The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) president and CEO Michael Melaniphy examines the needs and trends facing the public transportation industry in his 2012: State of the Public Transportation Industry article published in the January 16, 2012 Passenger Transport issue.
Melaniphy pointed out that more and more people are pro-transit, as evidenced by the overwhelming support for public transportation ballot initiatives since 2000. "Americans believe in public transportation and want to invest in it – both Democrats and Republicans alike," said Melaniphy. "What is significant is that more people now understand and embrace the importance of public transportation."
In the 2012: State of the Public Transportation Industry, Melaniphy addressed the significant amount of investment that is required to address the backlog of capital needs ($78 billion) and to meet growing demand ($60 billion annually). He also referred to a 2011 APTA report that surveyed the recession's impact upon the business members. The results were sobering – 74 percent of the respondents had incurred flat or declining business in the previous year.
Melaniphy noted that many public transportation systems and private sector businesses were hit hard by the economic recession, but there were signs that the economy improved in 2011. "Despite severe financial challenges, public transit ridership rose for the first three reported quarters in a row in 2011 – for the first time in three years," said Melaniphy. "Perhaps public transportation, as a lagging indicator, is showing that the economy is starting to come back – nearly 60 percent of the trips on public transportation are taken for work commutes."
Long-term trends such as a growing population, transit-oriented development, the aging of America, and the interest in public transportation and the environment by younger generations all signal that demand will grow for public transportation in the future. Along with these trends, the increased use of technology by public transit systems is making riding on a bus or train more attractive.
"Technology is taking public transportation to the next level," said Melaniphy. "Technology is demystifying and transforming the rider experience....No one has to wonder when the next bus or train will arrive."
With all these trends in favor of expanding public transportation, he stressed the importance of Congress acting quickly to pass a long-term, well funded, multi-year surface transportation bill.
"Passing federal legislation in 2012 must be the number one priority of the industry," said Melaniphy. "Short-term extensions are stifling our industry, both public and private sectors, and they are not a sustainable solution. We need to plan for the future to maintain and expand public transportation in the years to come.
"Having a long-term, stable funding plan is critical to our private sector members, as well, if we expect them to hire staff and invest in new capital," he said.
Melaniphy concluded, "Now, as we look ahead together, it is time to recommit to a vision of expanded public transportation that will give our country what is important: good, green jobs; a strong and competitive economy; and a better quality of life for riders and non-riders alike."
To read the 2012: State of the Public Transportation Industry go to: http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/aptapt/issues/2012-01-13/index.html