VIEWS: 24 PAGES: 10 CATEGORY: Engineering & Energy POSTED ON: 6/3/2010
If my crystal ball were not at the cleaners, I could make a lot of predictions regarding the future of transit in America. Since I don't have access to fortune telling devices, let's start with the answer to one of the first questions posed when I began with South West Transit Association. "Whatever happened to the 'Mass' in 'Mass Transit'? SAFETEA-LU formalized the evolution of mass transit into public transportation. This concept is our future.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION — THE YEAR AHEAD tion needs and challenges. Such a policy should pri- T The coming year may well mark an important oritize transportation-related investments and identify turning point for public transportation in America. I gimmick-free ways to fund these projects for decades predict that in 2009, the U.S. Department of Transpor- to come. It should also align with a new national tation and Congress will begin laying the groundwork energy policy that weans us away from conventional for many changes, both large and small, that will affect fuels. And importantly, we need a policy that removes how government evaluates, funds and helps to grow barriers between modes, so that we can see our way the nation’s rail, bus and other transit systems. clear, for example, to building high-speed inter-city rail On the whole, I believe these changes will greatly networks that relieve overcrowded airlines on short- benefit the transit industry and the traveling public. Ever haul flights in busy urban corridors. James S. Simpson an optimist, I think that some of the nation’s recent I believe that America is rediscovering the Former Administrator challenges — the troubled economy, the gas-price economic value and other benefits that public trans- Federal Transit Administration crisis, the surge in transit ridership — have been a portation delivers to millions of us every day. I am U.S. Department of welcome shock to the system, in a way. These events confident that working together, we will find creative Transportation ways to invest, and re-invest, in a world-class public have helped a lot of people, including elected officials from both parties, to realize that transit is a lynchpin transportation infrastructure that is second to none. of our economy. People and businesses need alternatives to the automobile and BIOGRAPHY gridlock. Communities are eager to combat sprawl with compact development and James S. Simpson, FTA’s recently departed ad- transit links. And transit agencies need a predictable and adequate funding stream ministrator, successfully steered the agency for more to build, operate and maintain their systems. than two years. He approved nearly $14 billion for One of the catalysts for change is the new authorizing legislation for federal surface capital transit projects in urban and rural communi- transportation programs that Congress will soon begin to tackle. While no one knows ties; promoted efforts to relieve congestion and spur yet what the bill will contain, we can probably expect to see provisions that streamline transit-oriented development; and empowered FTA to the federal grant-making process, revise the spending ratio between highway and transit adopt a culture of continuous improvement. ■ projects, cut back on earmarks that drain discretionary funds, promote new initiatives to make transportation greener and environmentally sustainable, and explore alternative revenue enhancements (such as charging drivers for vehicle miles traveled), intelligent transportation, and other efforts that move public transit forward. New spending on national infrastructure is also likely to include funding for capital FTA transit projects around the country. This infusion will undoubtedly help to jump-start the FTA is one of 11 operating administrations more than 500 transit projects now ready to go that the American Public Transportation within the U.S. Department of Transportation with Association has identified, but for a funding commitment from Uncle Sam to add to more than 500 employees located in Washing- state and loc
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