Passenger Transport - December 1, 2008
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APTA Meets With Obama Transportation Transition Team
Earlier this week, APTA President William W. Millar met with members of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Transportation Transition Team to discuss a wide range of issues facing the incoming Administration.
In making the case for an expanded role for public transit, Millar told the team: “At a time when America must create more jobs, reduce its dependence on foreign oil, and become more carbon efficient, public transportation can make a significant contribution quickly and cost effectively.”
An agenda was developed for this initial meeting jointly with the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA). Discussion topics ranged from economic stimulus and the role of public transit investments in an overall economic recovery package to regulatory issues, from the need for greater collaboration with the transit industry to the need to simplify, streamline and expedite the current federal grant approval process, and everything in between.
Joining Millar at the meeting were CTAA Executive Director Dale Marsico, APTA Vice President-Policy Art Guzzetti and CTAA Communications Director Scott Bogren.
“This was a very productive meeting,” said Millar. “We look forward to a continuing dialogue and working closely with the Obama administration.”
Public Transit Agency Officials Continue to Seek Help For Long-Term Leasing Agreements
Officials from 11 public transit agencies met in Washington in late November to urge Congress to intervene on their behalf with the U.S. Treasury, lest an unforeseen effect of the credit crisis impact public transportation operations across the nation in the coming weeks.
The crisis was brought on by the credit downgrading of American International Group (AIG), which guaranteed most of the agencies’ loans acquired through the Sale-in/Lease-out/Lease-in/Sale-Out (SILO/LILO) program. AIG’s collapse has given the lending banks the authority to demand a replacement guarantor for those loans or find the borrowers in default—a move that would force the public transit agencies to immediately produce millions of dollars not in their budgets. This would almost certainly lead to severe service cuts and termination costs exceeding $2 billion. The situation will likely be exacerbated by the recent credit downgrade of Ambac, another guarantor of many transit lease agreements.
Transit agencies that have never missed a payment and do not expect to do so 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—the agencies—have suffered downgraded credit ratings, allowing investors—the banks—to bring default actions.
The group meeting in Washington addressed its concerns to staff of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and the committee’s ranking member, Charles Grassley (R-IA). In attendance were general managers and other leaders from systems in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Jose, and Washington, DC. The officials want Congress to ask Treasury to guarantee the agreements.
Dr. Beverly Scott, APTA Chair and General Manager, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, said in recent testimony that 31 of the nation’s transit systems “would be crippled in the coming months if nothing is done to resolve this crisis. The innocent victims will be the millions of riders who rely on public transit every day.”
Scott noted that the U.S. Treasury could, under the recently passed financial rescue package, “take over the role of AIG and other insurers in SILO/LILO transactions. This would prevent any predatory action by banks against transit systems, and because the Treasury would be backing its own securities, there is no financial risk on the part of the federal government. APTA has urged the U.S. Treasury to take this action immediately.”
A member of Sen. Baucus’ staff who declined to be identified noted that there are several options for moving forward. Either senator could introduce legislation. Alternatively, an announcement—either at a hearing or in a public letter to the Treasury secretary—could note that this will be done when Congress re-convenes Dec. 8. Also still being considered is a 100-percent excise tax on any revenue banks would gain from calling loans on transit agencies.
Economic Stimulus Bill Still in Limbo
The economic-stimulus and automaker-bailout package considered by Congress during its short-lived lame duck session may be up for reconsideration in a second, early-December lame-duck session.
The stimulus bill, which would include billions in new funds for public transit and highways, remains in limbo due to opposition from the Bush administration and congressional Republicans. That resistance means the bill could instead be taken up by the new Congress in January. At the same time, there is considerable pressure on Congress to take immediate action to rescue the faltering economy.
Officials close to the Obama team are signaling that a stimulus bill could be much larger than the previously proposed $100 billion-plus, maybe into the $550 billion to $700 billion range.
Opposition to the package is reportedly due in large part to the other would-be beneficiary: the automakers. Some in Congress reportedly fear that the Big Three might squander the emergency funding. In addition, there is a sense of reluctance in the legislative branch to offer yet another bailout plan.
Kerry-Specter Bill to Provide Up to $23 Billion for High-Speed Rail
Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) have introduced a new bill that would add more than $23 billion to the $1.5 billion earmarked for new high speed rail corridors in another recent bill.
The High Speed Rail for America Act of 2008 builds upon the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The latter authorizes $1.5 billion over a five-year period to finance construction and equipment for 11 high speed rail corridors in regions around the nation—including a proposed California corridor, approved by voters there in November. The Federal Railroad Administration has already designated new rail corridors that these bonds could help fund, connecting the cities of the Midwest through Chicago; the cities of the Northwest; the major cities within Texas and Florida; and cities up and down the East Coast. That bill, passed by the House in June and expected to pass the Senate, also reauthorizes Amtrak.
The High Speed Rail for America Act adds to the funding for these projects by providing a total of $23.4 billion—in part through the creation of several types of bonds. It would add $8 billion over 6 years via tax-exempt bonds for rail projects with speeds of at least 110 miles per hour. An additional $15.4 billion would be allocated through two types of newly created qualified rail bonds: $10 billion for super-high-speed intercity rail facility bonds and $5.4 billion for rail infrastructure bonds.
The legislation, if passed, would create new jobs while updating the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, according to supporters.
“This long-overdue national investment in high-speed rail would help to stimulate economic recovery while creating good jobs that cannot be outsourced,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. “Expanding our nation’s critical rail infrastructure will make our transportation network more efficient, reduce traffic pressure on our already busy interstate highways, and improve the environment.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and will likely be reintroduced when Congress begins its new session in January.
Washington, DC Area Transit Systems Gear Up for Inauguration Day
Estimates vary, but on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, Washington, DC metropolitan area public transit systems expect to transport at least 1 million people.
To accommodate these crowds – and officials expect anywhere from 3 to 5 million people overall – the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) will be running an unprecedented rush-hour service for 15 consecutive hours. Even with that, the agency is telling people to expect hugely crowded rail stations, packed trains and buses, and delays of sometimes hours when the daytime festivities draw to a close, according to Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr.
As reported in The Washington Post, Catoe told Metro board members that if the predictions of riders hold, then “we will see something we’ve never seen before.”
Metro’s ridership record of 854,638 – set July 11 by crowds attending a Washington National baseball game and a religious event - is expected to double. To help ease the expected crowding after the swearing-in and the parade, Metro is asking people to think about delaying their return rides by remaining downtown to dine or visit a museum.
According to agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, “it will be sardine crush-load on the way in and sardine crush-load on the way out.” While Metro is prepared and will use every available train and bus, nonetheless, said Catoe, “you can’t put 800,000-plus people on the rail system all at the same time.”
Think of Metro as the funnel. No matter how people arrive in the area – by plane, by car, by bus, they still should plan either to walk or to take Metro to view the events.
For example, people arriving from Albany, NY via motor coach tour buses will be traveling to the Washington, DC area – with “area” the operative term. The U.S. Secret Service is telling all motor coach companies that they cannot drive directly into Washington, DC to deposit their riders, but instead must drop them, where possible, at a Metro station. In the case of the Albany travelers, they will likely disembark in Baltimore, and then take the train into DC.
Neighboring Virginia and Maryland
Commuter train services in Virginia and Maryland are planning special schedules to carry passengers to the District to help accommodate what are expected to be record-breaking crowds. As Passenger Transport went to press, it still was not clear whether inauguration goers from Virginia would be able to take Virginia Railway Express trains into the city. VRE wants to run train service on Inauguration Day, a federal holiday, but it will need extra finances to make it happen.
Officials from DC’s Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however, are among those hoping the trains will be running. If VRE does decide to offer service, it will make that information available by early December. On the other side of the District, Maryland’s MARC commuter train had cut back its holiday operations and other services to try to save $25 million. For instance, it canceled train service on Veterans Day and the Fridays after Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Maryland Transportation Authority, which oversees MARC, will now provide a special schedule on Inauguration Day, however, but the details are not yet available.
In the District of Columbia
Metro will open an hour early on Inauguration Day, at 4 a.m., and stay open two hours later, until 2 a.m., on Jan. 21. Metro is also requesting that area transportation departments set aside bus-only lanes, allowing Metrobuses to carry hundreds of thousands of people from outlying areas to specific drop-off points near the National Mall.
The agency will be selling commemorative paper Farecards, one-day rail passes, and SmarTrip electronic cards that feature Barack Obama, with the words “44th President of the United States” printed along one edge.
Added to the likely potential for massively overcrowded trains and buses, the official D.C. inauguration web site cautions that all parade and event attendees are going to be subject to thorough screenings. Moreover, the Secret Service, Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Capitol Police, and other local and federal agencies will be providing a never-before-seen level of security for the inauguration.
From Colorado to Capitol Hill, Experts Propose a Public Transportation ‘Wish List’
What will a new president and a Congress with Democratic gains mean to public transportation’s future?
This question is being debated, discussed, and presented across the country in a range of venues, from Illinois to Colorado – and Capitol Hill.
Some of the nation’s key leaders in transportation gathered at the William O. Lipinski Symposium on Transportation Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, recently to talk about the need for increased public transportation funding, among other topics, as reported in Chicago’s Daily Herald.
“Our transportation network has been the envy of the world, but we’re starting to fall behind,” warned Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN). He cited the dreary financial forecast as “all the more reason to invest in transportation infrastructure.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who hope to allocate $500 billion for infrastructure in the next surface transportation bill acknowledge that enough funds had not been previously appropriated. “It’s not a sexy political topic, said Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), “but it’s the kind of thing people expect government to do.”
Also part of the symposium was Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), who cautioned against people thinking that “money will flow from the skies to Chicago because Barack Obama is in the White House,” and Illinois Transportation Secretary Milton Sees, who said: “Everyone understands we need a capital bill, but it comes down to how you pay for it.”
At The Bond Buyer’s Ninth Annual Transportation Finance/P3 Conference in Colorado, speakers from both the public and private sectors said that the federal government will need to tap new funding sources to pay for transit, rail, highway, bridge, and aviation programs as Congress crafts its next transportation authorization bill.
Steve Simmons, deputy executive director of the TX DOT who spoke as a representative of the Transportation Transformation Group, suggested that public-private partnerships, congestion pricing, tolling, and VMT pricing will be future sources of transportation funding.
The Secretary of the Louisiana DOT and Development, William D. Ankner, suggested that the federal government abolish the fuel tax and move instead to a “broad-based tax that is modal neutral,” such as increased income taxes or sales taxes, “by a factor that would produce sufficient funds for the transportation system.”
Several members of Congress have focused recently on efforts to address the challenges facing public transportation. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) urged her colleagues to support the economic stimulus package proposed by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). She argued that investments in transportation and green technology in the bill would help alleviate rising unemployment; the bill’s sponsors have said the bill would create 635,000 jobs.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, also held a press conference in San Francisco expressing her support for the plan. “Spending targeted to infrastructure will create jobs here in America that cannot easily be exported,” she said. “Construction would be occurring here in the U.S. and would utilize materials made primarily here in the U.S., such as aggregates, construction machinery, asphalt, and cement.”
Rep. John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held two meetings Nov. 20-21 to review DOT’s planned request for proposals for U.S. high-speed passenger rail service, which the agency must issue by Dec. 15.
In a recent media interview, APTA President William W. Millar talked about what the association would like to see happen with public transportation through the efforts of the new administration and the reconvened Congress. He emphasized the potential behind integrating transportation modes (noting, for example, that long distance travel is better by air while short distance travel is better by public transit) and recognizing the potential of each mode and its benefits to the nation.
Revenue is always a concern, and to that end he said that APTA strongly urged an increase in the gas tax – pointing out that it had not been raised since 1993 – as well as working to develop public-private partnerships.
Infrastructure Finance Commission Readies Final Report
The National Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission met this week in Washington, DC to proceed with finalizing its report on critical transportation funding issues. The report is expected to be released before the end of the year.
The 15-member commission was tasked by SAFETEA-LU to assess the level of Highway Trust Fund revenues that will be needed to maintain current transportation systems at current levels of service – and to recommend whether and when other revenue sources will be needed to supplement the existing Highway Trust Fund.
Prior to meeting formally, several commissioners attended a Breakfast Forum of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on the topic of the Netherlands’ National Pay-per-Use Road Pricing Initiative – actions very relevant to the Commissioner’s work.
The commission had drafted most of the chapters that will appear in the final report and they had discussions about the text of those chapters to try to reach agreement among all present. They did not complete that effort and will reconvene on Dec. 10, and prior to that meeting they plan to exchange comments via e-mail.
States, Cities Step Up Climate Change Responses
By Neal Peirce
Before the fiscal crisis, there was the global climate crisis. After the fiscal crisis, we’ll still have the global climate crisis—for the rest of our lives.
A nightmarish future awaits our children unless we can forge international accords, with teeth, to cut carbon emissions—the kind the Bush administration has scorned. But top-down won’t do it all: Thousands of adaptive low-carbon strategies need to be fashioned from America’s grass roots.
The severity of the threat is underscored by new reports indicating worldwide carbon emissions rose almost 3 percent last year alone. That growth trajectory, if continued, would lead to a highly alarming temperature rise of 11degrees Fahrenheit by century’s end. Among the likely consequences: large-scale melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers and the Arctic’s summer sea ice. A dangerous rise in the sea level would lead an ominous chain of reactions.
A recent surge in emissions from such rapidly industrializing countries as China, India and Brazil makes the challenge even tougher. Those nations aren’t likely to consider significant cutbacks unless the nations with the biggest per capita carbon emission rates—especially the United States—undertake serious, sweeping efforts themselves.
Below the federal level, America has started significant efforts. Top items: On Sept. 25, six Northeastern states held the first “auction” of carbon permits, selling allowances to power plants in the nation’s first cap-and-trade system. And the Northeasterners (Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont) aren’t alone. The Western Climate Initiative (Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington) will soon launch a cap-and-trade system that embraces manufacturing and vehicles as well as power plants.
While imperfect, such measures set the precedent for a meaningful nationwide carbon control system that the next president and Congress can advance nationwide.
California has been America’s champion among the states in setting major carbon reduction goals. Its latest breakthrough: a new law to cut emissions by rewarding cities and counties that fashion their development rules to limit carbon dioxide-spawning urban sprawl.
Delaware Treasurer Jack Markell, leading in his state’s governor race, is pushing a “climate prosperity strategy” that would make carbon dioxide reductions central to Delaware’s entire economic development efforts. Among his goals: creating a “green” supply chain for the state’s businesses, training a “green work force” for massive energy-efficiency modernization of households and businesses, and promoting such industries as electric cars.
And there’s significant action at the city level—even beyond the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to aim for Kyoto Protocol carbon-reduction goals. Proposed by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, 884 mayors are now onboard.
Goals are one thing, comprehensive carbon-cutting programs another. On that score, New York (with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious “PlanNYC”), Portland, Ore., Seattle, Minneapolis, Boston and Denver are among those with the most ambitious agendas.
What’s now dawning is a recognition that a central city is just one part of a metro area—that for climate steps to make a significant difference, the entire citistate, suburbs and satellite cities included, need to be part of the planning and action.
Recognizing that, King County, Wash., encompassing Seattle, Bellevue and other cities, took an early lead under County Executive Ron Sims. The Puget Sound Regional Council is onboard, including an imaginative “Cascade Agenda” to protect 1.3 million acres of the region’s farm and forest land from development.
Chicago will face the challenge next. Mayor Richard Daley and civic leaders recently unveiled a broad climate action plan, a road map of 29 actions to curb greenhouse emissions in areas from an updated energy building code to pushing public transit. The respected Center for Neighborhood Technology laid the groundwork, identifying emission sources and potential impacts.
But it took a Washington, D.C.-area blogger, Kaid Benfield, to note how insufficient Chicago’s effort may be if the suburbs and edge cities where the most people live—and where carbon emissions are the highest—aren’t included.
There is hope: Regional planners in recent years have laid out a “Chicagoland” vision that would help carbon cutbacks—guiding growth into city and town centers and along transit corridors, protecting open space and farmland, promoting walking and biking.
True regionalism is perking in Northern California, where three mayors—Chuck Reed of San Jose, Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, and Ron Dellums of Oakland—have just forged with business and civic leaders a Bay Area Climate Change Compact with goals ranging from 20,000 “green collar” jobs to big boosts for renewable energy.
“Rather than solely relying on city-by-city efforts, our regional climate-change compact will galvanize the horsepower of 100 cities, towns and counties across the Bay Area,” said Carl Guardino, executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Goals and true carbon savings aren’t, however, synonymous. As Dellums trenchantly noted: “At the end of the day, we’re at the margins of an enormous problem that dwarfs us all.”
Neal Peirce’s email address is email@example.com.
© 2008, The Washington Post Writers Group
Smart Grids and Wayside Energy Storage: Opportunities for Transit
By Karen Holmes
Special to Passenger Transport
The emergence of “smart grid” technologies and systems for monitoring and controlling electric power flows will have important implications for rail transit agencies, including the potential to significantly impact the way agencies purchase electric power, typically one of the largest items in their budgets. As rail transit is a large local user of electricity, agencies may be called upon to acquire and install new equipment for energy monitoring and distribution. However, the “smart grid” – coupled with new wayside energy-storage devices – will create the potential for collaboration between transit and electric power utilities opening up new cost-sharing opportunities.
What Is a Smart Grid?
Smart grids are the application of communications and information technologies to the electric power transmission and distribution network. Smart grids use two-way communications, advanced sensors, and distributed computers to improve the efficiency and reliability of electric power delivery and use.
For many years, experts have recognized the need to modernize the U.S. electric power grid. Over the past few decades, additions to power generation have far outpaced upgrades in transmission and distribution, and as a consequence, much of the current infrastructure is aging, outmoded, and overburdened. Several major power corridors are at maximum capacity more than 80 percent of the time—the equivalent of rush hour traffic from 5 a.m. to midnight. The annual loss to U.S. businesses from power outages, power quality problems, and other grid failures is estimated at approximately $150 billion per year.
Deploying the smart grid became official U.S. policy with the adoption of the Energy Independence and Security Act in December 2007. Sophisticated software now under development will enable moment-by-moment decisions on power allocation across the grid communication network. Some have described the level of communication within a smart grid as analogous to bringing the power of the Internet to electricity distribution and use, predicting that the smart grid will result in a similar outpouring of knowledge and access.
With the smart grid, utilities will be able to shift power quickly and efficiently to where it is most needed. This will not only improve the stability and reliability of the grid but would also help prevent cascading power failures – such as the one that crippled the Northeast in 2003, affecting 40 million people. The smart grid will also save energy and money, by helping utilities to direct power more efficiently to meet demand at peak periods without having to invest in building expensive new generating plants.
Smart grids will require equipment to “talk” to the grid to enable utilities to better manage power supply to meet user demand. For instance, at the household level, “smart energy” meters will monitor and potentially regulate appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines based on energy demand conditions. Such meters are now being tested in several states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Washington.
Transit and Utilities Share Interests in New Wayside Energy-Storage Technologies
As smart grids are deployed, transit systems will need to be integrated into them.
One key area of shared interest and potential collaboration between rail transit agencies and electric power utilities is energy storage. New wayside energy-storage technologies are now becoming available to help transit agencies capture energy that is often wasted.
Collaboration between public transit and utilities on new wayside energy-storage technologies would help address two areas of mutual concern: peak power demand and voltage sag.
For instance, new wayside energy-storage technologies would enable transit systems to store the energy that is captured from a braking train and release that energy for propulsion when and where it is needed. At present, conventional regenerative braking systems (used by an estimated 60 percent of U.S. rail transit systems) do not have this storage capability. If there is no nearby train that can use the regenerated energy (such as a train accelerating out of the same station), then the effective use of this energy is lost.
Peak loads are a growing problem for many power systems: the summer peak for power demand in 2005 equaled approximately 175 percent of average demand, compared with about 155 percent in 1980.
New energy storage technologies would potentially allow rail systems to use stored energy to “shave” the peaks in their electricity usage – a benefit to utilities (lowering the total demand for peak power across the grid) and to transit (by avoiding the costs associated with intermittent, high levels of peak power demand).
Another mutual benefit of wayside energy storage is in minimizing power quality problems known as voltage sag – a temporary reduction in voltage below a defined threshold. Although small in duration, voltage sags can seriously affect equipment and train operations, reducing the ability of a train to accelerate and also damaging sensitive electronic components in railcars.
New wayside energy-storage technologies can help alleviate voltage sag by storing and releasing energy to boost voltage when and where it is needed. Examples under development include electrochemical capacitors, nickel-metal-hydride batteries, lithium-ion batteries, and flywheels. Use of such devices benefits transit by helping to maintain train speeds and protect electronics, and benefits the local utility by having an added resource to improve utility power quality and stability problems.
Agencies Consider Energy Storage
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is actively investigating the potential of wayside energy storage.
“Our ridership is booming right now, and electricity costs are going up along with that. So we need to think green and find ways to be more efficient in our use of energy,” said WMATA Senior Vehicle Engineer Joe Krempasky. The agency’s electricity costs for traction power rose from $40.5 million in fiscal year 2007 to $47.3 million in fiscal year 2008, and are currently budgeted at $63.6 million for fiscal year 2009.
Krempasky is particularly interested in new wayside energy storage technologies to increase the recycling of energy captured from regenerative braking, having used it since 1983 and saving in excess of 6-8 percent after first adopting the technology. During non-rush hour schedules, however, much of the regenerated energy is wasted, as there is no nearby train able to use it.
“For many years, transit systems have searched for an efficient and cost-effective way of capturing and using wasted regenerative energy. Now, manufacturers have recently developed energy storage systems that appear to meet our operational needs, size constraints, maintenance costs, and required return on investment,” Krempasky said.
WMATA plans a two-phase demonstration project on the use of these technologies: a load study and computer simulation of operation, followed by installation of one or two systems from various manufacturers, collection of data, and report of findings.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is also looking to develop a pilot project on energy storage. “We believe that significantly more energy could be conserved with an energy storage substation,” said Ram Krishna, LA Metro’s director of systems engineering.
Installing energy storage substations on the lines that are currently under construction could enable the system to radically reduce capital costs. “We project that it could reduce capital expenditures by almost half,” Krishna said.
Energy storage technologies could also help LA Metro reduce energy consumption during peak periods, when electricity rates are highest. “Using energy storage technology to shave our peak electricity consumption would make our overall energy bill much lower,” he added.
Consortium Approach Provides Needed Support
To help the transit industry assess the potential of wayside energy storage and consider future smart-grid implications, APTA and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently formed a consortium of transit agencies, representatives of the electric power industry, Sandia National Laboratory, and other interested parties. The consortium represents a collaborative effort to evaluate opportunities and technologies and provide guidance to the industry on how it can reduce energy use and energy costs while simultaneously contributing to a more secure and stable electric power supply.
One focal point for the consortium’s efforts is the assessment of emerging energy storage technologies. “We see the need for an organization like APTA to take the lead and provide some basic assessment of these technologies,” said Jianguo (Gordon) Yu of Systra Consulting. “It’s more efficient to do the assessment as a group and broadcast the results. This will make it easier for transit system engineers to consider how to utilize these new technologies.”
The consortium’s next research project is to study linking storage technologies with the needs of transit systems. The study will summarize methods for evaluating the potential benefits of energy storage, suggest methods for aligning specific technologies with specific needs of transit, and use simulation studies to examine sensitivities to system design and operation. As the events move forward over the next six months, look for further updates in Passenger Transport.
White paper on Energy, Environment and Transit Research Program (M. Schroeder, February 2008)
“Going Green: Reducing Rail Network Energy Consumption”
US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Title XIII, Smart Grids
Electric Power Research Institute, Intelligrid Program
London Transport Museum Celebrates 100 Years of Poster Design
By Susan R. Paisner
Senior Managing Editor
There is room in posters for all styles. It is possible to move from the most literal representation to the wildest impressionism as long as the subject remains understandable to the men in the street.
Frank Pick, 1927
LONDON – These days, when a public transportation agency wants a poster, it likely hires an advertising agency. And the posters likely suggest that you travel on public transit.
But in the early 1900s, the London Underground’s Managing Director Frank Pick had a different idea. Given responsibility for publicity, he saw that early efforts had been ineffective: posters were predominantly text-based and failed to convey any specific corporate identity. Pick was a visionary in the need for corporate “branding” – with the roundel logo now associated with Transport for London begun under his watch in 1908.
The Underground (then called London Transport) became famous for its use of publicity posters to promote off-peak activities and to show the variety that London could offer in sports, leisure, and entertainment.
Over 60 original artworks – before they became posters – are now on display as part of a new retrospective exhibition at the London Transport Museum. The Art of the Poster – a Century of Design opened in October and running through March 31, 2009, celebrating 100 years of outstanding poster design for London’s public transport network.
“All the posters suggest a place to go to – a soft sell approach to advertising – vs. what we do today,” said Claire Dobbin, a co-curator of the exhibit along with David Bownes.
Through the use of posters, the company became a pioneering patron of poster art, and the Underground was transformed, Dobbin said, into London’s “longest art gallery.”
Pick frequently commissioned many more designs than he would necessarily need to ensure having a wide range to choose from. Sometimes the artwork commissioned would be used two years later, but sometimes, not at all.
Once, 5,000 copies of a poster went up one day and caused an uproar so pronounced, those 5,000 posters were taken down the very next day. This was the Lord Mayor’s Show, where the artist had used a gun motif.
Under Pick’s guidance, London Transport commissioned work from the best artists and designers in the country – partly to convince people to use the system – but also to change how they might feel about using it. He commissioned a range of fine artists – a way of adding to the variety of styles – but it also added to the prestige of the Underground – as well as to the artists themselves. “Great to have on your CV,” said Dobbin, and it was also a “dream job” for design students coming out of college.
“Individuals would refer to themselves as ‘poster artists’ – that was a job in itself,” said Dobbin. “They borrowed aesthetic styles from fine artists – filtering these avant garde styles down to the man on the street.”
History of Poster Design
During the World War I years, the posters served as propaganda as well as publicity efforts, with designed ranging from graphic realism to a more typical depiction of war as an idealized struggle. And before there was a draft in 1916, various posters encouraged men to volunteer to fight.
During World War II, posters once again held a propaganda function. This time, they not only kept passengers informed about new wartime procedures, but they were also designed to help morale and to commemorate the immense contribution made by London Transport workers at home and abroad.
Due to financial cutbacks, it wasn’t until 1947 that Harold F. Hutchison was named Publicity Officer. Because much of London Transport’s system had to be repaired, he recognized the need to reassure the public that the system was safe to use. To do this, he developed “pair posters,” where one half of the poster was commissioned art – not necessarily related to transportation – and the other half held text – directly related to the system.
In the 1980s when London Transport increased fares, it suffered a decrease in passengers, which in turn resulted in a lessened demand for advertising space. For a while, when spaces weren’t sold, either old posters were left to tear and fade, or the space was simply covered over in black paper. This resulted in depressing looking passenger cars. Further, said Dobbin: “The patronage that London Underground provided for artists was in danger of being lost.” So those empty ad spaces? London Transport began installing bright new posters. “It instilled goodwill in the passengers and improved the customer’s environment,” she said.
One of the fascinating aspects of this exhibit is that it shows the original artwork – before the art was made into a poster. Each framed piece of art has a label next to it with information about the artist and a picture of what the poster eventually looked like. In some cases, there are distinct changes in color. Sometimes that was deliberate, said Dobbin – such as “London Transport Opens a Window,” by Graham Sutherland in 1933, of a table and curtains looking out into a back yard. The original art was largely brown and beige, but the finished product had red drapes and a very green lawn and trees. Other times, however, the color changes were simply a function of the printing process.
This exhibit explores the relationship among fine artists, graphic designers, and the commission process, frequently revealing fascinating stories behind some of the works on display, including why the painting by world renowned artist John Nash was never published.
The focus of the exhibit, said Dobbins, is on “the artwork and the artists who made them.”
Dobbin and her co-curator Bownes faced a difficult yet exhilarating challenge: Selecting which 64 pieces of art to choose from 800 available. In making their decisions, they wanted a wide chronological spread, a range of different media and styles, and really good examples of certain techniques of a certain time.
“The art worked then in terms of keeping the traveling public happy,” Dobbins said, in reference to the 100-year history of the posters, “and now in terms of keeping our exhibition viewers happy.”
Hybrid Paratransit Cars Save San Jose-Area Agency Money, Reduce Pollution
The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has replaced 75 gasoline-powered vehicles used for paratransit – a move the agency says will cut its greenhouse-gas output by 385 tons, as well as save 121,000 gallons of fuel per year.
“With the market’s volatile gas prices, investing in hybrid technology is paying off,” said VTA General Manager Michael Burns.
In fiscal year 2008, VTA provided more than 1 million passenger trips to more than 11,000 people with disabilities, via its paratransit program. VTA uses a contractor called Outreach to operate 236 vehicles, including 82 are Toyota Prius hybrids, of which 60 were provided to Outreach by VTA.
Final Weld Made in Historic Twin-Cities Light Rail Link
The event that has been compared to the driving of the last spike on the transcontinental railroad – the final weld to the beginning of an extension to a shared multimodal station the light rail line now shares with a commuter rail line in downtown Minneapolis – took place in early November.
“This connection will create a 52-mile passenger rail network for the Twin Cities – 12 miles for Hiawatha and 40 miles for Northstar,” said Mark Fuhrmann, director of the Northstar and Central Corridor projects. “The network will increase to 62 miles when Central Corridor begins service,” he added.
The milestone heralds the beginning of a light rail connection between St. Paul and Minneapolis as well as between the Twin Cities and communities on the Northstar commuter rail line.
Commuters on Hiawatha and Central Corridor LRT trains will board and disembark at the Minneapolis Multimodal Station being built on the Fifth Street North bridge next to the new Minnesota Twins stadium. That station also will serve Northstar commuter trains headed to and from Big Lake on freight railway tracks. Hiawatha LRT trains will begin operating over the extension from the Warehouse Station to the new station at the same time Northstar begins service late next year.
‘Transit Is Lifeblood’ Ad Campaign Hits New York
In support of New York State public transportation, the Environmental Defense Fund has launched a new ad campaign that features a photo of a blood transfusion bag alongside the message: “Transit Lines are Lifeblood. Stop the Bleeding.”
“Transit is the lifeblood of New York City’s economy and environment. Now more than ever, we need this lifeline to work," said Andy Darrell, vice president for Living Cities at the Environmental Defense Fund, and a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Sustainability Advisory Board and the 2007 New York State Traffic Mitigation Commission. “Other world-capitals are investing in transit, so New York simply can't afford to fall behind with crumbling infrastructure and gridlock.”
The campaign includes full-page, full-color ads in the Albany Legislative Gazette, The Capitol, and City Hall. It also features web ads in several New York blogs and the Gotham Gazette.
“Imagine New York City with the subways unplugged,” said Darrell. “From suburban trains to city subways, transit is at the heart of what New York is all about. A sustainable and affordable ride to work connects people to jobs, lowers greenhouse gas pollution, and fights traffic congestion. Investing in innovative transit will create a new wave of green jobs in New York, from building subway cars and bus-rapid-transit lanes to designing high-tech train signals and hybrid-electric buses.”
To solve the transit finance challenge, the Environmental Defense Fund calls for a transparent capital plan for public transit that uses technology to allow more trains and buses per line; prioritizes investments that deliver jobs and service quickly, such as bus-rapid-transit, suburban park-&-ride, and vanpools to connect low-transit neighborhoods to transit stops; focuses on neighborhoods without good transit options, especially in fast-growing communities outside of Manhattan that lack convenient subway access; and is clear to the public about its priorities and service decisions. EDF also calls for state and city cooperation to keep fare hikes as low as possible and urges employers to enroll in programs to subsidize transit passes – and supports keeping all financing options on the table
FTA Leads Study Mission to India
By Cheryl Thole
Special to Passenger Transport
In September the FTA organized a study mission to India, during which the delegation visited four cities and met with government officials. The purpose of the mission was to meet Indian transportation and government officials and share information regarding transportation plans and improvements in both India and the U.S., including any lessons learned. The mission also provided the chance for the delegation to learn about opportunities for involvement in the development and improvements of India’s infrastructure.
The visit highlighted two trends in India: bus rapid transit and public-private partnerships. While in Mumbai, FTA Administrator James S. Simpson signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Vilasrao Deshmukh, the governor of India’s second-largest state.
The Memorandum reaffirms an agreement signed last year by Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and the Indian minister of urban development, calling for both nations to share technical information and to undertake a guest-expert exchange program.
The delegation met with transit officials in the cities of Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, and the national capital of New Delhi, where a new subway system has been built.
In Visakhapatnam, Simpson visited the Indo-German Institute of Advanced Technology, a joint project of the German government, an Indian state government, and a local engineering school. At a workshop in Visakhapatnam, city officials stated their intent to bring bus rapid transit to their city, a system already in place in New Delhi. In addition, Jaipur is building a BRT system, planned to cover approximately 91 miles.
An industry roundtable was held in Hyderabad, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which operates the largest bus fleet in the world—19,270 vehicles. Participants at the roundtable discussed transportation infrastructure in India, including rail operations and the new Hyderabad airport, a public-private partnership.
The 2008 mission provided valuable information for the U.S. delegation. In particular, the delegation was impressed by the recent successes in India with public-private partnerships.
LYNX Blue Line Wins FHWA Award
The Charlotte Area Transit System received the Federal Highway Administration’s Award of Excellence for the LYNX Blue Line light rail station at I-485 and South Boulevard. The award recognizes the superior efforts and achievements of public agencies and private organizations in designing highway facilities that enhance safety and mobility while being sensitive to the human and natural environment and contributing to a more pleasing transportation experience. The station earned top honors in the Intermodal Transportation Facilities category for its 1,100-space parking deck that houses a playfield on the roof.
“More than 100 entries were submitted this year and CATS is honored to receive the Award of Excellence for our LYNX Blue Line station,” said CATS Chief Executive Officer Keith Parker. “The I-485/South Boulevard station is an outstanding example of what can be done when designers use their creativity to find context sensitive solutions to move traffic along a facility that is aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, as well as safe and efficient.”
The problem: the light rail alignment had limited access for potential end-of-the-line stations that made site selection difficult and costly, plus Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools owned an unusable remnant of land adjacent to Sterling Elementary School. CATS’ win-win solution: a joint-use facility on the site. CATS would construct a parking deck that would be capped by a playfield on the deck’s rooftop for the school’s students. This design blended the deck into the environment, and eased congestion by taking vehicles off area interstates.
“By working together with CMS and the Sterling community, we were able to develop an unusable piece of land and avoid any residential impacts to the neighborhood,” said Parker. “In the process, CATS also saved over $5 million dollars in land costs along the LYNX Blue Line by not having to purchase additional right-of-way and an alternative parking site.”
BART Likely On Track for Reach Silicon Valley Extension
Bay Area Rapid Transit’s long-awaited extension to Silicon Valley may come to fruition soon, if Measure B—an ballot initiative to raise the sales tax in Santa Clara County by one-eighth of one cent—is deemed to have passed on Nov. 4 by the required two-thirds majority. Until now, the measure was short of this threshold, but the inclusion of absentee and provisional ballots appear to have tipped the balance; the League of Women Voters reports the final vote to show 66.74% of votes on the measure to be in favor.
The final results will be made official on Dec. 4. The sales tax increase would provide $42 million a year to fund operations of the proposed $6 billion extension, but only if sufficient state/federal funds are collected to match local construction dollars. Thus BART hopes passage of Measure B will persuade the federal government to provide another $750 million in funding for construction, in addition to the $760 million already committed by the state, according to the Mountain View Voice.
The prospect that Measure B might fail had led transit leaders to consider a shorter, less costly extension, perhaps only to neighborhoods on the periphery of San Jose, rather than directly to downtown via a tunnel.
Saving Money by Hiring Drivers?
By Allison Hewitt
Special to Passenger Transport
It seems that at every recent transit industry gathering, a major topic of conversation revolves around the question of how to meet rapidly rising demand with shrinking revenues. The good news of increased ridership comes directly with the difficult news of the impact of such demand on existing capacity. And the bottom line in all of this is, literally, our bottom line – with many of us looking for ways to cut costs.
Given that context, it might seem like an odd time to ask: “Is your agency fully staffed with drivers?” Before I elaborate, let me provide some background.
In Florida, an initiative passed last year dictated rollbacks in the basic property tax rate and a doubling of the homestead exemption. For an agency that has historically received two-thirds of its operating budget from the property tax, this presented a serious problem. Meanwhile, ridership – growing at seven percent a year for the past four years – turned upward even more sharply in the past six months. Something had to give.
Under the leadership of CEO David Armijo, the board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) took an aggressive cost-cutting approach rather than cutting needed service. Since the largest slice of our budget is operator wages and benefits, we looked for ways to lower those costs without cutting either. One such opportunity, and one that might have implications for other transit operators around the country, was to reduce overtime.
HART began by examining the reasons for, and costs of, employee overtime. We were looking for how to manage costs while maintaining as much service as possible. One such factor was high turnover, which had caused the average number of operators to fall below optimum levels. That resulted in higher levels of scheduled – often mandatory – overtime, which next led to increased absenteeism, which in turn resulted in greater use of “extra board” operators – which again increased overtime payments. Being understaffed was leading HART into a vicious cycle in which trying to save money had just the opposite result.
HART determined that staffing at the full 100 percent level might actually save money, a conclusion that would seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. So what did we do to fix it? And did we actually save money by hiring more people?
Two years ago, we held our first on-site job fair, a big change for HART. Previously we had always relied on word-of-mouth, newspaper ads, and walk-up applicants. Using that method, we generally heard from unemployed people with spotty work histories. This job fair, held deliberately on a Saturday, attracted mostly people who were already working but looking for a better job with benefits. We received a significant number of applicants, screened them all on the spot, and offered them jobs if they qualified. That was Step One.
David Armijo then instituted Step Two, which was simply the commitment that HART would hire a sufficient number of operators to cover all shifts, vacations, anticipated illnesses, and scheduling variations. Full staffing has allowed us to reduce split shifts, virtually eliminate forced overtime, and reduce the number of chargeable incidents. Further, because our bus operators are less stressed, we have received fewer customer complaints.
Did we save money? Yes. Even taking into account additional salaries and benefits, HART projects a savings of approximately $750,000 in the first year. To promote further improvements in employee attendance, HART is partnering with union stewards to provide counseling to employees with absenteeism problems and developing an incentive program to be funded by the savings from reduced overtime. The savings also translated into more service, which led to yet more hiring. We added 14 operators and five mechanics last March and plan to hire 27 more in FY 09.
As a transit agency board member, what did I learn from this? If you interact with the rank and file of your agency (and I encourage you to do so), you may find that the folks behind the wheel of the bus can often identify problems quite clearly. Several of our operators had come to me concerned about being forced to work overtime. It was making them unhappy and affecting how they performed their jobs.
Because unhappy employees begat unhappy customers, my role as a board member was to work with agency management and come up with a solution to the problem.
An engaged board of directors, working with a solutions-oriented agency leader, can arrive at innovative approaches to fixing some of the agencies’ problems. Even if it means doing things that may seem contrary – like hiring people to save money.
The author is Interim Vice-Chair-HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) and Secretary to the APTA Transit Board Member Committee.
First Light Rail Tracks Laid in Hampton Roads Region of Virginia
The first tracks of The Tide – the new light rail system in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia – were laid Nov. 19 in Norfolk, near the eastern end of the planned line.
The Tide will extend 7.4 miles from the East Virginia Medical Center through downtown Norfolk, continuing along the Norfolk Southern right-of-way, adjacent to I-264. Eleven stations will be built along the route, with four park-and-ride locations near such major areas as Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College, and City Hall.
“This is the first rail that has been laid for the light rail project,” said Barry Hertslet, the project’s construction manager.
The double set of train tracks is embedded in pre-cast concrete and designed for road crossings. The installed section has the look of a single slab with rails built in place. As other sections of track are installed, such as on trestle bridges, they will take on the familiar look of rail lines linked with wooden ties. Some sections of track will be set in a heavy type of gravel known as ballast, while others will be embedded directly into a new street surface, a configuration typical of downtown Norfolk.
APTA Chair Convenes Blue-Ribbon Panel on Workforce Development
APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, General Manager of Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, has established a one-year, blue-ribbon panel tasked with promoting workforce development in the public transportation industry. It will include experts from the industry’s public and private sectors, as well as representatives from labor unions, academia, and the next generation of APTA leaders.
Its first meeting will be Friday, December 5, in New York, hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The group will report to Doran Barnes, APTA Vice Chair - Human Resources, and CEO, Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA.
Projects it will undertake include a survey of professional development needs in the public transportation industry. It will also develop a professional certification and credentialing program for the industry and a training curriculum for transit governing boards. To support the panel’s work, a group of subject matter experts will participate in this initiative. The panel will update the APTA Executive Committee at its March 7, 2009, meeting.
The blue-ribbon panel will continue the work of its predecessor, which Scott co-chaired—the Workforce Development Initiative Task Force (WDI), whose report and recommendations the Executive Committee approved in 2003 and which the new panel will review in the course of its activities. The formation of this new panel is in response to the TransitVision 2050 report and the recently approved authorization recommendations, which emphasize workforce development needs.
2009 BMBG Meeting to be Held in Florida
Sharon Greene, the new chair of APTA’s Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG), has announced that the first business member meeting of 2009 will be held January 14 – 16, 2009 in Orlando, FL.
”This is an important meeting not only for the board members, but for all interested APTA business members to attend,” Greene noted. “We will be talking about the impact of the presidential election on the transit industry and the prospects for getting the new authorization bill that we are all looking forward to. And, we will also focus on the issues and activities that APTA’s business members want to see advanced by APTA during the next two years.”
A panel session on the capital programs being undertaken by key transit systems in the state will be a highlight of the business member meeting which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress hotel in Orlando. ”Hearing first hand from the public sector CEOs about the projects their agencies are undertaking, their priorities and the challenges they face is always important information for APTA’s private sector members. This meeting also gives us a chance to learn about what the private sector can do to help the agencies advance their agendas,” Greene said.
CEOs who have confirmed participation in the session include Linda Watson, CEO, LYNX in Orlando, David Armijo, CEO, HART in Tampa, and Joe Giuletti, executive director, South Florida Regional Transit Authority. ”We are delighted that these GMs will make the time to share information with our private sector members on the important projects and issues that face transit operators in Florida. We look forward to learning from them.”
Committees that will meet on January 14 include the business member government affairs, procurement, programs, business development, member outreach and liaison and small business committees. All meetings are open to any interested APTA business member.
The January business member meeting provides an opportunity for business members to discuss how APTA can better serve their interests and to identify ways that the public and private sectors of our industry can make it a better place to do business, Greene said. “And it’s a great place to do private sector networking!”
Hotel reservations at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress must be made by December 9. Registration and hotel information is available at www.apta.com/about/committees/business/.