2011 NEPTA BIENNIAL CONFERENCE & EXPO A COMPLETE SUCCESS
The Northeast Passenger Transportation Association (NEPTA) was extremely pleased to have hosted the NEPTA Biennial 2011 Conference and Expo, in collaboration with the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, Region 1 on March 30 and 31 in Hartford, Connecticut. The NEPTA Conference offers a unique opportunity for a full array of transit providers to come together and share best practices and learn from each other’s innovations—where else can big city operators from Boston, Providence and Hartford, small rural operators from rural Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire, private intercity carriers, private non-profits, state DOT’s, and planning agencies connect? The number of participants was a record and totaled over 415.
This year’s conference was titled “Charting the Course for the Next Generation of Transit,” in recognition of the fact that our industry is at a watershed moment, whereby it is incumbent on all of us to work together to chart a new course for a sustainable future. At the same time that state and local recourses are more constrained than they have been in a generation, we are facing growing demand for transit, spurred by gas prices approaching $4/gallon, increasing congestion, a rebounding economy, and a greater desire to “go green.” Some of the new technology and innovation that will be required to give us the tools to better hone our product to better serve a growing ridership and meet our challenges cost-effectively were featured during the conference. As an example, the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) presented the first live demonstration of their new ProcurementPro application, and in a literal allusion to this year’s ‘charting’ theme, FTA announced the winners of the Best Transit Maps awards, showcasing new applications of an old tool we can use to better reach our customers and market our services.
The conference opened with welcoming remarks from Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra, who provided an overview of the City of Hartford and discussed his local transportation vision. The Mayor’s presentation was followed up by Mary Beth Mello, FTA Regional Administrator for Region I, moderating a plenary session titled “Innovations in Transit, Charting the Course for the Next Generation in Transit.” The roundtable discussion examined new innovations and practices from industry leaders in both the public and private sectors. Topics included: performance measurement, the sustainable coordination of transit and land use, and the role of transit in meeting the mobility needs of the customers. Panelists for the roundtable represented a cross-section of the industry and included: James Redeker, CTDoT Acting Commissioner, Marc Draisen, MAPC Executive Director (Boston, MA), Charles Odimgbe, RIPTA CEO (Providence, RI), Peter A. Picknelly, Peter Pan Bus President and CEO (Springfield, MA), Sara Trafton, RTP Executive Director (Portland, ME), and Jim Moulton, ACTR Executive Director (Middlebury, VT).
The Transportation Expo provided more than 70 vendors, including several bus manufacturers, with the opportunity to showcase their latest products and services. In further demonstration of the success of the conference, attendees came away from the training maintenance workshops with practical guidance that they are now able to apply to their operations back home. This year Q-Straint, Twin Vision, Braun Company, Allison, Gillig, and Ricon were facilitators for these programs, followed by a very informative panel discussion focusing on current maintenance issues which was both well attended and well received.
The keynote speaker on March 30th was the honorable Dannel P. Malloy, Governor of Connecticut. Governor Malloy stated that “Connecticut is going to have to move away from financing its transportation infrastructure projects through gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. The reason the change is coming,” he said, “ is the likelihood that electric-powered vehicles will be replacing gas-powered cars and trucks in the near future, creating a shrinking base for raising revenue through gas taxes.”
Governor Malloy also repeated that he was going to make a final decision on the controversial proposal for the $569 million New Britain-Hartford Busway, and to announce it by Monday, April 3rd at the latest. Foreshadowing a later announcement that the State would indeed support the project, he told the crowd they can expect him “to make decisions that are pro-transportation and to push projects that can get underway in a hurry,” adding that he “absolutely believe[d] that it was incumbent to get these projects going,” and that “Connecticut needs projects that will provide plenty of construction jobs.”
The keynote speaker for the second day was Nelson “Oz” Griebel, former chair of the statewide Transportation Strategy Board and current CEO of the Metro Hartford Alliance. Griebel discussed transportation funding in Connecticut and why the business community strongly supports transit investment projects such as the proposed Hartford-New Britain Busway.
A highlight of the final day of the conference was the plenary session entitled “Transit Maps: Why They Are So Important!” The session served as a precursor to and context setter for the presentation of the winners of the first Best Transit Maps Honorary Awards. FTA Program Manager Noah Berger spoke on the history, power and market potential of transit maps, illustrating the presentation with displays of successful, as well as less successful examples of transit maps from the region and the world. Following the presentation, the 10 winning maps, out of 44 submissions, were announced. The Lewiston/Auburn Transit Committee (LATC) in Maine was recognized for having the “Best Overall Transit Map.” Other winners, in both the print and web-based categories, included: VTA, Edgartown, MA for Best Aesthetics; GBT, Bridgeport, CT for Best Schedule/Map Combo for a Mid-to-Large-Sized System; MWRTA, Framingham, MA for Best Stylized Map; PACTS, Portland, ME for Best Coordination of Multiple Providers; MBTA, Boston, MA for Best Large System Map; CTTransit, Hartford, CT for Best Map Theme for a Family of Regional Services; CCRTA Hyannis, MA for Best Real-Time Web-Based Map; CCTA/GMTA, Burlington, VT for Best Coordination of Multiple Providers in a Web-Based Map; and Norwalk TD, Norwalk, CT Best Multilingual Web-Based Map.
The second day concluded with sessions on the following topics: “Greening Transit Facilities: A Tangible Approach to Energy Efficiency & Sustainability;” “Buy, Buy Miss American Pie: An Overview of Buy America Act Provisions;” “What’s New in DOT/FTA Drug & Alcohol Testing;” “Urban and Rural Transit: Two New England Smart Growth Case Studies;” “ProcurementPRO Demonstration;” “The Demystification of NEPA: Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act;” “ARRA: Moving Projects Forward;” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Civil Rights But Were Afraid to Ask!”
NEPTA’s commitment to serve the passenger transportation community in New England and the Northeast will remain a priority, as it has been for the last 110 years. As in the past, opportunities to promote NEPTA’s goals of professional development, networking and information sharing, advocacy and fellowship is an integral part of the meetings, workshops, conferences, and benefit events.