Passenger Transport - July 6, 2009
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Climate Bill with Limited Transit Funding Passes House

The climate change legislation—the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES)—that passed the full House by a seven-vote margin on June 26 includes provisions that will benefit public transportation agencies.

The legislation, approved by a vote of 219 to 212, will permit states to apply up to just less than 1 percent of their clean energy and energy efficiency investment funds for transportation. “Because of this action, states now will be able to use these allowances to fulfill matching requirements to receive federal funds for projects such as public transportation systems and clean fuel buses,” said APTA President William Millar.

Millar noted that including transit agencies in ACES will help them implement clean transportation projects that will have a positive impact on climate change, which he called “a positive step in the right direction toward solving some of the most pressing challenges facing our country today.”

The bill will go to the Senate following the week-long Fourth of July recess, which began June 26.

FTA Awards $2.22 Billion in Recovery Act Grants

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has now awarded 221 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants totaling $2.22 billion to public transit agencies across the U.S. Another 346 grants worth a total of $3.8 billion are pending.

As part of the Obama Administration’s effort to infuse ARRA funds into the economy, states were required under the Recovery Act to obligate 50 percent of their highway funds by June 29. Working in coordination with U.S. DOT, the 55 U.S. states and territories beat this deadline at least 10 days ahead of schedule.

Vice President Joe Biden and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke at an ARRA event on June 25 about the value of these projects.

“Our number one priority with the Recovery Act is getting folks back to work—and there is no better way to do that in these early days than by putting shovels in the ground and jump-starting projects like these that create jobs and boost local communities,” Biden said. “By delivering on these projects ahead of schedule and under-budget, we have been able to do even more than we expected: create more job opportunities more quickly, with more dollars left over to put toward more projects that put people back on the job.”

LaHood added: “Every state not only met the 120-day deadline, they beat it. This is a testament to the fact that we’re putting money out there quickly and helping to get the economy back on track.”

ARRA Funds Benefit Many Modes of Transit

As the Federal Transit Administration releases more American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding to public transit agencies, here is information on how some of the grant recipients are using their funds.

The Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority (MMVTA) in Charleroi, PA, is using its $1.5 million grant for an intermodal facility in the city of Donora—where industrial smog led to 20 deaths in 1948, launching the environmental effort that culminated in passage of the Clean Air Act.

Mark Roncone, director of marketing, noted that the ARRA grant will help MMVTA complete the first of two phases of the project—construction of an 11,000-square-foot maintenance garage. The second phase, to be financed with future funding, will include indoor housing for all vehicles and a facility that offers bike racks, bus shelters, waiting and parking areas, ticketing and information counters, and connections with other regional operators. Donora has been designated as a distressed borough, and this project supports borough revitalization efforts.

Roncone explained that MMVTA contracts out all its operating services and rents its current facility from a contractor. The new building will belong to the authority.

Los Angeles Metro will replace two traction power substations for Metro Blue Line light rail, as well as associated electrical support systems along the line right-of-way and yard, with its $8.2 million ARRA grant. This funding will go toward a $50 million project that ultimately will replace more than 20 of the substations.

Cost analysis favored replacing the existing substations, which are becoming obsolete and inefficient. Difficulty in obtaining spare parts makes a major overhaul impractical, said Michael Harris-Gifford, Metro’s deputy executive officer for wayside systems and rail vehicle acquisition.

The San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) in Stockton, CA, is receiving $6.9 million in ARRA funds, of which “the lion’s share is going toward preventive maintenance,” said Paul Rapp, marketing and communications manager. “We’re using other funds for bus improvements and passenger amenities, as well as money for Phase II of our Bus Rapid Transit project.”

Specific capital improvements funded by the grant will include construction of the Mall Transfer Station; design of the Regional Operations Center; computer/communications equipment and software; and safety and security equipment.

In New Orleans, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) plans to use a $2.4 million ARRA grant for improvements to the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line. The main components of the project are vehicle maintenance and the expedited replacement of decaying wooden crossties with composite ties expected to last 50 years.

“The crosstie project was previously in the works in-house; however, we did not have the staff to complete the project, nor did RTA have the money to contract it out,” explained RTA spokesperson Rosalind Blanco Cook. The new crossties are made from a plastic composite that will not mildew or rot and is not affected by ultraviolet rays.

RTA will use a second ARRA grant, for $14.9 million, for a variety of purposes including the purchase of five articulated buses, seven kiosks, and 300 bus shelters, plus the rehabilitation of the 3900 block of Desire Parkway, a street used exclusively by the authority.

Metra commuter rail in Chicago recently received $46.6 million in ARRA funds, part of an overall $141 million the system expects to obtain under the program. The current grant will allow Metra to rehabilitate bridges on the Electric and Union Pacific North lines and replace fiber optic cable on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe commuter rail line.

Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis noted that the total $141 million amount also includes station restorations, parking expansion, locomotive remanufacturing, and the construction of a new station.

WMATA Collision Spurs Talks on Infrastructure Investment

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

The June 22 fatal rail accident on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Red Line has sparked renewed discussion and debate about the need for increased federal investment to keep our nation’s public transportation infrastructure in a state of good repair, particularly as systems age.

While approximately $60 billion annually from all sources is necessary to cover infrastructure requirements, only $14.5 billion of that is currently being spent. This situation applies to transit agencies across the country, many of which are experiencing strained budgets.

“We have known for some time that our public transportation infrastructure and rolling stock are in a general state of disrepair for lack of funding,” said James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has begun crafting a new surface transportation authorization bill that would provide nearly $100 billion over the next six years to help bring transit systems into a state of good repair. It would also provide $50 billion for mobility improvement projects in major metropolitan areas.

“We cannot afford to wait while our transit systems deteriorate further, perhaps leading to more tragedies as we saw on Metro,” he said, adding: “We must act and act quickly to get transit back on track.”

Discussion has also focused on the importance of local funding. For years, WMATA has called for a local dedicated funding source, saying it is the largest system in the U.S. without such monetary support. Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), who tried to bring about increased Metro funding before retiring last year, noted that the agency has not had the necessary funding for a decade.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is continuing its investigation to determine why the trains collided, with the stationary train stopped between the Fort Totten Station in Northeast Washington, DC, and the Takoma Station near the District-Maryland line. Nine people died in this accident, including one train operator; more than 70 people were injured.

NTSB is examining every aspect of the accident, including the automatic train control system; braking system; actions of the operators; and crashworthiness of the vehicles.


Hilton Hotels Reach Out to Victims’ Families

As family members arrive for services for the victims of the Metro accident, Hilton Hotels is working with WMATA to coordinate rooms and hotels to accommodate them.

“This calamity affected all of us,” said Dorothy L. Capson, director of sales-Worldwide Accounts for Hilton Hotels. The metropolitan DC area is home to nine Hilton Family hotels, and several—including Hilton Alexandria Old Town in Alexandria, VA, and the Capital Hilton and Hilton Washington, both in downtown—have already offered complimentary rooms for immediate family members, including grandparents. For other family members, or if not enough comped rooms are available, Capson said the hotels will offer special “Friends and Family” rates.

To ensure that families are housed in hotels near where services will take place, she said: “As soon as we receive the names and dates, then I will pair them up with the hotels so it’s a good geographical fit.”

Added Utah-based Capson: “I’m an avid Metro fan and I use it whenever I come to DC. So to me, those were my ‘fellow commuters.’”

Largest Transit Public Works Project in Nation Breaks Ground; NJ Transit, Port Authority Partner on Trans-Hudson Connection

The largest transit public works project in the nation broke ground in June with the launch of the $8.7 billion Mass Transit Tunnel project between New York and New Jersey. New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey are partnering on this effort, which ultimately will include two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River and an expanded New York Penn Station. The result? Doubled capacity on the nation’s busiest rail corridor, which runs from Washington, DC, to Boston.

Among those in attendance were New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Federal Transit Administrator (FTA) Peter M. Rogoff. Corzine called the project “a transportation imperative for the state, the region, and the nation” that “will create thousands of jobs for hardworking families across the region, promote better mobility, and provide enormous environmental benefits.”

An Early Systems Work Agreement (ESWA) with the administration will provide $1.35 billion in funding for the early phases of the project, about half of which is from federal sources including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The agreement includes a down payment of $400 million from FTA, part of a total $3 million; $130 million in ARRA funds; and $125 million in federal highway congestion mitigation funds.

According to Rogoff, this is the largest commitment to any transportation project in American in the history of U.S. DOT. “The Obama Administration is thrilled to partner with New Jersey to build this truly transformational investment,” he said. “It will improve the lives of thousands by shortening their commute—and, best of all, it will create jobs now!”

“As we start digging this tunnel,” said Menendez, “we’re helping to dig out of our economic crisis. As we’re getting underway, we’re seeing the Recovery Act pay dividends right now—and we’re literally laying the groundwork for recovery.”

This venture—termed ARC, for Access to the Region’s Core—will double trans-Hudson River rail capacity by adding two new single-track tunnels. ARC will both supplement the existing two tracks, which opened for service in 1910 and now are pushed to their functional limits each commuting day, and expand New York Penn Station with a new facility specifically designed to meet the high-ridership needs of a modern commuter rail system. This development will allow 48 peak-period trains per hour to operate between New Jersey and New York, up from the current 23; this growth will accommodate twice as many passengers, from 46,000 each morning peak period now to 90,000 by 2030.

“Today this project finally moves from the drawing board to construction,” said Port Authority Executive Director Chris Ward. “The Port Authority is proud to be part of a project that will allow tens of thousands of people to move more easily around the region.”

“The Mass Transit Tunnel will give more access across the state to our rail system with better capacity, enhanced reliability, and fewer transfers to major destinations in New Jersey and New York,” said NJ Transit Executive Director Richard R. Sarles. “It delivers better rail service for more, and improves the quality of life for our travelers.”

Susan Bass Levin, first deputy executive director of the Port Authority, noted the long-term reach of the project, calling it a “tool to unite communities, spur economic development, and create opportunity. ARC will transform the way people move in, out, and through the region for generations to come.”

According to NJ Transit, ARC is expected to generate and sustain 6,000 jobs through the construction phase and 44,000 permanent jobs. Moreover, it will improve transportation in the tri-state area by relieving traffic congestion and decrease air pollution through reduced emissions.

CCAP Study: Improved Transportation Choices Mean Better Air, More Savings

While many greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction studies fail to include smart growth and improved transportation choices, the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) study—Cost-Effective GHG Reductions Through Smart Growth & Improved Transportation Choices: An Economic Case for Strategic Investment of Cap-and Trade Revenues—shows how these policies can reduce by 10 percent per capita from 2005 levels the amount Americans need to drive, as measured in vehicle miles traveled (VMT).

This reduction in per capita VMT would reduce annual transportation emissions by 145 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 30 million cars or 35 large coal plants and approximately 6 percent of the 2030 GHG reduction goal proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). This legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives June 26.

“We cannot address climate change without addressing transportation emissions,” said Steve Winkelman, CCAP director of transportation and adaptation programs. “Our analysis indicates that we can achieve transportation emissions reductions with significant economic benefits, yielding net cost savings per ton of CO2, when factoring in avoided infrastructure costs, consumer fuel and insurance cost savings, and projected tax revenue growth from high value economic development.”

CCAP reviewed a number of reports and case studies about U.S. cities and states to demonstrate the positive environmental and economic effects of smarter land use and transportation choices. For example, Sacramento projects GHG savings of 7.2 million metric tons of CO2 by 2050, while saving $9 billion in infrastructure costs and $380 million in annual consumer fuel costs, yielding a net economic benefit of almost $200 per ton of CO2 saved. In Portland, OR, investments in bicycle infrastructure will reduce CO 2 emissions by 0.7 million metric tons, with net economic benefits of more than $1,000 per ton saved. 

This study demonstrates that achieving economy-wide emissions reductions will be less costly if strategies include smart growth and improved travel choices.  CCAP therefore recommends dedicating 10 percent of national cap-and-trade allowance value to smart growth and improved transportation choices. Winkelman said such an investment would jump start smarter land use and transportation choices at the local, regional, and state levels while lowering economy-wide GHG mitigation costs.

CCAP created the report with input from Transportation for America, Smart Growth America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Rails to Trails, and HDR. The study is available online.

Reports Illustrate Economic Benefits of Clean Energy

The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts has released two complementary reports that demonstrate how clean energy can lead to economic growth and increased living standards.

Green Prosperity: How Clean-Energy Policies Can Fight Poverty and Raise Living Standards in the United States, co-commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Green for All, and The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy: How the Economic Stimulus Program and New Legislation Can Boost U.S. Economic Growth and Employment, commissioned by the Center for American Progress, consider the impact of investments in clean energy as Congress debates the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).

The reports show that clean energy investments at the level of about $150 billion per year, or about 1 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, can generate about 1.7 million net new jobs throughout the U.S. economy. The process will receive federal support from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and ACES, which will lead to increased investment in clean technologies through the private sector.

“The United States faces an enormous challenge—successfully managing the transformation from a carbon-intensive economy to becoming a predominantly clean-energy-based economy. This economic transformation will engage a huge range of people and activities,” a PERI spokesperson said at the June 18 release event. “Specifically, we need to gauge our success in curbing CO2 emissions alongside the broader effects on the U.S. economy, particularly on employment opportunities, economic growth, and people’s incomes.”

The text of both reports is available online.

Kempton Leaves Caltrans to Head OCTA

Will Kempton, head of California DOT (Caltrans) for the past five years, is joining the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in Orange, CA, as its next chief executive officer. He plans to begin Aug. 3 and succeed Art Leahy, who left OCTA to head Los Angeles Metro.

Kempton is a 35-year veteran of the transportation industry, appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 to run Caltrans. He will remain at that post until July 31.

“Finding a new CEO for OCTA with Will Kempton’s transportation knowledge and experience at a time like this is a grand-slam home run for us and for everyone in Orange County,” said OCTA Chairman Peter Buffa. “Will is one of the most respected leaders in transportation in the country, with a rock-solid reputation that will serve us well.”

Kempton also recently served as assistant city manager for the city of Folsom and on the city’s park and recreation commission.

“Will has been an incredible driving force behind rebuilding California’s infrastructure and especially instrumental in quickly moving federal stimulus dollars out the door to transportation projects around the state,” Schwarzenegger said. “I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Will for his incredible work and service to the people of California, and I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.”

The governor named Randell H. Iwasaki to succeed Kempton at Caltrans, effective Aug. 1. Iwasaki has held several engineering and managerial positions at Caltrans over the past 26 years, serving as chief deputy director since 2005.

'Parade’ Poll Considers Transit Authorization Bill

The question of whether to shift some federal highway and bridge funding to public transit is stirring up enough interest that it is the topic of an opt-in poll conducted by Parade magazine.

The link to the yes-or-no question—“Should America divert some funding from highways and bridges to invest in public transit?”—appeared in the June 14 issue of the publication.

As Passenger Transport went to press on June 30, support for and opposition to the measure were tied at 50 percent on each side of the question. Parade reported that that the poll has received approximately 4,600 votes.

The survey accompanied a news story in the magazine discussing the upcoming federal transportation authorization bill, which Parade said “could be the biggest overhaul of America’s transportation priorities since the Eisenhower Administration paved the way for the nation’s interstate highway system in the 1950s.”

July 10 Webinar Focuses on APTA Governance Proposal

APTA invites and encourages its members to participate in a July 10 webinar that will describe recommended changes in the make-up of the association’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors. The webinar—hosted by the co-chairs of the Governance and Committee Structure Task Force, Sharon Greene, APTA vice chair-business members and principal of Sharon Greene & Associates, and Michael Townes, APTA’s immediate past chair and president and chief executive officer of Hampton Roads Transit—will begin at noon Eastern Daylight Time and is expected to last 90 minutes.

Members wishing to participate in the free webinar are asked to register in advance. It is open to all interested APTA members.

“We got some terrific questions and suggestions at a listening session held for APTA members on June 16 in Chicago,” Greene said, “and we’re looking forward to more great input during the webinar. Our task force continues to refine the details of the proposal that we will be giving the APTA Executive Committee at the end of July, and comments and suggestions from all segments of the APTA membership are important to us.”

The proposal for the APTA Executive Committee recommends changing the current vice chair positions to at-large positions for which candidates would run without portfolio, as well as the number of positions and changing the length of their terms from three years to two. The proposed changes to the APTA Board of Directors include adding the chairs of 25 of APTA’s committees to the board and reallocating the distribution of the current seats on the board. The webinar will include full details of the task force proposal, which were also covered in the May 25 issue of Passenger Transport.

“We believe that these changes will better position our association to lead the industry in the future as it works towards realizing TransitVision 2050, and to make it more effective in addressing current issues,” Townes noted. “As we look towards the future, strengthening the role of our committees and engaging all sectors of our membership in the governance process is important. These proposals help us cultivate the new leadership that we will need in the years ahead and create a structure that will bring the best talent forward to lead APTA in the future.”

At the Chicago listening session on the governance structure held during the APTA Rail Conference, participants said they believe the proposal would allow more people the opportunity to be on the Executive Committee, rather than keeping the same people involved year after year. They liked the idea of executive committee members with no portfolio, and suggested limiting Executive Committee members from running again for at least two years after completing their terms unless the committee members are running for first vice chair or secretary-treasurer.

Also during the session, APTA members said the proposal will give much more responsibility to the Nominating Committee and asked for better definitions of the new composition of the Board of Directors, the nomination process, and which committee chairs would have seats on the board.

The APTA Executive Committee created the Governance and Committee Structure Task Force to examine APTA’s governance and committee structure and recommend how best to align APTA’s organizational structure with the sweeping multi-modal vision of TransitVision 2050 and the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. Task force recommendations will require approval by both the APTA Executive Committee and the Board of Directors. The APTA membership must approve any proposed changes to APTA’s bylaws.

APTA members will need a computer and phone to participate in the webinar. They will have an opportunity to submit questions on the proposed changes to APTA’s governance structure during the webinar, or they can submit them in advance.

Deadline Nears for 2009 APTA Officer and Board Nominations

The Nominating Committee that will recommend individuals to fill APTA leadership positions to the membership for approval has been appointed by APTA Chair Dr. Beverly A. Scott and is now accepting nominations for office.

The committee, chaired by John M. Inglish, general manager/chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority, has set a July 27 deadline for accepting nominations at the APTA office. The committee will meet Aug. 10 to select the slate of nominees for election at the APTA Annual Business Meeting, Sunday, Oct. 4, in Orlando, FL, during the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting.

A nominations packet mailed to all APTA members on June 22 includes the nominating committee roster, the list of officer and director positions to be filled, and the 2009 nomination and authorization form.

APTA members wishing to make a nomination or who have a personal desire to serve are invited to complete the nomination and authorization form and return it to Jim LaRusch electronically or via fax at (202) 496-4324. This form must be completed in full and returned to APTA no later than 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on July 27.

The nomination and authorization form, as well as the nominating committee roster and the list of officer and director positions to be filled, are available online.

The information requested on the form is very important, as it will assist the nominating committee in selecting the people who will do the best job for APTA and the industry. The nomination and authorization form must be used when submitting a nomination, and it must be completed in full.

As reported in the last issue of Passenger Transport, prospective candidates should be aware that in 2002, the APTA Executive Committee adopted 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.
* 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.

Activities Planned at Board Members Seminar, July 18-21

APTA has planned an in-depth and comprehensive series of activities for the 2009 Transit Board Members Seminar and Board Support Employee Development Workshop, July 18-21 at the Westin Cincinnati, hosted by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority/Metro. Highlights will include:

• A two-part program July 21 devoted to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues, with a morning session on complementary paratransit eligibility and, in the afternoon, a visit to the host system’s ADA Eligibility Assessment Center;
• A listening session on APTA’s governance and committee structure, part of the Framework for the Future initiative; and
• The APTA Transit Board Members Committee election of officers.

More information about the seminar is available from Lynne Morsen.

Federal Speakers at Workshop on Sustainability and Transit

Representatives of the federal government will offer their perspectives on “greener communities” at the Aug. 3 Opening Session of APTA’s fifth annual Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop. “Making the Business Case for Sustainability” is the theme of the conference, Aug. 2-4 at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

Speakers at the session will include Beth Osborne, deputy assistant secretary of policy, Office of the Secretary, U.S. DOT; James Lopez, senior advisor to the deputy secretary, Office of Sustainable Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and John W. Frece, director, Development, Community, and Environment Division, Smart Growth Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Also, Al Biehler, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and secretary of Pennsylvania DOT, will speak at another session later in the day.

The workshop will focus on best practices in sustainability within the transit industry and the role of public transit in meeting such federal, state, and local sustainability goals as increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Presenters—including APTA Sustainability Commitment signatories—will report on the newest energy-efficient, economically sound, and socially responsible developments and practices.

The reduced rate for hotel rooms closes July 10, so make plans now. More information on the sustainability workshop is available from Rich Weaver or Petra Mollet.

Wireless Technology at Workshop

APTA is joining with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and U.S. DOT to present the ITS International Best Practices Workshop: “Wireless Communications,” July 13-14 at the Omni Charlotte Hotel in Charlotte, NC.

A series of educational sessions regarding how wireless communications can affect transit and innovative applications will be led by representatives of public transit agencies, vendors, FTA, and DOT.

Program information is available from Lou Sanders at (202) 496-4886. For more information or to register, visit the APTA web site.

Conference to Study Role of GIS in Public Transit

APTA is joining the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) and the Urban and Regional Information System Association to present the Fifth National GIS in Transit Conference, Nov. 16-18 at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Petersburg, FL. NCTR is part of the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida.

Not long ago, Geographic Information System (GIS) technology was reserved for scientists, researchers, and mapmakers. Today, GIS is a part of daily life, with applications including web-based maps and new cell phone applications.

As a way to help users collect, manage, and analyze large volumes of spatially referenced data and associated attributes, GIS has become a valuable tool to the transportation industry.

“This conference will offer GIS and transit professionals a unique opportunity to learn about new and relevant issues associated with GIS as it relates to transit,” said Amber Reep, a senior research associate with CUTR.

Conference topics will include design, operations, maintenance, safety and security, fleet management, mapping, planning and Intelligent Transportation Systems. Industry experts and representatives from local, state, and federal governments will discuss the state of GIS as it is used throughout the world today, and presenters will provide insights to the opportunities that GIS can offer the transit industry.

Information regarding the conference, including how to register, is available online, or by contacting Molly Buffington.

APTA HR Committee Launches “9000 in ’09” Student Outreach

The APTA Human Resources (HR) Committee, in collaboration with APTA’s Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel, recently launched its “9000 in ’09” student outreach initiative. The goal of this effort is to communicate personally job and career opportunities available in public transportation to 9,000 students of all ages during calendar year 2009.

“Over the past several years, APTA’s HR Committee has implemented industry programs and services to address workforce development issues,” said committee Chair Mary Ann Collier. “The ‘9000 in ’09’ initiative aims to strengthen the image of public transportation and communicate and establish relationships with various educational institutions—such as schools, universities, employer associations, and community organizations—to effectively educate tomorrow’s workforce about career opportunities within the industry.”

APTA created a “9000 in ’09” web site—www.apta.com/9000in09/—to keep track of the numerous outreach efforts of either its members or such partner organizations as the Council of Minority Transportation Officials and WTS.  Visit there often to monitor how APTA is progressing toward its goal of reaching 9,000 students or providing information about specific student outreach events with schools and/or other organizations.

More information is available from Jason Schiedel, secretary of the APTA HR Committee.

 

French Delegation Visits APTA Offices

APTA welcomed a delegation of representatives from French cities and local governments to its offices on June 25.

Participants in the group are working on a new public policy exchange program between cities and local governments in France and the U.S., and learning about how U.S. municipalities deal with these issues. This program will focus on local action regarding climate change, new alternatives in public transportation, and diversity in cities.

Roland Ries, mayor of the French city of Strasbourg and chairman of GART (Grouping of Authorities Responsible for Transport), led the group, which included representatives from three French cities and three associations working on city-oriented issues.

Also participating in the meeting were Federal Transit Administration (FTA) representatives Rita Daguillard, director of the Office of Research Management, and Michael Winter, international program specialist. Topics of discussion included the efforts undertaken by FTA, APTA, and different cities to develop sustainable and accessible transit for all citizens and several of APTA’s workforce development programs.

The delegation also met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and local DC government officials.

Pittsburgh Event Explores Support for Accessibility

As part of an effort to generate momentum for signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), people with roles in the disability movement convened a conference on accessibility issues in June at the University of Pittsburgh. APTA President William Millar addressed transportation accessibility issues during the program.

The UN adopted the CRPD in December 2006. The convention received the largest number of opening-day signatories in UN history on March 30, 2007, including the European Union and 80 countries—but not the United States.

President Barack Obama has announced that he plans to sign the CRPD as part of the administration’s announced plan to make disability issues a high priority, including independent living, education, and employment of persons with disabilities.

The conference explored transatlantic perspectives on accessibility, focusing on the current status of transportation standards and policy. Participants considered implications of the convention for accessible transportation, noting such crucial elements to ensuring the success of the convention as incorporating the disability perspective into the broader legislative, policy, programmatic, and academic discourses, and building the capacity of participants as disability rights advocates.

In his comments, Millar cited both historical and current efforts toward developing accessibility standards for the sector. He discussed improving accessibility for public transit vehicles, transit stations, and other facilities, and how this effort translates to more equality and increased opportunity for persons with disabilities.

“As America itself expands and advances, it should and must expand and advance the ability of all citizens to have same potential for prosperity—to share an equal measure of hope,” Millar said.

July 26 Event
APTA is joining the Federal Transit Administration and the U.S. International Council on Disabilities to host an event July 26 at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, to recognize the CRPD, and to honor former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta for his lifelong commitment to accessibility and disability rights.

Information about this event is available from Chelsea Wright or Jessica Bechir.

In San Francisco, Local Construction is Way to Go for Cable Cars

When the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) needs to add a cable car to its world-renowned historic fleet, the system doesn’t ask outsiders to do the work. Employees of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which oversees Muni, built the newest cable car on the line—Car 15, which entered service June 21—in-house, according to original blueprints.

The June 21 launch ceremonies coincided with the 25th anniversary of the line’s reopening after an extensive two-year restoration project. The newly constructed car, which will operate on the Powell-Mason Line, completed its certification run earlier in the month.

SFMTA artisans from the Woods Carpenter Shop, the Cable Machinery Support Shop, the Special Machine Shop, and the Running Repair Shop worked from the ground up to create Car 15. It features a bright yellow color scheme used on the Powell-Mason line from 1894 to 1902. That line, which opened in 1888, is the oldest transit line in America still operating on its original route with its original type of motive power.

The new cable car replaces one that entered service in 1894, operating on the old Sacramento-Clay line before the earthquake and fire of 1906 and on the Powell lines afterward. It was partially rebuilt in 1954 and retired earlier this decade.

This is the 15th San Francisco cable car built from scratch since 1962 and the first since 2001.

Construction took four years and cost $823,000 for materials and labor. The SFMTA Cable Car Rehabilitation program refurbishes and rebuilds San Francisco’s cable cars with funding from local, regional, and federal capital sources that cannot be used for Muni operations.

“San Francisco’s iconic cable cars are cherished throughout the world and bring many people back year after year to visit our city,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said at the event. “Those San Franciscans lucky enough to live or work near the cable car lines have arguably the best commute in the world.”

GO Transit Introduces Service to Niagara Falls

For the first time, GO Transit in Toronto is operating seasonal weekend and holiday rail service to the Niagara Falls region of Ontario. The service began June 27.

The excursion service operates with four daily train trips in each direction on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays through Oct. 12, Thanksgiving Day in Canada. The two-hour trip connects Union Station in downtown Toronto with the Niagara Falls, ON, VIA Rail station, with interim stops at, Port Credit, Oakville, Burlington, and St. Catharines. The single-ride fare for the entire route is $15.90 (Cdn.).

GO Transit also plans to introduce weekday and weekend bus service to Niagara Falls in September.

“This new GO rail service will bring tourists to Niagara’s wineries, restaurants, and attractions such as the incomparable Niagara Falls. Our government is expanding public transit across the province, making investments that build our economic infrastructure and put people to work,” Ontario Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley said.

“Expanding to this new service area presents a unique opportunity for us and for visitors to both Niagara and Toronto,” said GO Transit Managing Director Gary McNeil. “GO is a comfortable, convenient way to travel, and we’re excited to be launching this service in time for the busy summer season.”

TANK’s ‘Rosa Parks’ Bus Adds Historic Perspective to Baseball’s Civil Rights Game

For Major League Baseball’s third annual Civil Rights Game on June 20 in Cincinnati, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) in Fort Wright, KY, participated in an unusual way.  To support this game, which honors baseball’s contributions to the struggle for civil rights, TANK sent Bus #209—the same model of bus as the one in Montgomery, AL, on which Rosa Parks refused to move to a seat in the back, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955—to the city’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

For the week preceding the game, visitors to the Freedom Center could board and sit inside this bus daily.  Its appearance also coincided with the center’s exhibit, “381 Days: the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” which traces the events surrounding Parks’ historic protest and the beginnings of the non-violent American civil rights movement.

“We are pleased and gratified that TANK made the 1950-era bus, like the one Rosa Parks made famous, available to help the community celebrate the American civil rights movement,” said Donald Murphy, the Freedom Center’s chief executive officer. “TANK graciously put the bus on display in front of the Freedom Center in 2005 to commemorate the passing of Mrs. Parks, and it was enormously popular with our guests. We think it added a poignant element to the festivities leading up to the Civil Rights Game.”

Bus #209, a 1950 model from General Motors, operated in northern Kentucky for the Greenline, TANK’s predecessor system.

The “Rosa Parks” bus eventually was sold and used for a time in Seattle, where TANK found it in 2001, brought it back, and restored it to its original condition. It is one of three historic vehicles that have been refurbished by TANK maintenance employees; the authority uses it for community events and as an educational tool.

“This bus helps young people better understand an earlier time, when segregation divided whites and blacks in nearly every facet of everyday life—including riding the bus,” said TANK Deputy General Manager Andrew Aiello. “Working with the Freedom Center to expose people to this bit of history while so many were in town for the Civil Rights baseball game and related festivities was an honor,” he added.

And by the way, the Chicago White Sox defeated the Cincinnati Reds 10-8 in the game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park, located next to the Freedom Center.

Broward Invites Riders to Participate in ‘Transit Watch’ Campaign

Broward County Transit (BCT) in Pompano Beach, FL, is introducing “Transit Watch,” a public awareness campaign developed by the Federal Transit Administration and practiced by public transportation agencies nationwide to encourage the active education and participation of passengers and employees in maintaining a safe and secure transit environment.

As part of the campaign, BCT is promoting a designated telephone number that provides callers with a direct line to the agency’s security manager. Passengers can use the number to report any suspicious behavior or packages on a bus or at a bus stop or transfer terminal.

BCT Director Robert Nelson said: “Among the steps that a public transportation system should have in place to address any suspicious behaviors and activities that are a threat to the safety of its passengers and employees is a program to provide as much information and education as possible. Transit Watch is part of this program, as it alerts the public that BCT is aware and concerned about passenger safety at all times.”

The agency’s promotional effort for Transit Watch includes brochures and interior and exterior bus signs as well as media and bus shelter advertisements. An online video will soon be available at the BCT web site.

The agency received funding for the campaign through a Fiscal Year 2008 Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP), awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the total amount of more than $1 million. The grant also will fund such other security efforts as perimeter fencing to improve security infrastructure at two bus garages, additional closed-circuit television systems, and tabletop exercises and functional drills for frontline operations and maintenance personnel.

Lake Erie Transit Goes ‘Groovy’

Lake Erie Transit (LET) in Monroe, MI, wants the public to know that its new hybrid bus is not just good for the environment—it’s also fun. The bus highlights the counterculture roots of the green movement by wrapping itself in a bright design of smiley faces, recycling symbols, and peace signs.

“We wanted to play off on the whole recycling and energy conservation effort, which did start in the 1970s,” said Theresa Sheroian, president of Sheroian Associates, which works with LET. “It goes with the agency’s slogan—‘It’s a journey, share the ride’—and the smiley face was a popular icon of the era. It made sense to bring it together with the whole concept of peace and recycling.”

LET is using the bus for community outreach, visiting destinations such as schools, hospitals, and libraries.

Sheroian described how LET introduced the new bus to service gradually. At first, she said, the agency painted the bus a plain brown and used it for training. “Later on, we wrote ‘ugly but fuel-efficient’ on one side of the bus; the other side had a message about the benefits of hybrid propulsion,” she added. “Eventually we wrapped the bus with the current message.”

The “flower power bus” is just one of three new hybrid buses in the LET fleet, each with a distinctive, eye-catching exterior design. The others are the Spirit of Monroe, featuring graphics of popular area landmarks and destinations, and the spring green Butterfly Bus, decorated with colorful butterflies.

In Las Vegas, Deuce Is a Gamble That Paid Off

By ALLISON BLANKENSHIP, Public Information Supervisor, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas, NV

In Las Vegas, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has doubled down on its efforts to improve the rider experience.

The RTC launched the Deuce—double-deck bus service that operates along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip—in 2005. Today, the service provides an average of 35,000 rides each day on vehicles that boast both a great view and air conditioners that can cope with southern Nevada’s 100-degree summer days.

“The Deuce has become an attraction in and of itself,” explained RTC General Manager Jacob Snow. “It’s comfortable and an excellent way to see the sights. A number of our residents utilize it to get to work on Las Vegas Boulevard.”

To complement the popularity of the Deuce, the RTC began an ambassador program in March of 2008 by hiring 15 part-time employees specially trained to provide excellent customer service to the line’s riders along the Strip. The majority of the RTC’s Deuce Ambassadors are students who were recruited for their gregarious personalities and willingness to provide service with a smile.

"This program is exciting because it essentially provides our riders with a concierge-type service,” said Snow. “It’s one more way we can improve the rider experience and it’s been extremely well received.”

The next “card” RTC plans to deal to its riders is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). “The ACE Gold Line will be the first in a series of ACE rapid transit lines that will provide mobility and connectivity to the valley,” said Snow. “It’s scheduled to launch in January 2010, and it will provide an enhanced transit link between downtown Las Vegas and the Strip.”

ACE will use BRT technology to operate with sleek, train-like vehicles, limited-stop service, and a dedicated transit lane for portions of the route. All of these features add up to provide an important benefit for both the RTC and its riders: speed.

Another RTC project slated for completion in January 2010—ACExpress, the agency’s first express commuter service—also is expected to provide that key ingredient. ACExpress will transport riders from two new park-and-ride locations in the northwest section of the valley to the downtown employment core, operating in a carpool/bus-only lane along one of southern Nevada’s major freeways, U.S. 95.

“ACExpress will provide residents with a viable alternative to their automobiles,” said Snow. “Drivers will be able to leave their cars behind at the park-and-ride and then get to work faster using transit. That’s something that we haven’t been able to offer in the past, and that speed is something our riders value.”

RTC’s goal is to provide value, convenience, and mobility; and, as the agency moves forward, transit riders in Southern Nevada will continue to reap the benefits.

“We’re a world-class city and we’re committed to providing our riders with a world-class experience,” said Snow.

LYNX Introduces Vehicle Decontamination Machine

The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) in Orlando recently used the first of its federal American Relief and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds to purchase an innovative micro-particle disinfectant machine from Zimek of Sarasota, FL. The $124,000 expenditure includes the cost of three machines, materials, equipment, warranty, and training.

This technology will allow LYNX to enhance its safety commitment by using the equipment on all its buses to kill dangerous bacteria, viruses, and toxic mold, which could cause severe health problems to passengers. One cleaning will last at least 30 days.

The agency will also use this technology to treat various offices, work space, bathrooms, and the passenger terminal.

LYNX will be the first public transportation agency in the U.S. to use the “Dri-Mist” treatment, patented by Zimek for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Cesar Vergara Forms Vergarastudio

Cesar Vergara, a world-renowned industrial designer of public transportation infrastructure and rolling stock, announced the creation of Vergarastudio in Ridgefield, CT. The firm will focus on industrial design projects with a specific emphasis on the design of public transportation infrastructure and rolling stock.

Vergara called the creation of the firm “a lifelong dream,” with a mission “to ‘visioneer’ the future of mass transportation, design it, and make it a reality.”

Vergara apprenticed at the Henry Dreyfus studio and was chief designer for both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit), where he designed the Alstom ALP46 electric locomotive and the PL42AC diesel locomotive. Most recently he designed MTA Metro-North Railroad’s M8 EMU.

Vergarastudio also announced the formation of a Board of Advisors with three railroad veterans: Don Nelson, former president of Metro-North and Conrail; Peter Cannito, also a former Metro-North president and senior vice president for more than 20 years with Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor; and William Vantuono, editor-in-chief of Railway Age magazine.

Chief operating officer and general counsel to Vergarastudio is Jeffrey A. Warsh, Esq., a former New Jersey State Assemblyman and executive director of NJ Transit. Former NJ Transit Chief of Staff and MTA New York City Transit staffer Matthew Stanton will serve as director of communications and public affairs and will assist in business development.

PV Inova Receives International Award

PV Inova, a Brazilian company that offers telecommunications technologies to public transportation users and software for transportation managers, is one of the 11 honorees of infoDev’s Global Innovators 2009 Contest. infoDev is a global development financing program among international development agencies, coordinated and served by a secretariat housed in the Global ICT Department of the World Bank.

PV Inova offers two products: TELO, a vehicular public telephone designed to meet the needs of developing nations, and TELOTrack, a next-generation web-based Global Positioning Satellite fleet management system. The company’s founder, Andre Averbug, has begun negotiating with countries including the U.S., Argentina, Angola, Chile, and South Africa as part of the firm’s expansion plan.

The award program showcases innovative businesses emerging in developing countries, drawing attention to the challenges facing entrepreneurs in growing their firms and how incubators are helping them overcome these challenges. The winners will receive further recognition at infoDev’s Third Global Forum on Business Incubation in October.

Part of the award program is that the recipients are current or past beneficiaries of business incubators that are members of infoDev’s global network. PV Inova was incubated at Genesis Institute of PUC-Rio.

Chapel Hill, NC, Named ‘Most Livable’; City Earns Honor for Its Transit Agency

The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) recently presented Kevin C. Foy, mayor of Chapel Hill, NC, with first place among small cities in its 2009 City Livability Awards Program—but the city couldn’t have done it without its public transit agency.

Foy supported the creation of fare-free Chapel Hill Transit in 2001, and today the system is the second largest in North Carolina and one of the largest fare-free systems in the nation. The agency has seen its ridership climb by more than 130 percent, from three million annual riders to more than seven million projected for 2009.

“Very few communities provide fare-free transit service to all riders,” USCM said in a statement. “Public transit is an integral part of the Chapel Hill community. The significant commitment to public transit has made Chapel Hill a sustainable community in which people do not need to rely on the automobile.”

Tom Cochran, USCM executive director and chief executive officer, said: “Our City Livability Awards Program gives the conference a chance to highlight mayoral leadership in making urban areas cleaner, safer, and more livable.”

The Stakeholder-Savvy CEO: Talking with SFMTA’s Nathaniel Ford

BY DOUG EADIE

One of the most popular breakout group exercises in the hundreds of board retreats I’ve facilitated over the years is what I call “stakeholder quid pro quo analysis.” First the breakout group makes a list of the transportation authority’s stakeholders; then the group identifies the stakes involved in each relationship.

Going through this real-life exercise, retreat participants invariably come to recognize how important stakeholders are to their authority’s long-term success. Not only is effectively managing stakeholder relations a critical leadership function, experience has taught me that the most effective transportation CEOs play a large role in managing stakeholder relations, indeed are truly “stakeholder-savvy” leaders.

One of the most “stakeholder-savvy” CEOs in the transportation business is Nathaniel Ford, executive director/CEO of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Nat, who joined SFMTA as its CEO in January 2006, brought 26 years of public transportation experience to this new leadership challenge.

Beginning his transportation career as a train conductor at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Nat worked his way up the ranks, eventually serving as assistant chief transportation officer at the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and senior vice president of operations and general manager/CEO at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

The seventh largest system in North America, “Muni,” as the transit system is popularly known, is a uniquely comprehensive transportation network encompassing historic streetcars, modern light rail vehicles, buses, electric trolley coaches, and the world-famous cable cars. The greater SFMTA is also responsible for bicycling, pedestrian planning and accessibility, traffic engineering, parking, and even taxicab regulation.

I recently spent a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours with Nat at SFMTA headquarters, discussing his involvement in stakeholder relations.

Doug: Nat, who are the top-tier stakeholders who regularly command the lion’s share of your time and attention?

Nat: Doug, you need to know that I take managing relationships with my key stakeholders very seriously, and I’d say I spend 45-50 percent of my time on stakeholder relations. I learned early in my career the importance of building and nurturing relationships. Here in San Francisco, I’d say I have six pre-eminent stakeholders I devote a great deal of time and attention to. Externally there’s the public-at-large, our customers, the Mayor of San Francisco, and key constituency groups who participate in what we call the “Advocates Meeting”—advocates for city planning and greening; bikes; pedestrians and better streets. Internally, there’s obviously my seven-person Board of Directors and my staff.

Where the public-at-large is concerned, wearing my “Diplomat-in-Chief” hat, I regularly speak to groups all over San Francisco, such as the Chamber of Commerce, SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research), and other civic-based organizations. My diplomatic task is to explain the Muni mission, how well we’re performing, and key initiatives we’ve got going, such as our Central Subway Project, which will provide rail service to the Moscone Convention Center, Union Square and Chinatown, and our Transit Effectiveness Project, the first system-wide assessment we’ve conducted in over 25 years. Keeping our relationship with our direct customers—our Muni customers, pedestrians, bicyclists, parkers—is essentially a matter of providing high-quality service that meets their needs. Of course, that means we have to pay attention to changing needs and demands, and one of my key CEO responsibilities is making sure we’re listening to our customers and stakeholders.

Doug: Tell me about your relationship with the office of the Mayor.

Nat: Well, although we have a Board of Directors that’s charged to provide me with regular guidance, SFMTA is essentially a department of the City and County of San Francisco, and I report directly to the Mayor, Gavin Newsom, who appoints the seven members of my Board (they must be confirmed by the Board of Supervisors) and approves our budget request to the Board of Supervisors. The City and County of San Francisco, by the way, contributes approximately 50 percent of SFMTA’s general fund budget, which must be unique in the U.S.

Among the most passionately “green” big city mayors in the U.S., Mayor Newsom has been a tremendous proponent of the cause of public transportation generally, and a steadfast supporter of Muni. How do I approach this key relationship? Well, it’s simple. First, I communicate frequently and honestly with the Mayor and his staff. I do not place the Mayor in a situation where he is caught off guard by an issue of any kind. If there’s bad news to deliver, I deliver it; the Mayor never hears it second-hand. Second, I really do play as a member of the Mayor’s executive team. I attend the Mayor’s cabinet meetings, and I treat other department heads as close colleagues engaged in a common cause: serving the residents of San Francisco. By the way, I know there’ll be readers of your column who think Muni’s being a unit of local government is a hindrance, but my experience is that it’s a tremendous asset.

Doug: What’s this “Advocates Meeting” you mentioned?

Nat: For nearly three years I’ve been meeting with the representatives of key constituency groups that have a stake in what we do, like the Senior Action Network, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and Walk SF, in free-wheeling monthly sessions. I listen to their concerns and discuss SFMTA initiatives. My philosophy is reach out—and then reach out some more; bring potential and actual critics into the family and listen to what they have to say. Taking the time to meet with these community activists has paid off handsomely for the agency. For example, they played a key role in getting Proposition A passed in November 2007, giving SFMTA more authority and funding. One of my most important external roles is turning potential critics into allies and advocates, and the Advocates Meeting is an example.

Doug: What about the Board and staff?

Nat: My strategy for maintaining a close partnership with the Board includes three key elements: I make sure Board members are always in the know and never caught by surprise; I meet one-on-one with every Board member at least monthly for an hour or more, listening to their concerns; and we hold a quarterly all-day retreat involving all Board members, myself, and my executive team, getting into complex issues (like the Central Subway Project and our adding taxicab regulation to the SFMTA portfolio). On the staff front, I’m passionate about breaking down the “silos,” like rail and parking, and building a cohesive team that buys into the concept of a truly “holistic” transportation agency for San Francisco. I’m the pre-eminent cheerleader for one, unified transportation team.

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