the professionals in Boston, Washington and London has been a luxury that added to the enjoyment and color of my travels.
Now, as the publisher of Mass Transit, I’m learning — as quickly as possible — the multiple facets of the industry. The bus conference served as a boot camp, with intensive days of workshops, technical sessions, product demonstrations and hospitality nights of networking, to soak up the collective knowledge of the industry chiefs.
This is a particularly exciting time to be involved in mass transit. A confluence of factors such as high gas prices, traffic congestion and environmental awareness has pushed public transportation options to the fore. Demand is certain to increase exponentially for commuter options, rather than following the old prescription of adding more highway lanes and mandating more fuel efficient vehicles. A ride, rather than a drive, is the future for more and more commuters.
Daily lessons in transportation alternatives have lately been available in my hometown Madison, Wisconsin newspapers. Madison’s a great place to live, however, routes that used to take ten minutes can now take thirty. Corridors aren’t available to build new roads, and additional lanes aren’t an option on most arterial routes as daily volumes increase. So the current debate centers on adding light rail or trolley, and whether to make the transit system focused on the central city, regional in scope, or just keep debating and putting off the inevitable. I’ll be sure to forward a copy of this issue to our mayor, with a flag on the light rail versus trolley bus story.
I’m fortunate to be joining staff members who care passionately about the industry. Just as they bring fresh ideas and news to you every month, they’re guiding me in learning about your agencies, services, products and people.
The Mass Transit magazine crew will be attending the APTA Rail Conference in Toronto as I continue my boot camp experience. If you see me wandering around through the exhibits, introduce yourself, tell me something about you, your company, your agency. Bring it on. I know the passion will be there too.