New Year, New Challenges

We usually work a couple months out for Mass Transit magazine. That means I am writing the cover story for our February issue in January, from an interview I recorded at the end of last year. Sometimes that gets confusing, but I think it gives you a unique perspective on industry issues. We all fall into our favorite focuses — rail versus bus is a big one — and that’s understandable. However, having to juggle all aspects of transit from funding to safety and security to the latest tech to what cool things agencies are doing gives us more of a macro view than most. Sitting back and looking forward, 2011 looks like it could be an interesting year for transit … and that may not be a good thing. “May you live in interesting times,” is a famous quote that is reportedly the first of three “curses” the latter two being, “May you come to the attention of those in authority,” and “May your wishes be granted.” With this year playing host to the next International Public Transit Expo, it definitely will be interesting. It is also a year wherein the UITP’s World Congress coincides with Expo. So we have two of the world’s largest transit shows landing in the same year. Now add to that rising gas prices — latest predictions are upwards of $4/gallon by June — a funding bill that is in Reauthorization Hell, a change of control in the House and general uncertainty about our nation’s infrastructure and transit’s role in it. Interesting times indeed. As for the latter two curses, transit has definitely come to the attention of those in authority — for good and bad. We celebrated unparalleled investment in rail infrastructure in the last two years and yet this investment is being seen as a bad thing in several states by newly elected officials. So will our wishes be granted in 2011? Maybe, but we need to be careful about the wording on those. Getting a reauthorization that doesn’t benefit transit for the future, instead keeping it on life support doesn’t do any good. Increased government notice might not be a good thing (as we’ve seen here in Wisconsin). If nothing else, this year promises to be exciting and one with many changes. Let’s hope as we sit down looking back at 2011 we like where we end up. Thanks for reading the MT Position, updated every Friday. For those interested in instant updates, you can now get your latest Mass Transit news fix via Twitter. Fred Connect to me via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter!