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APTA's rail conference highlighted growth, technology and funding issues

More than 1,400 passenger-rail professionals attended the American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) 2016 Rail Conference June 18-22 in Phoenix. The conference featured APTA's Safety & Security Excellence Awards, the 2016 International Rail Rodeo, more than 45 concurrent sessions, and technical tours led by conference transit-agency host Valley Metro.

Sessions included panel discussions and/or presentations on emerging technology, mega capital projects, rolling stock, safety regulations, streetcar systems, state-of-good repair challenges, and funding trends from local, state and national perspectives.

Also, a two-day exhibit showcased the latest in business members' rail equipment, products and services.

For more information on APTA Rail Conference goings-on, take a look at Progressive Railroading's photo gallery of some of the highlights.

All photos by Julie Sneider

At the conference's official opening General Session, Phoenix Mayor Greg talked about growing up in the city and using transit. As mayor, he said he has been a "huge supporter" of transit and passenger rail. The "great cities of the future" will need to support as many transportation options as possible — with rail being a "critical component" of those options.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego told the first General Session audience that as a member of Congress, he is "committed to fighting for more federal dollars for mass transportation." Gallego described growing up in Chicago, where he regularly used the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to get to school, work and a "world beyond my neighborhood." He noted that a majority of voters who last year approved Phoenix's $8 billion referendum to fund transportation programs were Republicans. "Transportation infrastructure funding is a bipartisan issue," said Gallego. "I only wish Congress would see it that way."
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider


Valley Metro Interim Chief Executive Officer, a businessman and former mayor of Mesa, Ariz., told the General Session audience how light-rail has transformed the Phoenix since Valley Metro its service on a cold day in December 2008. At 20 miles, it was the longest first starter line in U.S. history, he said. Passenger-rail changes people's lives and neighborhoods in ways they didn't know possible, said Smith. "Once they experience light rail, they find they like it."
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

In the APTA Rail Showcase, Jack Andruszkiewicz demonstrated some of Axis Communications Inc.'s products, which include video surveillance systems.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider


About 80 exhibitors were on hand to show and discuss the latest ways their companies' products and services are being used in the industry. ProTran Technology was among the exhibitors.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

The exhibit hall was a busy place for APTA members to interact with Showcase exhibitors
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider


The Showcase was open for two hours on June 19 and three hours on June 20
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

Progressive Railroading was among the Showcase exhibitors.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider


Acting Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Carolyn Flowers represented the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) senior leadership team during the General Session on June 20 in the afternoon. Flowers talked about how the department is preparing to meet challenges, such as the nation's aging infrastructure; growing demand for transit service; investing in workforce development and new technology; and the FTA's new safety role.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

After her opening remarks, Flowers took questions from the audience in a discussion moderated by Paul Jablonski (left), chief executive officer of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider


Among the conference sessions was a panel discussion of rolling stock and the new technologies available to help keep it in a state of good repair. At the podium is Keith Abate Sr., director of business development at Perpetuum Ltd.
Photo Credit: Julie Sneider

Valley Metro offered APTA Rail Conference attendees a tour of the agency's Operations and Maintenance Center. The OMC is the hub of the agency's rail vehicle and systems maintenance. The facility has the capacity for heavy repair and overhaul work, as well as routine maintenance.
Photo Credit: Valley Metro