Talking Passenger Rail, Workforce Development With LAN’s Schmidt (Source: METRO)

Jul 22, 2021

By Alex Roman

As cities, states, and provinces throughout the U.S. and Canada slowly begin to reopen, there is no doubt there will be a new normal not only in the way people commute, but in the way capital projects are planned and executed.

Timothy Schmidt, VP of Lockwood, Andrews, & Newnam Inc., is one of several top executives METRO spoke with for a consultant roundtable in the July issue to discuss what may lie ahead for transit service planning, capital projects, workforce development, and much more.

With the pandemic hitting passenger rail systems quite hard, how quickly do you feel those systems can recover and what will be some of the keys to that recovery?

Transit properties and agencies were certainly hit very hard by the pandemic. Transit ridership sunk to new lows. Many of them had expansions planned that were based on pre-pandemic models. As more people get vaccinated and we get closer to herd immunity, mass transit systems will start to see an increase in ridership.

Another key aspect of the recovery is the economy. Most transit agencies get their funding through sales and gas taxes, and tax collections have gone down. The infrastructure bill that our new administration is working on will be critical in replenishing these tax shortfalls. The recent COVID-19 relief bill and last year’s CARES Act provided some operating expenses relief, but the infrastructure bill will be critical for the expansion and maintenance work that transit agencies have planned.

All indicators are that we are coming back well. Jobs are growing again, and unemployment is going down. These are all key to bringing passengers back. The last piece that is needed is the infrastructure stimulus.