Passenger Transport - June 22, 2009
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House T&I Committee Releases $500 Billion Authorization Proposal; Includes $99.8 Billion for Transit and $50 Billion for High-Speed Rail

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (T&I) Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) and Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL) announced June 18 the committee’s outline for the next surface transportation authorization bill to replace the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act- A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). This legislation would provide nearly $100 billion for public transportation and $50 billion for high-speed rail as part of $500 billion in total transportation funding.

The bipartisan proposal, coauthored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the Highway and Transit Subcommittee, and John Duncan (R-TN), its ranking member, is titled “A Blueprint for Investment and Reform.” The plan describes the committee’s plans for the forthcoming legislation, which will be introduced as the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 (STAA).

The act includes $99.8 billion for public transportation programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—an increase of more 90 percent over SAFETEA-LU funding levels. It will also recommend an additional $50 billion to support President Barack Obama’s vision for development of high-speed rail corridors in the United States.

The proposal offers a strategic vision recognizing that public transportation should be integral to boosting the economy, promoting energy independence, improving the environment, and providing mobility choices.

“APTA is extremely pleased and commends the committee leadership for its forward-thinking approach,” APTA President William Millar said in a statement. “This funding will be essential to helping to support the doubling of ridership during the next 20 years and begins to address the cost of bringing capital assets into good repair.”

He continued:  “We applaud the committee’s efforts to streamline the process for public transportation systems to obtain the necessary federal approvals for new public transportation projects, as well as funding for current transportation needs.”

The proposal, however, does not address from where increased revenues will come to finance the program. This portion of the legislation must be developed by the House Committee on Ways & Means, which will hold a June 25 hearing on transportation needs at which APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., will testify.

The legislation would also introduce performance standards as a key feature of the federal program. Additional goals of the legislation include bringing transportation assets to a “state of good repair,” improving project delivery, increasing safety, reducing traffic congestion, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving air quality.

The T&I Committee also proposes creating a National Infrastructure Bank to fund large-scale transportation projects, as well as the creation of two multi-modal programs to reduce congestion in major metropolitan areas and fund projects of national significance.

Funding Proposals
According to the committee’s blueprint, the total $450 billion for surface transportation programs includes a proposed $337.4 billion for the highway program, $99.8 billion for public transportation, and $12.6 billion for highway and motor carrier safety.

With regard to the highway and transit programs, details were not available on the distribution of funds. For highway programs, despite consolidation efforts, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) and Surface Transportation Program (STP) remain largely intact as state and local governments will continue to be able to flex these funds for transit projects at the local level. Changes, however, are proposed to increase sub-allocations to local governments from these accounts, giving them a larger stake in the project decision-making process, which could lead to more funds for transit projects.

Transit Program Structure
The blueprint also indicates that STAA will propose a significant consolidation of transit programs, distributing funds under six major program headings. This is consistent with the overall theme of simplifying the federal program to create efficiency to help speed project delivery and to introduce performance measures. Elements of all of the previous programs, including eligible activities, can be found under the new headings.

The new programs are:

New Starts and Small Starts Program. STAA proposes a greatly simplified New Starts and Small Starts program that will speed project delivery by “eliminating a variety of programmatic steps and requiring program reforms.” In addition, the proposal aims to “equalize the treatment of proposed transit projects and elevate the importance of the benefits that will occur in the community once the project is built.” STAA will prohibit the use of the FTA’s current cost-effectiveness index” (CEI), and replace it with a ratings process that comparably weighs economic development, energy savings, increased mobility and congestion relief.

Fixed Guideway Modernization Program. STAA proposes to simplify the existing fixed-guideway modernization program by eliminating the complex seven-tiered fund distribution formula and replacing it with a single formula based on documented maintenance needs. Communities with a population of fewer than 200,000 will be eligible to participate in the program and recipients will be held accountable for complying with performance measures that emphasize maintaining a “state-of-good repair” for assets.

Urban and Rural Formula Programs. STAA largely maintains the current urbanized area and rural area formula programs, but institutes new performance measures that hold recipients accountable for meeting certain performance targets, such as improved conditions of transit systems, replacement of aged and rolling stock, increased ridership, etc. For small urban areas and rural areas, the funding formula will be modified to award increased funding to areas that provide more transit services.

Coordinated Access and Mobility Program (CAMP). The new proposal would combine the Job Access and Reverse Commute, New Freedom Initiative and Elderly and Disabled Program, into a single initiative in a manner that closely mirrors APTA’s proposal for the programs. The new program would distribute funds via a formula that takes into account low-income, elderly and disabled populations. The CAMP program would distribute 60 percent of funds to designated recipients in large UZAs, 20 percent to small UZAs and 20 percent to rural areas, under a single application. Any of the activities under the three previous programs would be eligible for funding under the new program. The program would institute performance measures to ensure that the needs of each target population are being met, and then set minimum allocations for targeted activities if these measures are not complied with.

Intermodal and Energy Efficient Transit Facilities Program. STAA creates a new program that would combine elements of the Intermodal Facilities Program under SAFETEA-LU and the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction Grants (TIGGER) program created under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) earlier this year. Discretionary grants under this program will be made available to transit agencies to build intermodal facilities that connect two or more transportation modes, or facilities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Transit in the Parks Program. STAA will propose to streamline and increase funding amounts for the Transit in the Parks program, which provides grants to increase transit and reduce congestion in and around national parks.

High-Speed Rail
STAA proposes making $50 billion in General Fund revenues available to support the development of a high-speed rail network in the United States. These funds will be available for planning activities and construction in federally designated high-speed rail corridors, as well as for a research program on high-speed rail technologies. High-speed rail will also be eligible for funding through the National Infrastructure Bank.

Legislative Schedule/Outlook
The T&I Committee has indicated it intends to formally introduce the STAA legislation within the next few days, and has tentatively scheduled a markup for the bill in the Highways and Transit Subcommittee for June 24. Oberstar has indicated that he intends to consider the legislation in full committee in July. However, his ability to move the bill forward in the House will depend on the Ways & Means Committee’s timing on the development of a financing title.

APTA is confident that all parties can work together to achieve a positive outcome. “We are optimistic about working with the committee as we seize the opportunity to truly make the next transportation funding program a transformational bill,” said Millar. “Now is the time to make the critical investments that the nation requires in its public transportation systems, highway infrastructure, and high-speed rail corridors.”

Contact Your Representatives
APTA is urging members to contact their Congressional representatives immediately to tell them of their support of this bill, which dramatically increases investment in public transportation.

Administration Promotes 17-Month Authorization Plan
Following a June 17 session with members of Congress, U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the administration supports an immediate 18-month transportation reauthorization plan that will shore up the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). “If this step is not taken,” he said, “the trust fund will run out of money as soon as late August and states will be in danger of losing the vital funding they need and expect.”

While the shortfall in the Highway Account of the HTF is unrelated to the current balance in the Mass Transit Account of the HTF, if Congress and the administration consider an 18-month extension of surface transportation authorizing law (currently SAFETEA-LU), that legislation would likely extend authorizing law for both the federal transit and highway programs.
 In his statement, LaHood called for “critical reforms to help us make better investment decisions with cost-benefit analysis, focus on more investments in metropolitan areas, and promote the concept of livability to more closely link home and work. The Administration opposes a gas tax increase during this challenging, recessionary period, which has hit consumers and businesses hard across our country.”

“I recognize that there will be concerns raised about this approach,” he continued. “However, with the reality of our fiscal environment and the critical demand to address our infrastructure investments in a smarter, more focused approach, we should not rush legislation. We should work together on a full reauthorization that best meets the demands of the country. The first step is making sure that the Highway Trust Fund is solvent. The next step is addressing our transportation priorities over the long term.”

Administration Proposes 18-Month Authorization Plan

U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Obama Administration supports an immediate 18-month transportation reauthorization plan that will shore up the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). “If this step is not taken,” he said, “the trust fund will run out of money as soon as late August and states will be in danger of losing the vital funding they need and expect.”

While the shortfall in the Highway Account of the HTF is unrelated to the current balance in the Mass Transit Account of the HTF, if Congress and the administration consider an 18-month extension of surface transportation authorizing law (currently SAFETEA-LU), that legislation would likely extend authorizing law for both the federal transit and highway programs.

In his statement, LaHood called for “critical reforms to help us make better investment decisions with cost-benefit analysis, focus on more investments in metropolitan areas, and promote the concept of livability to more closely link home and work. The Administration opposes a gas tax increase during this challenging, recessionary period, which has hit consumers and businesses hard across our country.”

“I recognize that there will be concerns raised about this approach,” he continued. “However, with the reality of our fiscal environment and the critical demand to address our infrastructure investments in a smarter, more focused approach, we should not rush legislation. We should work together on a full reauthorization that best meets the demands of the country. The first step is making sure that the Highway Trust Fund is solvent. The next step is addressing our transportation priorities over the long term.”

FTA and FRA Administrators Address Rail Conference

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

At the June 15 Opening General Session of the APTA Rail Conference in Chicago,the newly confirmed FTA and FRA Administrators—Peter M. Rogoff and Joseph C. Szabo respectively—delivered speeches before a packed audience of more than 1,000 people. Both emphasized the critical need for the industry to show movement and success in its Recovery Act projects.

Rogoff described FTA’s “great progress” in disbursing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to public transportation agencies. “We are entering into an authorization process like none other,” he said, “which will include some very tough choices.” He stressed the importance of public transit agencies applying for ARRA grants by July 1 to avoid having to turn any funding back for reallocation, and urged those who have not yet submitted their applications to do so.

“Our challenge as an industry,” the FTA administrator said, “is to show that we’re worthy of the respect of the voting members of Congress. Our performance during ARRA will set the tone for the forthcoming authorization of any of the funds for transit.” He also said he is committed to making the New Starts process “easier and faster and less onerous” for applicants.

“If we want members of Congress to take tough votes, they must believe in their guts in what they are voting for,” said Rogoff.

The administrator next talked about the need for timely maintenance for rail systems, citing a FTA state of good repair report that he termed “a wake-up call for many people, including me.” He noted that while new projects may hold more promotional appeal—e.g., “We’re opening a new line” or “We’re purchasing new trains”—deferring critically important maintenance issues is risky, because these issues can then become major safety concerns.

Szabo spoke of the current “rail renaissance” and “unprecedented levels of attention” facing the entire transportation industry, stating: “We’re going to bring rail into the 21st century.”

“Regional rail will provide seamless connections between livable cities, and it will improve existing corridors,” Szabo said. Citing President Barack Obama’s interest in a high-speed rail system that will move thousands of Americans, he said: “We’re entering a new chapter in American public transportation. It’s time to give more Americans the convenience and the joy of connecting high-speed rail with commuter and light rail.”

Szabo briefly reported on his visit to high-speed rail agencies in France and Spain, where rail innovation is “inspired and encouraged.” He added: “Cities, by virtue of being located on a high-speed rail line, become destinations.” He also noted the need for interoperability in implementing positive train control, and added: “We have to mindful that if the first of the [ARRA] projects are not successful, the entire program is at risk.”

He concluded his remarks by asking that the advancement of rail not become a hostage of political interests. “We must look beyond political and geographical boundaries,” he said, calling for conference attendees to join him to “work together to rebuild America.”

Congress Approves Proposal to Provide Transit Operating Assistance

On June 18, House-Senate conferees filed the Conference Report to accompany H.R. 2346, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009, which includes a provision that would allow transit agencies to use up to 10 percent of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to cover operating costs of “equipment and facilities for use in public transportation.”

This provision would also allow agencies to amend previously submitted applications in order to redirect ARRA funds toward operating purposes.

It was added in the Senate-passed version of the legislation by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT), with strong support from Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. It ultimately was retained in the conference agreement.

FTA Awards 14 Percent of ARRA Transit Grants; $1.4 Billion for Projects in 31 States

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has increased the percentage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants it has awarded to 14 percent of the total available funds, accounting for more than $1.4 billion in 31 states.

On June 10, FTA announced the award of 77 ARRA grants totaling $909.4 million, which will fund transit improvements in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here is how just some of the grantees are using ARRA funds.

In Bridgeport, CT, Greater Bridgeport Transit (GBT) received $2.8 million in ARRA grant funds to be used for the replacement of 40 fixed route bus engines.

John Weldon, assistant managing director for GBT, explained that the buses had reached their six-year midlife period and, with the new engines, will have at least another six years of service.

“These buses are approaching 300,000 miles each,” he said. “The midlife engine rebuild may extend the life of the vehicles; it will also create a more reliable fleet and diminish our maintenance costs.” He added that GBT would not have been able to fund this project without the help of ARRA.

Paul Matsuoka, executive director of the Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) in Livermore, CA, described how his agency plans to use the $3 million grant it received under ARRA. LAVTA provides fixed route and paratransit service to Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, and unincorporated parts of Alameda County.

“We are essentially using the funds to complete 15 small projects that cumulatively total about $1 million,” Matsuoka said, “such as replacing bus fleet equipment and repairing broken infrastructure—things that, without these funds, we probably would get one or two done per year. These funds will allow us to accelerate the schedule.”

He noted that the remainder of the ARRA funds will support preventive maintenance of the agency’s buses and paratransit coaches, as well as operation of LAVTA’s complementary paratransit service under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Berks Area Reading Transportation Authority (BARTA) in Reading, PA, will use its $4.3 million ARRA grant for the purchase of four new 40-foot hybrid-electric buses and the replacement of six paratransit vehicles.

“The ARRA funding means that we can replace the paratransit vehicles when it’s time instead of waiting until they’re past their useful life,” said Janet Weiss, BARTA manager of programs and marketing. She also noted that the agency took delivery of five hybrid buses earlier this year and, “when we found out the stimulus funds would be available, we ordered the additional four.”

Other money from the grant will go toward the purchase of safety and security cameras for transit vehicles that do not currently have them; spare bus components; and electronic real-time passenger bus location information signage and other improvements at BARTA’s Intermodal Transportation Complex.

In South Carolina, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) will receive $6.5 million through ARRA, which it will use for the replacement of nine buses; for facility renovation; and for transit enhancements including bus shelter construction at 25 locations, and passenger information systems at bus stops.

“We were investing in a capital reserve account, hoping for discretionary funding so we could complete these projects,” said Christine Wilkinson, transit administrator for CARTA. “We hoped that eventually we would receive federal funding, but ARRA made it happen much faster. That’s how we were ready to go so quickly.”

FRA Provides Filing Requirements for ARRA Funds

BY CARMEN GRECO JR., Special to Passenger Transport

On June 17, officials from transit agencies across the country got their first look at the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) filing requirements for an expected rush of grant applications needed to access $8 billion in ARRA funding being made available for high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects.

FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae outlined how much money would be available for which projects and offered tips on how transit officials could increase their chances of winning the competitive grants. The tentative due date for grant applications is Oct. 24.

“President Obama made it clear these grants are not predetermined and that they will be based on the merits of the project,” Rae said. But she added that agencies taking a regional approach to high-speed rail will increase their chances of being awarded future grant money.

“This is not about stringing rails here and there for no reason,” she said. “It’s about interconnecting communities and rail corridors. We want you to think as one region and speak with one voice. We think the strong projects will fit into a regional network.”

FRA has established four “tracks” under which grant money can be released and the procedures required to access funds for each. Tracks 1 and 2 apply to “shovel-ready” projects that will put people to work improving railroad infrastructures to handle high-speed and intercity rail. Projects considered under Track 2 need not be completely shovel-ready, but should be in an advanced stage of planning and design.

Tracks 3 and 4 apply to similar projects, but will receive only a 50 percent federal matching grant; projects under Tracks 1 and 2 could receive 100 percent federal funding.

In a U.S. DOT press release, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: “The time has finally come for the United States to get serious about building a national network of high-speed rail corridors we can all be proud of. High-speed rail can reduce traffic congestion and link up with light rail, subways and buses to make travel more convenient and our communities more livable.”

“Rail travel will encourage economic growth and create new domestic manufacturing jobs while reducing pressure on our highways and airways,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo stated in the release. “In addition to the economic advantages, trains are energy-efficient, capable of reducing billions of pounds of carbons each year from being released into our atmosphere, and reducing our country’s reliance on oil.”

Interested parties can read the grant guidelines in detail here by clicking on the link for “SAFETEA-LU Rulemaking and Notices.”

Ridership Exceeds Expectations in First Quarter of 2009

Public transportation agencies throughout the nation reported a total of nearly 2.6 billion trips in the first quarter of 2009, according to APTA statistics released June 15 by APTA President William Millar.  This amount nearly matched last year’s modern record first quarter ridership—declining by only 1.2 percent, which is still less than the decline of vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s roads (1.7 percent, representing 11.6 billion vehicle miles) during the same period, according to U.S. DOT.

“Public transportation ridership remains strong and has exceeded expectations, despite cheaper gas prices in the first quarter and a faltering job market,” Millar said.“This year’s first-quarter ridership continues to show strong public demand for public transportation and how essential it is for millions of Americans.”
 
Quarterly Ridership Breakdown
Eighteen out of 29 light rail systems (modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys) reported increased ridership for the first quarter of 2009, a total of 1.8 percent for the sector. Light rail systems in four cities saw double-digit increases in the quarter: Tampa (40.5 percent); Baltimore (24.4 percent); New Orleans (18.0 percent); and Seattle (16.8 percent).

Among heavy rail systems (subways and elevated trains), seven out of 15 experienced ridership increases in the first three months of 2009 over the same period in 2008. The largest increases in ridership occurred in San Juan, PR (14.1 percent); Los Angeles (6.4 percent); Philadelphia (5.4 percent); Washington, DC (4.5 percent); and Chicago (4.4 percent).

Twelve out of 24 commuter rail systems reported ridership increases during the quarter. Albuquerque, NM, reported a 220.9 percent increase for the first quarter because of a new commuter rail system, followed by New Haven, CT (12.6 percent); Dallas-Fort Worth (11.0 percent); Boston (5.4 percent); and Pompano Beach, FL (5.0  percent).

Thirteen out of 30 large bus systems reported ridership increases. Among large bus systems, these showed the highest increases: San Diego (5.3 percent); Phoenix (5.2 percent); Oakland, CA (4.9 percent); Detroit (4.4 percent); and Baltimore (4.3 percent). Demand response (paratransit) increased in the first quarter of 2009 by 3.8 percent.

The complete APTA ridership report is available online.

New Survey: Declining Transit Revenues Lead to Fare Increases, Service Cuts

More than 80 percent of U.S. public transportation systems have seen flat or decreased funding at the local, regional, and state levels and, as a result, 89 percent of transit systems facing this decrease have been forced to raise fares or cut service, according to an APTA survey released June 15.

The report, Challenge of State and Local Funding Constraints on Transit Systems: Effects on Service Fares, Employment and Ridership, reveals that almost half of systems facing revenue declines—47 percent—have had to raise their fares as well as cutting service to address funding shortfalls.  The report is based on a survey of 98 APTA transit system members representing more than half of the nation’s transit riders, and includes 10 of the top 15 agencies in terms of annual ridership.

“Raising fares and cutting service drives people away from using public transit and is counterproductive as America struggles to create jobs, cut greenhouse gases, and reduce our reliance on expensive foreign oil,” said Millar.

APTA has called on Congress to provide new revenue sources for public transit riders through two pieces of legislation now being considered.  First, APTA requested an allocation of cap and trade revenues for public transportation in the current climate change legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act—given that public transit is part of the solution to address climate change, with it saving 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 4.2 billion gallons of fuel per year.

Second, APTA urged quick passage of the House and Senate conferee provision in the pending war supplemental bill to permit transit systems to use up to 10 percent of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act formula funds for operating purposes.  The House has passed this bill; a vote in the Senate is expected soon.

“The bottom line is that additional funding for both capital and operating costs is urgently needed and that all levels of government—local, state, and federal—must step up and expand investment in America’s public transit systems to meet our country’s economic, energy and environmental challenges, while increasing mobility choices,” said Millar.

Cabinet Officials Testify on Policy Principles

At a June 16 hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee chaired by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson presented a set of six policy principles to guide policy at each agency to expand transportation options while lowering transportation costs, increase the availability of affordable housing, and better protect the environment.

The principles, comprising the “Partnership for Sustainable Communities,” are: provide more transportation choices; promote equitable, affordable housing; enhance economic competitiveness; support existing communities; coordinate policies and leverage investment; and value communities and neighborhoods.

“Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects and programs will help America’s neighborhoods become safer, healthier and more vibrant,” LaHood told the committee.

APTA Members Participate in Senate Banking Committee Symposium

Several APTA members participated in a June 19 symposium on the New Starts program before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, which will write the transit title of the upcoming surface transportation authorization bill.

The event, “Reforming the New Starts Process for a New Era of Transportation,” gave committee members an opportunity to hear from industry experts on ways to reform and improve the New Starts process, and ask questions to help them determine what works and what needs to be fixed. Following brief opening statements by the participants regarding the New Starts program and ideas to strengthen it, senators and legislative staff participated in a roundtable discussion.

Participants included Frank Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County; Mike Wiley, general manager and CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District; Diana Mendes, chair of the APTA Policy and Planning Committee; John Inglish, general manager/CEO of the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City; Cal Marsella, general manager of the Regional Transportation District in Denver; and Christopher Boylan, deputy executive director, corporate affairs and communications, with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

House, Senate Appropriations Committees Reduce Transit Security Funding

The House Appropriations Committee has approved a bill that significantly reduces funding for transit security grants. The bill provides $250 million for Rail and Transit Security Grant Programs: $150 million less than the Fiscal Year 2009 appropriated level, excluding the $150 million for the program included in the American Recovery and Reauthorization Act (ARRA), and well below the $900 million authorized by the 9/11 Commission Act.

The committee report cites ARRA funds and their late grant guidance as the rationale for the FY 2010 funding level. Most aspects of the committee report pertaining to public transportation security matters appear supportive and generally positive.

In the Senate, the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee bill provides $356 million for Rail and Transit Security Grants, also less than the FY 2009 appropriation but more than the House Committee level.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to consider the Homeland Security spending bill on their respective floors next week, ahead of the Independence Day recess.

APTA Nominating Committee Seeks Candidates for Election

APTA Chair Dr. Beverly Scott has appointed the nominating committee that will recommend individuals to fill APTA leadership positions to the membership for approval at the APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando Oct. 4-7.

The committee is accepting nominations through July 27.

John M. Inglish, general manager/chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City, UT, chairs the nominating committee, which will meet Aug. 10 to select the slate of nominees.

APTA is mailing a nomination packet to all members June 22.

Components of the packet include the nominating committee roster; the list of officer and director positions to be filled, along with current officeholders and whether they are eligible for re-election; and the nomination and authorization form.

The latter seeks input from nominees as to qualifications, APTA participation, and other transit industry professional history. The committee will use the requested information to help it select individuals who will do the best job for the association and the industry. The nomination and authorization form must be used when submitting a nomination, and it must be completed in full.

All of the mentioned documents are available on APTA's web site.

The APTA Executive Committee has set the following campaign guidelines to provide guidance to candidates seeking election to the APTA Board of Directors and Executive Committee:

• Personal letters, e-mails, personal conversations, and phone calls are acceptable campaign strategies;
• Campaign events and distribution of campaign materials are not permitted during or in conflict with any APTA meeting or conference event. Campaigning may occur before or after an APTA meeting or conference event; and
• APTA staff members or other APTA resources are not to play any role in campaign activities.

Questions regarding the election process, the election guidelines, and eligibility requirements should be directed to Jim LaRusch.

The members of the nominating committee, appointed in accordance with the APTA bylaws and approved by the APTA Executive Committee, are:

Nominating Committee Chair
John M. Inglish, general manager/chief executive officer, UTA

APTA Designated Directors
Bruno A. Barreiro, chairman, Miami-Dade Transit, Miami, FL
Joseph M. Casey, general manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia, PA
Liz Kniss, chair, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA
Stephen Schlickman, executive director, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago, IL

APTA Regional Directors
Region I: Alfred J. Moscola, general manager, Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, Providence, RI
Region II: Mary Jo Morandini, general manager, Beaver County Transit Authority, Rochester, PA
Region III: Michael J. Blaylock, executive director/chief executive officer, Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville, FL
Region IV: Sandy Draggoo, chief executive officer/executive director, Capital Area Transportation Authority, Lansing, MI
Region V: John L. Hendrickson, general manager, Waco Transit System, Waco, TX
Region VI: Kevin Desmond, general manager, King County Metro Transit, Seattle, WA

At-Large
Saundra Foster, board member, METRO Regional Transit Authority, Akron, OH
Kim Green, president, GFI Genfare
Diana Mendes, senior vice president, AECOM
Jeffrey A. Nelson, general manager, Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District, Moline, IL
Keith T. Parker, president/chief executive officer, VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX

Diversity Council
Mary Ann Collier, director of human resources, San Joaquin Regional Transit District, Stockton, CA

Immediate Past Chair
Michael S. Townes, president/chief executive officer, Hampton Roads Transit, Hampton, VA

Dump the Pump Day a Success

APTA’s fourth annual National “Dump the Pump” Day, June 18, was a great success as 77 public transit systems around the nation held events to spread the message of how using public transportation instead of driving helps people save money. Also participating were six state public transportation associations.

“With gas prices increasing 33 percent since December, coupled with uncertain economic times, people have been looking for ways to save, and riding public transportation is a great choice to make,” said APTA President William Millar.

Some public transit systems offered free or reduced rides. Others held contests and gave away free transit passes, while still others placed ads at gas stations or content on YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace. A variety of broadcast and print media featured the event, and many APTA members reported that their ridership showed an increase as a result of the publicity.

Dump the Pump helps APTA remind the public as well as legislators of the main benefits of public transportation: economic savings, energy independence, and environmental benefits, which combine to produce a better quality of life for all Americans.

APTA’s Scott Addresses UITP World Congress in Vienna

APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., spoke on a multi-national panel devoted to workforce development issues during the International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) 58th World Congress, June 7-11 in Vienna, Austria, with “Making the right mobility choices” its theme.  At the session, Scott called for transit operators to receive the same respect and consideration as airline pilots.

Other U.S. speakers were Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker; John Inglish, general manager of the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City; and Andrew Bata, chief officer, strategic improvements, for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The UITP event highlighted sustainability and innovation in all areas of public transit. Keynote speaker Bruno Marzloff, a sociologist and author, called on the 2,200 attendees to use the current time of economic crisis as an opportunity to envision new standards for the industry. “The question is not how to travel,” said Marzloff, “but how to organize oneself to move less and travel in a more efficient way.”

During the congress, APTA joined the Federal Transit Administration and U.S. Commercial Services to host a special business program for U.S. companies. This event brought together APTA business members with commercial service representatives from several countries, including Austria, Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. Sharon Greene, chair of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors, addressed the group.

 

APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., right, speaks as part of a panel during the recent UITP World Congress in Vienna.

Opening Session Speakers Emphasize Future of Transit

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

The future of public transit, specifically the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the coming federal transit authorization bill, was the primary topic at the June 15 Opening General Session of the APTA 2009 Rail Conference in Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) was the host system for the conference.

APTA heard from newly confirmed FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff and FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. They both

spoke about ARRA funding, noting that Congress will be keeping a close eye on the industry to see how it manages these projects—and how that management will reflect on the forthcoming transportation authorization.

During his opening remarks, APTA President William Millar emphasized the support President Barack Obama has shown for public transportation, specifically the inclusion in ARRA of $8.4 billion for transit projects and $8 billion for high-speed rail. He noted his attendance at a White House ceremony on high-speed rail and added: “To hear a president who ‘gets it’ about transit is just a wonderful thing.”

He called on Congress to dramatically increase the transit funding level in the next authorization bill to $123 billion over six years, as compared with $53 billion in SAFETEA-LU. Millar also noted that the current House climate change bill does not include transit, so he urged attendees to “keep working” to let their members of Congress understand the sector’s important role in the economy, the environment, and energy issues, all of which improve quality of life.

Millar announced that nearly 2.6 billion trips were taken on public transportation nationwide during the first quarter of 2009.  Despite significant declines in gasoline prices, increases in unemployment, a general economic downturn, and lower state and local revenue, he said, public transportation use in the first quarter nearly matched that of last year’s modern record first-quarter ridership—declining by only 1.2 percent.

Comments from Chairs, Officials
“Public transit makes it possible for people to knit their lives together,” APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., said at the session. She said the current moment for transit is “an extremely transformational period of time, the kind that only comes every 50 or 60 years,” adding: “If we don’t step up now, this will be one of the greatest lost opportunities we’ve seen.”

Scott also provided an overview of her major APTA initiatives, including the authorization effort; workforce development; APTA’s next Strategic Plan; and the Task Force on Governance and Committee Structure.

CTA Board Chair Carole L. Brown noted that her agency dates back to 1892 and needs fiscal and community support if it is to remain operational and keep meeting the community’s needs. “If we don’t address rail funding issues, we won’t have a rail transit legacy,” she pointed out. Echoing her remarks were CTA President Richard L. Rodriguez; Philip A. Pagano, executive director of Metra commuter rail; and Andrew Gruber, senior deputy executive director, legal and government affairs, for  Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority.

Also speaking during the session were APTA Vice Chair-Commuter and Intercity Rail David Solow, chief executive officer of the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in Los Angeles, and APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit Gary Thomas, president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit.

In prerecorded remarks, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood greeted conference participants and spoke about the key role of public transportation.

 

Speakers at the June 15 Opening General Session include, from left: William Millar; Peter M. Rogoff; Philip A. Pagano; Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.; Gary Thomas; Joseph C. Szabo; Carole L. Brown; Peter Gertler, representing HNTB Corporation, sponsor of the session; David Solow; Andrew Gruber; and Richard L. Rodriguez.
Photo by Brian Oh

How to Win Over Riders—and Keep Them: Tips for Enhancing the Customer Experience

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

What changes a choice rider into a “regular” rider? All the speakers at the June 15 “Service to Rail Customers—From Good to Great” workshop offered a range of answers and suggestions for other agencies to follow.

Metra
John Milano, senior director and senior associate general counsel, real estate and revenue development for Chicago’s Metra commuter rail system, cited the top two survey results that answered the question, “What keeps our people riding?” The answers: safe, on-time dependable performance, and value for money.

He also spoke of the importance of monthly labor/management meetings and “8:15” morning meetings, when all operations personnel convene to review the last 24 hours.

Metra’s biggest gain in customer satisfaction, the survey showed, was in its communications efforts during delays. “We spent a lot of money in customer-focused technology,” Milano said, citing the new public address systems in downtown stations, automated on-board announcements, and the Global Positioning Satellite system that sends automated messages back to the trains explaining delays. Metra also uses push/talk Nextel technology that provides conductors with up-to-the minute information they can deliver directly to the passengers.

“We are in the people-moving business, not the widget-moving business,” Milano said, noting how “you can’t beat face-to-face customer service.” For that reason, Metra has personnel in its stations, and has developed a Customer Assistance Team of rapidly deployable trained management officials who can assist with extraordinary events. The agency also has focused on weekend riders and recreational users, developing weekend pricing and easy-to-read travel guides mailed directly to likely drivers.

According to Metra’s last survey, 92 percent of riders would recommend the service to others. “That’s a pretty good number,” said Milano, “that gives us some room for improvement.”

BART
Aaron Weinstein, vice chair of the APTA Marketing and Communications Committee and marketing and research department manager for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), gave a presentation on “Demonstrating the Benefits of Reinvestment.”

BART was brand new in the 1970s, but by the early 1990s, it had done something “unexpected,” said Weinstein: “It got older.” The rail system showed its age with long lines, escalators frequently out of service, aging rolling stock, and worn-out seats. In 1998, he said, it hit a new ratings low—74 percent—and “people were beginning to abandon BART.”

In response, the agency launched a $1.2 billion reinvestment program that resulted in continued growth in satisfaction, peaking at 86 percent in 2004 and staying fairly stable in the last four years. The top gains in the past 10 years were reliability of ticket vending machines, 38.4 percent, and reliability of faregates, 26 percent.

Weinstein’s suggestions to other agencies included:

* Invest for success. “It takes a lot of money; you can’t do it incrementally. You really need to make a big push to replace equipment.”
* Start at the bottom. “The best time to start a customer satisfaction survey is when you’re limping along and it’s time to invest.”
* Use sound methodology. Make sure your sample is representative of your riders.
* Put your satisfaction to work. Every two years, “we time our surveys to coincide with our budget process, using it to inform spending priorities.”
* Celebrate success. “When your satisfaction survey has demonstrated positive results among your customers, engage your marketing professionals and communicators to reinforce your success. Reinforce your capital campaign, citing ‘your fare/tax dollars at work’—so they’ll know they’ve invested and there will be improvements coming.”

AMT Montreal
Joel Gauthier, president and chief executive officer of Montreal’s AMT (Agence Metropolitaine de transport), noted that, for a time, the system—with packed trains and “good press”—found it difficult to convince the government to invest. AMT was created in 1996 to respond to decreased transit ridership; since its creation, it has shown growth. This was achieved, Gauthier said, by creating three more commuter trains and taking into account suburban sprawl, where riders would tire of congestion and opt to use the less expensive and more reliable public transit.

However, last summer, he said: “We were leaving people on the platform every morning when gas was $4 a gallon—and that became a nightmare.” So the system switched from single-level to double-decker rolling stock, increasing its capacity.

“We were creative,” he said. Being mindful of the environment, AMT invested in dual-mode electric/diesel locomotives.

The service has fare integration, which allows passengers to use a single ticket or monthly pass on any mode. It instituted an annual pass system with the “reward” of one free month, and added heated shelters.

Because the key to dealing effectively with customer satisfaction is providing information, Gauthier said, AMT sends out text messages when there is a delay, and answers all e-mail within 48 hours. The system uses direct mail whenever it introduces new services or changes the schedule, and staff members meet with customers at designated stations twice a year.

Initially, the top staff at AMT was composed primarily of financial or operations people, Gauthier observed, so “we shifted the culture of the enterprise to make it customer-oriented.”

CTA
Jeffrey Busby, the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) general manager of strategic planning, said his agency has been measuring the customer experience since 1997, and its revised 2008 survey provides additional insights into the question: Who takes the El every day?

Busby noted that the composition of ridership had changed: “We are no longer just carrying people to and from work,” and the use of the system for non-commute trips “is a clear trend over time, speaking both to the vibrancy of the city and the relevance of CTA to people who are not ordinarily transit customers.”

The economic motivators he cited include gas and parking prices (greatest impact on infrequent customers) and a change in job situation and general cost of living increases (for commuters). “One of our successes,” said Busby, “is that we’re motivating people to leave their cars behind.”

Q&A
During the Q&A portion of the workshop (for which there was plenty of time because of the “crisp presentations,” commented moderator Neil Peterson, executive advisor, Booz Allen Hamilton), one person asked: “How do you keep customers happy when some projects might take years to complete?” Gauthier’s response was that AMT does not announce a project until it is nearly finished, so the agency can say that “within a span of 90 days, you can expect to see ‘x’ improvements.”

Another participant asked the speakers what “two things” they would implement to improve ridership. Milano said Metra’s most important attribute is on-time
performance and reliability, so the system is in the very early stages of rolling out “next train arrival.” The second thing would be continued infrastructure upgrades.

Gauthier responded by saying: “Invest for reliability, invest for comfort. Second, be very aggressive in informing your customers, as in, what time will you arrive.”

Weinstein called BART’s 78 percent of choice riders a “mixed blessing,” so his system’s “two things” would be on-time performance and service frequency, along with delay advisories.

In response to the question of steps an agency can take not to lose customers during massive rehabilitation projects, Peterson’s immediate response was: “Kill ’em with kindness. Put people on the platforms. Distribute special fare coupons. Suggest they take a bus or a taxi. Go way overboard.” Busby added: “Make sure people know there will be no service prior to their buying their tickets. Put signs at fare machines, but make sure the first thing riders read is ‘Service is disrupted.’”

One of the last suggestions by the panelists was to become comfortable with sharing information with outside parties, such as Google Transit. Said Gauthier: “As long as you get information to your customer, you’ll see satisfaction go up.”

Weinstein added that using other concerns can be a cost-saving strategy. “In many cases, other parties have built platforms we wouldn’t have been able to build ourselves,” he said. Further, he noted that BART held its first bloggers breakfast two weeks ago. “That’s the kind of transparency we’re moving toward,” he said.

 

Speakers at the “Service to Rail Customers—From Good to Great” session are, from left, John Milano, moderator Neil Peterson, Aaron Weinstein, Joel Gauthier, and Jeffrey Busby.
Photo by Brian Oh

Transit-Oriented Development: Defined by Green Stewardship

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Transit-oriented development (TOD) refers to a number of policies intended to bring together residential, business, and retail spaces in proximity to a public transportation station or hub.  As presented by experts from throughout North America at a June 16 session, however, that broad definition covered many different techniques for planning and economic development.

G.B. Arrington, co-chair of the APTA Land Use and Economic Development Subcommittee and principal practice leader with Parsons Brinckerhoff, gave a presentation on the Tysons Corner redevelopment project in Northern Virginia as well as moderated the session.

According to Arrington, Tysons Corner—located halfway between Washington, DC, and Dulles International Airport—is “arguably America’s largest TOD project” and “the original edge city, an example of sprawl on steroids.” The Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (Metro) plans to open four new Metrorail stations in the area by 2013 as part of a plan to transform an office and shopping region into a walkable, mixed-use downtown area.

“When we started with the process, the questions were: where do we put the growth? How do we want to go? What can we do to make TOD work?” Arrington said.

Within the Tysons plan, 95 percent of new growth will be located within a three-minute walk of transit, either Metro or a proposed shuttle service, he noted. Another change from the current overbuilt area will be the addition of 160 acres of new parks and more than 80,000 new residential units.

“When we’re done transforming Tysons, it will be one of the 10 largest downtowns in the U.S.,” Arrington stated. “It will be a place where people want to live, defined by green stewardship: the civic heart of Northern Virginia.”

Curvie Hawkins Jr., director of planning for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) in Fort Worth, TX, and Tim Baldwin, AICP, vice president of URS Corporation, reported on The T’s plans for commuter rail on a southwest-to-northwest corridor running from southwest Fort Worth and the north end of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Service is scheduled to begin in 2013, operating on existing freight rail lines.

Hawkins emphasized the role of the five affected jurisdictions in the planning process. When the line enters service, he said, it will help The T cope with ongoing population growth: the region gained 185,000 residents—equal to the population of Salt Lake City—between 2000 and 2009, and both population and county employment are projected to climb 41 percent by 2030.

“The new line will focus on serving activity centers rather than the traditional commuter,” he added. The line will cover Texas Christian University, the Medical District, downtown Fort Worth, the city’s Stockyards district, and the city of Grapevine en route to the airport.

“Our purpose,” Baldwin added, “was not to dictate land use decisions or tell cities how to develop around stations. We wanted to work with the corridor cities to explore their TOD potential—if they wanted it. Our aim was to increase long-term ridership.”

Art Washuta, regional vice president for AECOM, and Brad Smid, an employee of the city of Edmonton, AB, spoke about the ongoing expansion of light rail in the city, which began with a 6.9-kilometer line in 1978. When the newest extension opens in April 2010, Edmonton will have 20.5 km of light rail.

Washuta explained that Edmonton, the oil capital of Canada, has only 3,000 people per square mile; in contrast, Chicago has 13,000 people per square mile.

Heather Tabbert, AICP, program manager, special programs, for Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), described how transit overseen by her agency serves about eight million residents in a six-county area. RTA has four major TOD-related initiatives: planning programs, a regional working group, implementation action items, and a White Paper on value capture strategies.

The key elements in all of RTA’s local TOD studies must be realistic and implementable, said Tabbert. They must incorporate residential, office, and retail market analysis, and be developed with the help of the public.

Another region considering TOD is the South Coast area near Boston, which includes 31 cities and towns. Kristina Egan, South Coast rail manager for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation, noted plans are underway for a commuter rail corridor in that region.

“The rail line will provide mobility benefits, and also job access benefits,” she said. “It will give residents of this area access to the strong job market in the Boston area, while also creating jobs closer to home.”

 

G.B. Arrington, standing left, moderates the June 16 session on TOD challenges and opportunities. Panelists include, seated from left, Curvie Hawkins Jr., Tim Baldwin, Heather Tabbert, and Kristina Egan. Not shown are Art Washuta and Brad Smid.
Photo by Brian Oh

Can Rail Operators Improve Safety? ‘You Bet Your Life’

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

People who work around transit rail equipment—as well as drivers and pedestrians in rail corridors—can easily fall victim to injury or death if they don’t pay attention to their surroundings. A June 16 session titled “You Bet Your Life! Human Factor Risks in Operation and Right-of-Way Incidents” addressed this issue from the distinct vantage points of technical research, public transit agency implementation, and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) educational programs.

Geomatic Technologies has developed an electronic program to evaluate track condition without requiring foot patrols. David Petterson, business development executive for the company, called examining every inch of track on a railroad line “one of the most arduous and thankless tasks in the railroad industry,” and said it can be dangerous to the person walking along the track.

In contrast, the company’s Mechanized Track Inspection (MTI) allows employees at a remote site to evaluate by observing recorded rail, track, and corridor imagery from a vehicle, which operates in place of an on-track foot patrol.

MTI consists of two components. First, a field collection system mounted on a track vehicle collects synchronized positional and high-resolution digital image data of the rail, track, and corridor environment. Then the office system allows foot patrollers to use this data to find and identify defects in the rail corridor; it also provides a seamless interface to the railroad’s asset management system.

Petterson reported that MTI generally finds a higher number of defects than conventional foot patrols and provides a detailed report on typical track defects.  He added that the program leads to improved employee safety, increased flexibility, better defect management, and improved productivity.

New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) employees Janet M. Clark, director, communication services, and Barbara Lazzaro, safety education program specialist, gave a presentation about their agency’s educational efforts. Through partnerships with Operation Lifesaver and state agencies, NJ Transit uses a variety of media to spread the word about driving and walking safely around its trains.

Its Rail Crossing Enforcement Program focuses on safe driving behavior at grade crossings, using billboards, posters, handouts, and other media to promote the message. Schools can use an offshoot of that program targeted to teen drivers that warns about becoming distracted while driving near a grade crossing.

NJ Transit’s other safety efforts include the “Safety Rules” program for children, developed in house and now available for licensing by other agencies, and pedestrian safety messages on board trains and in stations.

Lazzaro presented excerpts from a video titled Look to Live, created in partnership with Operation Lifesaver, which presents six rail safety scenarios to teen drivers.

Levern McElveen, a safety and security specialist with FTA, showed a video titled A Knock at Your Door, recounting actual incidents during which rail transit employees were injured or killed. Family members of the victims participated in the making of the video, he said, allowing FTA to “tell the story in a personal and emotional way.”

McElveen stressed that the message of the video is simple and direct, saying: “The rules are important; don’t become complacent.”

The moderator for the session was Georgetta Gregory, program and project supervisor with the Consumer Protection and Safety Division of the California Public Utilities Commission.

 

From left: David Petterson, Georgetta Gregory, Levern McElveen, Janet M. Clark, and Barbara Lazzaro.
Photo by Brian Oh

Public-Private Partnerships: Challenges and Rewards

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

What are the challenges? Who will take on the risks? These questions and more were covered in the Monday afternoon session, “Public-Private Partnerships,” moderated by Michael I. Schneider, InfraConsult.

Philip A. Pagano, executive director, Metra, compared the PPP project of Metra with Union Pacific Railroad (UP) to a heart patient undergoing surgery to clear his arteries, “because that’s what we are doing—unclogging a major artery so freight and passenger trains can operate much more effectively and efficiently.”

For the area’s commuters, the joint project will provide several major benefits, including improving commuter trains’ on-time performance by 10-15 percent; easing pressure on the crowded Burlington Northern Santa Fe line by attracting riders to the improved UP West line; and increasing such safety features at stations as better pedestrian gates, more inter-track fencing, and a new “another train” warning system.

Dennis Duffy, executive vice president/operations, Union Pacific Railroad, who explained the numerous challenges Metra and UP had faced, said that overcoming the challenges was well worth the effort: “This project is a great benefit to both [our organizations].”

Robert Tuccillo, associate administrator for budget and policy, FTA, discussed public transit’s state of good repair by detailing the “FTA P3 [Public Private Partnership] Report to Congress,” calling it “a reference tool.” It presented an array of information, including the different types of PPPs, benefits, risk allocation and risk sharing (“one of the toughest ones to understand”), and their legal implications (“what kind of bonding requirements do you need, what state laws are in place?”). He noted that some of the keys to success in completing PPPs were political leadership, legal and financial expertise available up front, and the transfer of key risks to the private sector.

Kathryn Pett, partner, Nossaman LLP, delved into challenges and obstacles in developing contractual agreements that shift risk, noting that PPPs are “a different way of procuring and delivering projects.” Because PPP delivery may run counter to public procurement policies, the public sector, said Pett, “should be ready to tailor the procurement process on a case-by-case basis.” Some of the obstacles she cited, which vary from state to state, include appropriations restrictions; qualifications-based selection laws—not based on fees alone; conflict of interest laws that bar architects and engineers from being both designer and contractor for the same project; and a requirement for contractors to identify major subcontractors from the start.

Rod Diridon, chair of APTA’s High Speed and Intercity Rail Committee, board member of the CA High Speed Rail Authority, and executive director, Mineta Transportation Institute, gave an overview of the high-speed rail program, noting the support of both President Obama and Gov. Schwarzenegger, and joking that he had decided to go along with the program rather than “buck the Terminator.” Diridon noted that the $34 billion effort is “the biggest construction project in the history of the nation.” When it is completed (somewhere between 2020 and 2030, “depending on the financing available”), it will be 790 miles long.

Following Diridon was Alene Tchourumoff, manager finance practice, InfraConsult, who provided some of the details prepared by her firm regarding the contracting process. She cited a study that asked such questions as: What type of risk would you be willing to take (“All firms would accept the risks within their realms, such as construction companies would take construction risks.”); How do you balance the level of risk that the private sector takes on with what you’re going to have to pay for it?; and Who is the most efficient holder of which risks? She closed by noting: “You must have an efficient and competitive procurement process and must ensure that your enabling legislation is in place.”

Roger Moliere, chief, real property management and development, LA Metro, discussed “Leveraging Local Dollars: LA Metro’s PPP Program is Underway.” This project could not be moving forward, he said, if the voters hadn’t passed a sales tax initiative last November. He cited the goals of the PPP: accelerating delivery, reducing costs through contracting and construction methods, developing projects integrated with existing transit/highway infrastructure, and allocating risk.

Schneider closed the session by stressing that “our collective objective is to build projects to provide public mobility, not to create PPPs.” Calling them “a means to an end,” he said that APTA’s task force on the subject had concluded that PPPs cannot substitute for public policy, oversight, or resources.

 


 

Michael I. Schneider moderates the June 15 session on public-private partnerships. Panelists are, right photo from left, Philip A. Pagano, Dennis Duffy, Robert Tuccillo, Kathryn Pett, Rod Diridon, Alene Tchourumoff, and Roger Moliere.
Photos by Brian Oh

Learning About Safety from CEOs Who ‘Get It’

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Safe operation must be one of the key responsibilities for public transit operators, but they aren’t the only ones facing this challenge. Transit professionals and suppliers joined representatives of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) at a June 15 luncheon in Chicago titled “Leadership and Organizational Change—Starting with the Basics and CEOs Who ‘Get It.’”

John Ulczycki, group vice president-research, communication, and advocacy, National Safety Council, explained that the session took its title from his organization’s annual “CEOs Who Get It” award, which recognizes business and community leaders whose personal understanding of safety affects their corporate culture. Sir Moir Lockhead, chief executive and deputy chairman of FirstGroup, the parent company of First Transit, was among the most recent winners of this award.

For example, Ulczycki said, Lockhead made an executive decision to ban all his employees from using cell phones while on the job. The speaker cited statistics showing that drivers speaking on cell phones, hands-free or not, are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using the devices—and, just as important, individual drivers run the same risk as bus and rail operators.

“Whether or not legislators ban cell phone use while driving, CEOs who ‘get it’ already have,” he added. “Texting and e-mail may bring a greater risk, but talking leads to more crashes…Eighty percent of all crashes involve distraction.”

Capt. Jeff Bayless, managing director-aviation safety with United Airlines, described how the airline has a “laser focus” on the fact that safety is the basis for everything it and its employees do. He described the “positive culture” at United, which encourages employees to self-report errors without penalizing them, and how the airline follows up on these reports.

Amy Kovalan, vice president of safety for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), offered the case study of a 2006 derailment caused by track deterioration. The investigation of this incident, she said, led to a heightened investment in infrastructure renewal, with steps including analyzing the process; using the right tools and technology for each job; repeated employee training; and auditing the results.

Michael T. Flanigon, director of FTA’s Office of Safety, called on rail operators to work toward having no right-of-way fatalities, which he called “an achievable goal.” His primary example was Norfolk Southern, a freight railroad that has won 20 consecutive E.H. Harriman Awards for safety from the Association of American Railroads.

Picking up from Ulczycki’s comments about establishing a safety culture at work, Flanigon stressed that “it’s not enough to have safety rules; you must have a strong culture of following those rules” while working for continuous improvement.

“People are going to do what’s expected of them,” added Carmen Bianco, an executive consultant with Behavioral Science Technology Inc. “We must create a culture that is truly supportive of safety,” he said, defining such a work atmosphere as a series of concentric circles: a personal safety ethic is in the center, surrounded by leadership style; best practices; and organizational culture.

Thomas F. Prendergast, chair of the APTA Standards Development Oversight Council and chief executive officer, South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink), Burnaby, BC, presided at the luncheon program.

 

Speakers at the June 15 luncheon session include, from left, Thomas Prendergast, John Ulczycki, Capt. Jeff Bayless, Amy Kovalan, Michael T. Flanigon, and Carmen Bianco.
Photo by Brian Oh

Los Angeles Metro Again Takes Top Spot in Rail Rodeo

Los Angeles Metro earned the top honor, the Team Achievement Award, for the second consecutive year at the 17th Annual APTA International Rail Rodeo, held June 13 at the Chicago Transit Authority’s Skokie Yard. Rodeo award winners received their honors June 14 at the first Rail Rodeo Banquet, held in conjunction with the APTA Rail Conference in Chicago.

The Team Achievement Award goes to the competing public transportation system with the highest combined score in the operators’ and maintainers’ competitions.

The maintenance team from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia—Jason Rickert, Mike O’Grady, and Ed Carruthers—took first place in the maintenance competition. Second place went to the Los Angeles Metro team, which included Eric Czintos, Ronnie Burt, and Glen Abraham, while Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) came in third with a team comprised of James Bledsoe, Alford Fisher, and Robert White.

In the operators’ contest, Danai Lambert and William Collart of the Sacramento Regional Transit District placed first, with Los Angeles Metro’s Robert Rodriguez in second place and the TriMet team of Laura Walker and David White in third.

Fifty-two contestants representing 11 public transit agencies participated in the rail rodeo: 32 maintenance workers and 20 operators.

 

Gary Thomas, left, APTA vice chair-rail transit, presents the Team Achievement Award to representatives of Los Angeles Metro at the first Rail Rodeo Banquet, June 14 in Chicago. Members of the authority’s maintenance team are, from sixth from left, Eric Czintos, Glen Abraham, and Ronnie Burt; operator Robert Rodriguez is third from right. Also participating in the award presentation are APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., fifth from right, and First Vice Chair M.P. Carter, second from right.
Photos by Brian Oh

 

The maintainers’ team members from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority—from left, Ed Carruthers, Mike O’Grady, and Jason Rickert—take first place in their competition at the rail rodeo.

 

William Collart, left, and Danai Lambert accept the first-place operators’ honor on behalf of the Sacramento Regional Transit District.

Honolulu, Chicago Seek Sustainable Solutions; Closing General Session Covers Green Alternatives

BY CARMEN GRECO JR., Special to Passenger Transport

Environmentally sustainable transit systems that work to attack climate change and global warming were in the spotlight during the June 17 Closing General Session of APTA’s 2009 Rail Conference in Chicago.

Session participants heard from Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Sadhu A. Johnston, chief environmental officer for the Chicago mayor’s office. The choice of speakers was no accident, as both cities are at the forefront of new transportation solutions to reduce carbon emissions in heavily-congested urban centers.

Hannemann outlined his city’s plan to build a new 20-mile light rail loop on the island. Voters approved a 0.5 percent increase in the island’s excise tax to help fund the project, which he said is finally on a fast track now that President Barack Obama is committing billions of ARRA dollars to fund new transit projects.

He said Hawaii has no choice but to build the light rail project as the area has seen its gas usage double over the past 20 years to 290 million gallons per year, pumping close to 5.8 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

“The only real choice for us is to turn to transit,” the mayor said. “There is no road space to expand from the mountains to the seas, and that inspired us to build this light rail system. We have to give the people more choices. That’s what we lack today. We have so many cars on this island. We have as many registered cars as we do residents.”

Hannemann continued: “The timing is right. We have a president who is embracing it. We ignore climate change at our own peril.”

Johnston touted Chicago’s efforts to become “the greenest city in America” by implementing new systems and infrastructure enhancements to its commuter trains and buses. Adding 12,000 bike racks at transit stations, building 120 miles of roadside bike lanes, and starting carpooling and car-sharing programs have helped the city reduce its carbon emissions by 1 percent per year since 2002, he said.

He noted that Chicago is also converting bus engines to operate on biodiesel and ethanol, establishing recycling programs on trains and buses, and repaving streets and alleys with photo-catalytic cement, a reflective material that reduces heat and lessens smog.

The cement “has a chemical reaction with the sun and the smog and it keeps the material white and reflects the heat up,” Johnston said. “It eats smog about eight feet above where people are walking. We will be the first city in the U.S. to use this material on streets and alleys.”

Twenty-one percent of Chicago’s green efforts focus on new transportation projects and programs, he said, adding: “Transit is integral to a green city. We need to promote transit-oriented development, invest more, and make transit easier for people to take. Promoting alternative forms of getting around, from walking to biking, is always important.”

Michael Townes, president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Transit in Hampton, VA, and immediate past APTA chair, praised the Honolulu and Chicago leaders for making transportation systems greener and adapting new infrastructure and operations for the 21st century.

“Chicago and Honolulu are leading the way on sustainability," said Townes, who presided over the closing session. “Both know what it means to take a comprehensive approach. What we do every day will enhance the sustainability of the communities we serve.”

Hideyuki Ninomiya, director, transportation systems and equipment, for Sumitomo Corporation of America, introduced Hannemann. Nippon Sharyo/Sumitomo Corporation of America sponsored the session.

Advances in Fare Collection Technology Presented

BY MARTIN SCHROEDER, Senior Program Manager-Rail Programs

The key question at the June 16 session “Fare Collection Technology Reaches Adolescence” was: Is fare collection technology mature or still in need of training wheels?

Tim Weisenberger, electronic payments program manager with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and the session’s moderator, opened with this question, then followed with a timeline of how far the industry has come. At this heavily attended session, panel members provided a thorough look at technology, standards, system implementation, payment and international cooperation that together are defining a myriad of fare system design options.

David Weir, Translink senior program coordinator for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in Oakland, CA, provided an overview of Translink’s smart card-based fare collection system, which now integrates 26 transit agencies in the San Francisco Bay area. In addition to traditional gated systems like the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Translink operates with proof-of-payment processes in use with Caltrain commuter trains; future plans are underway for incorporating parking products that will use the Smartlink card.

On-board commuter fare collection and inspection was also the topic of David Kutrosky, deputy managing director of the Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority in Oakland. The system can use wireless communication to issue and validate Amtrak tickets on board, using 100 percent fare inspection with hand-held devices. This technology generated extensive discussion.

Standards development—including application of the APTA Contactless Fare Media System standard and ISO’s international standards—were addressed by Brian Stein, sales manager with Giesecke & Devrient America, and Chung Chung Tam, revenue systems engineer, Chicago Transit Authority. They discussed how U.S. and international efforts see mobile phones as an ideal platform for fare systems that leverage the flexibility of the phones while encouraging competition in the payments market to reduce transit transaction costs and expand patron choice.

Brian Zingg, senior vice president, business development, for Payspot, provided insight into alternative payment approaches using third-party reloadable debit systems such as e-Pay, which serves 34,000 retail locations nationwide. These systems reduce transaction processing costs from those associated with credit cards while minimizing use of cash.

A lively question-and-answer period followed the presentations, which painted a vivid picture of advances in fare collection technology. Is fare system design in a stage of adolescence? Maybe, but it’s looking more like a rebirth.

Balancing New Technologies with Old Infrastructure

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Staying current with technology is a challenge for any public transportation system, but it’s especially difficult for a transit agency with an extensive built infrastructure that requires retrofitting to make the job work.

“When we think of new technology, we look at it with optimism,” said moderator Jonathan H. McDonald, chair of the APTA Research and Technology Committee and principal-managing leader of Stantec Consulting Inc., during a June 15 session at the APTA Rail Conference “But when we have to implement that new technology in an existing infrastructure, we face challenges.”

Herb Nitz, manager, communications engineering and development, for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), presented an overview of installing advanced communications technologies in a century-old rail transit system.

CTA built its first elevated line in 1892, and that line is still in operation; the newest El route, the Orange Line, entered service in 1993. Most of the agency’s elevated and subway lines opened in the 1940s and 1950s, Nitz said, meaning that the telephone and public address technologies serving the lines date back to the 1950s.

When CTA began instituting newer technologies—installing the first multiplexed communications on the O’Hare Extension in 1984, the first optical system on the Orange Line at the time of its opening, and expanding fiber optic use during the 1996 rehabilitation of the Green Line—“we took stock of what we had to provide state-of-the-art communications infrastructure that supports all voice, data, and video needs of the CTA,” Nitz explained. “We needed the communications system to be reliable, redundant, innovative, scalable, able to adjust to and take advantage of new technologies, maximize investment, and minimize operating and maintenance costs.”

Today, CTA has installed fiber optics in all 144 of its rail stations, but the agency isn’t finished yet. “Now we’re looking at advanced systems we would never have dreamed of five years ago,” Nitz said, such as a closed circuit television/security network and a wireless video network that now also incorporates the more than 12,000 security cameras on CTA’s bus fleet.

Ron Keppel of Emcom Systems used the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) emergency call box modernization project in Philadelphia as an example of the implementation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications. Because the exterior call boxes were still in good shape and expensive to replace, SEPTA chose a multiple-step process of upgrading the internal circuits and creating a VoIP-based system similar to a local area network.

“At this juncture, there are over 400 emergency call boxes and wayside phones connected to the SEPTA system, and that’s just the beginning,” Keppel said. “Once the VoIP network is in place, it will be relatively easy to add on to it: cashier booth intercoms; elevator phones; a new public address system and radio; and a video controller.”

Stephen Rayment, chief technology officer for BelAir Networks, reported on the incorporation of his firm’s wireless technologies into trains, stations, and rail yards. He pointed to the growing prevalence of personal wireless electronic devices and how it has led to widespread interest in WiFi opportunities on board rail vehicles and in stations.

“Originally, riders were interested in accessing the Internet on the train,” Rayment noted. “Now, there’s so much more: on-train ticketing and, seat reservations, working with conductors equipped with handheld devices; train mechanical telematics and diagnostics; driver performance monitoring; even car location tracking along line and in train yards.”

Increased rider safety is another benefit of this technology, according to Rayment: real-time closed circuit television; radiation, chemical, and smoke sensors; and improved intercom connections.

Michael Fitzmaurice, MASC, P.E., senior communications/communications-based train control engineer for Parsons Corporation, described the impact of underground distributed antenna systems for wireless communications. Transit tunnels provide limited space for underground antennas, he said, as well as external threats such as water leaks.

Fitzmaurice presented an overview of the different antenna technologies and how they could work for various transit applications.

 

Participants in the "Implementing New Technology in Older Infrastructure" session are, from left, moderator Jonathan H. McDonald, Michael Fitzmaurice, Herb Nitz, Ron Keppel, and Stephen Rayment.
Photo by Brian Oh

More Scenes from the Rail Conference

 

APTA Rail Conference attendees listen to Metra Executive Director Philip Pagano during the June 15 Opening General Session at the Hilton Chicago. More than 1,000 people attended the conference.

 

The June 16 Rail Products & Services Showcase brought together 65 companies in 77 booths—nearly twice as many as last year—to present new ideas in rail technologies and components.

 

Graduate students from Virginia Tech's Industrial Design Program School of Architecture and Urban Design present their visions of the next generation of intercity rail at a June 16 session on advances in rolling stock technology.

 

An exhibit on sustainable transportation, created by the Swiss Embassy in collaboration with APTA and the Swiss Federal Office of Transport, presented information on infrastructure and maintenance, land use development, long-term financing and funding plans, and high-quality and sustainable solutions.

Doug Eadie on Leadership—The Empowering CEO: Talking with David Boggs

BY DOUG EADIE

The chief executive officer as Heroic Leader is a pretty attractive figure to most of us, and most of us probably think of the U.S. presidency in these terms. Guided by a clear vision for the future that he or she aspires to create and blessed with the communication skills required to paint a vivid picture of that vision for others, the Heroic Leader inspires optimism, enthusiasm, and commitment.

The Heroic Leader energizes people, and that’s an obviously critical facet of CEO-ship, especially in troubled times that test our mettle and invite self-defeating pessimism.

But the Heroic Leader model, while inspiring and even essential in times of crisis, is really quite limited and doesn’t begin to capture the full value that CEOs bring to their organizations. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of the time our public transportation systems aren’t contending with the extraordinary crises that demand heroic leadership. Rather, day after day after day they function in a changing, challenging world that demands a different kind of CEO, what I call the Empowering Leader.

The Empowering Leader is passionately committed to growing the people around him or her: building their capacity to lead and manage, helping them learn to grapple with the day-to-day issues that determine organizational effectiveness.

One of the most impressive Empowering Leaders I’ve met over the past quarter-century is David Boggs, who has been executive director and CEO of the Regional Public Transportation Authority (popularly known as Valley Metro) in the Phoenix metropolitan area since April 2005. Despite his 40 years of incredibly diverse executive experience—including 14 years in the for-profit sector, 30 years in transportation, seven years as a chief financial officer, and 17 years as a CEO—David is a thoroughly modern leader who has blazed trails in empowering the people around him.

I recently spent a fascinating couple of hours talking with this Empowering Leader about his approaches to human capacity building at Valley Metro.

Doug: David, the term “empowerment” seems like a buzzword to many people. Talk about what it means to you as a CEO.

David: Well, Doug, to me it’s much, much more than just a political slogan: it’s almost the definition of the mission of the modern CEO. I learned really early in my life—working in Dad’s department store, becoming an Eagle Scout—that being a one-man band won’t get you very far, and as I worked my way up in the field of management, from operations analyst to CFO and eventually CEO, two things became crystal-clear: first, organizations are above all else the people making them up; second, helping those people become better at doing their jobs is the pre-eminent route to organizational success. Sure, you’ve got to have planning, you need operating systems, facilities, equipment—those things are indispensable—but people top the list in my book, and always have.

Now, I have heard “empowerment” used as a political slogan, but when I think of empowering people, I think of three very practical things I regularly do as a CEO to help them become more effective members of the Valley Metro team: ensure that there is a strategic framework that their work fits into and that they understand; show them that I really do care about them as human beings; and put in place effective education and training programs aimed at updating and sharpening their leadership and management skills.

Doug: Give me some practical examples of your work as an Empowering Leader at Valley Metro.

David: On the strategic front, we’ve invested heavily in long-range planning at Valley Metro, and with the enthusiastic support and participation of my Board of Directors, which represents the 15 governmental entities making up Valley Metro, we have developed a 20-year blueprint to guide development of our regional transportation system, and we make sure that our employees understand where they fit in the grand scheme of things—where this whole shebang is headed over the long run.

At a more nuts and bolts level, and at the more “touchy-feely” end of the spectrum, I make a point of being a very visible, highly accessible CEO internally, and my people really do know that I’m genuinely interested in them. I use a lot of humor to keep the culture fun, even though we work very hard. And my office door really is open to anyone who needs to see me, for any reason.

I also make it a point to get out of headquarters as much as possible to visit the people on the front lines who keep the system running. When my wife and I are in town on Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, I make on-site visits to the people who are working, not celebrating, so they know we really do care about the personal sacrifice they’re making.

Doug: What about education and training, David?

David: Experience has taught me that education and empowerment go hand-in-hand, Doug, and I take my role as Educator-in-Chief at Valley Metro very seriously. Drawing on my 40 years of leading and managing, I was inspired to develop a detailed course—people at Valley Metro call it the “Boggs Method”—on executive leadership and management that I actually teach periodically. We get into things like the key elements of leadership and management, how to communicate effectively, time management, and handling the emotional/psychological dimension of management.

I want to point out that informal teaching is just as important as what we do in the classroom, and as Educator-in-Chief at Valley Metro one of my most important roles is to set high expectations for my people, to give them the opportunity to grow, and to help them learn through experience.

You know, Doug, when I arrived on the scene at Valley Metro, I found an organization without much credibility and a staff that wasn’t very respected in the region. I’m not an aficionado of the slash and burn school of leadership, so I spent my first few months on the job listening and learning, rather than “cleaning house,” and it was soon clear to me that we were blessed with good people who hadn’t been allowed to excel. Well, we soon faced a trial by fire that turned out to be a phenomenal growth experience for my team, the great majority of whom are still in place today, by the way. To make a long story short, we were forced to convert to a new contractor, and the political and technical complexities involved made this a true crisis. Working day and night, we pulled it off, and in the process we got a huge jolt of self-esteem. This is empowerment in the purest sense!

Doug: You’ve talked about empowering staff, David, but what about your Board of Directors?

David: I’m really fortunate to have 15 board members who are extremely supportive and solidly committed to the cause of regional development generally and to Valley Metro. But Empowering Leaders, in my opinion, are responsible for helping their boards become more effective governing bodies.

One way this plays out in practice is providing the board with top-notch, empowered staff who make it possible for board members to deal effectively with complex, high-stakes issues. I also spend a significant amount of time with our board members, visiting them individually and attending events on their home turf. The bottom line is to “over” communicate at all levels, and to stay focused on what is truly relevant, without losing sight of the future!

Doug Eadie is president & CEO of Doug Eadie & Company. You can reach Doug here.