Passenger Transport - November 3, 2008
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‘Invest in America, Invest in Transit’ Message at House T&I Committee Hearing
Amid increased calls for a second federal economic stimulus package, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee heard Oct. 29 from witnesses advocating for increases in infrastructure funding. The three panels at the packed hearing included representatives of numerous modes of transportation, including public transit, intercity rail, aviation, and water transportation.
“We must take immediate action to invest in America, rebuild our economy, and put America back to work,” T&I Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) said in his opening remarks. He emphasized that infrastructure construction “cannot be outsourced to another country because the work must be done here in the United States, on our roads, bridges, transit and rail systems, airports, waterways, and wastewater treatment facilities.”
APTA Chair Beverly Scott, Ph.D., general manager and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, testified about a new APTA survey that identifies more than $8 billion in 559 “ready-to-go” projects from 170 public transit systems that could start within 90 days of federal funding being made available. Pointing out that every $1 communities invest in public transportation generates approximately $6 in economic returns, Scott said: “I urge Congress to move forward with an economic stimulus package that recognizes the value of investing in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure. These projects will create new economic activity and put thousands of people to work.” She noted that the economic stimulus legislation will help provide additional infrastructure to meet the rapidly growing demand for public transportation.
Scott’s remarks also addressed the financial threat facing 31 of the largest U.S. public transit agencies, including MARTA, related to the ratings downgrade of AIG and other insurers. She called on Congress to ask the U.S. Treasury to intercede on behalf of the transit agencies by taking over the role of AIG and other insurers in Sale-in/Lease-out and Lease-in/Lease-out (SILO/LILO) transactions or, failing that, “to enact a legislative remedy in economic stimulus legislation or another legislative vehicle.”
Jerry E. Abramson, mayor of Louisville, KY, and former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, testified about that organization’s Main Street Stimulus proposal, which budgets $9 billion for public transit rolling stock out of a total of $150 billion. The proposal includes a list of projects that would be ready to go within 90 to 120 days, and would be finished by the end of 2009. Abramson said the plan would “improve the infrastructure, provide real jobs immediately, and help small business build even more jobs.”
John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, stressed that public investment in the transportation infrastructure “will help prepare the nation for its rebound by keeping steel mills going, cement trucks rolling, equipment manufacturing lines moving, and Americans employed.” He asked the federal government to “commit resources to transportation infrastructure projects that are ready to go and will provide meaningful, long-lasting public benefit to the economy.”
Both houses of Congress are expected to return to the Capitol following the Nov. 4 elections, but no details have been finalized about any economic stimulus package.
Changes to New Starts
Oberstar hinted that big changes are in store for the federal New Starts program. While discussing a New Jersey project with Gov. Jon Corzine, the chairman said the Cost-Effectiveness Index (CEI) “will be gone next year…[CEI is] out, done, through.”
Transit Agencies Face Catch-22 in Fiscal Meltdown
More than 31 public transportation agencies across the U.S. are facing the grim consequences of the financial meltdown under assault from the investors in dozens of Lease-in/Lease-out and Sale-in/Lease-out (LILO/SILO) transactions promoted and approved by the Federal Transit Administration—which could lead to severe service cuts and termination costs in excess of $2 billion.
Transit agencies that have never missed a payment and do not expect to are nevertheless threatened with default. The catch-22 comes from the fact that, although the payment funds are adequate and safe, the holders of these funds have suffered downgraded credit ratings, allowing investors to bring default actions.
“The bottom line is that, during a time when transit ridership is at record high levels, we have to face this precarious situation that could possibly put a very big dent in our service,” said Carol Kissal, chief financial officer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. “We would be obligated to make payments that are so very unnecessary.”
Request from Senators
Four members of the U.S. Senate have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, asking them to delegate officials to work with U.S. DOT and major U.S. public transit agencies to find a way to resolve the issue.
“AIG was used as a go-between in many of these transactions. Now the banks that are parties to these transactions are using AIG’s credit downgrading to terminate these transactions in terms favorable to them,” states the letter, signed by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “As a result, the banks may have the opportunity to gain 100 percent of the tax benefits which have been disallowed, and in turn devastate transit agencies. Any reduction or degradation in transit service could mean that our constituents will struggle getting to work or school, squeezing our state economies and family budgets even further. This is a time when we should encourage mass transit use and a financial blow to our transit agencies such as this one is a major setback to that effort.”
In addition, U.S. Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) raised the issue at an Oct. 23 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Testifying on the role of federal regulators in the current financial crisis were Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve; John Snow, former secretary of the treasury; and Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Watson used the example of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in Los Angeles, operator of Metrolink commuter rail. The agency sold much of its rolling stock in four lease-back deals, receiving $1 billion in loans from AIG, and now it has been forced to find another firm.
Greenspan, Snow, and Cox agreed with her suggestion that the financial crisis may lead to “a wide variety of bankruptcies that involve small businesses and other corporations.”
How It Works
The mechanics of LILO/SILO are as follows: Transit agencies have received cash for operations and capital purchases as investors took advantage of depreciation and other tax incentives by buying assets such as rail cars, buses, and transit facilities, then leasing them back to the transit agencies over the life of the assets. The agencies used the proceeds of these transactions to buy government securities that would mature over time, providing necessary funds to make payments over the life of the deals; the agencies typically were able to obtain about 6 to 7 percent of the value of their facilities or equipment to maintain service, buy new equipment, and avoid rate increases.
FTA reviewed every transaction that involved federally assisted assets to ensure that it was sound, that all necessary payments were accounted for in advance, and that the transit agencies would maintain “satisfactory continuing control” over their equipment and facilities. These transactions proved so popular that FTA published “how-to” guides for agencies, and promoted them as an aspect of innovative financing.
How, then, did it fall apart?
After years of LILO/SILO deals, the Internal Revenue Service decided that investors did not take real risk in these transactions, claiming that they lacked “economic substance.” The IRS began denying investors the tax benefits, in the form of deductions for depreciation and interest paid, ultimately leaving them with long-term investments with no profit.
As the current financial crisis came to a head, investors saw a way to get back the profits the IRS denied. Although the government securities remain adequate to make every payment, a provision of almost every agreement requires the holder of the securities, or “payment undertaker,” to itself maintain a AAA credit rating. As AIG, a frequent payment undertaker, saw its credit rating slip, transit agencies were obligated to replace AIG within a short time, typically 60 days. In the current financial climate, that has proven all but impossible.
When investors can declare transit agencies in default in this process, even though the securities guaranteeing their payments remain completely sound, the investors can demand “stipulated loss values.” These values amount to all lost profits the investors had hoped to earn, even those denied them by IRS enforcement actions—all at the expense of the transit agencies.
Effect on Transit Agencies
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is among the transit agencies threatened by this situation, which could lead to severe service cuts as a result of the fiscal shortfall.
“Even without the federal bailout, AIG was able to pay the share because we gave them money and they pledged us treasury and agency securities. AIG, for us, was always able to perform; the shortfall is coming from the credit downgrade,” said Terry Matsumoto, chief financial service officer and treasurer for Los Angeles Metro.
He continued: “The contract documents, the lease-leaseback documents, require us to replace AIG solely because of the downgrade [in credit rating]….Under the deal documents, Metro is obligated to find a credit-worthy party that would do what AIG was supposed to do for this. In the current marketplace, with everybody being downgraded, few if any people are qualified and interested in taking over for what AIG can do, but our deal documents say we must replace them. That’s what creates the stress.”
WMATA’s Kissal agreed with Matsumoto. “What happened is that when AIG, the bond insurer, went below a triple-A credit rating, the investors could trigger an event of default,” she said. “If the transaction stood on its own, it would keep going; the rental payments would continue regardless of whether the entity making them had a triple-A rating or a single-A rating. There’s no risk to the transaction.
“In this situation,” she continued, “you have to replace the bond insurer with another triple-A in the marketplace, but there is no other triple-A insurer in the marketplace. Even if the agency wants to replace the insurer, it can’t.” According to Kissal, WMATA may have 12 to 20 deals affected by this situation, at an average cost of $100 million to $150 million.
The Next Step
APTA is working closely with dozens of member agencies and their advocates, led by Jeff Boothe of Holland and Knight and John Cline of the C2 Group, to pursue relief for the transit agencies through the recently passed federal “bailout” legislation, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. APTA and its members believe this legislation authorizes the Treasury Department to step into the shoes of AIG and other downgraded payment undertakers and, in effect, hold the basket of securities, allowing the transactions to continue and normal payments to be made, and avoiding technical defaults to bankrupt transit agencies.
Rail~Volution 2008 Brings Innovators on Board in San Francisco
By PAUL SPRINGER, for Passenger Transport
The annual Rail~Volution conference rolled into San Francisco for four days in late October, bringing together a host of land-use and transportation innovators, forward-thinking elected officials, and imaginative developers, all deeply invested in an efficient and sustainable blending of transit development and land use.
Nearly four billion passenger trips were taken on all rail modes in 2007.
The Oct. 29 Opening Plenary Session addressed sustainability challenges facing transit planners from the local to the national level. Speakers returned again and again to the importance of using the imminent political changing of the guard to effect change that benefits all levels of society.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder of Rail~Volution, headlined the session. Other speakers included Gail Murray, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, host system for the conference; Steve Heminger, executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Stuart Cohen, executive director of TransForm (formerly the Transportation and Land Use Coalition); and APTA President William W. Millar. Judith Bell, president of PolicyLink, moderated the session, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who addressed the 2008 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in San Diego earlier in October, sent a video presentation.
While planning and transit-oriented development (TOD) are important to sustainable communities, Blumenauer said, “We have to get some money to make these visions come true.” After listing economic and political dilemmas currently facing the nation, he said that dire circumstances present an opportunity to make real changes, adding that he sees a “crusade to unleash a vast constituency to rebuild and renew America.”
Blumenauer also lamented the disconnect he sees between local needs and federal funding, which can lead to excessive highway construction. He suggested the establishment of a uniform match ratio to ensure local commitment to projects with federal backing.
The congressman announced during his speech that he was leaving the conference early so he could tend to key developments in Congress. He said he had decided in favor of taking action rather than talking about ideas, and the crowd responded with applause and cheers.
Millar spoke about U.S. rail projects either newly completed or in progress, including Salt Lake City’s FrontRunner commuter rail, Seattle’s South Lake Union Streetcar, and Phoenix’s Valley Metro Rail light rail line. He noted the significant economic benefits of public transit investment: the Phoenix project enters service later this year but has already attracted $1.6 billion in development, while the Euclid Avenue area in Cleveland—where HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit began operation Oct. 24—has drawn $4.3 billion in public and private investment.
Economic expansion, including transit projects, can support the nation’s ability to deal with population growth and cut back on foreign petroleum energy sources, Millar said. He also noted that, while leadership at the national level is important, development of transportation with long-term planning must be catalyzed at the local level. “It’s not what happens in Washington,” he explained. “It’s what happens in local communities.”
Heminger emphasized the need for change and new directions, especially with regard to the federal transportation funding authorization bill to be passed next year. He quoted from a recent report by his commission: “We believe that the federal transportation services program should not be reauthorized in its current form. Instead, we should make a new beginning.”
Ultimately, however, growth must come from individual rather institutional sources, Heminger said: “Individual behavior will be the key to change.”
Cohen called the current situation of economic and political flux a time of “palpable excitement and change.” He highlighted the importance of reducing reliance on driving, saying “Too many cars equals a rebellion against TOD,” and called the current administration’s proposals “timid” for the very limited extent they propose cutting back on cars.
Transit Leaders Share Concerns
Following the plenary session, transit agency executives shared their concerns in a forum moderated by Millar. Participants included Michael Scanlon, general manager and chief executive officer of the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) in San Carlos, CA; BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger; John Ristow of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose; and Gary Thomas, president and executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).
Topics of discussion included the importance of TOD and the difficulty of balancing long-term planning with day-to-day operations in an environment where the media provides endless real-time updates on transportation conditions. “You’re only as good as your last rush hour,” commented Dugger.
Other key subjects were the importance of obtaining input from communities and using communication techniques such as deliberative polling to encourage people to re-examine their transportation opinions.
After noting anecdotal evidence that public transportation in some foreign countries is superior to what the U.S. has to offer, Scanlon ended on a high note: “People love to come back from vacation and talk about recreating Europe. Well, we can actually do that.”
TransitVision 2050: Far-Reaching Effort Sees Globally Competitive Transportation System
America’s public transportation industry will play a critical role in shaping a sustainable world and enhancing the quality of life. This is the focus of APTA’s far reaching, visionary effort, TransitVision 2050, which envisions an efficient, multi-modal transportation system which will be the key to global competitiveness.
APTA began this major industry initiative 18 months ago, asking members, stakeholders, and partners to take a look to the future. Questions asked included: How do we ensure that a projected population of over 400 million in 2050 has the transportation choices it needs for mobility? How will we meet the needs of our aging population expected to double by 2030?
The APTA Board of Directors recently approved the final report.
This vision sees that “In 2050, America’s energy-efficient, multi-modal, environmentally sustainable transportation system powers the greatest nation on earth.” In this vision, “by 2050 America’s investment in balanced transportation systems has enabled it to sever its dependency on foreign oil…the switch to high-quality public transportation systems has given individuals the choice to avoid climate-unfriendly lifestyles…people from all walks of life have freedom, opportunity, and independence to pursue their American dream. The quality of life for people in many generations to come is enriched as a result.”
APTA Immediate Past Chair Michael S. Townes credited the APTA TransitVision 2050 Task Force—chaired by Elliot G. (Lee) Sander, executive director and chief executive officer of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority—with working hard on the initiative, saying: “We gathered up some of the best minds in transit today and asked them to help craft this vision…and I am pleased that…we have our new vision—with a world’s best transportation system that will provide for economic health, a high quality of life, and a sustainable environment.”
Themes included in TransitVision 2050 include:
* A national transportation plan for the 21st century;
* Stable and reliable investments in a vastly expanded system, coming from federal, state, and local governments, transit-generated revenues, and public-private partnerships;
* A single multi-modal and integrated system incorporating public transportation, roads, and other elements of the surface transportation network;
* New regional institutions to plan and implement multi-state infrastructure projects;
* Long-term outcomes and performance;
* A growing market and private sector role;
* Technology as a tool in an evolving and ever-changing world;
* Legacy as a core value;
* Transit organizations as mobility managers; and
* Career appeal to the workforce.
Learning Green, Living Green
By LESLIE A. BUCHER, for Passenger Transport
The issue of climate change continues to permeate people’s thinking—and actions. Ads stress anything “green”; people are driving less; and the environmental imperatives of reducing greenhouse gases and developing alternative energy sources figure prominently on every political agenda —all trends that bode well for public transportation as the industry looks to the ingenuity of human resources to solve the pressing need for expanded, yet sustainable, system capacity.
Universities across the U.S. are also responding to this environmentally evolutionary way of thinking and acting. Every month, the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) reports scores of new campus initiatives to promote public transportation, switch to alternative fuel sources, conserve energy, and build greener buildings. For the first time ever, the 2009 edition of the Kaplan College Guide highlights the 10 hottest green careers—including Transportation Systems Planning—to help save the planet.
Also, more and more universities are embracing a multi-disciplinary approach to learning to provide students the myriad skills
they need to obviate today’s complex challenges of climate change, fossil fuel shortages, and spiraling energy costs.
Public transit agencies are teaming up with campus leaders to provide free or low-cost transportation for students, faculty, and staff. For example, the University of South Florida in Tampa, in partnership with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART), offers free U-Pass transit to university students along with 25-cent fares to faculty and staff; the Sustainable Transportation program of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Environmental Center operates bike and bus pass programs and has developed partnerships with private and public community entities including Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD); and San Jose State University’s pass programs enable students, staff, and faculty to enjoy unlimited rides on all Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) bus and light rail routes.
These and other similar efforts not only reduce automobile dependency, carbon emissions, and congestion; they also engender an appreciation of the advantages and efficiencies of public transit.
“Transportation is a major focus of many campus sustainability initiatives, from car-share and U-Pass programs to campus hybrid and electric vehicles,” said AASHE Acting Executive Director Judy Walton, Ph.D. “It's a very visible and tangible place to begin practicing sustainability. Transportation initiatives drive home many of the sustainability concepts students learn in the classroom—from life-cycle costing to resource efficiency and long-range planning. These initiatives also enhance demand for public transportation and bicycle access.”
Another way higher education can promote green issues is through new forms of graduate study that incorporate new multi-disciplinary approaches into traditional master’s degree programs. A prime example of this new green approach is the University of Maryland’s Masters in Real Estate Development (MRED), established in 2006.
Based in the university’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, the MRED stresses a comprehensive and collaborative approach to real estate development that goes far beyond the traditional finance emphasis to cover the broad spectrum of issues involved in designing and developing communities. Its topics range from public-private partnerships that support mixed-use transit-oriented development and affordable housing to energy efficiency for structures and communities and adaptive reuse of older buildings.
“Our first graduates represent a new generation of professionals with a different way of thinking about development,” said Margaret McFarland, director of the program. “They hit the street at a moment of great opportunity—just as the private sector is beginning to embrace the imperatives of sustainable development and the financial markets have revealed their limits in the current credit crunch.”
Since 2000, George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, VA, has offered graduate programs in Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics (TPOL), an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to educate the next generation of transportation leaders and professionals. U.S. News and World Report recently named GMU the top up-and-coming national university.
“The transportation education and training establishment is faced with a huge challenge as the industry prepares for a major turnover in its workforce,” explained Jonathan L. Gifford, GMU professor and associate dean for research and director of TPOL. “Not only does the industry face a wave of retirements with the aging of the baby boom, it also faces a major restructuring of its workforce requirements. We have deployed many major new systems in the last half century that are now in need of renewal. System operations and management have taken on an importance equal to or greater than design and construction.”
Begun as a partnership with Virginia DOT, TPOL has received high praise from U.S. DOT, both for providing an avenue for those seeking to enter the transportation industry and for enabling industry professionals to broaden their skill sets and position themselves for moving into leadership positions.
TPOL is designed for students and for practicing professionals engaged in transportation planning, regulation, management, and operations. The program provides a working knowledge of the theory, policy, law, research, and practices required to effectively and efficiently supply and operate transportation facilities and services.
According to Gifford, TPOL recently entered a partnership with the Senior Leadership Development Program at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and a group of WMATA employees joined the program this fall.
Perhaps one of the largest servings of campus “green” can be found at the nation’s first college of sustainability. Established in 2007, the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University seeks to develop solutions to environmental challenges plaguing most of the world’s urban areas—including rapid urbanization, population growth, shrinking water supply, and the need for renewable energy—and prides itself on a transdisciplinary approach to teaching.
“At ASU, we’ve basically taken top faculty from all over the university to develop the curriculum, co-teach the core courses, and offer a wide spectrum of electives,” explained Dr. Aaron Golub, an assistant professor in the School of Planning and the School of Sustainability. “The civil engineer needs to understand psychology or the ecologist needs to understand anthropology. The problems are changing, and so is education. These mixed approaches are clear breaks from the past.”
He reported an increased interest in transportation-related graduate electives as well as transit-oriented thesis work, including such issues as light rail ridership and impacts, public transit financing, sprawl, and transit-oriented development planning.
Golub also noted the importance of public transportation as an essential option as well a matter of equity. “Not everyone owns a vehicle or is of age or able to drive,” he said. “In most cities, a good 25 percent or more of the population can’t drive. Limiting transit options is saying to this population, ‘Sorry, your mobility doesn’t matter.’ This will become even more important as the tens of millions of 60-year-olds become 70- and 80-year-olds over the coming decades. We need to prepare for this now.”
By continuing to develop and provide an impressive array of innovative, interdisciplinary programs, universities and colleges are ensuring today’s students will graduate with the skills needed to provide sustainable solutions for the challenges facing transportation and mobility.
Perhaps GMU’s Gifford said it best: “As the ad jingle says, human energy is our most valuable renewable resource. The enthusiasm of each new class of students in our program for tackling the most difficult problems and changing the world never ceases to amaze and inspire me. Our transportation system does face some serious challenges, but those challenges create conditions that allow new pathways and new technologies to emerge. It's the way each new generation of transportation systems has come into being, and it's the next generation of transportation professionals that will usher in new systems to address these current and future problems.”
Passenger Transport invites readers to send other relevant examples of green education initiatives to feature in future issues, as this subject becomes even more important in coming years.
Nashville MTA Opens ‘Music City Central’
The Metropolitan Transit Authority in Nashville held grand opening ceremonies Oct. 24 for its new downtown transit station, Music City Central with buses beginning to serve the station two days later.
The state-of-the-art, climate-controlled transit station, located in the central business district, replaces the outdoor Transit Mall on Deaderick Street. MTA estimates 20,000 people will travel through the station each weekday.
MCC, with 434,314 square feet of space, has two levels to serve bus riders, offering climate-controlled waiting rooms with comfortable seats, continuous storefront windows and terrazzo flooring in the upper and lower grand entries; a staffed Customer Care Center; ticket vending machines; a doughnut shop; space for a small retail business; and a community meeting room. MTA buses provide service to 24 bus bays.
“We have seen a steady pattern of growth during the past six years,” said Nashville MTA Chief Executive Officer Paul Ballard. “With Music City Central and additional services like the Regional Transportation Authority’s Music City Star [commuter rail line] in existence, we are beginning to see improved regional connectivity for public transportation in this area. That’s the next step in making transit a viable choice for more people.”
MCC also has a strong musical theme that plays out in a variety of ways and elevates the facility beyond a transfer station for bus riders to a downtown tourist destination. The station is located near the former site of a theater that was the second largest in the nation when it opened in 1850 and provided a variety of entertainment options until its demolition in 1957.
The plaza outside Music City Central includes a small concert stage, shaped like the base of a guitar; interspersed throughout the plaza’s concrete flooring and inside are inlays of sheet music depicting familiar Nashville and Tennessee songs, as well as public art sculptures depicting gigantic tuning forks and pairs of drumsticks. In addition, each vehicle parking level is designated by a musical instrument and artwork from three area elementary schools.
The MCC project received 80 percent federal funding, with the remainder from state and local sources.
Reno’s RTC Opens Artistic, Efficient Transit Center
As guests chanted “Move That Bus,” the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County in Reno, NV, dedicated its Centennial Plaza Transit Center in Sparks on Oct. 21. The new $20 million facility, located four miles from downtown Reno, replaces a closet-sized shelter in the corner of a parking garage.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we are about this new center. It has been described by the community as a jewel, and I couldn’t agree more. It will serve our customers and its neighbors well,” said RTC Executive Director Greg Krause.
The design of the half-circle brick building with glass walls and translucent ceiling suggests a railroad roundhouse, with 15 bus bays outside it. The building contains waiting areas, ticketing counters, and available retail space.
Adding to the aesthetics of the site is a 40-foot lighted sculpture by Donald Lipski called “The Cow Catcher,” referring to the guard installed on the front of a locomotive. A blue LED strip illuminates the sculpture from below at night. The transit center also boasts a heritage mural by a local artist and local art displays in partnership with the Sparks Heritage Museum.
The facility also boasts numerous green design aspects, as planned by the RTC board. Construction crews reused asphalt, concrete, and steel and installed high-efficiency heating, air, and water systems along with energy-saving lighting and highly reflective roofing material. The building was designed to meet criteria for a silver rating from LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which honors innovation among other environmental design standards.
The RTC worked extensively with the community in planning for the Sparks transit center, meeting with local officials and agencies and receiving design input from citizen advisory committees.
The dedication event also marked the 30th anniversary of the introduction of RTC RIDE transit service.
National Building Museum Exhibition Highlights Green Technologies
Not only is being green becoming easier, it’s also becoming a global necessity—and public transportation is one of the keystones of the process.
“Green Community,” the newest exhibit at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, focuses on the big picture from two perspectives: what constitutes a green community and how people can make existing communities greener. As a museum spokesperson said: “It isn’t a new idea, to build as if our lives depended on it.”
The exhibit makes clear the importance of public transit to communities even before visitors go inside. Interactive projections on the floor outside the entrance compare the environmental impact of driving a car compared with riding a bicycle or using transit; the transit rider will save money and carbon emissions while avoiding the stress of driving, while the bicyclist will gain health benefits from exercise.
The exhibit itself has two major points of reference: What kind of community is green, and how can people make communities green? The first section explores the qualities of green communities in six ways: remediating, repurposing, reinvigorating; getting around; land conservation; resourcefulness; waste; and close to home. The second organizes its survey of technologies around the four ancient elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
The basis of the green community is living in cooperation with nature. The museum uses timelines and glass columns filled with environmental materials such as lava rock, recycled cork, shredded tires, chopped plastic from recycled water bottles, and even bottle caps to represent changes in the built environment over the years and the centuries.
The museum showcases projects of many different sizes, geographic regions, and economic levels, from a 187-resident town in Kansas recovering after a catastrophic tornado to the reclamation of brownfield areas in metropolitan areas and the totally car-free, transit-based community of Masdar in the United Arab Emirates. The exhibit cites Arlington County, VA, for its multi-use development—including residential, business, and commercial sites—along the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Orange Line.
Looking forward, the second half of the exhibition examines new technologies such as geothermal heating for university buildings in California, PA; wind energy in Denmark; solar energy at sites around the world, including solar panels as part of the installation; and natural wetlands restoration in Illinois.
The last element of the exhibit is a wall-mounted, interactive scene of a community. Visitors can touch the screen to see how different green alternatives could change the landscape, such as the addition of light rail or increased tree planting in residential neighborhoods.
APTA is a major sponsor of the “Green Communities” exhibit, the third in the museum’s series of exhibitions focusing on sustainability in architecture, planning, and design; the earlier exhibitions were “Big & Green: Toward Sustainable Architecture in the 21st Century” and “The Green House: New Directions in Sustainable Architecture and Design.” It will remain open through Oct. 25, 2009, at which point it will tour.
Thomas Costello, vice chair-marketing, represented APTA at the Oct. 20 opening reception for the exhibit. He offered remarks outlining the environmental benefits of public transit, saying transit is key to a green community.
Greater Cleveland RTA Launches HealthLine BRT
“This exciting project is a role model for the rest of the nation.” With those words, Federal Transit Administration Chief Counsel E.S. Severn Miller joined other officials Oct. 24 to launch the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority’s (GCRTA) new HealthLine—the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project in the nation to be funded with federal New Starts money.
“This BRT project is cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” said Miller. “It is a terrific way to move people.”
The weekend-long launch of HealthLine service began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and continued with free service, a community open house along Euclid Avenue, fireworks, and a family concert. The 21 new Rapid Transit Vehicles (RTV) operating on the line, 63-foot articulated vehicles powered with hybrid-electric engines, were packed much of the time.
GCRTA signed a $168.4 million Full Funding Grant Agreement for the project in October 2004. Development work for the BRT project has included the restoration of Euclid Avenue.
The HealthLine connects Cleveland’s two largest employment centers, downtown and University Circle, ending in neighboring East Cleveland. The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, both located on the route, purchased naming rights to the line for $6.25 million.
The line operates on 9.4 miles of transit-only lanes on Euclid Avenue and two downtown streets.
The 63-foot RTVs from New Flyer were designed specifically for use on the HealthLine, with doors on both sides, 11 interior and exterior cameras, and a signal prioritization system. The service operates with “rail-like” features such as level boarding, precision docking, and off-board fare collection.
“I am thrilled that this first-class service will significantly reduce travel time for our customers,” said GCRTA Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Joe Calabrese. “It has already generated more than $4 billion in new and planned development.”
UTA Breaks Ground for TRAX Airport Light Rail
The Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City broke ground Oct. 22 for the Airport TRAX light rail line, the fourth of five lines included in UTA’s FrontLines 2015 project.
“With this ground breaking, Salt Lake City joins other great cities around the world to really become a city that ties by rail its downtown and its communities to an international airport service,” Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said at the event.
The six-mile line branches off the Sandy/Salt Lake TRAX line at the Arena Station and will include five new stations: 800 West South Temple, 155 North 1000 West, 1550 West North Temple, 1900 West North Temple, and Salt Lake International Airport, Terminal One.
The FrontLines 2015 project also includes TRAX lines serving West Valley City, West Jordan, and Draper, and a FrontRunner commuter rail line to Utah County.
Fort Worth, Orange County Transit Agencies Are ‘Fit-Friendly’
The American Heart Association has recognized two U.S. public transportation agencies as part of its Start! Fit-Friendly Company effort. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) earned recognition at the Platinum Level of the program, while the Orange County Transportation Authority in Orange, CA, is participating at the Gold Level.
A total of 952 companies are demonstrating their commitment to promoting exercise and good nutrition in the workplace by participating in the program.
“Physical activity and employee wellness are important priorities at The T, and we are honored and excited to be recognized by the American Heart Association’s Start! Movement,” said Dick Ruddell, president and executive director of The T. “We’re committed to providing the best workplace environment possible. This will benefit our employees’ health and produce even more positive results for our company overall.”
* Offer employees physical activity options in the workplace;
* Increase healthy eating options at the worksite;
* Promote a wellness culture in the workplace;
* Implement at least nine criteria outlined by the American Heart Association in the areas of physical activity, nutrition, and culture; and
* Demonstrate measurable outcomes related to workplace wellness.
In addition to fulfilling the above criteria, The T provides a full-time fitness coordinator and a fully equipped on-site fitness center with locker and shower facilities for only $10 per month for employees. The T also partially funds an on-site Weight Watchers program at the center.
OCTA’s agency-wide Wellness Program provides three fitness centers at its facilities, open to all employees. Staff have access to information about health and wellness, including instruction on proper stretching, physical activity, and weight management, and can participate in annual health risk assessments.
“Healthy employees are critical for the overall health and success of our agency,” said Art Leahy, chief executive officer of OCTA. “It’s vital that OCTA provides an environment that promotes wellness, and it’s an honor to be recognized by the American Heart Association for our efforts.”
The American Heart Association designed the Start! Fit-Friendly Companies Program as a catalyst for positive change in the American workforce, helping companies make their employees’ health and wellness a priority. American employers face increasing healthcare expenses and health-related losses in productivity that cost an estimated $225.8 billion a year.
GO Transit Adds Defibrillators to Rail Cars, Stations
When it comes to matters of the heart, Toronto’s GO Transit is showing its customers how much it cares. In partnership with The Mikey Network and the Toronto EMS Cardiac Safe City Program, GO Transit launched a vital, life-saving initiative Oct. 21 by introducing public-access defibrillators, called “MIKEYs,” throughout its system.
Through the “MIKEY on the GO” program, GO Transit placed 40 of the units on the accessible car of every GO train, and installed the remaining 59 at the busiest stations along the Lakeshore Line, at the end stations of GO’s other six lines, at Toronto Union Station, and at all layover facilities. These electronic devices deliver an electronic shock to the heart through the chest wall to restore the heart to its normal rhythm, and can increase a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival if used within the first critical moments following an incident.
Jessica Kosmack, communications specialist with GO Transit, said all front-line employees are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid, and all GO personnel on board trains and at stations with MIKEY units have received mandatory training by Toronto EMS staff on how to use the defibrillator devices.
“We’re excited about reaching out to so many GO travelers—more than 200,000 on a typical weekday—plus the staff who will also have access to the units,” said Mikey Network Chairman Hugh Heron. “We have two major goals: to place MIKEYs in as many public places as possible, and to educate the public about heart-healthy living, in the hope that the units won’t have to be used.”
International Conference to Focus on Maglev
Maglev 2008, The 20th International Conference on Magnetically Levitated Systems and Linear Drives, will convene Dec. 15 to 18 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Approximately 300 people from around the world will participate in the meeting, hosted by General Atomics and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering.
The meeting, held every two years, is the premier international conference covering all aspects of magnetically levitated, propelled, and guided transportation systems. This is the first time in 15 years that this prestigious conference has been held in the U.S.
Scheduled speakers will include U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA); U.S. Reps. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); and Will Kempton, director of California DOT.
Among the topics to be addressed are the expanding commercialization of maglev systems worldwide; U.S. high-speed maglev projects proposed in the California-Nevada, Baltimore-Washington, Atlanta-Chattanooga, Nashville, and Pittsburgh corridors, which are eligible for federal funding; and innovative technology applications. The conference also will include a tour and demonstration of the General Atomics Maglev test track and a tour of the structures laboratory at UCSD used for seismic evaluation of large civil structures.
The Maglev 2008 program and additional information can be found online at www.maglev08.com/home.htm. For more information, contact call Sam Gurol, conference co-chair, at (858) 455-4113.