FTA marks 50th anniversary of Urban Mass Transportation Act
In the 1960s, public transit was in critical condition. The way people travelled and where they lived had changed; transit systems nationwide were facing declining ridership and an inability to adapt on their own. But in 1964, a new law was enacted that would change all that by providing federal support to strengthen transit. It paved the way for the later creation of a small federal agency that, over the decades, would create a partnership with state and local governments to stabilize transit and finally lead it to a full recovery. Thanks to the work of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) – later renamed the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – the demand for transit is growing and ridership is on track to exceed 10 billion trips annually for the seventh year in a row.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of moderating a panel at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Urban Mass Transportation Act. The panel was made up of each of the living, Senate-confirmed UMTA and FTA administrators, save one. And even the one absentee sent in written remarks that I shared as part of the discussion. It was a great privilege to share the dais with so many of my capable and accomplished predecessors.
They spoke about the early days of the agency going back to the Nixon administration. We covered the evolution of transit, including the New Starts grant program, the introduction of bus rapid transit, the programs for small cities and rural areas, and an increasing focus on balancing new services with the maintenance of aging infrastructure. And we were fortunate to hear first-hand accounts of the challenges of rebuilding transit services after 9-11 and Hurricane Sandy.
A video of the nearly two hour discussion is now available on the FTA YouTube Channel and below. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. It creates a great oral and visual record of the history of public transit and the women and men who’ve helped support and strengthen it throughout the agency’s history.
An industry that was once in jeopardy has become a valuable asset to our national economy, with our investments in transit infrastructure helping create jobs and lead the recovery following the Great Recession. Today, transit is a lifeline for rural and suburban communities as well as cities big and small.