Every year, members of the American Public Transportation Association gather in Washington, DC, to talk with their Representatives and Senators in Congress. It's an opportunity to remind their elected legislators of the tremendous value transit services deliver to people across the nation.
In fact, last year, U.S. transit agencies provided 10.5 billion passenger trips to the tens of millions of urban, rural, and tribal Americans who ride buses, light rail, commuter rail, subways, vans, paratransit vehicles, and streetcars each and every day. According to APTA, that's 154 million more trips taken by Americans than the previous year, and it's the seventh year in a row that transit providers delivered more than 10 billion trips nationwide.
Through the past four years, the Obama Administration, working through DOT and our Federal Transit Administration has created more than 350 miles of new rail and bus rapid transit systems. We’ve executed more than 40 new major capital transit projects in 16 states.
These projects are attracting billions of dollars in new housing, retail, and office buildings in cities like Phoenix, Houston, Orlando, and Minneapolis-St.Paul.And we’ve helped revitalize American manufacturing and innovation by purchasing 260 rail cars and thousands of clean-fuel buses.
In the past four years, I’ve traveled to all 50 states, and I’ve seen first-hand what safe, reliable transportation choices mean for working families, seniors, veterans and students. Investments like these make commuting more affordable for millions of Americans, deliver cleaner air to our communities, and support good jobs that cannot be outsourced.
As we look back, it’s clear we’ve made great progress. But the truth is that we have more work to do. Businesses want safe and reliable 21st century transportation. We must continue to build on the momentum we’ve created and continue to invest in the infrastructure that makes this country great.
And if we're going to continue to serve America's communities and continue to make progress in public transit, we need big and bold ideas and leadership to help us achieve the transportation system a competitive future requires.
President Obama has proposed a plan to upgrade our infrastructure so our businesses have the tools they need to compete. He called for a $50 billion investment--a “fix-it-first” program that would focus on repairing existing roads, bridges, airports and public transportation systems--and a “Rebuild America” partnership that would attract private capital to the infrastructure projects businesses need most.
Unfortunately, many in Congress do not share our sense of urgency. The sequester cuts about $100 million dollars from the New Starts program this fiscal year, which makes it very difficult to get projects started or pay for projects under construction.
This is not the right direction for America. Our nation's businesses know it; DOT knows it; and APTA knows it.
As we move ahead, we’ll need people from across transportation—and at every level of government—to come together and work with us to reignite America’s economic engine. We need to build coalitions between public and private, between Republicans and Democrats, in cities across America—from Dallas to Cincinnati to Charlotte to Grand Rapids.
The future of the next generation depends on our ability to work together today and invest in tomorrow. This is our duty. This is the time to act.