APTA EXPO 2021 opens with a focus on ‘What’s Next’

Nov. 9, 2021
APTA leaders say the industry proved its value while prevailing over a global health crisis and lessons learned will help shape the future of the industry.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) kicked of its 2021 APTA TRANSform Conference & EXPO in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 8, with a set of rousing speeches designed to recognize the sacrifice and difficulty of the past 21 months, while rallying the industry about a promising future.

“We were confident about bringing transformational change to public transportation. Never did we imagine that transformational change would be thrust upon us by a global pandemic,” APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas told attendees.

Skoutelas and APTA Chair of the Board of Directors Jeff Nelson encouraged attendees to think about what was overcome since March 2020, with the men calling the event a "reunion and a celebration."

The event was last held in 2017 and was delayed more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, attendance numbers are strong with estimates at more than 8,000 transit industry professionals.

Skoutelas noted ridership is again increasing following the lows many agencies experienced in 2020 and the nearly $70 billion secured in three emergency bills helped preserve service and staff levels and purchase protective gear to keep transit riders and workers safe.

And then there was the topic of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that passed the House of Representatives Friday night and is expected to be signed into law by President Joe Biden shortly.

“The importance of this achievement for our industry cannot be overstated,” said Skoutelas. “This portends a promising future for public transportation.”

Nelson mentioned the industry’s willingness to embrace new mobility concepts during the pandemic, which will help shape the future of transit.

“Creating greater connectivity among modes, transitioning from being a service provider to a mobility manager, making transit more convenient, flexible and customer focused – these are new mobility goals that are familiar to all of us, but they will require focus and funding,” said Nelson. “It’s why the infrastructure package and five-year authorization of public transportation programs will be so important to our future.”

“There will be many books written about the lessons learned from the pandemic, but for APTA and the public transportation industry, it comes down to this: We prevailed over crises and proved our value. Our eyes are now on what comes next,” said Skoutelas.

For APTA, what’s next includes the electrification of buses, tackling procurement and supply chain issues, developing and delivering new technologies in customers information and fare collection, balancing new ridership trends and putting equity into action.

“There is nothing more fundamental to the human spirit than the need to be mobile,” said Nelson. “America needs to move, and we need to act.”

APTA’s TRANSform Conference and EXPO run through Nov. 10, 2021.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.