By Joe Petrie – Mass Transit Magazine (www.masstransitmag.com)
October 2, 2013
With the American Public Transportation Association Annual Meeting coming to a close in Chicago, transit leaders are going back to their communities with new ideas, new perspectives and glimpses at new products to take their fleets to the next level and provide better customer service.
Despite a government shutdown and the specter of a prolonged government stalwart hindering all hope of a long-term federal transit funding deal or even providing near-term grants for new projects being completed in the near future, there hasn’t been a sense of despair hanging in the background of discussions. Instead, many seem to be inspired by the new challenges presented to them and optimistic things are about to change for the better as they prepare for a new year.
And they should be. A record number of exhibitors and registrants packed into the trade show Monday in the basement of the Hilton. New companies were there and still optimistic about dipping their toes into the transit market. I ran into Chistopher Chong with SST Wireless Inc. on two different occasions. Chong’s company makes wheel sensors for heavy-duty vehicles, which could provide a valuable data capture of transit vehicles to improve maintenance schedules and allow fleets to run better. Chong has been selling his products to mining companies and despite the challenges of breaking into the transit market at this time, he’s confident of growing his product in the market in 2014.
I met up with Jay Banasiak, director of Sun Metro in El Paso, Texas, who’s prepping to open his first bus rapid transit line in July. Two more lines are also in the process and even though the third line is being held up by the ongoing federal sequester, he’s still excited about the impact the lines will have in his city and the economic impact they will bring.
I met with organizers with Getting America to Work, which is getting more community organizations involved in transit, and they said in just the few months they’ve been in existence, moderate Republican politicians have been listening and even a few from the staunchly anti-transit conservative wing of the party are starting to come around to the value of transit and the impact it has in spurring economic growth in their communities and growing revenues for American manufacturers.