A New Direction?

Budgets are passing, budgets are being debated, protests are happening … as I write this there are countless news stories I read this morning from agencies of all sizes and across the U.S. and Canada that don’t know how they are going to be running in a few months. Here in Wisconsin, we’ve even been showing up in the international news arena.

A proposed budget repair bill by WI Governor Scott Walker includes denial of some collective bargaining rights to unions for most public employees. With eligibility for federal transportation grants partially dependent on collective bargaining rights, the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau stated in a memo that those agencies would forfeit access to about $46 million in federal grants.

Talking to a number of transit providers in the state, there will be ways to continue service, not everyone will be happy, but that there are options. I’ve even heard some optimism that a new way of providing transit service could evolve.

And by the time you are reading this, many in the industry are convening in D.C. for APTA’s Legislative Conference to meet and discuss the industry’s advocacy efforts. For those new to meeting with their legislators, in this issue, several seasoned professionals share their insight to help you navigate your way to the Hill or your local capitol. It can be daunting to open the lines of communication with your representatives, but these steps can help lay out a plan for how to connect and what to say.

With so many new members in the last election, there are a lot of people in office that aren’t yet familiar in a number of areas, including the economic, energy and environmental benefits of public transportation. One of the biggest benefits of being in this industry is that there are always people to turn to. Reach out to your peers and your state, regional and national organizations to help spread the message.

This issue also provides a look at the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA), an agency run by a former politician who says there’s just as much politics in what he does today as when he was working for a member of Congress.

RGRTA CEO Mark Aesch provides insight to his private-sector management style and talks about a number of ways the agency operates differently than many transit properties. The agency has created its plan for the future and some unique partnerships in the community are helping them attain those goals. RGRTA has seen record ridership and, during this time where we’re all fighting for funding, the agency has seen a surplus and will have made $33 million over the last five years.

Though every agency’s unique, communication among those in the transit industry not only allows the sharing of ideas, it strengthens the advocacy efforts of the industry as a whole.