A Period of Uncertainty

March 8, 2017
The public transportation industry is facing opportunities and challenges in working with the new administration.

Be informed.

Be prepared.

Be active.

When friends or family comment on me having been involved in the transit industry a long time, I laugh and tell them you have to be in transit at least 20-some years to be considered having been in the industry a “long time.”

And while that longevity of our industry is a cause for concern when we look at the retirement wave, the experience it brings is invaluable. And this is a quintessential time when that experience is imperative.

There was a recent call for members of the national association, the American Public Transportation Association, because as APTA Acting President & CEO Richard White said, there’s been some degree of anxiety with the unpredictable and confusing environment we’re facing at the federal level. With a president with a style that’s unique and untraditional, he said they’re all adapting in D.C. to what that means.

As APTA Chair and Foothill Transit CEO Doran Barnes described it, “Uncertainty is a good word; we need to be more prepared than ever.”

In this issue we highlight some examples of success at the local level when it comes to passing ballot measures and our cover story features MetroLINK, where General Manager Jeff Nelson — one of those with that long-time experience — gives some examples on what has helped that agency in the Quad Cities.

There was a striking parallel between my meeting with Nelson and White's final three points on the legislative update call: Be informed, be prepared and be active.

Those three things summarize what Nelson talked about: knowing what they needed to run more efficiently, moving forward on development of plans, and being active in the communities they serve as well as building the relationships with their legislators. 

Looking at what’s ahead for the industry, there’s been a lot of speculation, including the prospect of following the Heritage Foundation Recommendations of eliminating the transit program. Healy said nobody they talked to could confirm that was part of any plan, however, he said they want the industry prepared for all eventualities and are planning for all the opportunities and challenges we have ahead of us. 

What everyone said is key at this time is defending public transportation, including meeting with your legislators and having them visit your agency or company so they can see first hand the critical role transit plays in their district.