Passenger Transport - March 30, 2009
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Biden Hosts Town Hall Meeting at New Flyer Plant in St. Cloud, MN

The St. Cloud, MN, bus manufacturing plant of New Flyer of America Inc. was the setting March 19 when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden led a town hall meeting focusing on middle-class economic issues. Joining him at the New Flyer event were four members of the President’s cabinet: U.S. Secretaries of Transportation Ray LaHood, Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Education Arne Duncan, as well as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“Our task today is to hear directly from middle-class folks and answer the questions they have about what the Recovery Act means for them,” said Vice President Biden, making reference to the positive impact the stimulus will have on transit agencies.

The St. Cloud plant represents key goals of ARRA: creating jobs for American workers and expanding public transportation – all while building a cleaner, more “green” economy. Biden called New Flyer a “pioneer” and “a model for other businesses.”

Paul Soubry, president and chief executive officer of New Flyer, cited the company’s role as “part of the solution to the economic situation. Not only does New Flyer provide clean transportation to middle class families, it also provides good jobs.”

The company reported that it has increased the size of its St. Cloud workforce to more than 650, an increase of more than 100 (approximately 20 percent) compared with the previous year. New Flyer also employs approximately 370 employees at its plant in Crookston, MN, up about 15 percent since the beginning of 2009.

New Flyer has demonstrated ongoing growth despite the economic downtown, which it attributes to increased ridership and growing environmental concerns.

“Now is the time to transform the way transportation serves the American people,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We need to promote strong and connected communities that provide safe and affordable access to work, medical services, schools, shopping, recreation and other essential activities.” 

Vilsack called the New Flyer plant “a great example of how continued investment in research and production of alternative fuels will not only help improve the environment, but create much needed jobs in rural America.”

LaHood Testifies on Transportation Authorization Before Senate EPW Committee

Members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee questioned U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on the future of public transit investment and the upcoming authorization bill, and the role of the Highway Trust Fund, during a March 25 hearing of the committee.

The chair of the committee, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), said she convened the hearing as part of the development process for the next federal transportation authorization bill; the current law, SAFETEA-LU, expires on Sept. 30. She referred to the upcoming bill as “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century,” or MAP 21.

“America’s transportation systems are the lifeblood of our economy,” LaHood said, “and when properly maintained and supported can be a catalyst for economic growth…We must devote resources to not only preserve and improve our existing assets, but also to increase the capacity of our networks to efficiently move goods and people, using new construction where needed, innovative technology, and operational improvements.”

While the jurisdiction of the committee—and, thus, the focus of the hearing—was primarily on highway and bridge construction and maintenance, committee members spoke about the role of transit, specifically rail.

“Now is the time to change our priorities; the U.S. must renew and revitalize its transportation infrastructure,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), calling for “a true surface transportation bill that encompasses all modes.” He cited APTA statistics reporting that the nation’s transit ridership is at its highest level in 52 years, and noted that Amtrak has also seen its ridership grow for each of the past six years.

Lautenberg asked LaHood to comment on the Highway Trust Fund, which the senator said is not sustainable in its current form. The secretary suggested additional alternatives to build on the trust fund, such as project costs paid by public-private partnerships or the establishment of an infrastructure bank.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) noted that his state is largely rural, with few transportation options beyond the automobile. LaHood proposed working with local transit districts about improvements to rural transit service, which could include buses or light rail, and could be targeted to transport rural employees to jobs in urban areas.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) recommended increases in the fuel tax to capture the purchasing power lost since 1993; he said this change would bring in $20 billion annually. In response, LaHood was not sure the current economic climate presented a good time to propose a gas tax increase.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and Kathleen Novak, mayor of Northglenn, CO, and president of the National League of Cities, also testified at the March 25 hearing.

LaHood’s testimony followed an earlier appearance with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing, where they announced a partnership between their departments in support of building sustainable communities.

“One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs,” said LaHood, a former member of the House who had served on the full Appropriations Committee. He and Donovan explained that they want to help American families gain better access to affordable housing, increase their transportation options, and lower their transportation costs by creating affordable, sustainable communities.

The secretaries testified March 18 before the subcommittee, chaired by Rep. John Olver (D-MA), at a hearing titled “Livable Communities, Transit Oriented Development, and Incorporating Green Building Practices into Federal Housing and Transportation.”

Donovan echoed LaHood’s remarks, saying: “This partnership will help expand every American family’s choices for affordable housing and transportation. HUD’s central mission—ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing—can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day.”

The day after the two Cabinet secretaries testified, the subcommittee heard additional testimony on sustainable communities from representatives of think tanks, municipal governments, and nonprofit organizations.

Robert Puentes, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative, praised the DOT-HUD “unified vision” and pointed to “the connections between housing and transportation and the need for integrated planning as a way to drive decisions that lead to productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth.”  Calling on the federal government to support states and metropolitan areas in their efforts to develop plans that cover transportation, land use, and economic issues, he suggested the creation of “Sustainability Challenge Contracts” to help municipalities transcend the stovepiping of disparate programs and work together.  He also recommended redefining “affordable housing” to add in the costs of transportation and energy associated with that housing.

Mary A. Leary, senior director for Easter Seals Project ACTION and the National Center on Senior Transportation, testified about the need to provide older people who are no longer able to drive with quality transportation options so they can remain active. She called the establishment of coalitions to aid seniors and persons with disabilities “essential and effective” and stressed that safe, accessible transit must be available in all environments.

John Norquist, president and chief executive officer of the Congress for the New Urbanism, described the three traditional purposes of thoroughfares—movement, commerce, and social interaction—as compared with more recent road construction designed exclusively to move traffic. In contrast, neighborhoods with many smaller streets provide travelers with choices, he said, including walking.

Grace Crunican, director of Seattle DOT, discussed the city’s efforts to expand housing opportunities adjacent to transit as part of increasing housing affordability. Between 2000 and 2008, she said, the median price of a single-family house in Seattle increased 73 percent, while the median income rose only 34 percent.  Another city policy noted by Crunican requires that all new or reconstructed roads must be “complete streets” that will consider cars only one component, not the organizing principle. She pointed to Sound Transit’s Link light rail line, which will connect downtown Seattle to the Sea-Tac International Airport when it opens later this year, and the South Lake Union Streetcar line as examples of intermodal development in the city.

Transit Agencies Mobilizing to Implement ARRA-Funded Projects

As APTA members receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, Passenger Transport will highlight some of these projects through a series of reports. This story is the first of many that will present such information as job creation and enhanced public services in communities across the country.

What follows are representative examples of public transit making plans for ARRA funding:

In Honolulu, J. Roger Morton, president and general manager of Oahu Transit Services Inc., listed a number of ready-to-go projects for the region’s $40.9 million in ARRA funds that include the purchase of 20 additional hybrid-electric articulated buses; further development of a new intermodal bus transfer facility adjacent to Kamehameha Highway and Middle Street;
development of a new transit center at Wahiawa, Hawaii; and improvements to the existing Pearl City Bus Maintenance Facility. In addition, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann expressed pleasure that that Hawaii will receive $20 million for Oahu’s rail transit project. “It is very clear that our rail transit project will be a major economic stimulus for Hawaii, he said, “provide thousands of well-paying jobs, and create an environmentally friendly alternative to traffic congestion.”

The Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, CA, announced its plans to purchase 10 new hybrid buses from ElDorado National, based in Riverside, CA, with part of the $12.8 million the agency is receiving through ARRA. The 30-foot gasoline-electric hybrids will operate on neighborhood routes.  “It’s very rewarding to be a catalyst for getting dollars circulating back into both the local and national economy, and to be able to develop the infrastructure for better community service all at the same time,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus. “If you add up all the transit agencies across the country who are getting similar stimulus funds, that’s a lot of new business that companies can expect to receive very soon, which means jobs saved and maybe even new ones created,” she added.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus is centering its plans for $16.2 million in ARRA funds on overhauling its McKinley Avenue fixed route bus facility. “We’ve identified a number of projects that were going to be part of the renovation of this facility; with the stimulus funding, we can get a jump on that,” said spokesperson Marty Stutz. COTA plans to begin by replacing the 27 bus lifts in the facility. Other projects on the ARRA list include construction of a new paratransit facility; the purchase of non-revenue vehicles; and upgrading technological software.

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City is making plans for $48.4 million from ARRA, according to spokesperson Carrie Bohnsack-Ware. “We see adding 500-550 jobs,” she said. Proposed UTA projects include $6 million for 10 to 12 additional buses; $15 million for preventive bus and rail maintenance; and the balance to transform a former distribution facility for a shopping chain into a new light rail facility.

The Paducah Area Transit System in Paducah, KY, which operates a fleet of 11 fixed route buses, plans to purchase four new paratransit vehicles with its ARRA funding, along with a new generator for its facility, new on-board cameras, and additional vehicle data terminals.

Votran in South Daytona, FL, is making plans for $8.4 million in ARRA funds. General Manager Lois Bollenback said the proposed expenditures meet “goals pursuing green initiatives, passenger amenities, and fleet replacement,” including the purchase of new hybrid diesel-electric buses to replace older diesel vehicles; an assessment of the agency’s facilities and operating practices to determine ways to reduce consumption, save energy, and lower expenses; and an upgrade of the paratransit fleet through the replacement of five diesel-powered vans with hybrid-electric vehicles.

The Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors in Spokane, WA, approved a proposed slate of projects to be funded with $10.6 million from ARRA. The largest expenditure, $9.6 million, would go toward the purchase of 23 new buses, 10 with diesel-electric hybrid engines, to replace vehicles at least 16 years old. The balance would fund a security surveillance system, transit enhancements, and preventive maintenance.  “This proposal enhances our ability to continue serving our growing ridership by allowing us to redirect local funds, originally designated for capital projects, toward continued operations,” said STA Chief Executive Officer Susan Meyer.

FTA Updates ARRA Application Process

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) continues to update its web site, providing information and guidance related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) as it becomes available.  In addition to the full text of the notice on ARRA that appeared March 5 in the Federal Register, there is now a list of major milestones and deadlines for ARRA formula grants and a Power Point presentation on the new legislation.

Among the deadlines are July 1, 2009 for grant applicants to obtain their Transportation Electronic Award Management (TEAM) grant number—and thus ensure obligation within 180 days of the March 5, 2009 apportionment; and Dec. 30, 2009 to obtain the TEAM grant number for reallocated funds, and thus ensure obligation within 365 days of the March 5 apportionment.  Milestones include the Sept. 16 Federal Register apportionment notice of reallocation of formula funds.  Unobligated funds will revert to the U.S. Treasury on Sept. 30, 2010, and will be redistributed.

The Power Point presentation covers more details of ARRA, including the Transit and Recovery Act overview; purposes of the legislation; transit funding in ARRA; the grant eligibility process; how to be ready for a grant; and the ARRA obligation timetable.  The presentation also lays out the following key provisions of the legislation:
* No waiver of FTA program requirements (planning/NEPA/Buy America/Labor Protections);
* Providing a 100 percent federal share, except New Starts;
* Only capital expenses are eligible;
* Cannot mix Recovery Funds in the same grant with any other funds;
* ARRA STP Funds can be flexed to transit; and
* Grant obligation deadlines apply.

For this information and more, click here.

TIGGER: Interim Funding, Evaluation Guidance
An interim notice of funding availability and evaluation guidance for the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program included in ARRA appeared in the March 24 Federal Register. The legislation appropriates $100 million for TIGGER, a new discretionary grant program for public transportation projects that reduce a transit system’s greenhouse gas emissions or result in a decrease in a transit system’s energy use.

FTA is asking for complete proposals to be submitted by May 22. Because TIGGER is a new grant program, FTA is accepting comments on the program’s provisions through April 7 and may alter some of the requirements in response to those comments.

The ARRA authorizes two purposes for the new grants: capital investments that will assist in reducing the energy consumption of a transit system, or capital investments that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions of a public transportation system. Proposals for projects may be
submitted under either or both categories. Submitted proposals must request at least $2 million and no more than $25 million.

FTA will post answers to common questions about the program, as well as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for assistance in calculations, here. Technical assistance regarding these requirements is available from each FTA regional office.

Persons submitting comments must include the agency name, FTA, and the docket number, FTA–2009–0013. Comments may be sent electronically or faxed to (202) 493-2251.

Proposals must be submitted electronically via e-mail. FTA will announce grant selections in the Federal Register when the selection process is complete.

For further information, contact Walter Kulyk, FTA Office of Mobility Innovation, at (202) 366–4995.

‘Meet the Press’ Covers Public Transportation, Infrastructure Issues

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—the founders of Building America’s Future, a coalition focused on the need to support the nation’s infrastructure—appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press March 22 to discuss the economy, bailouts, and stimulus funding. At times, not surprisingly, the discussion centered on transportation.

Rendell, in reference to the upcoming federal transportation authorization, stated that funding cannot remain at the same level, adding: “And the President understands ... that we have to do it in a new way.” Not to increase the funding, he said, is “a disaster for future generations. We have to change. We have to do something like the infrastructure bank: creative, innovative, visionary.”

He cited a poll conducted by Building America’s Future that “showed the American people are willing pay for infrastructure improvements, pay more taxes, if they believe it’ll be done in a nonpolitical way, if the choices made will be good choices based on cost benefit analysis.”

Bloomberg noted that “we’ve pledged to help [President Obama] in every way we can to start attacking the problems where our sewer systems and water systems are inadequate, our transportation is inadequate, whether it’s rail or air or roads.”
 When the conversation turned to traffic congestion, Schwarzenegger said: “There is no reason why we should get stuck in traffic. I mean, what we have to do is have a plan in America to see how do we move people and goods around. Is it through rail? Is it high-speed rail? . . . People want to move faster, companies want to move their goods much, much faster. We want to upgrade all of those things rather than getting stuck with that.”

Host David Gregory asked if increasing the gasoline tax was a place to start. Schwarzenegger replied: “I think one has to look at it.”

The California governor added, however, that while people are expressing a willingness to pay more for gas, “it doesn’t all have to be done through public money. We are talking here about public-private partnerships. There are many companies that are interested in coming in and financing the high-speed rail or other rail systems, light rail and so on.”

Rivkin Named New U.S. DOT General Counsel

President Barack Obama has named Robert S. Rivkin, a former general counsel of the Chicago Transit Authority, as general counsel to U.S. DOT.

Rivkin most recently served as vice president and deputy general counsel for the Americas of Aon Corporation, a global risk management and insurance brokerage firm based in Chicago. He joined Aon in 2004, following three years with CTA. Earlier, Rivkin served as a litigation partner at the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin & Waite, legal policy director for the city of Chicago, and an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

He was a member of the U.S. DOT transition team for the Obama administration and helped to establish and lead the Obama for America transportation policy committee. Rivkin also is a former member of the Transportation Committee of the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council.

Megaregion Forum Held in Atlanta; Georgia Tech Hosts

By SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

A megaregion is defined as large networks of metropolitan centers and their surrounding areas tied together by economic, environmental, and infrastructure relationships. The Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion (PAM)—one of the fastest-growing megaregions in the country—comprises the entirety or parts of six states in the southeastern United States, running from Birmingham, AL, through Atlanta, GA, to Raleigh-Durham, NC.

On March 23, a forum sponsored in part by the Regional Plan Association (RPA) and America 2050, a national initiative to promote the creation of a national development strategy and infrastructure plan, convened at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center in Atlanta. Titled “The Case for a National Infrastructure Policy: The Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion in the Global Economy,” the forum was the third in a series being conducted across the country to build support for America 2050.

Speakers at the forum included APTA Chair Dr. Beverly A. Scott; APTA President William W. Millar; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; Mort Downey, president of Mort Downey Consulting LLC; and RPA President Robert Yaro.

“As a nation we are facing big challenges and big changes,” said Millar, “and here in the Piedmont/Mid-Atlantic megaregion, you are facing big challenges as well. Working together, you can make a difference. Expanded travel options through enhanced and improved public transportation and high-speed and intercity passenger rail can help make that difference.”

Keynote speeches and panel topics included “The National Context for Infrastructure Investment,” “The Case for a National Infrastructure Policy,” “Transportation—Connecting PAM through Ground, Air, and Water,” and “Next Steps ... Where do we go from here?”

Scott noted that the PAM lacks a coherent policy vision and desperately needs a major investment. “We’ve outgrown our current transit system,” she said, “so we must reorganize how we move people and goods in order to ensure prosperity in the future.”

“I think the forum was very successful because we had a high-level audience of policymakers and business leaders and academics who really had a chance to discuss priorities, identify next steps, and work together,” said Petra Todorovich, director, America 2050. “There was also a sense that the Piedmont Atlanta Megaregion has to engage with the federal government with all that’s going on now—stimulus plan, authorization, budget. If PAM can identify its priorities and plan together as a region, they stand to benefit more from federal dollars and federal support,” she added.

Attendees commented on the strong degree of agreement on strategy and commonalities articulated by a range of presenters.

“I thought it was very striking that elected political leadership, in addition to persons who head professional organizations, were all on the same page with regard to the need to invest strategically and in seeing a new role for transportation and infrastructure in a way we haven’t contemplated ever in this country,” said Dr. Catherine Ross, Harry West chair and director, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, at Georgia Tech, who delivered the opening remarks. She noted that this megaregion forum was a “new era” in transportation planning, adding: “President Obama gets it, he gets it. He knows that it’s working in a direction that reduces energy dependence.”

Ross, who has a new book coming out soon titled Megaregions: Planning for Global Competitiveness, deemed the all-day session “instructive and effective—and very forward-looking.” 

LIRR Celebrates 175th Anniversary of Service

As part of the year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary, MTA Long Island Rail Road recently hosted a Customer Appreciation Day at Penn Station in Manhattan. LIRR is holding monthly events, offering commuters a chance to win tickets to such activities as Broadway shows and hockey games.

LIRR received its charter on April 24, 1834, only nine years after the introduction of rail travel. It is the oldest railroad in the U.S. still operating under its original name, and the busiest commuter railroad in North America.

“When we were first chartered in 1834, it is doubtful our founders envisioned what we would become 175 years later: the largest commuter railroad in North America, serving 87.4 million customers on more than 700 miles of track stretching from Penn Station to Montauk, and many communities in between,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “This great enterprise—kept strong by our proud workforce of 6,800—has served as an economic engine for Long Island and for the entire New York metropolitan region, getting customers safely and quickly to and from work, leisure activities and other destinations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

LIRR now provides service on 11 different branches, covering a distance of approximately 120 miles from the eastern tip of Long Island to the heart of Manhattan. It has 124 stations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

As part of the anniversary observance, the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn is hosting a commemorative exhibition, “Route of the Dashing Commuter: The Long Island Rail Road at 175,” from April 14 through Sept. 13. The exhibition uses artifacts, photographs, video, and archival material to show how LIRR helped turn Long Island from an idyllic farming community to one of the nation’s premier suburbs.

The museum will also highlight current LIRR efforts, including the East Side Access tunnel construction project, which when complete will bring Long Island commuters into Grand Central Terminal.

Information on the transit museum’s exhibit is available online.

Energy Efficiency Global Forum in France

Energy—efficiency, conservation, examination—is at the forefront of the world’s most critical issues. From April 27-29, the Alliance to Save Energy—a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency worldwide to achieve a healthier economy, a cleaner environment, and greater energy security—will hold the 2009 Energy Efficiency Global Forum and Exposition (EE Global) in Paris, France. This is the only international conference and expo currently scheduled that will focus exclusively on energy efficiency, featuring speakers from six continents.

EE Global will showcase energy efficiency as a key solution to the world’s most serious energy challenges, including high energy costs, limited energy supplies, rising demand, and global climate change.

Increasing the efficiency of the transportation sector is a key part of this equation. EE Global sessions on transportation and urban planning will examine creating livable cities with energy efficiency as a foundation, how technology will improve the efficient movement of people and goods in the decades ahead, financing strategies that will create more livable communities through energy efficiency, and effective government policies for increasing the efficiency of vehicle fuel.

Through APTA’s endorsement of this event, APTA members will be eligible for discounted rates.  For more information on EE Global 2009—to register or serve as a sponsor—please click here. To take advantage of a 10 percent discount in registration, enter APTA10 in the referral code field at the end of the registration process. If you have any questions, or would like to reserve your booth space, contact Mindy Berman at (310) 915-5947.

APTA: Working Toward a Greener Today—and Tomorrow

By WILLIAM W. MILLAR, President, APTA

Climate change. The need for green jobs. Carbon footprint.

Environmental challenges threaten the planet and contribute to the nation’s economic and security problems. We in our industry know that public transit is part of the solution. And at APTA, our members and staff are busy reminding the general public, environmental leaders, and our elected representatives that public transportation is the responsible environmental choice.

We’re cultivating relationships with environmental advocacy groups. On behalf of APTA members, I’ve spoken with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Alliance to Save Energy. I’ve also addressed the Green Group, which brings together many of the country’s environmental organizations. This month alone, I will have addressed three conferences on sustainable development, in Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Montreal.

Many people know the transportation sector as a whole accounts for over one-third of U.S. carbon emissions and is the fastest growing contributor to new emissions. Environmentalists often look to improving automobile fuel efficiency and vehicle technology to reduce the transportation sector’s emissions. Yet public transit is the most sustainable form of transportation, saving 37 million metric tons of carbon emissions every year. That’s equal to what would be saved if New York City; Washington, DC; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles households all stopped using electricity.

You might encourage your local officials and your riders to look at this savings from a household perspective. People are often encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by replacing old appliances, putting in energy-efficient light bulbs, or weatherizing the home. But if one person in a typical two-person, two-car household switches to public transportation for his or her 10-mile, one-way commute, the household reduces its carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent— more than all those other important measures combined. And if that household gets rid of one car altogether, it can reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent.

Even with public transit’s impressive carbon profile, APTA members and staff are helping our industry become even more green. Fully one-fourth of our bus fleet uses alternative fuels, compared with just over 4 percent of the auto fleet. In addition, APTA’s new Sustainability Commitment certification program for member public transit systems and business members is in its pilot phase. This voluntary program has five levels of achievement, similar to the LEED program for buildings. Participants conduct a sustainability inventory, commit to several base principles, and set goals for recycling, consumption, and carbon emissions. For more information, click here. We will also hold our fourth Sustainability Workshop in Salt Lake City this August.

On the legislative front, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law on Feb. 17 by President Obama, includes a new grant program to help transit systems reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. We also expect climate change and energy legislation in Congress this year. One recent bill to emerge is CLEAN-TEA, sponsored by Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) and, on the House side, by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH). This bill calls for a portion of the proceeds from a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions to be used to fund public transportation and other green transportation investments.

To support those legislative efforts, APTA has created a new advocacy campaign, “Public Transportation Takes Us There.” It aims to build congressional support for increased investment in public transportation through the authorization of the transportation bill up for a vote next fall.

Finally, we’re walking the walk here at APTA. We’ve instituted new ways to “green” our meetings, and we have a new “Green Team” making our offices more sustainable. We already do a number of things: We recycle all office paper and beverage containers. Like many of you, we offer a transit commute benefit so our employees can take public transit to work. No doubt there are other things we can do to improve—but we’re taking a hard look at ourselves in an effort to do everything we’re encouraging our members to do.

As “green jobs” and “sustainability” become part of the mantra of economic recovery, APTA is making sure the American public and our elected officials know the unique benefits our industry offers.

A Factory Where Clean Vehicles, Public Transit, and Economic Growth Converge

By FRANCES BEINECKE, President, Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, NY

 

This post originally appeared on March 4, 2009, in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Switchboard blog.

In his State of the Union address and his federal budget, President Obama championed incentives for cleaner vehicles, expanded public transit, and more American jobs. A couple of weeks ago, I saw one of the places where all three of these economic boosters converge: a hybrid bus company called ISE based in San Diego.

With 60 employees and contracts with cities around the country, ISE is already making impressive advances in building more fuel efficient city buses. But with the right policies in place, ISE and many other American companies are poised to bring clean energy technology into the mainstream--along with the thousands of jobs, reduced oil dependence, and cleaner air that come with it.

After participating in countless meetings about energy policy, I welcomed the chance to see clean vehicles on the ground. I got to kick the tires of a bus whose body was built outside of Oakland then brought to San Diego to be combined with ISE’s gasoline hybrid electric propulsion system. I got to sit behind the wheel--although not drive--a diesel hybrid electric bus. And I got to travel around in a fuel cell bus, a remarkably quiet, smooth ride made even better by the realization that it releases zero pollution.

I also got to hold in my hand an ultra capacitor, or, in layperson’s terms, a very advanced battery for hybrid engines. It was only about the size of a soda can, but it is a hot topic in the vehicle sector right now. These batteries are viewed as a bottle neck for producing more hybrids in the United States. To build hundreds of thousands of hybrid cars and buses, you want to have a battery supplier right here in America, not in Asia.

In his State of the Union address, Obama noted that Korea is making most of the batteries for new plug-in hybrids right now. The economic stimulus package even included $2 billion for car batteries in an effort to draw the emerging industry to America. ISE is already part of the solution. It is an American-based company using the technology of another American-based company, Maxwell, to put these batteries in their American-made vehicles.

Standing in the lot of ISE, I felt like the clean vehicle future is no longer off in the distance; it is right around the corner. Here is a picture of ISE board member David Goodman, NRDC vehicles expert Roland Hwang, and me standing in front of the first 60-foot articulated bus in the United States (most city buses are 40 feet). It uses a highly efficient ISE diesel hybrid electric propulsion system.

This bus is called a BRT (bus rapid transit) because it looks like a bullet train on wheels. The bus looked and felt very modern. But the best thing about it is that it isn’t on the drawing board. It was right here on the lot, 1 of 50 that ISE is making for the City of Las Vegas this year.

The key to making that number--the number of clean, low-emission buses-- grow exponentially is smart policies that expand the market. The stimulus package and the federal budget are a good start. I hope to also see more cities issuing procurement rules that call for hybrid vehicles and more factories on American soil to fill the battery supply chain. Because as the market expands, so do the American jobs and the environmental benefits. Talk about a good ride.

NRDC is an environmental action group with more than 1.2 million members. The Switchboard blog is online here.

APTA to Offer Credentialing Sessions at Bus & Paratransit Conference

APTA has received approval from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), the professional institute of the American Planning Association, to award Certification Management (CM) credits tailored to the needs of new and experiences planning officials at the 2009 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference and International Bus Roadeo, May 1-6 in Seattle.

All AICP members required to earn a total of 32 CM credits every two years to maintain their credentials. More information about this program is available online.

Each of the following conference sessions offers 1.5 credit hours through the program: Building Sustainable Communities with Partnerships; Maintenance Facility Design—Sizing It Right; and BRT, Land Use and Ridership. Sign-in sheets will be made available at each session to record attendance, or AICP members can log in to their online CM logs to record the credits they’ve earned.

An up-to-date schedule of all educational opportunities available at this conference can be found here.

APTA is currently awaiting  APA approval for credentialing sessions at the 2009 Rail Conference, June 14-18 in Chicago. For more information on the APTA’s AICP approved conference sessions, contact Starleetah Gaddis at (202) 496-4338.

CFTE Plans Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference

The Center for Transportation Excellence (CFTE) invites transit agencies, local officials, transportation supporters, advocates, and ballot measure campaign professionals to gather in Salt Lake City May 31-June 2 to participate in its biannual Transit Initiatives and Communities Conference.

Although transportation measures have traditionally done well at the ballot, many communities are uncertain of how to approach voters with local transportation’s need for financial support. This conference will take an in-depth look at how to pass initiatives and build support for transportation investment in the midst of the current economy. Speakers will include
national transportation experts and campaign professionals, with sessions covering the latest in financial trends, their impact on transportation, and how to translate this knowledge into a successful ballot measure.

More information is available online.

APTF Seeks Scholarship Applications

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) is seeking applications by June 5 for the 2009 Scholarship Program. APTF will award a minimum of 10 scholarships at the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.

At its meeting during the recent APTA Legislative Conference in Washington, the APTF board approved a new named scholarship in honor of Shirley A. DeLibero’s 28-year career of support for the career advancement of transit professionals. DeLibero made the first donation to the scholarship fund.

The Shirley A. DeLibero Scholarship--the first to honor an African-American in the APTF awards program--will go to an African-American professional pursuing a career in public transportation.

APTF also announced that Joseph LaFreniere, director of maintenance and technology for Salem-Keizer Transit in Salem, OR, recently received the first APTF Frank Lichtanski Scholarship to the Eno Center for Transportation Leadership Transit Executive Seminar.

The foundation noted its support for the APTA Human Resources Committee’s “9000 in ’09” initiative, which asks APTA members to personally communicate the job and career opportunities available in public transportation to 9,000 students of all ages during calendar year 2009.

More information about APTF and donation activities can be found here.

Brinegar Dies; Former U.S. DOT Secretary

Claude S. Brinegar, U.S. secretary of transportation under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, died March 13 at the age of 82.

Brinegar joined U.S. DOT on Feb. 2, 1973, as the third secretary in the department’s history, and served until Feb. 1, 1975.

During Brinegar’s tenure at U.S. DOT, the Nixon Administration announced its willingness in December 1973 to begin considering public transit subsidies from the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Late the following year, President Ford signed an $11.8 billion public transit bill.

Brinegar also dealt with railroads facing fiscal crisis and instituted emergency efforts to save the northeastern rail transportation network, overseeing the creation of Conrail from six failing freight railroads. Conrail stayed under federal oversight until 1987.

As a supporter of energy conservation efforts as Arab nations placed an embargo on oil exports to the U.S. in late 1973, Brinegar instituted the nationwide 55 mph speed limit in the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act of 1974; Congress repealed the speed limit in 1995. He also spearheaded a national effort to promote carpooling and stressed the importance of improved auto fuel efficiency.

Brinegar worked in the oil industry for almost 40 years, retiring in 1992 from Unocal (formerly Union Oil of California). He had a doctorate in applied economics from Stanford University.