This week Washington, DC, hosted Rail-Volution 2011, a conference for people "who want to engage in thoughtful discussion about building livable communities with transit." And Tuesday, it was my great pleasure to share the conference podium with two of the best friends the transit community in the U.S. ever had, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Bill Millar, the outgoing president of the American Public Transit Association.
Bill Millar had good news for public transit advocates: In 2010, for the fifth consecutive year, America’s public transit systems carried more than 10 billion passenger trips. The nation's transit fleet of buses, vans, and rail-cars has grown from 116,000 in 1995 to more than 172,000 in 2010.
But he also pointed out that we can't afford to stop there. Our population is expected to grow sharply during the next 20 years, with 400 million expected to live in America by 2040. Most of those people will live in or near cities whose roads are already at capacity. Public transit will have to grow to accommodate this boom, and we owe it to the next generations of Americans to support that growth.
That's why the kind of transportation investments that the American Jobs Act and a multi-year transportation bill will provide are so crucial. All we need now is for Congress to act.
Well, as most of you know, what we see in Washington today is even worse. If Congress is going to step up to the plate and help America's communities prepare for the future--whether by adding transit service or maintaining roads--it will need to shed some of the politics and get back to policy.
And, beyond being good policy, when you look at the numbers of public transit vehicles, you can see that investing in transit is good business. Somebody has to make those buses and rail-cars; why not American workers in American manufacturing plants? The leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO don't agree too often, but they agree on this: repairing highways, upgrading runways, and modernizing public transit will put American workers back on the job and American businesses on the road to greater competitiveness.
I've said it before, and I will keep on saying it: We have work to do, and we have workers ready to do it. Let's get going.