Passenger Transport - April 13, 2009
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Rogoff Nominated as FTA Administrator

On Wednesday, April 8, President Barack Obama nominated Peter M. Rogoff to be the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

In introducing the day’s nominees, President Obama said: “At this crucial moment in our nation’s history, the American people will be well-served by the dedication and expertise of these fine public servants. I am grateful for their decision to serve, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead.”

Rogoff has served for 22 years on the staff of the Senate Appropriations Committee, including 14 as the Democratic Staff Director of its Transportation Subcommittee. An acknowledged expert in federal infrastructure budgeting and finance, he held an active role in the financing of each of the last three comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization bills—dating back to the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.

His knowledge of public transportation is extensive. He held a critical role in advising policy makers on the financing of dozens of new light rail and Bus Rapid Transit systems across the United States, as well as on Amtrak’s operating and capital needs, including the initiation and financing of high-speed Acela service. He has also been active in overseeing and reforming procurements in the Federal Aviation Administration, Coast Guard, FTA, and Federal Highway Administration.

Safety and security issues have long been important to Rogoff. He was instrumental in establishing new user fee regimes to finance expanded security measures following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he has been centrally involved in efforts to strengthen safety inspections of substandard trucks, cargo vessels, and pipelines.

Rogoff is a recipient of the U.S. Coast Guard Distinguished Public Service Award and the Lester P. Lamm Memorial Award for outstanding leadership and dedication to U.S. highway transportation programs. He holds an MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and a B.A. in American Studies from Amherst College.

“We’ve been working for many years with Peter,” said APTA President William W. Millar. “He has a long and distinguished career in the transportation field, and we look forward to many more years of working with him as he takes on his new role.”

Putting Recovery Funds to Work

This story is part of an ongoing series in Passenger Transport highlighting how public transportation systems are spending funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The stories will examine the variety of ARRA-funded projects that will both help stimulate the economy through job creation and enhance public transportation in communities across the country.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to spend nearly $202 million in ARRA funding on 29 projects that include fixing crumbling platforms, repairing tracks, and buying new vehicles. WMATA plans to begin with a contract for the purchase of about 45 new hybrid-electric buses.

“No one was expecting these additional federal funds a year ago, so this is a great opportunity for Metro to make needed infrastructure improvements that were previously unfunded and at the same time help improve the region’s economy,” said WMATA General Manager John Catoe.

Laketran in Grand River, OH, will receive $3.6 million in ARRA funding, of which $1.4 million will go toward the purchase of four 30-foot low floor transit buses and $1.3 million for 18 paratransit vans. The agency also listed security cameras, radios, and capitalized maintenance expenses in its list of ARRA projects.

Valley Metro in Phoenix has reported transit projects to receive ARRA funding out of more than $66 million. The largest outlay, $28.5 million, will go to Phoenix for projects including $5 million in Central Station Transit Center refurbishments; $5.4 million in preventive maintenance; and park-and-ride construction and expansion. The Regional Public Transportation Authority will use $15 million for Bus Rapid Transit capital, while Scottsdale and Tempe will receive $5 million and $6.5 million respectively for facility construction and expansion.

In the suburbs of Chicago, Pace Suburban Bus plans to use its entire $33.1 million from ARRA for fleet purchases: $18 million for up to 58 30-foot buses; $13.2 million for up to 190 paratransit vehicles; and $1.9 million for up to 84 non-revenue support vehicles. “We’ve been using our capital funds to cover operating cost overruns for the past five years,” said Pace spokesperson Patrick Wilmot, “and are now in the situation where we need to use the stimulus funds to bring our fleet into a state of good repair.” He noted that Pace plans to add hybrid and alternative fuel buses to its fleet eventually, but “at this point in time, we need to dedicate our vehicle purchases toward replacing as many vehicles as we can, which means we’ll continue to buy diesel buses for now.”

ARRA funds totaling about $9.4 million will allow the Golden Gate Ferry division of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District to refurbish one of two vessels recently purchased from Washington State Ferries to “like-new” condition. The district will use its own funds and other grant sources to pay for refurbishments to the second ferry.

City Utilities in Springfield, MO, plans to use its $2.9 million in ARRA funds to complete a new downtown bus transfer station ($1.5 million) and began expanding its maintenance campus ($1.4 million). “Both these projects are somewhat driven by our decision to purchase larger replacement buses, in the near future, due to current capacity issues,” said Carol Cruise, director, transit services.

Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, is due to receive $21 million through the program, with the largest amount—$14.5 million—going toward the purchase of 10 hybrid buses, 15 diesel buses, and four alternative fuel trolleys. Other projects in the pipeline include $3 million toward construction of an operations/maintenance facility and $2.3 million for two new park-and-ride facilities.

What’s New at FTA’s ARRA Web Site? Presidential Memo, TIGGER Calculator

In its continuing practice of providing updated information and guidance on ARRA-related information on its web site, the Federal Transit Administration’s has posted a memorandum from President Barack Obama titled “Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds,” and sent to the heads of all U.S. Executive Departments and Agencies.  The memo first appeared in the March 20 Federal Register.

“In implementing the Recovery Act, we have undertaken unprecedented efforts to ensure the responsible distribution of funds for the Act’s purposes and to provide public transparency and accountability of expenditures,” the memo states. “We must not allow Recovery Act funds to be distributed on the basis of factors other than the merits of proposed projects or in response to improper influence or pressure.”

The site also provides a calculator that instructs stakeholders on how to determine their energy consumption reduction levels under the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program included in ARRA. Only agencies submitting proposals under energy consumption reduction criteria must complete these calculations, presented in an Excel format. After completing the worksheet, FTA instructs applicants to rename their file “Agency name – TIGGER” and email it with the rest of the proposal.

Also on the web site is a constantly updated list of documents that includes all corrections, updates, and additions to the ARRA legislation beginning on March 20.

To find this information and more, click here.

DHS Announces $389 Million in Transit Preparedness Grants

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency announced $388.6 million in Fiscal Year 2009 allocations for the Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) on April 8. This amount is part of nearly $970 million allocated for 10 federal grant programs, which will go to assist state, local, and tribal governments and private industry for efforts to strengthen community preparedness.

From 2003 through 2009, FEMA will have provided more than $26.7 billion to strengthen the nation’s ability to prevent, protect, respond, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters, or other emergencies. The FY 2009 Preparedness Grants will focus on improving strategic planning and preparedness and measuring performance.

“Today’s grant allocations provide more transparency and openness than ever before, as stakeholder feedback drove significant improvements in the grant guidance and peer review process, increasing the value of what states get with their dollars,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “As we continue to expand our state, local, tribal, and private-sector partnerships, our combined efforts will improve and hone our grant programs—which helps us strengthen and protect individual communities and the entire nation.”

The TSGP allocation to protect critical transit infrastructure from terrorism includes:

* Intercity Bus Security Grant Program.  $11.7 million to assist operators of fixed-route intercity and charter bus services to support security plans, facility security upgrades, and vehicle and driver protection.

* Freight Rail Security Grant Program.  $15 million to target resources for security plans, vulnerability assessments, employee security awareness training, and GPS tracking systems for railroad cars transporting toxic inhalation materials.

* Intercity Passenger Rail (Amtrak).  $25 million for Amtrak to protect critical surface transportation infrastructure and the traveling public from acts of terrorism, major disasters, and other emergencies within the Amtrak rail system.

Further information on preparedness grant programs is available at these links.


Designing the New APTA Strategic Plan, 2010-2014

BY W. STEVE LEE, President and Chief Executive Officer, Collaborative Strategies Group, LLC, Washington, DC

An effective strategic planning process needs leadership.

At its November 2008 retreat, APTA’s Executive Committee created a steering committee to launch its strategic planning process for 2010-2014. The strategic plan will be a road map to lead APTA from where it is now to where it needs to be in five years, establishing the association’s priorities so that it can better serve the needs of its members and staff, as well as to guide APTA in the rapidly shifting economic, political, and social environment.

M.P. Carter, APTA first vice chair and chair of the APTA Strategic Planning Steering Committee, intends that “this strategic plan will be a living document, which is compelling yet accessible and meaningful to all.”

As 2010 approaches—the start of the new strategic planning cycle —nothing less than a sea change faces public transportation: climate change, increased ridership, a wave of baby-boomer retirements, deteriorating infrastructures, deep budget cuts, public policy initiatives, and new technologies. At the APTA Legislative Conference, Carter underscored the point that “public transportation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and opportunities on our plate.”

As a membership organization, APTA must line up its priorities with those of its members, but also must lead them toward alignment with the institutions, trends, and ideas that will influence and change public transportation. In his remarks, APTA President William W. Millar expressed hope that the strategic planning process results “in a plan that is informed by the needs of our members” and that “sharpens the alignment of APTA’s vision with the ambitious goals of TransitVision 2050.”

TransitVision 2050, the final report of APTA’s TransitVision 2050 Task Force, identifies a future for public transportation. Among other things, it describes the world in 2050, and how it has changed since the early part of the 21st century. While the endpoint is firmly in place with APTA’s vision, the path to get there will require great flexibility and responsiveness by APTA to a dynamic, changing environment.

Tasked to make the process as far-reaching and engaging as possible, the steering committee selected Collaborative Strategies Group, a District-based firm with experience in transportation and expertise in collaborative processes, to design and implement APTA’s strategic planning process.

The APTA Executive Committee will consider a draft strategic plan for adoption at its annual retreat in November 2009, with the final plan presented to the Board for approval in March 2010.

An effective strategic planning process must be transparent, inclusive, and engaging.
The strategic planning team will invite APTA members and staff to help shape this strategic vision through:
* Brainstorming sessions;
* Stakeholder interviews;
* Interactive online discussions;
* Surveys;
* Presentations; and
* Meetings.
Participation by APTA members will be encouraged throughout the process.

An effective strategic planning process must consider relevant issues.
This is not simply a reflective exercise. To be sure, knowing where APTA is will be important to knowing where APTA is going. Strategic planning is meaningless if it does not result in a plan that stands a chance of implementation.

Important questions that will be asked are:
* How can APTA be more effective in what it is already doing?
* Where and in what ways should APTA expand its work?
* Are there areas/programs it should no longer pursue?
* What trends and changes in the world most affect its work and how should APTA respond?

In January 2009, the strategic planning team began a series of brainstorming sessions with APTA members and interviews with members, leaders, and staff.  Throughout spring 2009, the team will convene brainstorming sessions open to all members at the APTA Bus and Paratransit Conference and the APTA Rail Conference. The focus of these sessions will be to fully understand where APTA members stand; their concerns, hopes, and dreams for the future of their organization; and how APTA can support key goals.

At the same time, the team will discuss with APTA committees how the new strategic plan will meet the needs of the areas important to them. The interviews will also include non-members to gain the fullest possible perspectives.

An effective strategic plan should be focused on implementation and action.
It is critical to keep in mind that the target of the strategic plan is the APTA membership.

Those who have engaged in strategic planning know that process often defines product. The process is defined to be broad and relatively easy to participate in, yet it makes sure to move beyond superficial input. The aim is for APTA members to feel there is something to be gained by participating—that their ideas will be heard and they will learn—and to acquire something extremely useful from this process.

The ultimate goal of the 2010-2014 APTA Strategic Plan is to create a bridge between what public transportation does in 2010 and beyond, and what APTA can do to clear the path.

An effective strategic plan must have ownership and accountability for its implementation.
By March 2010, APTA expects that all its members will share responsibility for the strategic plan. They can then champion the plan and ensure that APTA continues to meet the challenges it sets forth.

APTA members must support the plan to make it a priority; APTA staff must provide what is needed to bring the plan to life.

The strategic plan should be flexible, adaptive, and enduring.
The path to 2014 is unclear, but it is important that by “2050, America’s energy efficient, multi-modal, environmentally sustainable transportation system powers the greatest nation of earth” (TransitVision 2050). As M.P. Carter said: “Challenges are being thrown our way, but so are a great many opportunities.”


Partnerships That Save a Community: Universities and Public Transportation

By DR. JILL HOUGH, Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

Thousands of college students and area residents, hundreds of city officials and staff members, and dozens of buses and drivers coming together to save a city have helped redefine the word “community” for me in a way that I will never forget.

By the latter half of March, the Red River in Fargo surpassed flood stage and the spirited community of 100,000 people began preparing to protect the city.

Fargo is the home of North Dakota State University (NDSU), which has a student population of nearly 14,000. As the river receded, it became apparent that it was important to tell everyone about how the students of NDSU (and neighboring campuses: Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, among other volunteers) helped save the city from flooding and how the Metropolitan Area Transit (MAT) system was a partner in the fight.

Many of you may have seen the pictures and news feeds that inundated the national media and told the story of how the rapidly rising Red River, flowing north into Canada, endangered Fargo and other communities. What you did not see was the unique partnerships within the community that helped hold back the flood waters.

The partnership between North Dakota State University and MAT is not new, but the depth of the relationship grew extremely strong as the NDSU students (along with other community members) rode MAT buses to sites designated by the city where they labored to stave off the waters.

While normal river depth is below 18 feet, the river reached a crest of 40.82 feet on March 28. This inundation could have been catastrophic for the community. However, a well-prepared Mayor Dennis Walaker (manager of city operations during the 1997 flood), a diligent city staff, and thousands of volunteers rescued the city. Even though a national agency recommended evacuation, the people of Fargo stood strong and most stayed in their homes or in the community so they could protect the city. The resolve and effort of the community was unprecedented, and NDSU and MAT played an integral role.

“The city workers, the students, the volunteers, and MAT worked like a well-oiled machine,” said Julie Bommelman, administrator of Metropolitan Area Transit in Fargo. “To begin with, MAT and the university and college campuses have a tremendous partnership with unlimited access for student rides, but the flooding situation solidified a never-seen-before relationship: students and transit fighting to save a community.”

“The college students are very important to the City of Fargo,” added Jim Gilmour, director of Fargo Planning and general manager of MAT. “They worked around the clock to fight the flood. When combining the local colleges and universities, Fargo-Moorhead (MN) has more than 25,000 college students living here. They played an unparalleled role in saving the community.”

Interestingly, the Fargodome, located by the NDSU campus, became known as “Sandbag University,” or simply “Sandbag U.” This facility, host of NDSU Bison home football games and other events, housed mountains of sand, semi trucks, and thousands of people working their hearts out to fill the bags.

Community volunteers in Fargo made 3.5 million sandbags in less than eight days. Working side by side, students and volunteers from every walk of life joined in the common goal of saving the city by filling sandbags and placing them around homes and neighborhoods.

MAT buses, staff, and facilities played a crucial role. Buses that transported sandbaggers were known as the “Sandbag Express.” MAT dedicated seven buses while buses from Valley Bus Company and Red River Trails were also used. Together those buses hauled an estimated 28,800 volunteer sandbaggers as well as numerous sandbags.

Gilmour noted that “using the buses helped cut back on traffic in the flooding areas and allowed the city to close local streets and let necessary equipment in neighborhoods.”

The Fargodome and local churches with large parking lots provided parking space for volunteers where they could board buses and be transported to locations where help was needed.

“It was absolutely stunning to see the thousands of students coming to ride the buses to fight the flood—they were never-ending,” Bommelman said. “They were bused from the Fargodome, the NDSU Memorial Union, and local churches. Hundreds of people waited in line to get on the buses and were deployed around the city for hours; they were wet, cold, and tired, but no one complained. I can’t say enough good things about these students and volunteers who stepped in and met the community need.”

The MAT bus garage, which is a 55,860-square-foot space built in 2007, became known as “Command Central.” The garage housed 120,000 sandbags, six tractor-trailer trucks ready to depart with sandbags to wherever necessary, 26 drivers coming and going, several National Guard members, and up to six police officers at a time during the horrendous week.

MAT was also critical in movement of vulnerable populations. Three nursing homes were evacuated, as was the MeritCare Hospital. Other communities pitched in and offered their buses when evacuations were made.

“Responses from other city transit systems were overwhelming; they offered fuel and anything else to assist MAT in the flood fighting effort,” Bommelman said. First Transit brought in 21 drivers from the Twin Cities to provide relief to drivers who were working around the clock.

Many people around the community helped in the effort. Local news commentators said that, out of 90,000 people, 80,000 volunteered. Many people have said our future looks brighter to them after seeing the students fight so vigorously for the community. The students stepped up to the plate and worked tirelessly to save the community. Some of these are our next generation of transit workers. The university is a great place to recruit the next generation of transit employees.

So many people ask, “Why do you live in Fargo?” The events of the past few weeks speak volumes of why I chose to live in this great community. It is a place where people look after one another (even people they do not know) and a place where citizens care about the greater good.

The city was well-prepared with an emergency plan, which included transit. Emergency plans are imperative but the spirit of this community, in my opinion, is worth replicating. A community with a strong partnership between public transit and the university was the “great enabler” in fighting the 2009 Fargo flood.


Los Angeles Metro Expanding Light Rail to Both East and West

Special to Passenger Transport

Los Angeles has seen its network of light rail systems expand, and more growth is coming as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), host system for the APTA/TRB Joint Light Rail Conference, embarks on a number of transportation improvement projects.

“We are proud of the Metro Rail system currently in place, and are equally proud that we have the opportunity to expand the system further east and west with a lot more transportation improvement projects in the works for L.A. County,” said Metro Chief Executive Officer Arthur T. Leahy. “We have our work cut out for us, but we remain committed to improving the region’s mobility through better transportation options.”

To the east of downtown Los Angeles, Metro is nearing completion of a six-mile extension of the Metro Gold Line to East Los Angeles. The extension features eight stations—with two underground—and runs from Union Station via the Little Tokyo/Arts District and Boyle Heights to Atlantic/Pomona Boulevard in East L.A.

Metro began testing rail cars on the full length of the six-mile extension in late January. Extensive train and systems testing is now underway on the line, which is expected to open for revenue service this summer.

The system broke ground on the Eastside Extension of the Gold Line in July 2004. At a cost of $898 million, this extension will serve one of the most densely populated and heavily transit dependent areas in Los Angeles County; Metro expects it to bring jobs and opportunities to East Los Angeles and create another critical link in L.A. County’s growing transportation system.

In constructing the extension, Metro has reported an exemplary safety record: more than 3.8 million construction working hours without a single lost-time injury. The project is also under budget and projected for an early completion.

To the west, the Exposition Construction Authority is building the Exposition Light Rail Transit Line, or Expo Line, which will travel along the Exposition railroad right-of-way between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City. It will share a track and two stations (7th Street/Metro Center and Pico) with the Metro Blue Line as it leaves downtown Los Angeles.

The 8.6-mile route, scheduled to open in 2010, will have nine new stations, to be located at Flower Street at 23rd Street and Jefferson, Expo Park/USC, Vermont, Western, Crenshaw, La Brea, La Cienega and Venice/Robertson. The estimated end-to-end travel time will be less than 30 minutes, with a projected weekday ridership of 27,000 by 2020.

The Expo Line runs parallel to the heavily congested Santa Monica Freeway. The project also is considered a “Transit Parkway” that will be enhanced by bike and pedestrian paths, as well as trees and landscaping along the alignment. Once completed, the $862 million project will be turned over to Metro for operation.

The proposed extension of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica is currently undergoing environmental review; a draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Review has been made available for public comment.

Looking Ahead
With the recent passage of Measure R, a half-cent sales tax for Los Angeles County expected to generate $40 billion over the next 30 years, Los Angeles is poised to develop and implement a state-of-the-art transportation system. Currently under environmental review are several extensions of the Metro Rail system that include four major transportation projects moving forward to their next phase of work.

These projects include the Westside Extension Transit Corridor Study to expand the Metro’s subway system further west; the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Study to link up the Metro Blue Line and Gold Line through downtown Los Angeles; and the Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 Study, to extend the Gold Line farther east. Money generated by Measure R also will go toward extending the Foothill Extension of the Metro Gold Line through several communities in the San Gabriel Valley.

Also, the final Environmental Impact Report for the Canoga Park Transportation Corridor Project has been approved, making way for construction to begin later this year on a four-mile extension of the popular Metro Orange Line, a dedicated bus-only transitway from the Canoga Park Station to the Chatsworth Metrolink Station in the west San Fernando Valley.

Metro currently operates 73.1 miles of heavy and light rail systems. Completion of the Eastside Extension this summer and the Expo Line next year will raise that number to 88 miles of Metro Rail in service with more on the way, all aimed at improving the region’s mobility and air quality.

DART Rail: Transforming North Texas by the Numbers

By GARY THOMAS, President/Executive Director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit

The numbers are daunting. For the second year in a row, the region that is home to Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has added more people–147,000–than any other metro area of the United States.

When combined with the new residents who have arrived here since 2000, we’ve added the population of Buffalo, or Salt Lake City, or Raleigh to our region. We are the fourth largest metro area in the country.

Impressive as it is, that growth is not helping North Texas commuters who already spend 61 hours a year stuck in traffic. It’s a big problem requiring a big solution—and we’re building it today.

By 2013, DART will double the size of its light rail system to more than 90 miles as it expands to the southeast, northwest, east, and west simultaneously. DART has 42 miles of light rail now under construction. We’re scheduled to add a second rail alignment through downtown Dallas between 2014 and 2016 and a southern extension by 2018. We’ll complete another round of east-west rail expansion by 2030.

Additional rail projects by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, our partners on the Trinity Railway Express (TRE) commuter line, and the Denton County Transportation Authority are in development as well.

Record Ridership on Current System
DART celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008, posting record ridership of more than 116.8 million passenger trips on its growing network of buses, trains, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, paratransit services, and vanpools. Record gasoline prices without a doubt played a significant role in the increase, but a safe, reliable, and affordable travel option has kept people on board.

This past February, for example, reported average weekday light rail ridership up 5 percent over February 2008. That’s in spite of regional gasoline prices that are nearly 40 percent lower than last year.

Discretionary riders have discovered that our existing 45-mile light rail system meshes seamlessly with our bus system and the TRE. Bus, light rail, and paratransit cover a 13-city, 700-square-mile area. The TRE connects us with the T and the cities it serves. We also operate a growing 75-mile network of HOV lanes. All in all, we deliver about 400,000 passenger trips daily.

New converts to transit are also discovering that DART makes great destinations accessible. We’ve become home to model transit-oriented development (TOD) projects like Mockingbird Station. Private investments in existing, planned, and projected TOD total more than $7 billion, providing locations along the light rail corridors as people seek new ways and new places to live, work, and play.

DART Rail Doubling
The Green Line will crisscross Dallas from southeast to northwest and connect the cities of Farmers Branch and Carrollton along a 28-mile, 20-station corridor. The first three-mile, five-station section of the line, opening this Sept. 14, will extend from the east side of downtown. It will restore rail service to a neighborhood that, 50 years ago, was home to up to four rail lines.

Major destinations include Fair Park, home to the nation’s largest state fair, which hosts millions of people from around the world each fall, and Baylor University Medical Center, internationally recognized for clinical services and a major regional employment and education destination.

The remaining 25 miles and 15 stations of the Green Line, scheduled to open in December 2010, will extend southeast and northwest from that initial section, connecting major entertainment destinations, the Dallas Market Center, the Southwestern Medical District, and Love Field Airport.

Economic impact is again a major benefit. Farmers Branch and Carrollton have substantial TOD projects underway. The Southwestern Medical District northwest of downtown Dallas is also the focal point of massive TOD projects and will be the site of rail service to 20,000 employees, 4,000 students, and more than 1.5 million patient visits each year.

Green Line construction began in the summer of 2006, following the award of a $700 million Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration.

Construction is also underway on the first nine miles of a new Orange Line that will branch from the Green Line in northwest Dallas to serve the city of Irving in 2011. The line will extend to DFW International Airport by 2013. We’re also building an extension of our Blue Line from Garland to the city of Rowlett, scheduled to open in 2012.

These lines are earning national attention as well. The Orange Line is among the first projects slated to receive funds—more than $61 million—under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

We’re confident these projects will deliver a big ridership impact as well. Altogether, the extensions are expected to add 60,000 weekday passenger trips, essentially doubling ridership on the DART Rail System.

Streetcars: Bringing an Old Technology Up to Date

By JACK W. BOORSE, P.E., Principal Professional Associate, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Philadelphia, PA

Although streetcar systems are not exactly a new technology, the resurgence of interest in them represents the latest hot topic in the rail transit world. Their growth could happen even faster, however, if the industry updates its design standards and local regulations to reflect modern needs.

Streetcars are not really an entirely discrete transit mode; rather, they are a version or subset of light rail transit. Streetcars have flanged steel wheels that roll on a pair of steel rails; are propelled by electric motors that generally draw power from a remote source via an overhead wire; and share the versatility of all electric railway modes. They can run in a tunnel of any length, on an aerial structure, on a totally exclusive surface right-of-way, in reserved lanes along a public roadway, or in lanes also used by general traffic.

The fundamental differences between contemporary light rail lines and streetcar systems are the type of service they offer, the purposes they serve, and the environment in which they operate. Streetcar lines have little, if any, line-haul function. Their primary service is distribution and/or circulation with a major purpose of serving as a catalyst for urban redevelopment, as systems have shown in cities including Seattle; Portland, OR; and Little Rock, AR.

One consequence of these differences is that streetcars need not travel at high speeds. They can even serve as a welcome traffic calming measure. Another consequence is that existing public streets can be ready-made rights-of-way. Streetcar lines have little or no need for costly and time-consuming acquisition of private land.

However, fitting these lines into street environments can present some design challenges. Opportunities to alter existing street geometry are limited. Streetcar infrastructure and vehicles must be fitted into local physical conditions.

The design of contemporary Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems has shown a tendency to follow industry standards developed in the second half of the 20th century, such as a minimum track curve radius of 25 meters and an overhead contact system using visually prominent catenary rather than a single filament wire. These designs are not always compatible with the dense and constrained districts in which streetcars often operate.

On the large North American heritage streetcar systems—in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Toronto—the trackage is already in place with curve radii as short as 10.5 meters. In these cities, as well as some in which new lines are being built or planned, traffic lane widths can preclude the operation of cars with body widths found on many of the new LRT systems.

Another challenge is the design of the rails. Tracks installed in mixed-traffic lanes must be compatible with the paving structure. This is best addressed by selecting a rail section that includes a groove to accommodate the wheel flanges that extend below the level of the paving and the head of the rail while providing lateral support of the street paving between the rails. Traditionally called “girder rail” in the U.S., this type of rail is no longer produced anywhere in North America.

Not all designers of OCS are skilled in the use of single-filament wire systems, and the systems tend to promote universal use of catenary. Although this can have some economic and mechanical advantages, it is usually visually intrusive and often a poor “fit” in streetcar environments.

In summary, as streetcars regain popularity in North America, it would seem that this might be a good time for the industry to review current LRT design standards to ensure that they address the critical issues associated with streetcar lines.

Kawasaki Introduces Innovative Self-Contained Light Rail Vehicle

Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. made its first mark in the U.S. light rail vehicle (LRV) market in the early 1980s, when it supplied 141 LRVs to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia. Since then, Kawasaki has provided thousands of high tech rail vehicles to major U.S. transportation systems from its factories in Yonkers, NY, and Lincoln, NE.

Now, Kawasaki is moving beyond the traditional overhead catenary operation for light rail. The company has developed the on-board GIGACELL nickel metal-hydride battery for its “SWIMO” vehicle; the battery, when charged, provides power to the LRV, allowing it to operate for more than six miles without an external power supply.

“SWIMO is absolutely an innovative new LRV in many ways, and it’s easy to get excited about it, but it’s the GIGACELL batteries at the heart of the SWIMO and the power stations that really enable the tremendous forward strides in lowering energy consumption, operating costs, and emissions,” said Omar Messado, manager, contract administration and marketing, with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc.

A Kawasaki spokesperson explained the derivation of the name: “SWIMO derives from Smooth WIn MOver.The smooth getting on and off of passengers and Smooth operation of the unelectrified section WIn out using Kawasaki's innovative rail MOver.”

The GIGACELL project began about 10 years ago under Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI)’s Research and Development program; more recently, the KHI Rolling Stock Company, which manufactures rail cars, took over the sponsorship, seeing the batteries’ high capacity charging and discharging features as a benefit for rail cars since trains in general draw and discharge large electrical loads repeatedly to make service. Kawasaki understood that providing on-board power could potentially limit the use of catenary for light rail.

After further development of the GIGACELL battery to a more capable and acceptable level of power storage and generation, Kawasaki applied the technology to an old vintage streetcar.

While catenary operation is traditional for trolley operations in the U.S. and around the world, many communities now looking for a modern light rail system desire a more aesthetically appealing alternative. Another concern is that using overhead catenary may mean high infrastructure costs.

The GIGACELL battery allows the rail car to run completely self-contained while also enabling an overall year-to-year savings in overhead catenary operation and maintenance costs. The battery operates the traction power system of the SWIMO light rail vehicle at the same time as it runs all auxiliary power systems without interruption.

Another benefit, according to Kawasaki, is that the SWIMO GIGACELL battery-driven LRV can operate in locations where catenary use is not feasible: for example, near airports, low-level bridges, and around parks. The new vehicle will allow planners to be more innovative in planning a system profile unique to a city’s needs and wants with minimal disruption to the overall landscape.

UTA Makes Progress on FrontLines 2015 Construction; Project Includes 25 New Miles of TRAX Light Rail

Special to Passenger Transport

During the past year, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City has made significant progress on building its $2.8 billion FrontLines 2015 project, featuring 70 miles of rail lines. The project includes four TRAX light rail lines totaling 25 miles and one 45-mile FrontRunner commuter rail line.

In the summer and fall of 2008, UTA broke ground on four of the five rail lines encompassed in this project, starting with the Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines, then the FrontRunner South commuter rail line, and finally the Airport light rail line. Environmental study is underway for the Draper TRAX line, the final light rail project in FrontLines 2015; UTA plans to release the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for theline later this year.

While local funding covers the majority of the FrontLines project, the Mid-Jordan Line received a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) on Jan, 9. Sherry Little, then the acting Federal Transit Administrator, attended UTA’s FFGA signing event. The contractor for this line, a consortium of Kiewit, Parsons, and Herzog, has taken advantage of the relatively mild winter, so construction is now 30 percent complete.

The other FrontLines 2015 lines are also making great progress. Design for the FrontRunner South line is 80 percent complete, with final structures design completion anticipated for this summer. Commuter Rail Constructors, a joint venture of Stacy & Witbeck Inc. and Herzog, is doing early construction on several structures and bridge abutments in the rail corridor.

The contractors for the West Valley and Airport TRAX lines contractors, Stacey & Witbeck Inc. and Kiewit, have pushed construction forward as well. Design is complete on the West Valley TRAX line, and construction is now more than 18 percent complete. West Valley TRAX line crews continue to do utility and earthwork and have even started placing catenary pole foundations.

Another notable fact about the West Valley TRAX line is the incorporation of Geofoam in the fill section for some of its flyover structures. Geofoam is a dense foam product that provides comparable strength to soil, wood chips, or other materials while saving the construction time that would otherwise be required for settling.

The current UTA system includes the 16-mile Sandy/Salt Lake TRAX line, which runs most of the length of the Salt Lake Valley, and the four-mile University line between downtown Salt Lake City and the University of Utah. In April 2008, UTA opened its first FrontRunner commuter rail line, providing service in Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties.

When FrontLines 2015 is complete, it will offer transportation options to the region’s residents, allowing them to use their personal vehicles less while still being able to fulfill their daily tasks. The project will also enable residents to save on fuel costs while decreasing local pollution levels. Additionally, FrontLines 2015 will give persons with disabilities and others who cannot drive the opportunity to fully participate in society, which benefits everyone in the community.

In addition to helping provide an environment for the rapid movement of goods and services, FrontLines 2015 is providing jobs to Utah residents. The project also is generating revenue through the sales and activities associated with planning and constructing the system. When FrontLines 2015 is complete, it will help Utahns maintain their high quality of living by allowing them to spend less time in traffic and more time in productive and enjoyable activities.

FrontLines 2015 also will greatly extend the reach of UTA’s rail and connecting bus services. UTA has committed to completing and operating all the rail lines in the project by 2015.

Cities of the Future Adopt Regional Light Rail, See Their Transit Systems Blossom

By GREG THOMPSON, Professor, and JEFF BROWN, Assistant Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

A new era of U.S. transit development began in 1981 when San Diego, a city that until then operated only buses, opened its first regional Light Rail Transit (LRT) line. Since then, 11 other bus-only metropolitan areas in the U.S. launched their own LRT lines, and many of the original LRT lines have grown and multiplied.

Several of the expanding LRT systems now are the backbones of metropolitan transit networks, carrying a large share of the region’s total transit ridership. In five mid-sized urban regions—San Diego; Portland, OR; Dallas; Sacramento; and Salt Lake City—two to four light rail lines now carry more than 30 percent of transit passenger miles riding on all transit modes in their respective areas. In the cases of San Diego, Sacramento, and Salt Lake City, light rail’s share of total regional transit passenger miles hovers around 50 percent.

Portland and San Diego, the regions with the largest and most integrated bus and light rail networks, have seen both their per-capita ridership and their total transit productivity improve over the past 30 years, while their real operating costs per passenger mile have declined substantially in Portland and risen by only 16 percent in San Diego. The combined bus and light rail networks of these two regions outperform all the bus-only transit systems serving similar-sized U.S. areas.

Shared Attributes
The transit systems in Portland and San Diego share several system attributes that appear to contribute to their success. Both have dispersed transit networks structured to serve an array of major destinations throughout the entire metropolitan area, as opposed to concentrating service in a single major destination, usually the Central Business District (CBD), and/or serving only a portion of the metro area.

Both regions also use LRT to provide a high-speed, intermediate capacity regional service overlay atop the local bus system. In other words, light rail offers higher-speed, higher-frequency service that enables travelers to move quickly and reach the wide array of major destinations throughout the area.

In both Portland and San Diego, the regional light rail lines operate at scheduled speeds about twice as fast as local buses, and typically operating at 15-minute headways. The light rail vehicles, with up to eight units, have much higher capacity than buses, which operate as single units.

Passengers boarding or alighting from light rail trains have many wide doors from which to choose; they do not have to file past the driver single file to pay their fares. This feature, made possible with self-service fare systems, enables large passenger volumes to use the system without slowing down service.

Light rail replaced express bus service in both San Diego and Portland, and the buses continue to operate in corridors not served by light rail. In general, ridership is much higher on light rail than it was on either the express buses that formerly operated in the light rail corridors or the buses that continue to operate.

In San Diego, for example, Express Bus 100—which operated on Interstate 5 before the opening of the South Bay light rail line parallel to the freeway—carried fewer than 1,000 passengers per day. The light rail line provided 11,000 rides per day when it opened and, according to 2006 data, now provides more than 60,000 daily rides.

Express buses serving the employment-rich Interstate 15 corridor, extending north from San Diego, carry only about 5,000 passengers per day. In contrast, the region’s light rail corridors provide 25,000 to 60,000 daily rides, including one that does not serve the CBD.

One reason why express buses carry so many fewer passengers may be the difficulty of integrating them into local bus networks, whereas integration is easy to do with light rail. The only way to make express buses move faster is to operate them along freeways non-stop to the CBD, but such service provides insignificant accessibility to jobs. Having express buses serve intermediate stops where they can provide transfers with local buses requires them to leave the freeway, stop, and then reenter the freeway, adding up to 10 minutes in travel time for each stop.

Another characteristic shared by Portland and San Diego is the cities’ emphasis on easy transfers between their bus and rail systems, as well as bus-to-bus transfers, to connect more destinations than would be possible with a system based on one-seat rides. Transfers provide important evidence that passengers are taking advantage of integrated regional bus-rail transit systems to reach a wide array of regional destinations.

As a result of these design characteristics, the Portland and San Diego transit systems attract a large number of non-CBD riders. During the morning peak period, more that 66 percent of San Diego Trolley passengers are bound to destinations other than the CBD, reflecting the emergence of many other activity centers in the region and the willingness of transit policy makers to serve those centers. A similar story applies in Portland, where the most heavily traveled bus route in the region connects with light rail in the suburbs and then runs along miles of strip malls before terminating at a regional mall, never coming near the CBD.

Multiple Destinations
The characteristics of the LRT-based, multi-destination transit networks in Portland and San Diego appear to us to cater to the mobility needs of these rapidly growing, dispersed urban regions, which typify the future American metropolis. The success of these two systems demonstrates that transit can serve successfully the city of the future, not just the city of the past.

Other rapidly growing metropolitan areas that have incorporated light rail into their bus systems possess some of the characteristics of transit in Portland and San Diego and enjoy some of their success. We hope they incorporate more of the characteristics as time passes, and that other regions also adopt regional light rail and begin molding their bus systems around it. If these hopes come true, American transit will experience substantial and productive growth into the future.

Editor’s Note: The authors compiled data and reached these conclusions in a study funded by the Mineta Transportation Institute.

Art Projects Add Interest to Traveling on Light Rail

By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Using public transportation, including light rail, most often is a means to an end—a way to reach a destination without worrying about traffic or parking. But when transit agencies showcase public art, then visiting the station becomes part of the trip.

Los Angeles Metro took its art program a step farther in 1999 with the creation of the Metro Art Docent Council—the first program administered by a public transit agency, according to a Metro spokesperson. After a tour of the public art at Metro’s Gateway Transit Center, Barbara Lashenick, office manager of the Neighborhood Youth Association in Venice, CA, was inspired to organize the project as a way to introduce more people to the art in Metro’s stations, and she serves as president of the council.

Lashenick began the program with 12 experienced volunteer docents from museums throughout Los Angeles County, who were trained by the Metro Art Department staff. Currently, 25 volunteer docents give both private and public tours of the art, discussing the works themselves, the artists who created them, and the processes it took to make them a reality. To date, more than 10,000 individuals have taken the tours.

Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix, which began operation late last year, is in the process of implementing a $6.3 million, system-wide public art program that incorporates artworks at each station and other sites along the line. The funding comes from ordinances in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa that either require or recommend that a percentage of the construction costs of any capital improvement project be set aside for the incorporation of public art works.

For example, Seattle artist Buster Simpson worked with the design team to turn the new—transparent by day—METRO bridge over Tempe Town Lake into a constantly shifting rainbow of color. Simpson programmed his installation of thousands of LED lights in the steel mesh encasing the bridge trusses to display continuously changing colors and patterns that react to each passing train.

Rick Simonetta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail, described the “communal effort” that went into the creation of the METRO project. “The public art that resulted from this process is a celebration of place and community,” he said. “Each station boasts its own unique character…As a whole, the METRO art program is a major example of how art can transform the landscape and enhance the public dialogue.”

More than 25 artists participated in the Phoenix area project, working in media ranging from cast bronze and carved stone to welded steel and aluminum and etched glass.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) incorporated a uniform platform artwork design to help create an overall identity for the stations of its T-Third light rail line, which entered service in 2007. The authority worked with the San Francisco Arts Commission to develop four types of art for installation at eight main stations: specialty metal sculptures mounted on tall apple-green canopy poles; laser-cut metal panels that cast shadows on the station platforms; paving artwork; and windscreen display case posters.

“The public art on the T-Third line conveys themes and highlights issues of importance to the surrounding neighborhoods,” explained Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., SFMTA executive director/chief executive officer. “The T-Third line connects these communities together and to the rest of the city, so it is important that they reflect the vitality and pride of the people who live around them.”

In Minneapolis/St. Paul, a work titled “Small Kindnesses, Weather Permitting,” created by artist Janet Zweig, consists of 39 interactive mechanisms in the I-beams and windscreens of 11 station platforms along Metro Transit’s Hiawatha Line. These audio-visual kiosks deliver ever-changing audio/video content produced for the artist by Minnesota residents.

Sound Transit in Seattle included an art program early in its history, said Barbara Luecke, art program manager. Each of the agency’s modes—Link light rail, commuter rail, and commuter bus—had its own lead artist, who helped get contracts and establish procedures.

“We were part of the team that worked with members of the community to address their concerns,” she continued. “We would form a partnership to design a system that would work to develop continuity among all the stations, but with distinctive elements for each neighborhood. The art is often a big player in that.

Luecke noted that Norie Sato, lead artist for the light rail line, selected “culture conversation” as the theme for Link art. One example is the “big mixing pot of cultures” in the Rainier Valley, home to many immigrants. “She wanted to acknowledge and celebrate that, but also tell what it means to have different cultures under the umbrella of one overarching culture,” Luecke explained.

By integrating art into a light rail line at the development stage, transit agencies establish rail stations as something beyond a place to catch a train; they become neighborhood anchors, gathering places with a special link to their location.

The Math is Easy: Light Rail + People = Economic Benefits

By SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

Light rail does more than move people around easily and quickly; it also lends significant support to area businesses, as cities in Arizona and Oregon have discovered.

Business Week has also “discovered” this, rating Tempe the best city in Arizona to start a business. Its mayor, Hugh Hallman, noted that in the last six months of 2008, Tempe experienced the most development activity in his history, which he attributed in large part to the new METRO light rail line as well as the city’s free shuttle service.

Studies have found that, for every $1 a community invests in public transit, it reaps $6 in economic benefits. That finding comes to life when your customers say they would not be in your establishment if it weren’t for light rail—as has happened many times to Chad Wilford, co-owner of Tempe’s Fat Tuesday and director of the Mill Avenue Coalition.

“Light rail makes it easy for people to commute to downtown for games and events without having to worry about parking,” said Wilford, whose coalition consists of 14 restaurants and clubs along Mill Avenue. “It also helps with special events, because people can now take light rail to events like the New Year’s Eve block party or Arts Festival—and they don’t have to worry about driving. It’s definitely brought people down here,” he said, adding: “We can see a difference. I’m happy with it.”

Businesses in Phoenix are also benefiting from the METRO line, according to Randy Luethye, founder and owner of, which markets a handbook and web site identifying all businesses within a block of every light rail station (currently just in Phoenix, San Diego, and San Francisco, with plans to expand). He described how the owner of Tempe Paintball hadn’t had any business since September 2008—until just about one week after the light rail line opened on Dec. 27, 2008.

“Now he tells me he’s so busy he has no time to talk to me,” Luethye said wryly.

In January, according to METRO spokesperson Hillary Foose, the line reported close to 912,000 boardings, or an average of 30,617 per weekday. The next month, the average weekday ridership rose to 35,277. Given that the forecast had been an annual average weekday ridership of 26,000 boardings in its first year, METRO Chief Executive Officer Rick Simonetta described his agency as “extremely pleased with the preliminary numbers,” adding: “We hope to exceed that projection by continuing to attract new transit users and maintaining our positive relationship with existing passengers.”

Foose added: “We are seeing many of the businesses along our 20-mile line flourish with new clientele from across the region: customers who would not have likely visited without such a convenient connection in METRO light rail.”

“All the businesses are scrambling,” said Luethye, “figuring out how to attract these riders.”

Moving westward, the Lloyd District of Portland, OR, is also benefiting greatly from public transportation, according to Jeff Falconer, a principal with the Capacity Commercial Group, a leading provider of commercial real estate services.

“Light rail has become sort of the public transportation hub of both the east and west and north and south,” he said. “A very large percentage of governmental, state, insurance companies, banking companies are located there, primarily because of the access to both light rail and bus.”

Is Falconer able to see a quantifiable difference before and after implementation of light rail? “The short answer is ‘yes,’” he said. “It is often the tipping point when comparing a Class A asset that’s on light rail vs. one not on light rail. In other words, it makes the difference.”

It certainly does. Take the LYNX Blue Line, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s 9.6-mile light rail line in Charlotte, NC, which opened in November 2007. While land values overall increased 40 percent between 2000 and 2007, previously blighted or unused land along the rail line increased 52 percent. As of September 2008, there was $1.8 billion in projected transit-oriented-development alone, with a projected annual tax revenue increase of $24.1 million.

In addition to the clear economic benefit to businesses, Falconer noted that employees don’t need cars and therefore don’t have to pay for parking, adding, “It eliminates a large cost to employees and/or employers for getting them to work.”

In Luethye’s words: “Light rail creates a brand new community, especially within a mile of the station. I love the fact that people are using public transportation and not using their cars.”

Portland’s Falconer agreed: “As more and more people pay more attention to the concerns for the environment and sustainability, it is a very environmentally friendly way to commute.”

ARRA Helps Light Rail Provide Safe, Reliable Service

By NATHANIEL P. FORD SR., Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco, CA

As the global economy falters and the health of our environment becomes ever more critical, many Americans have two new priorities: reducing both their household expenses and their carbon footprints.

As has happened with our transit colleagues around the country, this has meant an increase in ridership for the Municipal Railway (Muni), San Francisco’s transit system, which is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). We can capitalize on this renewed interest in using and developing public transportation by ensuring that the opportunities presented by federal economic stimulus funds are harnessed to the projects that will meet the needs of transit customers, starting with safe and reliable service.

To sustain the momentum of increased ridership, we must ensure that the infrastructure of our transit system is inviting and reliable for both choice and non-choice customers alike. Muni has been at capacity on its light rail lines for many years. Full vehicles and delayed transit service keep potential customers in their cars.

As Muni looks ahead to its centennial in 2012, its light rail system requires urgent rehabilitation and reinvestment. One of five transit modes operated by Muni, the light rail system stitches the city together and must continue to serve a growing, dynamic population. While this population has consistently supported transit at the ballot box with both support for sales tax funds and a Transit First policy, the current downturn brings new challenges.

Like so many transit agencies, the SFMTA was already combating a structural deficit when the state of California recently abandoned its commitment to funding public transportation for at least the next five years. This action, coupled with regional cuts and a reduction in local tax dollars, accounts for much of the agency’s budget deficit.

Prior to the economic downturn, the SFMTA had been on a path of improvement due to improved management practices and an increase in resources. Muni recently saw revenue increase with ridership and aggressive efforts to prevent fare evasion in Fiscal Year 2008. Yet the enormity of the economic crisis is already having an impact on many areas of our operations. This spring the SFMTA Board of Directors is weighing several options, including fare increases and service reductions and modifications, in order to reach its mandated balanced budget.

In conjunction with this difficult budget work, the SFMTA continues to seek solutions that bridge today’s operational needs and tomorrow’s capital challenges.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides tremendous opportunities for reinvestment in transit infrastructure and improved daily operations. More than half of the projects toward which the SFMTA has dedicated ARRA funds are directly related to improving our light rail system. An upgrade of our Operations Control Center, repairs to our automatic train control system, new ticket vending machines, preventive maintenance of track switches, and other infrastructure and facility improvements will all enhance the performance and reliability of the light rail system.

We are not content, though, to let the challenges of daily operation and infrastructure maintenance keep us from looking ahead. In San Francisco, this means growing our transit system to keep up with this dynamic city.

Two years ago, the SFMTA opened Phase 1 of the Third Street Light Rail Project, the T-Third line. Now, as we complete preliminary engineering for the second phase, the Central Subway, we are pleased to have cleared our final environment review hurdle with a federal Record of Decision this past fall and to have a commitment of nearly $1 billion in federal funds.

As the largest expansion of light rail in San Francisco in more than 20 years, the Third Street Light Rail Project will bring modern light rail service to the heavily populated eastern side of the city, reducing congestion and pollution and increasing access to jobs and the entire San Francisco Bay area. Because public transportation is a means to achieving personal as well as civic goals, the SFMTA will seize each opportunity to ensure that transit is available to help families stretch their tight budgets and shrink their impact on the environment.



APTA Sponsors Maryland Student Team in Symposium on Sustainable Transportation

APTA sponsored a team of eighth-grade students from Redland Middle School in Rockville, MD, that participated March 25 in the 9th Annual Garrett A. Morgan Sustainable Transportation for the 21st Century Videoconference Symposium at the U.S. DOT offices in Washington. Teams backed by APTA have won this event, sponsored by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) in San Jose, CA, three times in the past seven years.

The competition brings together transportation experts and middle school students from across the nation to discuss the importance of sustainable transportation.

“Public Bus Safety” is the title of the Redland students’ presentation, which focused on ways to improve safety effectively and efficiently both on and off the bus. The team identified possible changes that could help passengers feel safer while riding the bus and also prevent the accidents that occur outside it.

Other schools with teams participating in the videoconference were George Flamson Middle School, Paso Robles, CA, eighth grade; Loleta Union Elementary School, Loleta, CA, seventh and eighth grades; Riverside Meadows Intermediate School in Plumas Lake, CA, seventh and eighth grades; Riverview Middle School, Oakland, CA, eighth grade; and School of International Studies at Meadowbrook, Norfolk, VA, sixth and seventh grades.

The competing teams delivered presentations and demonstrations on a range of sustainable transportation topics such as alternative energy and fuel sources; fuel conservation; innovations in public bus safety; and passenger transportation. The presentations were followed by a moderated question-and-answer session during which student teams quizzed each other about their projects and sought the advice of experts about preparation for transportation careers and the critical issues they will face in the future.

In his opening remarks at the event, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood spoke about the transportation field and answered questions on national sustainable transportation as a result of President Barack Obama's recently-passed stimulus package. Also speaking at the program were APTA President William W. Millar, MTI Executive Director Rod Diridon, and Caltrans Director Will Kempton.

The participating schools each receive a $50 gift certificate for school supplies. MTI will select and announce the winning project in May; the winning school will receive $1,000, and a teacher, student, and parent from that school will have an expense-paid trip to San Jose for the MTI annual scholarship banquet in June.

Garrett A. Morgan was an African-American inventor honored by Congress for his contributions to transportation and public safety, including the development of the stoplight. The purpose of the program is to introduce students to future career opportunities in transportation and to inspire them to take the high school and college courses that will prepare them for professional careers.

More information about the symposium is available online from MTI, or by contacting Starleetah Gaddis.

APTA Releases Database Information

APTA announces the release of its 2008 Public Transportation Infrastructure Database report. This comprehensive, annual report includes extensive information on major transit infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada, including rail line, station, stop, and parking data for all modes of transportation. It also lists project status, mileage, and opening dates of future rail projects.

The report is available in CD-ROM format or electronically. To obtain a copy of this report, click here. APTA members can download free from the online bookstore. The CD-ROM costs $15 for APTA members or $30 for non-members.

Two other APTA statistical publications are also available for purchase:

* The 2008 Public Transportation Fare Database report lists major elements of fare structures by mode for 250 or more U.S. transit agencies and 15 Canadian transit agencies, covering fixed route adult base fares, surcharges, common fare payment options, special categorized passenger fares, and demand response (or paratransit) passenger fares. The 2009 report will be published in October.

* The 2008 Public Transportation Vehicle Database report examines revenue vehicles by such fleet characteristics as data of manufacture, manufacturer, model, length, and equipment, representing about 250 U.S. transit agencies and 15 Canadian transit agencies. The report includes summary tables that group vehicles by mode and list by manufacturer, size, year built, and equipment, as well as a special section on the new vehicle market with orders, planned orders, prior year deliveries, and vehicle costs. This 2009 report will be published in June.

For more information about the 2008 Public Transportation Infrastructure Database and other APTA statistical publications, contact Rob Padgette.

APTA Forms High-Speed Rail Task Force

APTA has announced the formation of the High-Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service Principles Task Force, co-chaired by Rod Diridon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute in San Jose, CA, and J. Barry Barker, executive director of the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, KY.

The organization of the task force followed the announcement that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allocated $8 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail corridors, and support for an ongoing national high-speed rail program in the Obama administration’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget.

The purpose of the task force is to make APTA a relevant part of the national dialogue about the future of U.S. high-speed rail.

The task force’s objectives are:

* Establish the basic policy tenets that should be included in the national high-speed rail corridor and intercity passenger rail plan being developed by the Federal Railroad Administration;

* Develop recommendations on the execution of the ARRA funding programs, including the relationship of these programs to existing rail systems; and

* Develop recommendations on how to structure ongoing programs for both a national high-speed rail corridor and intercity passenger rail.

Members of the panel include George N. Dorshimer, president of LTK Engineering Services; Mortimer L. Downey III, president of Mort Downey Consulting LLC; Edward J. Fishman, partner with K&L Gates; Wayne L. Friesner of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, vice president, commuter rail and railroad management, Trinity Railway Express; Joseph J. Giulietti, executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail); W. Dan Pickett, union president, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Charles Quandel, president of Quandel Consultants LLC; Patricia Quinn, executive director, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority; Stanley J. Rosenblum, division vice president, Jacobs; Elliot G. (Lee) Sander, executive director and chief executive officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Eugene K. Skoropowski, managing director, Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Oakland, CA; David Solow, chief executive officer, Southern California Regional Rail Authority; Randall Wade, passenger rail manager, Wisconsin DOT; and Charles R. Wochele, vice president, business development, with ALSTOM Transportation Inc.

“The purpose of the task force is to position APTA and its members to work with Congress and the Administration to achieve the vision of high-speed and intercity rail,” Downey said. “With the passage last year of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act and, more importantly, President Obama’s effort to get a big jump-start on passenger rail with $8 billion for high-speed rail in the stimulus plan, this is now a reality.”

He continued: “We’re looking for answers to questions such as: How is the program to be organized? What are the goals to be achieved? How will it coexist with other transportation programs?”

The task force held its first conference call April 1 to develop principles for a future APTA high-speed rail and intercity passenger policy. It will present interim recommendations to the APTA Executive Committee at its May 2 meeting.

Make Plans Now for Bus Conference in Seattle

APTA has designed its 2009 Bus & Paratransit Conference & International Bus Roadeo/Bus Rapid Transit Conference, May 3-5 in Seattle, WA, to keep bus agencies and suppliers on top by addressing specific issues related to today’s economic and environmental situation.

Topics of the more than 60 sessions and events will include “The Challenge of the 2010 Engine”; “Accessibility: Doing It Right”; “Operator Focus: Education, Availability, Communication”; “Regulatory Issues in the New Administration”; and, for the first time at an APTA bus conference, “Telling Your Story to the Media.”

King County Metro Transit, the conference host system, will present several special programs during the conference. The May 5 Host Forum will showcase the agency’s innovative sustainability efforts, and technical tours will visit sites including the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the Transit Communications and Control Center, and the Access Control Center.

Transit partnerships are the topic of the Closing Luncheon on May 6. Representatives of Microsoft will discuss their employee transportation program; GILLIG will report on its partnership initiatives with King County; the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority will talk about how civic, business, political, transit agency, and vendor partnerships helped with the creation of HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit service; and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will cover the many connections required to keep service running during the 2009 presidential inauguration, such as law enforcement agencies, community groups, and local businesses.

More conference information is available here.

Innovations at APTA’s 2009 Rail Rodeo: Customer Service Challenge, Awards Banquet

For the first time at an APTA rail conference, the competitors in the International Rail Rodeo will be honored at an awards dinner Sunday evening, June 14, at the Hilton Chicago. The winners in the June 13 operators’ and maintainers’ contests—along with the newest event, the Customer Service Challenge—will receive recognition at the banquet.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), host system for the 2009 APTA Rail Conference and International Rail Rodeo, will open the Skokie Yard to spectators during the rodeo. In addition to the competitive activities, CTA will present several special events showcasing specific technical topics.

APTA expects more than 1,000 rail industry professionals to participate in the conference, June 14-17 at the Hilton Chicago. Within the conference theme, “Quality Transit—Now,” the program will offer technical and policy sessions, tours, training, and events focusing on growth and innovation in all rail modes.

In addition to the rail rodeo, pre-conference events on Saturday, June 13, include APTA’s System Safety Seminar and a tour hosted by APTA’s Streetcar & Heritage Trolley Subcommittee and Operations Planning Technical Forum, highlighting the Kenosha, WI, streetcar system, downtown Milwaukee, and southern Wisconsin multimodal centers.

CTA’s afternoon Host Forum on June 14 will show how public transportation has succeeded in the “City That Works” for the past 100 years and continues moving forward. The Welcome to Chicago reception follows the forum.

The Opening General Session will kick off events on Monday, June 15, featuring APTA leaders and speakers from CTA, the Regional Transportation Authority, and Metra. The luncheon program that day will bring together executives from the Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, National Safety Council, and United Airlines, who will recognize chief executive officers for their leadership in creating a safety culture within their organizations.

The conference also will include educational sessions on topics such as the state of good repair, project financing and delivery, customer service, workforce development, rail car procurement, positive/automated train control, and high-speed rail; tours of CTA and Metra facilities and rail lines; the “All That Jazz” reception at the Garfield Park Conservatory; and the Rail Products & Services Showcase on Tuesday, June 16.

Activities on Wednesday, June 17, will include a CTA contractors’ forum showcasing the relationships of project designers, managers, contractors, and the rail agency and a presentation on CTA’s partnership with the Chicago Civic Alliance of corporations such as Boeing, McDonald’s, Motorola, and United Airlines. Sadhu Johnson, chief environmental officer for the Chicago mayor’s office, will address the Closing General Session, describing the city’s cap-and-trade system for all six greenhouse gases and the transportation components of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. A multi-modal tour that day, “Looping the Loop,” will incorporate rides on CTA, Metra, and Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District rail services.

APTA’s Procurement and Materials Management Workshop and the National Transit Institute’s four-day course, Management of Transit Construction Projects, will run concurrently with the rail conference. Post-conference training offered later in the week will include an FTA/FHWA roundtable discussion on capacity building; the Transportation Safety Institute’s rail safety session; APTA’s Positive Train Control and shared track workshops; an FTA New Starts/Small Starts seminar; and the Mineta Transportation Institute’s summit on rail passenger screening.

The preliminary program, and registration, travel discount, and hotel information for the 2009 APTA Rail Conference are posted online.


Egypt: Infrastructure Opportunities Amid Challenges

By JESSICA BECHIR, APTA Program Manager-International Programs

“People will invest in what they can see and feel: infrastructure…There is no sustainable growth without transportation,” Mohamed Mansour, Egypt’s minister of transport since 2005, told a March 24 luncheon in Washington, DC, hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham) and The Business Council for International Understanding. In attendance were U.S. and Egyptian government representatives including Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S., as well as staff members of think tanks, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector.

Mansour focused his on massive growth in his nation’s rail sector. The Egyptian National Railroad has committed to breaking even after the recent investment of $3.5 billion by the government, he said, with plans to increase rolling stock, convert stations into shopping malls to generate revenue, and finance capital expenses on their own.

He noted that Cairo currently has two subway lines and a third under construction, built by French and Japanese companies; this newest line will cross the Nile River in two spots and cover 21 miles with 29 stations.

Mansour encouraged U.S. contractors of any type—from electrification to signage, Intelligent Transportation Systems, and design and engineering firms—to create an alliance with an Egyptian organization and start breaking into the market, noting that opportunities exist for businesses of all sizes and calling the situation “a win-win for all.” He explained that even though money is tight in many parts of the world are, spending is still going on in Egypt.

According to Mansour, the infrastructure and transport sector in Egypt has recently attracted $3.5 billion in foreign direct investment, and should continue to grow under a proactive government that strives to create opportunities amid challenges. As in any country, he said, infrastructure is the backbone of Egypt’s economy, enabling export opportunities, creating jobs, and facilitating daily life.

Also during his U.S. visit, Mansour met with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, other representatives of the Obama Administration, and members of Congress.

Organizations interested in doing business in Egypt can find more information on the AmCham web site or by contacting Jessica Bechir.

UITP World Congress to Meet in Vienna in June

The issue of workforce development is one of significant concern worldwide, which is why the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) has scheduled a workshop on the topic—“A smile is worth a thousand welcomes”—on June 9 in Vienna, Austria, as part of its 58th World Congress.

APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., will represent North America on the panel at this session, joining speakers from Africa, Brazil, and China. The workshop’s moderator will be Sylviane Delmas, Relations de Service, RATP, Paris, France, and chair of UITP’s commission on human resources.

The entire conference, along with UITP’s Mobility & City Transport Exhibition, takes place June 7-11.

Customer-oriented front-line staff comprise a vital resource for all public transport companies and all modes. The session will explore different situations around the world and identify best practices to attract and recruit new candidates. Presenters will also discuss training programs that result in skilled personnel, as well as the development of long-term strategies to motivate and retain these individuals.

The key objectives of the session are to consider differing strategies connected with the problems of recruiting quality operators, and to identify and share best practices. Scott and the other speakers will focus their presentations around the following elements:

- To give value to the job of driver and to improve the image of public transit as an employer

- To produce qualified candidates

- To ensure that drivers are treated as professionals, thus facilitating company loyalty

- To provide customer-oriented training.

For more information about the conference, visit the UITP web site.