Demand is up, supply is asleep at the wheel

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

rushhourIn his 2012 “State of the Public Transportation Industry,” Michael Melaniphy, president and CEO of the American Passenger Transportation Association, puts our transit crisis in a national context and confirms the wisdom in funding transit nationwide by recognizing that cities are growing and more young people who are moving to them are opting to take transit or alternative methods (such as bicycles) instead of driving.

There's a good radio piece from WBGH Boston for the show "Humankind" called "Passengers" that you can listen to here.

Here's a good commentary by Eleanor Randolph on the APTA website. And you can read Michael's address here. I’ll digest the speech with some high points and then let him talk a bit:

+ Public transportation enjoys bipartisan support like almost no other issue in both states and nationally, yet funding commitments have been woefully out of date.

+ Every year, public transportation ballot initiatives are approved on the local and state level. In 2011, they passed by 79%. That’s a landslide in anyone’s book.

Finally, here's Michael:

“According to the Federal Transit Administration, $78 billion is needed to address existing public transit infrastructure needs. Assuming a 3.53 percent annual growth in ridership, a total of $60 billion is needed annually for capital needs. We need a much greater investment in public transportation infrastructure—not only to update the current backlog, but to meet the growing public demand, and to ensure safety.

“Passing federal legislation in 2012 must be the number one priority of the industry. Short-term extensions are stifling our industry, both public and private sectors, and they are not a sustainable solution. We need to plan for the future to maintain and expand public transportation in the years to come.

“We continue to be disappointed that Congress is not adequately investing in our country’s infrastructure needs.

“By 2050, 100 million more Americans will be living in this nation. The most recent Texas Transportation Institute congestion report clearly showed that traffic congestion continues to be a serious problem. We can’t build our way out of congestion; we need more public transportation, including high-speed rail, to reduce congestion, strengthen our economy and ensure our global competitiveness.

“A growing population and increased congestion are not the only long term trends that are driving future demand for public transportation. One trend is that more and more people—of all ages—are moving back to urban areas.

“Transit-oriented development is revitalizing our communities, as residents in urban areas seek a lifestyle with easy public transit access. Some of the biggest supporters of public transportation are young people (Generations X and Y) who not only like public transportation, but are also concerned about the environment and take a bus or train to reduce their carbon footprint."

“Amazingly, driving a car is no longer a must do for younger people. Some recent statistics show that in 1978, 86 percent of 18-year-olds had driving licenses, but in 2008, only 68 percent of 18-year-olds had driving licenses.”

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.