The Year Ahead

By Paul P. Skoutelas | 2/5/2024

BY PAUL P. SKOUTELAS
APTA President and CEO

APTA has an ambitious agenda for 2024, and we are already off to a quick and productive start.

Two weeks ago, our business members and Business Members Board of Governors convened their annual meeting in Puerto Rico to address issues that are vital not only to public transportation but to the national economy. Many of the trends shaping transit’s future are priorities for every industry and community:

  1. Employing emerging and sometimes disruptive technologies, from AI and machine learning, to increasing efficiency and improving performance.
  2. Investing in diverse, inclusive, and knowledge-based workforces with both technical and people skills and a commitment to lifelong learning.
  3. Continuing to reduce our environmental footprint as well as the cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance by transitioning to more sustainable and cleaner energy sources.
  4. Delivering a more personalized and convenient customer experience at the right time and in the preferred way.
  5. Building for greater resiliency, reliability, and safety from any threats, from cyberattacks or economic downturns to environmental events or global pandemics.
  6. Working with the business community and local governments to adapt to the continuation of some level of remote or hybrid work as travel behaviors change.

How we leverage these six trends will define our success in 2024 and into the next decade.

The good news is that these are issues where public transportation is already demonstrating innovation—and they represent much of our work for this year.

Funding and Infrastructure Investment

Over the past two years, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has helped us launch construction projects, modernize equipment, and plan initiatives to advance equity and protect the environment. Now we need to continue the fight for funding that will fulfill the IIJA’s full potential.

  • The current short-term budget agreement that funds all federal public transportation programs expires on March 1. For the next 24 days, APTA is doubling down on advocacy efforts to secure full funding—$21.6 billion for public transit and $20.2 billion for passenger rail, as well as other provisions in the FY 2024 appropriations law.
  • APTA is using paid advertising, social media, and our members’ success stories to show Members of Congress how investments in public transit grow local communities, create jobs, and support the national economy.

Strengthening the Bus Manufacturing Industry

  • This week, APTA’s Task Force on Strengthening U.S. Bus Manufacturing will release its findings and recommendations. Led by APTA Immediate Past Chair and Chicago Transit Authority President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., and New York City Transit President Richard A. Davey, the task force will propose actions to support a more competitive and stable U.S. bus manufacturing market and its transition to zero-emission buses. Throughout 2024, APTA will work with USDOT, FTA, and other agencies to implement the recommendations.
  • APTA leaders also will meet this week with the White House Roundtable on Clean Buses to discuss the task force’s work, lessons learned, and actions that stakeholders nationwide are taking to support clean bus manufacturing and deployment in the United States.
  • We are developing a set of Bus Procurement Best Practices consistent with FTA procurement directives and incorporating them into APTA’s Bus Procurement Guidelines (known as the “White Book”). An updated version of the “White Book” will be published in 2024.
  • APTA is establishing a zero-emission bus safety technical advisory group to provide recommendations to help address battery fire safety and other potential safety issues.

New National Standards Program

Last year, APTA led a multi-organizational group to win a three-year FTA grant to develop voluntary standards, best practices, and new tools for our industry.

  • Working with FTA and the Center for Urban Transportation Research, the work will begin with a comprehensive survey of transit agencies to identify areas where needs are the greatest and most urgent. Using the survey results, APTA’s standards working groups will create or update standards and recommended guidance through 2026.

Pro-Transit Rulemaking

On the regulatory front, APTA is focused on several issues of importance to our members, including:

  • Urging USDOT to update the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise personal net worth cap, thereby allowing smaller companies to compete for contracts under the bipartisan infrastructure law, which will boost the U.S. economy and ease supply chain and project delivery delays.
  • Providing comments and guidance to USDOT on ways to make public transportation facilities more accessible while remaining sensitive to the need for additional resources.
  • Working closely with TSA on cybersecurity protections and with FTA on major safety rules, including the National Safety Plan, the Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan, flexible Hours of Service and Fatigue Risk Management, and a General Directive on Transit Worker Assaults.

Return of the Bus Roadeo

In keeping with our association’s efforts to support bus transit agencies, APTA will host the International Bus Roadeo, April 26-30, in Portland, Oregon, for the first time since 2019.

Workforce Initiatives

  • APTA’s first-ever Workforce Summit, August 21-23, in Washington, DC, will focus on recruiting and retaining transit workers, and strengthening organizational cultures.
  • APTA has partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology on a five-year U.S. Department of Labor grant to provide training, paid internships, and mentorships to APTA member employers in the Metropolitan Washington, DC area.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

  • Yesterday, public transit systems across the country celebrated Transit Equity Day honoring civil rights leader Rosa Parks on her birthday, February 4, and the ongoing work to make transportation more accessible and equitable. In 2024, APTA’s DEI work continues with the second year of a two-year Racial Equity Commitment Pilot. Based on lessons learned, we plan to launch a new diversity, equity, and inclusion commitment program this Fall.
  • APTA will release a “Transit Equity Report” this Spring, providing an overview of the equity-focused practices and processes being put in place by the public transportation industry.

Other 2024 Activities

  • Watch for more APTA information to help our members protect their organizations from and respond to cybersecurity risks. Also, later this year, FTA’s Transit Advisory Committee for Safety, on which APTA staff serve, will release a report with recommendations on Cybersecurity for Transit.
  • APTA expects to complete 12 or more peer reviews and safety audits in 2024.
  • We are finalizing plans for the next APTA International Study Mission to Europe this coming June.

And there is much more to come—from our new online format for Passenger Transport to new webinars on timely issues; from APTA’s original research studies to a new lineup of impressive speakers at our 13 in-person conferences, seminars, and workshops throughout the remainer of 2024.

I am confident that this year will be one of our most productive—and it is because of the strength of our public transportation community. APTA would not be APTA, and public transportation would not be all it is today, without the enormous contributions of our transit agency leaders, business executives, and transit board members.

Here’s to a momentous year for our industry and members!