With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon in many areas, I’m sure we all agree it’s more important than ever to provide affordable, reliable transportation choices in our communities. And, in many parts of the country, that commitment begins with bus service.
At the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Bus and Paratransit Conference in Memphis this week, Federal Transit Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro spoke about the important goal of strengthening America’s bus transit systems.
President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal puts public transportation squarely at the heart of the Administration’s plan to create jobs and improve the quality of life for millions of American workers and businesses. Seeking $22 billion for transit--a proposed increase of $10 billion over our fiscal 2010 funding--is arguably the most significant vote of confidence in public transportation ever made by a U.S. President.
As Deputy Administrator McMillan noted, FTA has already been making game-changing investments to spur research, development, and testing of fuel-cell buses, hybrid buses, and bus rapid transit.
Whether they're made by Allison or another company with US operations, encouraging adoption of hybrid bus technology creates American jobs and helps us reduce our dependence on imported oil while also helping people get where they need to go. The Memphis Area Transit Authority is already on the right track, with seven new hybrid-electric buses added recently to its growing fleet of alternatively powered vehicles, funded by the Obama Administration through the Recovery Act.
DOT’s number one priority in strengthening public transportation is ensuring that passengers are safe. That’s why Administrator Ferro hosted a dialogue on safety and operations issues.
This was the first time that FMCSA has held such a dialogue with the bus transit community. The listening session was a great opportunity for us to gain a better understanding of the impact that FMCSA’s regulations and safety programs have on transit operations. As Administrator Ferro said:
“I view it as a two-way conversation where we have a vested interest in sharing information. We want your feedback and we will take the recommendations we receive seriously.”
At DOT, we always welcome opportunities to hear from the public, and we will certainly take the concerns we heard at the conference to heart.
Americans have made it very clear they want effective options for getting where they need to go without having to feel the pinch of high prices at the gas pump. Working together with APTA, I am confident that DOT will continue to expand those options, improve transit safety, and boost our economy with good jobs and lower oil dependence. That's how we win the future.