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On Wednesday, the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) and the Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) hosted a transit summit in Fort Lauderdale. The event, attended by several hundred transportation professionals, featured short speeches from the directors of all the South Florida transit agencies as well as some words from other transit advocates and “luminaries.”

The FPTA also took the opportunity to highlight their foray into social media, the IM4Transit campaign. Roughly akin to a Facebook “Like” or the too quickly forgotten Facebook groups, their goal is to sign up 100,000 Floridians who support transit. If you care to, sign up at IM4Transit.org or head over to Facebook and spread the like. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) also expressed their support for the IM4Transit campaign, which serves as their pilot program in social media.

Harpal Kapoor, director of Miami Dade Transit, defended himself (perhaps in response to recent criticisms) by talking up his success as a leader.

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The American Public Transportation Association released figures Monday on third quarter growth in public transportation. Tri-Rail ranked as the second fastest growing commuter rail system in the country with a whopping 32.9%. Public transit use overall jumped 6.5% between July and September across the country, while automobile use shrunk by a much larger 4.6%. More people reduced their driving because the actual number of vehicle-miles is much higher to begin with than the passenger-miles for public transit. So these 4.6% who reduced driving are not all switching to public transit, but also carpooling and combining or eliminating trips. Few bothered to point out that aspect of our new transportation habits, as the released figures don’t include those changes. Personally, I know many coworkers who have started carpooling this year.

Read the Miami Herald article on the subject here. One phrase in the article that nearly makes me shiver with delight is that “meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry is on the verge of collapse…” While I wish it were the case, the statement is rather sensationalist. If they declare bankruptcy they will not be collapsing, just restructuring.

Meanwhile, gas prices continue to drop, so we can only hope these changes last.

98% of Americans are in favor of expanded public transportation.  Yes, there is a catch.  This is what the study released today by the APTA concluded:

A study released Monday by the American Public Transportation Association reveals that 98 percent of Americans support the use of mass transit by others.

Now, that is a scary statistic.  With hordes of environmental and financial problems looming over the US economy (chiefly the result of our unappeasable appetites for oil), one would assume that our citizens would become better acquainted with more sustainable lifestyles.  This national mentality falls in line with some situations we’ve addressed here on TM; evidenced by the opposition against bringing commuter rail service to the CSX corridor because it would “hamper the commutes of motorists traveling along several east-west corridors.”

Of the study’s 5,200 participants, 44 percent cited faster commutes as the primary reason to expand public transportation, followed closely by shorter lines at the gas station. Environmental and energy concerns ranked a distant third and fourth, respectively.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news America, but this is not how transportation works:

Anaheim, CA, resident Lance Holland, who drives 80 miles a day to his job in downtown Los Angeles, was among the proponents of public transit.

“Expanding mass transit isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity,” Holland said. “My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It’s about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road.”

You will notice that equally important in our quest of reshaping the American Landscape (and mentality) is to create a better understanding of our land use policies.

Recommended Reading:

  • With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore Whether It’s Smart to Be Dense (WSJ)

We Received a letter from a loyal reader and transit advocate who was able to attend the recent Broward County Transit Summit. Here’s what happened:
This past Tuesday Broward county held a transit summit with the intent of getting input from the public on what is wrong with public transportation in Broward County and what can be done to fix it. Mayor Joseph Eggelletion started up the public portion of the summit. The most notable thing he mentioned was that Broward county wants to “think green” with their transit. This is a departure from recent trends, as they have foregone any hybrid options for new buses such as the highly touted articulated buses for the 441 Breeze route. Perhaps they will follow PalmTran’s lead and use biodiesel.

The president of the American Public Transportation Association, William Millar, delivered the keynote speech. His speech offered a few pointers to improve transit, but nothing earth-shattering. The most insightful information of the summit was some numbers comparing the transit system in Broward county to other Metro areas, from Miami to Seattle to Atlanta. [I
don’t have these numbers with me at work.] They all have more buses and more rail than Broward county, but only because they each have a dedicated funding source. Last year Broward voters passed up a 1% sales tax increase that would have gone toward transit, and the system will continue to stagnate if residents are not willing to pay for expansion.

Two of the suggestions I wrote down were to secure a funding source and to connect to Miami’s Orange Line Metrorail when they come to the Broward County line. Metrorail’s deputy director told me their final elevation was such that Broward County could connect to their tracks. The ball is in the hands of the voters. If we can vote to tax ourselves, the county says they will listen to us and use that money where we want them to. In the meantime, additional summits will be held on Nov. 13 and on Jan. 24. Go andtell them how to make our transit better.

I didn’t get to stay for the end to hear what other comments were, so I don’t know if the overall tone was good or bad.

APTA (American Public Transportation Association) just came out with a report citing 2006 ridership figures. Among the findings:
  • More than 10 billion trips taken on bus and rails in 2006 nationwide
  • 2.9% increase over 2005
  • Highest levels of ridership since 1957
  • Ridership nationally has increased by 28% over the last decade
This is great news and again proves that even without first-class transit systems in every city, people still are willing to ride transit. Just imagine the ridership gains if all of our major cities did have first-class transit systems.

APTA president William Millar stated in the article, “Certainly a lot of the growth last year was with the high gas prices”. This offers more support to raise our gas taxes. This may be especially necessary for the future of South Florida transit, given cutbacks in funds the region could see if the proposed property tax rollback bill is passed. Raising gas taxes will better represent the true cost of oil, encourage more people to ride transit, and generate millions of dollars to improve transit.

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