Passenger Transport - May 11, 2009
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Administration Releases FY 2010 Budget Proposal

On May 7, the Obama Administration released its detailed budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2010 for all federal programs, including federal surface transportation programs. This more detailed budget assumes current baseline program levels for public transit and highway programs under the SAFETEA-LU authorizing law, which expires September 30. The budget proposal essentially assumes that any funding growth will be made in the new authorizing bill.

For Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs in FY 2010, the Administration proposes total budget authority of $10.336 billion, which is essentially flatline funding from FY 2009 authorized levels, and a small increase over the FY 2009 appropriated levels (exclusive of stimulus funding). Capital investment grants are proposed to be funded at a level of $1.827 billion, and formula and bus grants at a level of $8.343 billion.

The proposal includes a higher level of support from General Fund resources for both transit and highway programs currently funded principally from the Highway Trust Fund. In an effort to explain that its proposals on FTA and Federal Highway Administration programs are really preliminary baseline proposals that will be modified in the authorization process, the Administration budget submission repeatedly states the following:

“The Administration is developing a comprehensive approach for surface transportation reauthorization. Consequently, the Budget contains no policy recommendations for programs subject to reauthorization, including highway programs. Instead, the Budget displays baseline funding levels for all surface transportation programs.”

With regard to General Fund provisions of federal transit programs, the budget states that is not indicative of “recommended funding levels or a budgeting approach for the upcoming reauthorization” but is intended to provide an accurate picture of the current fiscal condition of the Highway Trust Fund/Mass Transit Account.

Additionally, as previously announced, the budget recommends $1 billion for Capital Assistance for High-Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service. This would be the first year of a five-year proposal following-on the $8 billion in “seed money” for this program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The budget also recommends a small increase in funding for Amtrak from $1.490 billion to $1.502 billion.

Finally, the budget submission recommends a reduction in funding for the Rail and Public Transportation Security Grants program to $250 million in FY 2010. The program received $400 million in FY 2009 appropriations and an additional $150 million through ARRA for a total of $550 million in FY 2009. Moreover, the program is authorized to be appropriated at a level of $900 million in FY 2010 under the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act.

Waxman Calls for Fast-Tracking Climate Legislation; Follows Obama Meeting with Committee Members

By LESA RAIR, APTA Program Manager

Following a White House meeting with President Barack Obama and Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said May 5 that he may fast-track his climate change bill by bypassing a subcommittee markup. House Democrats leading the bill expect to hold a full committee markup by Memorial Day, and foresee passage of final legislation—including cap-and-trade provisions—by year’s end.

Waxman reiterated the committee’s planned unified front in marking up the bill, stating: “We want to be together, and we want to succeed with this legislation.”

This change means the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee will not mark up the bill as previously scheduled.

The bill, introduced by Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), aims to cap greenhouse emissions by distributing carbon permits. Over time, maximum rates would fall, forcing offending companies to adopt alternative practices or reduce their consumption.

Waxman, along with other committee members, echoed Obama’s support of their aggressive timeline. The president was said to be pushing the committee toward compromise during the hour-long White House meeting. “He made it very clear that passing this measure is one of his key priorities for this year,” said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA).

Although Obama did not specifically back the proposed Waxman-Markey legislation as the way to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse emissions, committee members left the meeting with the impression that not only did he not object; he had little concern that movement on energy would interfere with progress on overhauling health care, one of his top priorities.

“He wants us to move. He wants legislation,” stated Waxman. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) called Obama’s tone “very positive, very constructive, very focused on the idea that we have a bill, and the president came down on the side of an aggressive timetable.”

Take Action Now
APTA urges its members immediately to contact committee members who represent their agency, business, or region, including Chairman Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Markey. When you talk to members of the committee, please:

* Urge the committee to dedicate no less than 10 percent of allowance revenue created under a cap-and-trade program to investment in public transportation and transportation infrastructure that reduces greenhouse gas emissions;

* Explain that transportation is responsible for one-third of carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) and that current public transportation use already saves 4.2 billion gallons of fuel and prevents the emission of 37 million metric tonnes of CO2 annually;

* Ask that revenue derived from transportation fuels under a cap-and-trade program be reinvested in transportation infrastructure; and

* Request that climate change legislation provide assistance to public transportation to offset increases in the cost of fuel and electricity under a cap-and-trade program to prevent service reductions. Transit systems are exempt from federal motor fuels taxes, and this principle should be extended to climate change legislation.

FTA: Complete ARRA Paperwork as Soon as Possible

Federal Transit Administration representatives—during their May 6 session at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle—emphasized the importance of U.S. public transit agencies completing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant process, stressing that waiting until July 1 may put agencies at risk of losing a portion of their ARRA formula funds.

Mary Martha Churchman, senior policy advisor in FTA’s Office of Program Management; Bruce Robinson, deputy associate administrator for research, demonstration, and innovation; and Richard Steinmann, senior advisor to the administrator, explained the nominal July 1 due date as simply subtracting 60 days—the normal time needed for review by the U.S. Department of Labor—from Sept. 1. Any designated recipient who has not successfully obtained an approved and executed a grant agreement for the first half of their allocated formula funds by September 1 must forfeit that portion of their funding under the terms of the ARRA legislation. Even submitting a grant by July 1 does not guarantee completion of the process in time for the September 1 deadline, so, the presenters stressed, “time is of the essence” in submitting grant packages.

Thus far, FTA has awarded 1 percent of available ARRA funding for public transit—five grants totaling $48.5 million—and another 165 grants totaling $1.7 billion (about 20 percent) are pending.

The FTA representatives reviewed the necessary elements of the grant process, including the DOL component, TIP/STIP amendments, and project descriptions in ARRA grant applications, and gave the audience a status check on progress to date on all the programs.

Churchman updated conference attendees on the latest guidance concerning the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) system. After weeks of mixed signals from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), that agency published guidance in the April 23, 2009, Federal Register limiting registration to grant recipients, grant sub-recipients, and possibly prime contractors of direct FTA grantees.

Based on this newest guidance, contractors providing goods or services to transit agencies that are themselves sub-grantees need not be registered in the CCR system. She also provided an overview of all ARRA programs, addressing additional certification and reporting requirements and use of the recovery program logos.

Robinson’s presentation focused on the new Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program, a section of ARRA that allows transit systems to apply for capital funding based on projected savings of either greenhouse gases and/or projected energy reduction.

Action on Data Elements
The FTA staffers also reported on another OMB action concerning the data elements FTA and other federal agencies will be required to collect under ARRA. They cautioned that the data elements proposed have not yet been finalized and that OMB collected comments on the proposal through May 1.

APTA’s comments urged OMB to minimize subjective requirements and to incorporate industry-specific formulas for calculating job creation and preservation, noting the difficulty and inconsistency inherent in requiring project-specific calculations.

Transit Agencies Make Plans to Implement ARRA Funds

Passenger Transport continues to report on how public transportation systems—working with business members—are spending funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). These stories 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.

Several transit agencies described how receiving support through ARRA will allow them to use their existing funds more efficiently.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) in Reno, NV, is putting $3.7 million of its ARRA funds toward construction of its 4th Street Station. By using the stimulus funding to help cover the $13 million cost of this project, RTC will free up federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds that can now go toward a proposed Bus Rapid Transit demonstration project, according to Felicia Archer, public information officer.

RTC broke ground in early April for the new station project, located on a 2.5-acre site. Construction of 4th Street Station is expected to generate as many as 200 jobs, Archer said: local companies will work to build the station and benefit other businesses, big and small, that those companies use. She also credited the slow economy with the fact that construction bids for the project came in $7 million below predictions.

The new facility, equipped with 25 bus bays and retail space, will replace the existing RTC CitiCenter, which does not have sufficient space to accommodate current bus service or future growth. Its construction is part of downtown revitalization efforts; the new facility is a neighbor to the recently opened Reno Aces Triple A baseball stadium.

Modesto Area Express (MAX) in Modesto, CA, is also leveraging its ARRA funds so it can use its regular Section 5307 funds for other purposes. Fred Cavanah, transit manager for the city of Modesto, explained that, without the $5.5 million from ARRA, MAX would have to eliminate 10 percent of its service hours.  “Our plan,” Cavanah said, “is to use the ARRA money for the same purposes that Section 5307 money can be used—for capital costs. The bulk, 90 percent of the ARRA funds, will cover capital maintenance for both our equipment and our facilities. That allows us to use our regular 5307 money for vehicle purchases.”

Cavanah also noted that the ARRA funds do not require a match, unlike the Section 5307 funds. MAX will match these federal funds with state money through California Proposition 1B, which can only be used for capital purposes. Regarding the ARRA funds, he said: “The absence of the match requirement will save us $800,000 in local funds that we will insert into our operating budget where we would otherwise be short of funds.”

The Lawrence Transit System in Lawrence, KS, plans to invest in new bus technologies with the $2 million it will receive under ARRA.  “We formed a staff task force to look at alternative fuels and how to incorporate those technologies, and we are recommending that we proceed with biodiesel and hybrid vehicles,” said Casey Toomay, interim transit administrator. She noted that the ARRA funds could pay for four of the new vehicles, but that number could rise to six with the addition of formula funding and a local match.

In Phoenix, METRO light rail received a $36 million advance in New Starts funding during a visit by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. A provision in ARRA allows for New Starts recipients to obtain next year’s installment ahead of time as a way to speed up projects.

“Our total New Starts grant was for $587 million; it was awarded to our project in 2004 and comes in several installments, generally about $90 million each,” said METRO spokesperson Hillary Foose. “We are expecting two more installments to complete the grant; this stimulus award is an advancement of these expected funds.”  Foose explained that the $36 million will be divided and reimbursed back to the project cities—Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa—which will determine where to direct the funding.

In Memphis, TN, the Memphis Area Transit Authority has announced that it plans to spend $13 million of its $17.8 million in ARRA funds for 35 replacement buses. Seven of the vehicles will have hybrid-electric engines; 26 will operate on fixed routes, the rest for paratransit.

The remaining $4.8 million will help to fund components of the authority’s Advanced Public Transportation Technology Initiative: an Automatic Vehicle Location system; radio system replacement; Automatic Voice (Stop) Announcement system; Automatic Passenger Counters; automatic vehicle health monitoring; and on-board security cameras.

Public Transit Needs Money To Become All That It Can Be


The article originally appeared in the April 19, 2009, issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and was reprinted with permission. It can be found at the newspaper's web site.

Karen Rae Presents FRA's New Course

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER,Senior Managing Editor

Karen Rae, the new deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, spoke passionately about the future of rail—particularly high speed rail—at the latest presentation of “Transportation Tuesdays,” a series of after-work transportation discussions held the first Tuesday of the month at the APTA offices.

Repeating the mantra of “Failure is not an option,” Rae, with nearly 30 years of transportation experience, discussed FRA’s goal to ensure safe and efficient transportation choices for Americans. She made the point that in addition to the $8 billion in ARRA funding for high speed rail and the $8.4 billion for public transportation, President Obama is also authorizing $1 billion annual to continue investment in inner city and high speed rail.

Noting that high-speed rail must be linked with existing commuter rail—“it only works if it’s a network”—she asked: “How do we eventually make smart decisions that get the system performing at its best?” Congressional leadership reached out to FRA as soon after the Recovery Act funding was announced, she said, asking what they could do to advance this effort.

Rae emphasized: “The way this works best—and only works—is to include states, unions, transit agencies” and other stakeholders. When asked what such an inclusive system will cost, she made reference to the cost of building the interstate highway system and observed that the amount of money needed was always found, adding: “It will cost what it costs to get the end service that Americans deserve.”

At the end of her presentation and the Q&A that followed, Rae said: “We draw on passionate people who have good thoughts and good ideas, and we choose the best of those. Let me tell you, the work has just begun.”

Transit Benefits Emphasized at Washington, DC Event

The UN Foundation and the Center for American Progress presented a discussion on Information Technology and Public Transit on Earth Day, April 22, in Washington, DC.

Program hosts were former Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, president, UN Foundation; Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress; and UN Foundation Chairman Ted Turner.

Emma Rothschild, director of the Centre for History and Economics at King’s College, University of Cambridge, and Harvard University, and professor of history at Harvard University, gave the opening remarks. Following that was a panel discussion featuring APTA President William W. Millar; Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors and a member of the Arlington County, VA, Board; James Corless, campaign director of Transportation for America; and Scott Belcher, president and chief executive officer of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.

Millar described the importance of public transportation to society and the environment. “People are coming back to transit and saying, ‘Wow, you’re what we need!’” Millar said, emphasizing that public transit is helping Americans reduce their dependence on foreign oil, reduce their carbon footprint, and create jobs. “We can focus on increasing miles per gallon and new fuels—both of those are important—but they aren’t enough,” he continued. “Transit is the third leg of the stool.” 

Echoing Millar was Zimmerman. “What we actually know is that people want to use transit. What they do is a matter of the choices they’re given,” he said.

EDF Report Showcases Innovative Public Projects

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) showcases 11 innovative public transit projects throughout the U.S. in its new report, Reinventing Transit: American Communities Finding Smarter, Cleaner, Faster Transportation Solutions, which it released April 23 on Capitol Hill. Federal Transit Administration Executive Director Matthew Welbes joined speakers including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Aaron Klein, representing Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), at the launch.

“Public transit is an ‘indicator species’ for the health of a community,” Welbes said at the event, pointing to the current historically high ridership levels on board U.S. transit systems with “cleaner vehicles and greener facilities.” He emphasized how providing transit service is a partnership between the federal government and state and local municipalities, and said that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood “wants to ensure that Washington does not supply transit systems with one-size-fits-all solutions.”

The report cites transit innovations already operating in 45 metropolitan, suburban, and rural communities in 30 states across America that are creating jobs, cutting traffic congestion, and reducing air and global warming pollution. The 11 case studies cover topics that include the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission’s flexible suburban bus routes in Prince William County, VA; LYNX’s Bus Rapid Transit service in downtown Orlando, FL; and Bikestation’s bike transit centers in California, Seattle, Chicago, and Washington.

“Transportation has been part of the problem, but this report shows how it can be part of the solution,” said EDF Executive Director David Yarnold. “People used to believe it was impossible to grow the economy and shrink the carbon footprint at the same time, but with new technologies, we’re seeing that isn’t true. The next challenge is to innovate nationally, then take the innovations down to the local scale.”

Blumenauer echoed Yarnold’s remarks. “Our national transportation policy should be supporting exactly the kinds of innovations found in Reinventing Transit,” he said, “so innovative transit technology is not an exception, but a routine occurrence in communities of all sizes.”

Detailed case studies of the transit projects cited above, case studies of three other transit projects, and the video or print version of the report can be found online.

TCRP Seeks New Ambassadors

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) is currently seeking individuals to serve as ambassadors. The selected professionals will travel throughout the country to enhance the understanding, acceptance, and use of TCRP-sponsored research products.

Through peer-to-peer collaboration and industry venues, the ambassadors disseminate research information into the hands of transit professionals, managers, and other personnel, and educate transit properties on the TCRP research process and how transit professionals can participate, or benefit, in other aspects of the program.

TCRP was established in 1992 to serve as one of the principal means by which the transit industry can develop innovative, near-term solutions to industry needs and demands. The dissemination effort of TCRP ensures that program-related reports and products reach appropriate industry audiences and interested individuals. As a result, the TCRP Ambassador Program was developed as a joint effort between APTA, TCRP, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), and the Federal Transit Administration. COMTO manages the program and seeks to continue expanding its outreach.

Nominees for the program may be any individual with practical transit field experience who currently works for U.S. transit agencies, government transit agencies at the state, regional, and local levels, transit educational institutions, transit industry organizations, or private firms providing goods and services to the industry.

More information about the program is available online from COMTO or TCRP.

CityLink Names Transit Center Lobby in Memory of Lilly

The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink) in Peoria, IL, dedicated the lobby of its Transit Center in memory of late General Manager Jerome D. Lilly at ceremonies April 19. Lilly, a 19-year employee of CityLink, died unexpectedly in December 2007 at age 53, only six weeks after taking over the top job.

The program featured comments from CityLink General Manager Tom Lucek and board members; Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis; family members and friends of Lilly; and a performance by the Integrity Choir, a local group of teenage gospel singers.

More than 300 people attended the program.

On April 20—which would have been Lilly’s 55th birthday—CityLink honored him by holding a Passenger Appreciation Day, offering free rides throughout. By the end of the day, the agency reported providing more than 11,000 free rides.

APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference Opens

“Every transit job is a green job,” APTA President William W. Millar told bus and paratransit professionals gathered May 3 at the Sheraton Seattle for the Opening General Session of the 2009 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference. “Each time someone uses public transit, America uses less foreign oil.”

In a letter to APTA, Washington State Gov. Christine O. Gregoire sent her regards to conference attendees. “APTA has represented the transit industry for over 200 years and continues to be a leading voice in promoting public transportation,” she wrote. “This annual event is a wonderful opportunity to learn about best practices and current trends, as well as network with industry leaders and peers from throughout North America. In addition to the conference, the Bus Roadeo is a creative way for bus operators and mechanics to showcase their skills in what is sure to be a memorable competition.”

In describing the increasing support for public transportation by the federal government and voters across the U.S., Millar cited a report showing that transit is directly responsible for 383,000 jobs, two-thirds of which are classified as blue-collar, and that transit supports more than 1.7 million jobs. He emphasized the many ways that transit supports the economy, energy independence, and the environment, leading to an enhanced quality of life.

APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., spoke about the “new and challenging times” facing bus and paratransit operators. She called the current economic situation “the most sobering times we have ever faced,” adding, “This is not the time to hold back.”

Scott then listed the three major priorities of her term: passing a new federal transportation authorization bill; workforce development efforts to counteract the coming loss of longtime transit employees to retirement; and incorporating the results of the recent TransitVision 2050 process into the next APTA Strategic Plan, which will cover the years 2010 to 2014.

King County Executive Ron Sims, a member of the Sound Transit Board of Directors, described how transit is a priority of President Barack Obama, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shawn Donovan. In his remarks, Millar announced that Sims has been nominated deputy secretary of HUD, but that the full Senate has not yet voted on the appointment.

King County Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond explained that public transportation in the central Puget Sound region is the responsibility of several transit agencies working in partnership. For example, seven area agencies have jointly introduced the ORCA (One Regional Card for All) electronic fare medium, and Sound Transit’s soon-to-open light rail line will operate in the downtown Seattle transit tunnel now served only by buses. Concerning ridership, Desmond noted that King County Metro recently provided the three millionth ride in its history.

“Quality Transit—Now” was the theme of the conference. Matthew Welbes, Federal Transit Administration executive director and acting deputy administrator, offered remarks about the importance of transit agencies to apply immediately for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

Joyce Eleanor, APTA vice chair-bus & paratransit operations and chief executive officer of Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, presented APTA’s 2009 Bus Safety Awards to five public transit agencies and one management company during the session.

At the May 4 General Forum during the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle, hearing-impaired comedian Kathy Buckley, the session’s inspirational speaker, took a moment away from her often raucous presentation to thank public transit providers for helping her maintain her independence.  “If it wasn’t for you, people couldn’t move,” Buckley said. “You’re making people’s dreams come true, giving them independence…You gave me the gift of independence. You may see bus and rail operators, but I see angels.”

Also at the forum, Reba Malone announced that 403 people are currently on the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) donor list. APTF will award at least 10 $2,500 scholarships this year, she noted, and the foundation is accepting scholarship applications through June 5.

Concurrent with this conference, APTA and the Transportation Research Board co-hosted another event dedicated to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) issues.

Members Discuss Context for APTA 2010-2014 Strategic Plan

BY JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager

APTA members from across the United States shared ideas for the association’s next Strategic Plan in a May 3 brainstorming session at the 2009 Bus and Paratransit Conference. The session, deliberately informal in design to capture as much input as possible, was introduced by APTA First Vice Chair M.P. (Mattie) Carter of the Memphis Area Transit Authority, who is heading the Strategic Planning Steering Committee.

The open conversation with members centered around the trends, opportunities, and risks facing the transit industry in the next five years, ideal achievements, and how APTA can help make those happen. Participants offered several possible focal points for the next Strategic Plan, including increased education of state legislators on the benefits of public transit; workforce development to replace retiring employees; seamlessness across regions and public transit systems; increasing public awareness of public transit’s reliance on the gasoline tax; and enhanced community involvement by systems and business members.

Tight Belts, Straining Budgets
Attendees agreed that public transit systems must find new ways to maintain their bottom line in a difficult economy, with rising costs and declining sales-tax revenues. “Everybody’s under such a crunch now, and it forces creativity,” one participant said.

Carter cited the need to educate the public that public transit systems must either raise fares or discontinue some service.
Handling Volatile Fuel Prices
Speakers raised the issue of public transit’s cost volatility, borne of fluctuating fuel prices; notably, although high gas prices mean more riders, the increased costs to systems makes this a double-edged sword. “Prices go through the roof, and of course that affects our budgets,” said one participant, who pointed to greater use of hybrid vehicles and compressed natural gas as one possible answer.

Land Use Planning
Smart land use policy was a commonly discussed theme at the session. “I think there’s a paradigm shift now in terms of land use patterns,” said one APTA member, as far as land use becoming friendlier to transit.

The member also pointed to Bus Rapid Transit’s (BRT) ability to increase public awareness of public transit and influence land use. Successful BRT, he said, can show that bus service, like rail, can help change land use patterns for the better.

Seamless Systems
To engender more public support, develop seamless regional transit systems, one participant said. Every system should become easier to navigate and be served by a regional marketing program, a regional identity, shared smart farecards, and shared trip planner web sites.

This participant suggested greater use of technology to create a “one-stop shop” where people rely on transit for all trips, adding that greater inter-system cooperation could also make routes more efficient via intelligent transit systems.

Improving the Message
Carter noted that the need to communicate the benefits of public transportation encompasses all the challenges the group discussed. “We put money into operations and maintenance, but little into marketing,” she said.

Marketing can pay off big at the ballot box, noted one person at the meeting, adding: “We’ve passed three referenda in the past three years on public transit” because of good communication efforts. One participant made this suggestion for raising public transit’s profile: “I think that we’ve always been lacking a sense of emotional attachment to people we serve and people who fund us.”

Next Steps
APTA is holding brainstorming sessions with members throughout the spring to obtain input for the new APTA 2010-2014 Strategic Plan. Watch for forthcoming sessions at major APTA events as well as online.

Managing Pandemic Flu: Special Session

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Public transportation professionals facing the emergence of the H1N1 flu heard from representatives of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and transit agencies about how manage a potential pandemic at a special session during the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference.

Mike Flanigon, FTA director of safety and security, discussed Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s emergency response team comprising the heads of the modal administrations, including FTA, stating that the Secretary will share the team’s comments when he meets with President Barack Obama about the possible impact of the flu on U.S. communities.

“We’re somewhat optimistic that this flu won’t be as severe as it seemed, but we shouldn’t get too lax either,” Flanigon said. He recommended going to the web sites of the Centers for Disease Control and the new site for up-to-date information.

Alexa Dupigny-Samuels, chief safety officer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), noted that the agency is making plans for a possible second wave of flu cases and has begun tracking absenteeism among its staff members. She repeated the standard advice for avoiding illness: cover coughs, sneeze into an elbow rather than a hand, wash hands often, and don’t touch your face.

Sharon Cooney, director of government affairs and community relations for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), said that light rail ridership dropped up to 30 percent in the early days of the flu epidemic in Mexico but has begun to bounce back. “We’re taking our cue from local health services,” she said, adding that the MTS web site now includes a continuously updated page devoted to the flu.

Carolyn Flowers, chief operating officer of Los Angeles Metro, said: “Los Angeles County has many other operators besides Metro, so we’re working together to ensure that the region’s response is consistent.”

Alessandro Guariento, senior vice president of safety for MV Transportation, said his company is working to prevent panic and keep its employees informed. “We’re staying vigilant, letting people know that public transportation is safe,” he explained.

Panelists and audience members noted that transit agencies dealing with possible pandemic flu could learn from Toronto, which dealt with the SARS epidemic in 2003, and from frank conversations with transit professionals in Mexico. Dupigny-Samuels said WMATA already has a pandemic plan, created when it considered the possibility of SARS or avian flu epidemics; she suggested that agencies with similar plans keep them up to date.

The basic guidelines to follow, according to the presenters, are to review contingency plans; educate staff; share experiences about the most efficient and safest ways to disinfect transit vehicles (specifically, spray chemicals onto a cloth instead of into the air or directly onto a surface); and, above all, stay calm.

Preparedness Pays Off for Transit Agencies

BY JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager

In planning for emergencies, several practices are crucial: building key relationships before disaster happens, training regularly, and preparing communications strategies. Several presenters shared these lessons at the APTA 2008 Bus and Paratransit Conference.

Former police officer Mike DeCapua of King County Metro Transit described his system’s training program, which includes a tactical response plan, an exercise design team, and scenarios that combine several calamities for the ultimate real-world test. They conduct two major field exercises a year, each of which takes two months to plan.

All exercises must comply with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), and all, he emphasized, stress the importance of communications. “Ideally, you don’t want cops talking to bus drivers, but instead have cops talking to incident commanders who are talking to their counterparts at the transit system, who in turn are dealing with drivers,” he said.

The next presenters, from the Small Urban and Rural Transit Center at North Dakota State University—Carol Wright, associate director of outreach and training and Gary Hegland, associate research fellow and a former B-52 pilot—reflected on the floods that hit Fargo last winter.

Coping with the flood emergency required a great deal of coordination among Fargo Metro Area Transit (MAT), social services, and first responders. MAT rerouted and curtailed its bus operations, and pressed school buses into service. MAT transported volunteers to work sites, remained on standby for evacuation, and maintained as much fixed route and paratransit service as possible. The system also evacuated residents from nursing homes.

Hegland advised that systems prepare for national media when natural disasters occur; they should also guard against isolation in planning and preparing for emergencies by involving the entire community.

Wright recommended having transit system personnel at all volunteer locations and maintenance personnel 24 hours per day, seven days per week, as MAT did during the flooding. The agency also borrowed personnel from other city departments, while First Transit brought in 21 drivers, a program manager, and a driver development safety manager from Minneapolis to help with the effort.

The public and local businesses also participated, Wright said: “Businesses were asked to be closed. That shut down their enterprise for almost a full week. People were asked not to drive ... and didn’t. They did what they were asked to do.”

Sniffing the Way to Reduced Delays
Deputy Tim Morgan is a bomb technician for the King County Metro Police in Seattle. His partner, Stevie, has a nose for sniffing out explosives. To maintain his training, the black Labrador retriever must be rewarded with food 35 to 40 times a day in exchange for detecting positive samples.

“Labs have that strong hunting instinct,” Morgan said. Stevie can detect all known explosive odors—19,000 of them—including trace odors, such as those from a spent shell casing or the powder residue on a person’s hand.

This olfactory ability has paid off for King County Metro Transit. Morgan recounted an incident when an unattended bag on the E3 bus line in Seattle forced a line closure. Once Stevie arrived, he established that the bag was safe in less than one minute vs. a “normal, non-Stevie response time” of 1.5-2 hours, during which that bus route would have been out of operation.

Last year, Stevie responded to 82 such calls on public transit. “So, even though of those 82 times we haven’t found a ticking bomb,” said Morgan, “to those people on those buses standing on the side of the freeway … it’s a big deal.”

Going Green: APTA Members Share Strategies

BY JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager

With sustainable practices not only urged by the public but also required for certain federal recovery funding, APTA transit system and business members shared their strategies in several sessions at the 2009 Bus & Paratransit Conference.

Working with the Community
In a May 4 session titled Building Sustainable Communities with Partnerships, Ron Kilcoyne, chief executive officer of the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in Bridgeport, CT, and chair of the APTA Systems Management and Operations Planning Subcommittee, noted that APTA implemented its urban design standards program to fill transit agencies’ needs for local community planning resources. In addition, the standards help systems design transit facilities and services.

Nina Wolfoort of the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) in Louisville, KY, shared her system’s experience with instituting a transit-oriented walkability plan. The mayor had placed a focus on making the city healthier: Louisville is the sixth most sedentary U.S. city, according to Forbes magazine.  So TARC worked with the city public health department and the mayor’s office, as well as the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, to develop its program.

“Number one was that we wanted [the program] to be sustainable,” Wolfoort said. “We were trying to create a movement to create a deeper impact than just a list of projects.”

Among other efforts, TARC conducted a web-based survey and held workshops on safe routes to school. It held a day-long summit with the mayor and the public health director to discuss needs and commitments to action.

Louisville is now adding bike-pedestrian infrastructure to its master plan devoting $4.5 million to sidewalks, and building an intermodal center.

APTA Sustainability Commitment Pilot Program
At the Host Forum May 5, titled Sustainability & Transit: King County Metro Transit’s (KCMT) Efforts to Create a Sustainable Transportation System, Kevin Desmond, the agency’s general manager, said: “We were delighted last year when APTA started its commitment to sustainability,” noting that KCMT had signed up as a pilot participant. “It’s a way to develop a focus within your organization,” he added.

By 2020, Desmond said, the county plans to obtain 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources, such as biofuel and even hydroelectric power. “The price of petroleum will go back up after this worldwide recession is over,” he said. “You might have to invest money up front to do these things, but from a life-cycle basis, they will pay themselves off.”

He noted that King County participates in a voluntary carbon trading market, the Chicago Carbon Exchange. This means the county must reduce its total energy consumption by 2 percent per year, which Desmond believes will help King County become a leader in the future of carbon cap and trade: “If we can help set the rules in a way that makes sense for the transit industry…we actually have to expend more energy in order to do that,” he said.

Simple Changes, Major Improvements
Jim Boon, manager of vehicle maintenance for KCMT, is responsible for 1,400 vehicles, including hybrid-electric and diesel.
 He noted that KCMT has standardized power platforms to identify anomalies in emissions and consumption. Diesel fuel produces about 22 pounds of waste carbon per gallon. King County has a standing Renewable Energy order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2012 and 35 percent by 2015, based on 2006 levels.

This will be a challenge, Boon said: The bus fleet is growing in size and complexity, ridership is increasing, and the fleet includes more articulated buses. The 2006 baseline was 2.26 pounds of carbon dioxide per boarding. The 2015 goal is to reduce that 15 percent.

Don’t Overlook Facilities
Jerry Rutledge, facilities main director for KCMT, said the system is involved in a LEED-certified building program. The approach is that all new construction is to receive LEED NC certification, and operations and maintenance of buildings will be certified as LEED EB.

For example, he said: “We were able to replace an earthquake-damaged building several years ago, and that was LEED certified.” KCMT also moved replaced its communications and control center with a new LEED-certified building in 2007. Its power distribution headquarters, built in 2007, is also LEED certified, as is its central base tire shop. On the drawing board is a central base operations building, for which the 2009 final design is seeking LEED gold certification.

Sustainability is not just about large projects; small steps are important as well, Rutledge noted. He cited the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle, with “recycle” being the last resort.

At the May 6 session titled Measuring Success When Making a Commitment to Sustainability, several APTA business and transit system members discussed the impact of the new APTA Sustainability Pilot Program on their organizations. 

Cynthia Hoyle of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District in Urbana, IL, pointed to several tactics her system is incorporating into its sustainability program, including a Zipcar program; guaranteed rides home; and the purchase of nine hybrid buses. “The sustainability commitment was really helpful for us,” she said, “because if you’re doing all these things you’re probably not measuring them and doing before and after. So signing onto this commitment really helped us organize and focus what we’re doing.”

The chief executive officer and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), Joseph Calabrese, said he “knew we were doing things green” by virtue of being public transit. “We did sign up, and it was great to come up with list of things we were already doing—from recycling water and reducing paper use by printing double-sided.” In addition, GCRTA was one of the first public transit systems to get into compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel and ultra-low-sulfur diesel, he said. Now, the system is aggressively enforcing anti-idling with operators and putting in very bike-friendly policies. In addition, “We’re using a lot of our stimulus money for station design” to obtain LEED certification, Calabrese said.

Jennifer Kalczuk, external relations manager for Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) in Grand Rapids, MI, said her system did an extensive lighting review of all its of its facilities. She cited a nighttime canopy that used high-wattage incandescent bulbs but switched to compact fluorescent bulbs. The result: a savings of $24,000 in maintenance and energy costs per year. A similar project in a bus garage saved $17,000 annually. For a continuously running compressed air system, finding and repairing leaks saved more than $24,000.

Susannah Kerr Adler, vice president, manager-Architecture & Buildings Resource Center, with Parsons Brinckerhoff, said her company, like many others, has had sustainability policies since early this decade. But PB is working to coordinate and consolidate those efforts. The APTA Sustainability Commitment “is a really good mechanism to organize our thinking,” she said.

Her advice for other companies and transit systems? “It’s absolutely critical that both the board and the general manager really endorse the notion of sustainability,” she said.

Very Small Starts Includes Bus Rapid Transit

By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Many Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects are eligible for federal grants under the Very Small Starts program, speakers emphasized during the Bus Rapid Transit Conference sponsored by APTA and the Transportation Research Board and held concurrently with the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference.

At a May 5 session dedicated to the relationship between BRT and the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts program, FTA’s Richard Steinmann pointed out that the Very Small Starts program is open to transit projects with a total capital cost of less than $50 million, a capital cost under $3 million per mile, and providing service to more than 3,000 daily passengers—meaning “a lot of BRT is eligible,” he added.  “New Starts and Small Starts is a competitive program, so transit agencies need to know the criteria so FTA can make allocations,” Steinmann said.

He announced that 14 New Starts projects and 21 Small Starts projects are currently at the preliminary engineering and final design stage, accounting for a total of approximately $25 billion in federal grants.

Transit agencies with New Starts BRT projects include Lane Transit District in Eugene, OR, which is at the Project Construction Grant Agreement stage with FTA; Hartford, CT, in final design; and Boston’s Silver Line extension, in preliminary engineering. Regarding Small Starts, King County Metro Transit’s Federal Way RapidRide project just received funding, he said, and 17 other BRT projects currently are in development.

Reed Lee, a senior transit planner with HDR Engineering Inc. in Denver, reported on the Regional Transportation District’s U.S. 36 BRT project, part of the Denver transit agency’s FasTracks program. Because the line involves 21 distinct jurisdictions and agencies, RTD had to create a Preferred Alternative Committee with stakeholders and establish working groups before moving forward with the project.

Another Colorado BRT project—in the Roaring Fork Valley, on a 40-mile corridor between Glenwood Springs and Aspen—was the topic of William D. Byrne, P.E., vice president of David Evans and Associates Inc. in Denver.  Byrne explained that FTA has awarded RFTA a Very Small Starts grant, which will allow the agency to begin work this summer and complete it by 2012.

Karl Otterstrom, director of planning for the Spokane Transit Authority in Spokane, WA, reported on two Very Small Starts BRT projects he oversaw during his previous employment with King County Metro Transit in Seattle: the 14-mile Pacific Highway South RapidRide line and the 10-mile line. He noted that the agency identified the corridors in 2002, and that four BRT corridors were included in King County Metro’s Transit Now plan in 2006.

A second session, “Fitting BRT to Smaller and Suburban Systems,” brought together representatives of transit agencies in Cleveland and the Chicago suburbs to share their BRT experiences.

Dr. Tunde Balvanyos, BRT coordinator with Pace Suburban Bus in Arlington Heights, IL, recounted the planning process for Pace’s “arterial BRT, or ART” line. The purpose of this line is to provide maximum service with minimum expense and disruption, operating in mixed traffic on arterial streets, and eventually to become the agency’s core service.  While traditionally the suburbs have been served by Metra commuter rail, new growth has meant more people living in low-density areas not close to rail—and that’s where BRT comes in.

Michael York, deputy general manager-operations for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA), shared lessons learned from the agency’s introduction of HealthLine BRT service last year. He noted that the line will revitalize Euclid Avenue, once the center of the city, while linking the two largest employment centers in the area, downtown Cleveland and University Circle.

To emphasize the “rail-like” nature of BRT, GCRTA ordered 63-foot articulated vehicles from New Flyer that offer precision docking at stations and level boarding.

Los Angeles Metro Takes Top Bus Roadeo Award; APTA, FTA Present Other Honors During Conference

An APTA bus conference would not be complete without awards to some of our industry’s finest. From superior bus operating and maintenance skills to safety on the road to the challenge to provide superior customer service—APTA members excelled. Here is a round-up of the award winners.

International Bus Roadeo
At the end of APTA’s 34th Annual International Bus Roadeo, held May 1 in Seattle, the top award winner was Los Angeles Metro. Announced at the May 5 Roadeo Banquet, that award goes to the competing public transit system receiving the highest combined score among operators and mechanics. Adding to L.A.’s awards were Juan Navarro, placing second among operators of 40-foot buses, and the maintenance team of Frank Forde, Rommel Vargas, and Andrew Warren Jr., taking third place in their competition.

Howard Evans, Steve Hanks, and Joe Hulett, representing Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, took the top spot among bus maintainers. The team from Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA—Alex Hernandez, Archie Rockwell, and Phillip Sanchez—received second-place honors. 

Past winner Daniel R. Schmidt of Ben Franklin Transit in Richland, WA, again came in first among operators of 30-foot buses. Darrion Mitchell of Metro Transit System in Columbus, GA, came in second, and the San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Agency’s Kevin Grady placed third.

Brentt Mackie, representing Pierce Transit in Lakewood, WA, earned the top honor in the 40-foot bus operator category. Third place went to Elroy Williams of Texas DOT in Dallas.

A total of 36 maintenance teams and 78 operators, 54 in the 40-foot category and 24 in the 30-foot category, participated in this year’s roadeo.



Representatives of the Los Angeles Metro accepting the Grand Champion Award at the APTA Bus Roadeo Banquet include, front row from left, operator Juan Navarro and maintenance team members Frank Forde, Rommel Vargas, and Andrew Warren Jr.

From left: APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.; Joyce Eleanor, chief executive officer of Community Transit; Howard Evans, Steve Hanks, and Joe Hulett, who received the first-place award for maintenance teams; and APTA President William W. Millar.




 Joyce Eleanor, APTA vice chair-bus and paratransit operations, presents Dan Schmidt of Ben Franklin Transit with the first-place award for 30-foot bus operators.

 Brentt Mackie, center, of Pierce Transit accepts the first-place award for operators of 40-foot buses. Joining him are Pierce Transit CEO Lynne Griffith and Sam Desue, vice president of transportation services.

Customer Service Challenge
This competition—held for the fourth consecutive year—was developed by two APTA committees: Marketing and Communications and International Bus Roadeo. Its purpose is to showcase the vital role that bus operators play in customer service—and how their efforts contribute to an organization’s success. This year, Jairo Naranjo of the Chicago Transit Authority took first prize, and Paul Goodwin of Kitsap Transit in Bremerton, WA, placed second.

Seven contestants took part in the challenge, competing in three tasks: greet a boarding passenger; participate in a scenario involving a passenger who does not realize the farebox does not give change; and respond to a randomly selected situation. For Naranjo, it was dealing with a passenger who carried a large 2 x 4 onboard, inadvertently bumping into people while trying to find a place for the plank on a crowded bus. Goodwin’s scenario had him coping with a passenger in cap and gown, late for her college graduation.

Bus Safety
On the issue of bus safety, Joyce Eleanor, APTA vice chair-bus and paratransit operations, presented the APTA Bus Safety Gold Awards to four public transportation agencies and one management company during the Opening General Session on May 3.

Southwest Metro Transit in Eden Prairie, MN, received the Gold Award for public transit agencies that provide more than one million and less than four million passenger trips annually. The SunLine Transit Agency in Thousand Palms, CA, received the Merit Award in that category.

Among transit agencies providing more than four million and fewer than 30 million annual rides, the Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, KY, took the Gold Award. Merit Awards went to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX; Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA; and Ames Transit Agency (CyRide) in Ames, IA.

Two agencies tied in the category of transit agencies with more than 30 million annual trips: the Toronto Transit Commission and Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul. King County Metro Transit in Seattle and Dallas Area Rapid Transit received Merit Awards in this category.

Veolia Transportation in Phoenix received the Gold Award in the category of private contractors for bus systems.

FTA Recognizes Ridership Gains
In conjunction with the APTA conference, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) honored 10 public transit agencies for substantially increasing their ridership since 2006. FTA presented its third annual Ridership Awards at a May 4 session during the conference in Seattle: 

* Under 50,000 in population: Finney County Transit, Garden City, KS.

* Population of 50,000 to 200,000: Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Citylink, Worley, ID; Intercity Transit, Olympia, WA; Ozark Regional Transit, Springdale, AR; River Valley Metro Mass Transit, Bourbonnais, IL; and Whatcom Transportation Authority, Bellingham, WA.

* Population of 200,000 to one million: Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY; Coast Transit Authority, Gulfport, MS; and Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA.

* Over one million in population: MTA Bus Company, New York, NY.


 Matthew Welbes, FTA executive director and acting deputy administrator, presents the FTA Ridership Award to 10 public transit agencies.

‘A Marathon, Not a Short-Term Event’

Terming APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott’s workforce development initiative “a marathon, not a short-term event,” Mary Ann Collier, a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Workforce Development, provided an overview of the panel’s plans for the short, medium, and long term at a May 4 session.

Collier, chair of the APTA Human Resources Committee, explained that the workforce development program will fit into the strategy put forth in the TransitVision 2050 initiative by “connecting the dots to see what’s going on.” She broke down the effort into four time frames: immediate, 30 to 100 days from now; short term, 18 months to three years; mid-term, three to five years; and long term, five to 10 years.

“Following the endorsement of the proposed plan, we can begin to change the future of the industry,” Collier continued. “We will define and clarify APTA’s workforce development role for the future—but to succeed, we need continuity.”

Brian J. Turner, director of the Transportation Learning Center, offered perspective by reporting on his organization’s work with similar efforts for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia and in New York State, said: “If we’re going to make workforce development efforts thrive, we will need labor and management to work together.”

Other major concerns of this model, according to Turner, are ensuring that classroom and hands-on education programs work together for mutual benefit, and creating a well-structured form of mentoring for transit employees.

Chun Dong, senior program manager with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), discussed the leadership program begun by the agency as a pilot in 2000. The program was given to WMATA superintendents in 2002, to transit police in 2004, and revised into the four-phase Senior Leadership Development Program in 2008.

“Through complete commitment, you can make your dreams a reality,” Dong said, noting that the program’s success included the support of other WMATA employees and the general manager, John Catoe Jr. The session also heard from two program participants.

Ken Mall, business unit leader-technical for Educational Data Systems Inc., talked about the importance of retaining institutional knowledge when older employees retire or leave the organization. Listing such diagnostic tools as the Skills Gap Analysis (to determine an organization’s and its employees’ strengths and weaknesses) and the Knowledge Loss Risk Assessment (to study how to keep knowledge within an organization), Mall said that the key is to help transit agencies build “bench strength” so they will always have employees with the necessary knowledge and background.

APTA Business Members Learn of Global Opportunities

The global economy may be in a slump, but APTA business members heard a far rosier opinion of possibilities in Australia, India, and Brazil at a May 5 session on international public transit business opportunities at the 2009 Bus and Paratransit Conference. Speakers described the need for more private investment in public transportation in their respective countries and offered advice on entering the market.

The Land Down Under
Opportunities abound for American companies in Australia, according to Scott Grenda, chair of the Australian Bus Industry Confederation and managing director of Grenda Corp. in Victoria, Australia, which provides bus service and manufactures bus bodies.

Issues facing transit are similar to those in the U.S.: a glut of sprawl-based development, with more limited public transit in rural areas. Grenda noted a trend toward privatization of government services, stating, for example, that only 56 percent of public transit (train, bus, and ferry) in Sydney is operated by the government. He explained that the Australian federal government has no role at all in public transit.

Grenda listed a number of foreign companies operating in Australia and said that, because of low labor costs, Chinese-made buses have become increasingly popular. However, while buses from China are lower in cost, they also tend to have a shorter lifespan, so he recommended that U.S. vendors “come in with something innovative, something new, or work on quality.”

He cited “massive opportunities” for bus manufacturers in the next five to 10 years because Australia’s population is increasing at double the rate of the U.S. and 50 percent above the world average. “We have a growing market with enormous growth still required,” he added.

India Faces Rapid Urbanization
Ajai Mathur, chief operating officer of the Urban Mass Transit Co. in Delhi, India, discussed the “rapid urbanization” facing the world’s second most populous country. That, coupled with a profound dearth of every mode of public transit related to narrow roads and overcrowding, defines the Indian market, he said.

Like the U.S., Vehicle Miles Traveled in India are quickly outpacing population growth. One difference is that India also seeing rapid growth in two-wheeled vehicles—motor scooters and mopeds—because of the absence of reliable public transit.

The Indian federal government devised a National Urban Transport Policy in 2006, Mathur said, and is funding demonstration projects. In addition, the government is seeking greater involvement from the private sector.

The nation needs an estimated U.S. $26 billion in transit investmen, he noted, adding that India’s economic stimulus grants are financing the purchase of 14,500 buses at a cost of nearly U.S. $1 billion to improve bus service in 57 cities across India.

In Brazil, Looking Outward
The Brazilian city of Curitiba is the birthplace of Bus Rapid Transit, but that doesn’t mean the nation can’t benefit from foreign investment, said Helcio Raymundo, co-director of R&B Engineering and Architecture Ltd. in Sao Paulo. Brazil is the largest public bus system in the world, with a current total of 400,000 buses; private operators operate 40 percent of that fleet.

“Now is the perfect time to invest in Brazil,” Raymundo said, particularly for new technology. He acknowledged several challenges: need for more research and development; a required merger of strategic planning and urban planning; better management quality; more Intelligent Transportation Systems; vehicle and infrastructure improvements; and new financing models.

“Our real challenge is that we are always looking inside of ourselves,” he explained. “We need to look outside of ourselves. We need now more than ever cooperation and partnerships.”

More Scenes from the Bus & Paratransit Conference

Here are some more scenes from the 2009 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle, as seen by photographer Heather Trimm.


About 20 buses and paratransit vehicles were on display May 4 in a parking lot near the conference hotel. The exhibit included standard and articulated buses, paratransit vans and cutaway buses, and a variety of engines and interior configurations.


King County Metro Transit, host system for the conference, showcased its articulated Rapid Ride vehicle and a station at the bus display in anticipation of next year's introduction of the BRT service.


Customer Service Challenge contestant Bruce Reid, representing the Toronto Transit Commission, confronts a passenger who was disrupting the trip with her singing and guitar playing.


Crowds visit the largest Bus Products and Services Showcase in the history of the conference, with 130 booths at the Washington State Convention Center. Conference participants learned about the newest and best in bus equipment from expert personnel.


The Closing Luncheon on May 6 brought together representatives of major employers, local governments, and public transit agencies to discuss their partnerships that improve mobility throughout the nation.

APTA Rail Conference to Convene in Chicago

APTA’s 2009 Rail Conference will take place in Chicago June 14-17—offering an array of information and networking opportunities as well as technical and city tours. This conference is a must for rail professionals who want to gain knowledge on cutting edge technology. It will also provide an invaluable opportunity to meet innovators in rail transit, to build contacts, and to network.

There will be major discussions on high-speed rail—the future and its technology, as well as systems engineering applied to the scaling of transit. Technical forum topics will include energy, environment, and transit—looking at storing energy to reduce use; intelligent transportation systems and the integration of cyber security; fare collection innovations in payment methods; and the interaction of wheel and rail dynamics.

Training sessions will focus on such topics as construction projects, rail safety, and sustainability.
Technical, City Tours at CTA, Metra Locations
In advance of its opening later this year, the MetraMarket—a multi-million-dollar joint venture of Metra and U.S. Equities Inc.—will be available for touring on June 15. This development beneath the Ogilvie Transportation Center will be anchored by a 15,000-square-foot French market.

On July 16, attendees can tour Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications to see how those employees work with Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) staff to conduct programs for disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. CTA, host system for the conference, will also provide tours of its two busiest rail lines—the Red and the Blue. In addition, Metra commuter rail will offer tours of its five maintenance repair and overhaul sites. Visitors to Metra Headquarters can participate in scheduled tours showcasing the agency’s half-cab FRA Type II Simulators, which replicate the control compartment and equipment of a locomotive or cab car

CTA’s Bruce Moffat, an urban planner, author, and transit historian, will lead a tour that evening of the Chicago Loop to showcase the city’s skyline.

Tours are arranged for Saturday, June 14, to Kenosha and Milwaukee, WI, to view streetcars and other equipment, rail facilities, and intermodal operations, and on Wednesday, June 17, to ride CTA, Metra, and Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District trains around the Chicago Loop.

Conference participants interested in tours can register onsite at the Hilton Chicago. For more information about the conference itself, click here.

‘Leading the Way’: Public Transit Revitalizes Communities

APTA announces the publication of Public Transportation No. 2: Leading the Way, a profusely illustrated book from Visual Reference Publications Inc., which demonstrates how public transit is revitalizing business districts, connecting employers with the workforce, and increasing property values through development while helping the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

In the preface, APTA President William W. Millar describes how the public transit industry is dealing with “extraordinary” ridership growth “by listening to its customers, launching new services that truly serve their communities, and by developing and embracing innovation that puts the industry at the forefront…From new technologies to ‘going green,’ the industry demonstrates its capacity for growth and innovation with the best yet to come.”

The book’s introduction reports on the many benefits of public transit to the people and communities it serves. Increased investment at the federal, state, and local levels has allowed transit systems to expand and enhance their operations, attracting more riders through high technology, features ranging from free wi-fi to bicycle racks, and quieter vehicles with cleaner engines.

According to Marc Wortman, Ph.D., the volume’s editor, Public Transportation 2: Leading the Way provides “a complete sense of how transportation systems are truly comprehensive networks that require coordination among the automobile, bus, shuttle, and all forms of rail transit.” He also pointed to the emphasis on advances in information technology: “The ability to create infrastructure for communications, coordination of transportation modalities, and energy savings make our public transportation systems cost-efficient and very usable for the rider, and that’s the bottom line.

The 206-page book, with 600 color photos, is available for the special price of $50 per copy through the publisher. Ordering information is available online.