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NEPTA's Centennial

NEPTA celebrated its 100th Anniversary during 2000. The following remembrance was prepared by Raymond W. Gareau (NEPTA President 1975) and was first published in the NEPTA Centennial Spring Conference program booklet on April 12, 2000.

The Oldest Transit Association in America

In 1960 when I became a member of the New England Transit Club (NEPTA's predecessor organization), it celebrated its 60th anniversary and boasted that it was the oldest transit association in America. It had over 350 individual members, more than 50 corporate members, and a like number of associate members representing a cross section of transit industry suppliers.

Most of the members and transit systems were from the private sector in New England. Only two public services had yet evolved. The MTA was relatively new and serviced only 13 cities and towns immediately surrounding Boston, and there was some limited public ownership in Greenfield, MA. Each New England State held membership. The Connecticut Company, the largest transit provider in that state, was active. Vermont was represented by Vermont Transit, New Hampshire by Public Service of New Hampshire and subsequently, by Manchester Transit, Inc. The Portland Coach Company and Hudson Bus Lines were members representing Maine. United Transit and the Shortline (now Bonanza Bus Lines) participated from Rhode Island.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts had the largest number of active individual members as well as transit systems. Boston's MTA had by far the largest contingent and supported the Club extensively. Its first General Manager, Ed Dana, was an enthusiastic contributor. All other Massachusetts corporate memberships were from the private sector, the largest being the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway Company. It operated in 13 cities and 72 towns surrounding metropolitan Boston from the New Hampshire border on the north to as far south as Fall River.

Other large carriers formed an extensive network of transit knowledge, interests and technology. These included Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway, Worcester Bus Company, Peter Pan Bus Lines, Springfield Street Railway, Holyoke Street Railway, Fitchburg and Leominster Street Railway and Union Street Railway of New Bedford, Almeida Bus and Company and H. L. Bloom among others.

The Meetings

Four meetings were held annually, each with a different purpose and agenda. The spring and fall meetings were primarily devoted to the exchange of information and review of matters of common interest, typically a legislative or labor-oriented focus. The summer and winter meetings were usually relaxed with many social interactions. These sessions served as a vehicle for the development of personal as well as professional ties among the membership. These resulted in unique and lasting alliances within the transit family. Attendance at the summer and winter meetings frequently reached 500.

Spring and fall meetings were often attended by fewer participants yet remained focused primarily on business needs. Many of the summer meetings, because of higher attendance, were held at resort areas such as the Cape Codder and the Belmont in Massachusetts, Wentworth by the Sea in New Hampshire and at the Marshall House in York Harbor, Maine.

The Public Role

Following enactment of the Federal Aid to Transportation Act of 1964 that ushered in greater governmental involvement and commitment at the state and local levels, the private sector saw rapid changes from private to public ownership. The MTA, through special legislation, expanded to become the MBTA. It absorbed the operations of the Eastern Massachusetts Street Railway Company and began serving 72 cities and towns.

In rapid succession, the public sector became involved in all New England states. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority assumed the operations of United Transit. In Maine, the Greater Portland Transit District assumed the operations of Portland Coach, and the Manchester Transit Authority assumed the operations formerly operated by Manchester Transit Company. The Chittenden County Transit Authority assumed transportation responsibilities from Vermont Transit in Burlington, and Connecticut DOT took over Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford lines from the Connecticut Company.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, regional transit authorities assumed transit operations from the private carriers in Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee, Worcester, Fitchburg and Leominster, Lowell, Lawrence, Gloucester, Brockton, Taunton and Attleboro, Fall River and New Bedford, and Cape Cod and the Islands.

Interurban carriers, such as Bonanza, Peter Pan, H.L. Bloom and Plymouth and Brockton, continued active membership in the Club although the profile of the organization was changing to reflect more of the interests of the public sector. As America was celebrating its 200th birthday, I had the privilege of serving as the Club's president - after having served as vice president under Joe Kelly the then General Manager of the MBTA. It became apparent that because of the prominence of the public sector in the industry and the infusion of federal and state participation, changes within the Transit Club would be required. We set out to realign the roles and needs of our changing membership to become more compatible with public ownership.


With that in mind, the New England Transit Club was restructured into the New England Passenger Transportation Association. The Association concentrated more and more on educational programs and directed attention to legislative and public information agendas. Although attendance and corporate membership have declined some during the last decade, NEPTA remains the active voice of transit management in the New England area. Its past presidents include all of the major, transit industry chief executives who have served within the five New England states.

Attempting to name them individually would surely lead to overlooking many important contributors. It is my understanding, however, that in the 100-year history of the Association, only two individuals served as president for two terms: J. David White of the MBTA and the other, Alex Michaud, of Michaud Bus Lines.

In 1999, our organization recognized the vital function that vendors play in our growth through the election of John Andrews as president. Our thanks go to the many suppliers, both regional and national, who have contributed their resources and continued to support NEPTA. Their involvement has always provided an important link to various sectors of the industry beyond New England's boundary.

The Association, throughout its evolution, has maintained excellent relations with the various federal and state officials who administer the funding programs which support the member carriers. It continues to develop unique information seminars and, as in the past, the supplier sector of the Association contributes great time and money to ensure the success of the association's functions.

We can all look back with some pride at not only NEPTA's longevity, but also the quality and high standards that the association has brought to public transportation in our region.

Lastly, no reflection would be complete without recognition of the many, many years of service and devotion to detail graciously given by Mildred Lynch during her tenure as the Executive Secretary.

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