a transit guy, at a highway conference?

Good afternoon, riders.

Here’s a seemingly odd pairing: the nation’s top transit advocate speaking at a highway conference.

That’s what we’ll have here in Des Moines this week, when Bill Millar, the president of the American Public Transportation Association, will be in town for the 2010 annual meeting of the Mississippi Valley Conference of the American Association of State Highway and  Transportation Officials (AASHTO). He will be speaking Thursday morning on the future of public transportation.

It isn’t that odd, when you think about it. Transit isn’t the enemy of roads any more than sidewalks or bike paths or airports are. They’re all a part of the same transportation network, and they are stronger as a whole than as individual parts.

Without roads, transit couldn’t use park-and-ride lots to increase ridership. A bus system couldn’t even exist without roads. But without buses, roads would have to accommodate thousands more cars every day, increasing carbon monoxide emissions and the wear and tear of the roads, to say nothing of the money needed to maintain or widen existing roads.

So really, it’s in everyone’s best interest if the highway and transit folks play nice.

Millar will also be speaking Friday morning at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Check back here for a report on his remarks.

Here’s his bio, courtesy of APTA:

William Millar is the president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Since coming to APTA in 1996, Bill has sought to expand APTA’s reach and effectiveness, guiding it to legislative victories and dramatically increasing federal investment in public transportation.

Bill is a longtime advocate for high-speed rail; under his leadership, the High-Speed Ground Transportation Association became part of APTA in 2006. APTA has created the Center for High-Speed Rail to bring together the expertise and resources of its members to realize the vision for high-speed rail in the United States.

Prior to APTA, Bill served 19 years at the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the principal transit operator serving Pittsburgh, PA.  As its executive director from 1983-1996, he oversaw the development and operation of bus, busway, light rail, paratransit and inclined plane service.  He is the founder of Pittsburgh’s award-winning ACCESS paratransit service.

From 1973-77, Bill worked for the Pennsylvania DOT, where he developed and managed Pennsylvania’s Free Transit Program for Senior Citizens and led the Penn DOT’s rural public and community transit efforts.  He began his career as the county transportation planner in Lancaster, PA.

Mr. Millar is a strong supporter of transportation research and is the recipient of the Founding Father Award for his leadership in establishing the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).  He has been a member of the executive committee of the Transportation Research Board for many years and served as its chair in 1992.  He also serves on advisory committees of several university transportation research institutes.

A well-known expert in the field of public transportation and transportation policy, Bill has published numerous articles and has often testified before the U.S. Congress. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer at conferences and seminars and is an adjunct professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Mr. Millar is the recipient of many awards, including APTA’s Jesse Haugh Award for Transit Manager of the Year (1987), the Transportation Research Board’s W. N. Carey, Jr. Distinguished Service Award (1999); Pattison Partnership Award from the Intermodal Passenger Institute (2001); and Railway Age’s Graham Claytor Award (2006).

Bill has a BA from Northwestern University and an MA from the University of Iowa majoring in urban transportation planning and policy analysis.  He lives in Falls Church, VA with his wife and two children and commutes to work on Washington’s Metrorail.