If the industry is to survive, thrive and deliver improved service, we will need partners in our communities, industry vendors, non-agency stakeholders and our government representatives at all levels.
First, let us begin with partnerships within the community. While previous columns have highlighted the efforts taken by the industry to adapt services to provide value to communities during the initial onslaught of the pandemic, now that reopening plans have been instituted and ridership is (slowly) creeping up across much of North America, it’s time to share the responsibility of keeping those communities safe.
This is one aspect behind the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) “Health and Safety Commitments Program,” which launched in September. The program not only acts as the transit industry’s pledge to operate safely, but it provides a foundation on which to build community expectations of what an agency will do, as well as what is expected of riders.
APTA’s toolkit for the program includes suggested signage and a seal (think Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval) that program-committed agencies can use to communicate with riders about their commitment to safe operations during the pandemic. Another area where community support and input remain a requirement is with bus network redesigns. As Mass Transit Assistant Editor Megan Perrero reports (p.28), agencies undergoing bus network redesigns have had to evolve their outreach efforts during the pandemic to ensure the proposed service matches the community’s need.
While network redesigns can deliver improved service, there are many efficiencies agencies can tap into by using and embracing technology. Platforms such as contactless fare payments (p.32) and even vehicle occupancy data (p.18) can enhance operations, boost rider confidence and provide agencies additional information to implement further improvements. Agencies have enough on their plate and for these types of advancements, the vendor community will be relied upon.
The final supportive partnership the industry will need is from those who serve in government - from the federal level through to the municipal level. The industry will need champions to help develop good policy and dedicated funding streams. The uncertainty felt by the industry's dire need for an additional $32 billion in emergency funds is softened a bit by the proposed one-year extension of the expiring surface transportation legislation.
Times are tough, we all know this, but I want to leave you with a quote from the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that I believe speaks to this moment:
“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”