Passenger Transport - September 14, 2009
(Print All Articles)

Administration Calls on Senate to Pass THUD Appropriations Bill

In a statement released Sept. 10, the Obama Administration called on the Senate to pass H.R. 3288, the Fiscal Year 2009 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Act. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the legislation unanimously on July 30, a week after the full House voted to support it.

The bill includes $11.1 billion for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) programs—a funding level more than $750 million higher than the $10.33 billion in the president’s budget request.

“The President requested, and the [Senate Appropriations] Committee approved, significant new resources for the nation’s road, rail, and air transportation systems,” the statement said. “The legislation takes an important step toward modernizing what has become an outdated and over-stressed transportation network. Importantly, the legislation not only invests in new systems, but also works to improve the safety of those systems already in place.”

Transit Agencies Prepare for Possibility of Pandemic Flu

Across the country, public transportation agencies have been developing response plans for a possible H1N1 flu pandemic after the U.S. government issued a declaration on April 26, 2009, of a public health emergency.

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) signaled that a global pandemic—an epidemic of infectious disease that spreads through human populations across a large region, such as a continent, or even worldwide—of H1N1 was underway.

Preventive Measures
Among the many preventive measures taken by public transportation agencies, the most common are to provide hand sanitizer to both riders and employees and to ramp up cleaning efforts to keep their vehicles and facilities hygienic.

For example, UMass Transit in Amherst, MA, now has a crew wipe down the steering wheels, radios, stations, seat backs, and door handles of its buses as part of the nightly cleaning regimen. The agency’s office and dispatch personnel are responsible for wiping down their computers, phones, and door handles within their work areas.

In York, PA, rabbittransit uses an environmentally friendly disinfectant cleaner to wipe down surfaces throughout the system. The agency has reassigned staff to clean hard contact surfaces such as fare equipment, steering wheels, overhead hand straps, handrails, stop cords, and other “touch surfaces” on board its buses.

Rose Lucey-Noll, executive director of the Cambria County Transit Authority (CamTran) in Johnstown, PA. noted the agency’s participation in nationwide efforts to protect against the flu. “We have increased our bus and transit center cleaning efforts to try and keep the flu virus at bay,” she said, “plus we have installed anti-bacterial dispensers at all CamTran facilities. Internally, we also remind our employees to stay home if they are sick. We believe education and prevention are integral in mitigating the spread of any type of influenza outbreak.”

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District in San Francisco is installing hand sanitizer dispensers in lavatories and increasing the disinfection of on-board tables and other surface areas on board its ferries. It is also providing, but not requiring, protective gloves and masks for its front-line bus employees.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) in Reno, NV, has purchased and stored surgical masks for staff and fit-tested respirators for coach operators, as well as making hand sanitizer available to both employees and passengers.

In addition to providing sanitizing wipes, Broward County Transit in Pompano Beach, FL, is exploring new cleaning technologies: a fogger that will kill surface bacteria and an ultraviolet light that also kills airborne bacteria. “We believe these bio-decontaminate cleaning processes will go further in keeping our properties clean,” said spokesperson Phyllis Berry, “so our riders and bus operators can be even more assured of the cleanliness of our transit environment.”

Virginia Railway Express (VRE), serving the northern Virginia suburbs, recently informed its passengers of the steps it is taking to curb the H1N1 virus. “I don't want anybody to be worried when they board a VRE train,” said VRE Chief Executive Officer Dale Zehner, “so we have taken extra steps to ensure thorough cleaning of the trains to reduce the risk. All railcars are sterilized from top to bottom; seats, handrails, anything that a rider might come into contact with, to add an additional layer of prevention to the equation and give riders greater comfort. Also, we ask riders to be diligent as well by doing some very simple things, such as washing hands and coughing into a sleeve. These steps act as a first line of defense against the spread of the infection.”

Fighting Infection
In Peoria, IL, Alice Arn, spokesperson for the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink), noted that the agency has provided free flu shots to all employees for several years, and this year’s vaccinations will be given on agency premises. As of now, she said, the program covers only the regular seasonal flu vaccine, not the H1N1 vaccine.

CamTran is also offering free flu shots and is awaiting word about future availability of H1N1 vaccination for its employees, and Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, is considering a similar on-site flu vaccination program.

As part of a city-wide effort, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has taken the proactive step of purchasing enough Tamiflu—a preventive and treatment medication for H1N1—for its 5,000 bus, trolley, subway, and paratransit operators.

“We are working in coordination with the other city departments and agencies in a coordinated response to the pandemic, working closely with the medical officer of health for the city of Toronto,” explained John O’Grady, TTC chief safety officer. “As part of a risk assessment of what types of municipal workers would be at the greatest risk, we asked about our bus operators, who sit in crush loads every day, and our paratransit operators, who provide service to hospitals.”

After participating in an exercise with the local health department, City Utilities in Springfield, MO, received certification as a dispensing site to dispense Tamiflu if the need arises.

Spreading the Word
A major part of flu prevention is education, and agencies have developed an array of ways to disseminate information to its passengers. Here are just a few. 

Intercity Transit in Olympia, WA, created a multi-part action plan on dealing with a pandemic, explaining that widespread illness could also mean labor cutbacks among its service providers and suppliers. The system has designated a communication manager who will work with senior management to provide up-to-date information to employees and riders alike.

In addition to its other efforts, CamTran is posting information on ways to avoid contagion, such as sneezing into one’s elbow if a tissue is not available and washing hands frequently. “In all my life, I never thought I’d be telling people how to wash their hands or blow their noses correctly,” Lucey-Noll said.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District in Oakland, CA, is preparing to post flu prevention tips in its rail cars and stations. Future plans include an informative handout and brief health-related messages on the agency’s Destination Sign System.

RTC is partnering with the county health department on pandemic flu preparedness. RTC will post the health department’s “cover, stay home, and wash” hygiene messages in available advertising space.

Chatham Area Transit in Savannah, GA, is disseminating flu prevention flyers on board its entire bus fleet.

CDC: What You Can Do to Stay Healthy
Because the flu is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists several steps everyone can take every day to stay healthy:
* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
* Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
* Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds, and other social distancing measures.
* Find healthy ways to deal with stress and anxiety.
* Call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information.

Recovery Act Funds Benefit Transit Construction

Public transit agencies are using their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds in a variety of ways beyond purchasing buses and rail cars. For example, these systems must keep their station escalators operating properly and their maintenance and storage facilities current and in good repair, mitigate environmental effects, and ensure that they provide the safest possible service.

The $6.8 million in ARRA funds received by Los Angeles Metro will go for the installation of five canopies at escalator entrances to three Metro Red/Purple Line stations: Civic Center, Pershing Square, and Westlake/MacArthur Park. While the main purposes of the canopies are to protect the escalator machinery from exposure to bad weather and to reduce the incidence and frequency of equipment failures and replacement, thus enhancing passenger safety, the canopy design will enhance and maintain the architectural integrity of each station.

City Utilities of Springfield, MO, plans to use $1.4 million of its ARRA funds for the design and construction of a new maintenance facility. Carol Cruise, transit director for City Utilities, explained that the transit system is part of a utility company and that the current maintenance site—located in a historic structure—also provides service to the rest of the utility fleet, such as riding mowers and its current maintenance campus.

The system operates a fleet of 30-foot vehicles, Cruise said, but future purchases may include 35-foot or 40-foot buses.

“We’ll have a need, with the expanded bus fleet, for a better way to park the fleet and a more efficient way of maintaining the buses,” she noted, adding that a larger structure would allow the transfer of money to the farebox vault to occur indoors rather than outside as at present.

Cruise said the first step in the process will be a Request for Proposals for design work. While the historic status of the current building means that it will not be torn down, other structures will be demolished to allow for the expansion of the maintenance campus.

Broward County Transit (BCT) in Pompano Beach, FL, received a $35.1 million ARRA grant, which it will use to redesign the Ravenswood operations and maintenance facility, obtain real-time paratransit fleet monitoring and fixed route single sign-on technology, and implement bus stop enhancements.

Of the total, $17.9 million will go toward renovating the facility in Dania Beach, FL, which is currently at capacity and needing upgrades to both the parking lot areas and the maintenance buildings. BCT is preparing for the arrival of additional 60-foot articulated buses and must upgrade the structure to meet federal guidelines on underground storage tank removal and replacement.

BCT will use other ARRA funds to bring its bus stops and shelters into compliance with all Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. It will also add such street furniture as benches and trash receptacles; bike racks at selected locations; landscaping enhancements; transit signage; lighting; and real-time transit information incorporated when feasible and powered by solar energy. The agency expects the project to generate an estimated 159 jobs, of which 94 will be direct construction industry jobs.

BCT Director Robert Nelson said: “We are excited by the prospects this funding will have, not only by contributing to job growth, but also its potential benefits to our environment by encouraging transit usage and clean energy technology.”

In Los Angeles, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), operator of Metrolink commuter rail, received $21.9 million through APTA; $17.5 million of the amount will fund Positive Train Control (PTC) improvements, and the balance will cover safety and capacity upgrades such as the replacement of approximately 5,000 feet of rail on the San Bernardino Line; rehabilitation of two grade crossings; and new communications components in Riverside County.

LaHood, Rogoff to Address APTA Annual Meeting

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will offer the keynote address at the Oct. 5 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL. Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff also will speak during this session.

Registration is still open for the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting, Oct. 4-7 at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando. For information, click here.



DOT Secretary Ray LaHood   

FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff 

Congress to Consider Authorization Extension

The future of the federal transportation authorization bill was just one of the items facing Congress as it reconvened Sept. 8.

Before Congress adjourned for the August recess, the House and Senate championed two different timelines for passing a new authorization bill. Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, emphasized the bipartisan six-year bill introduced by the leaders of his committee. As part of setting federal transportation policy and spending limits for public transportation, highway, and bridge programs, the legislation increases funding for public transportation by 90 percent over the present funding levels, and includes many policy changes long-sought by the public transit industry.

However, the Obama Administration supports an 18-month extension of the existing transportation programs rather than immediate action on a new long-term bill, and key Senate committees have endorsed that approach. Both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the committees of jurisdiction for transit and highway programs, approved legislation in July to enact an 18-month extension.

The current law—the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users—expires Sept. 30.

It must be either extended or entirely rewritten to continue federal spending on Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration programs.

In the coming weeks, House and Senate leaders are expected to discuss the length and other characteristics of an extension bill.

Alan Kiepper Dies; Past APTA Chair, Hall of Fame Member

Alan F. Kiepper, 81, of Annapolis, MD, APTA chair in 1990-91 and a member of the APTA Hall of Fame, died Aug. 26.

During his long career, Kiepper served as general manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, general manager of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, and president of MTA New York City Transit. He joined Parsons Brinckerhoff in 1996 as executive vice president and, after moving to Annapolis in 2002, was a consultant to ARINC.

“It is with a great deal of sadness that I note the passing of a true giant of our industry,” said APTA President William Millar. “Anyone who could launch the MARTA system from scratch, overhaul service in Houston, and restore confidence in New York’s transit operations is a pioneer, an innovator. We were lucky to have him. His legacy lives on.”

Millar also said of Kiepper: “You thought it was the voice of God talking to you when you were with him.”

Robert C. Buchanan, a consultant with Daimler Buses North America and former APTA deputy executive vice president for member services, reminisced about Kiepper, whom he knew for more than 30 years. “Alan was nationally recognized as an effective administrator-manager and a hard-working, tenacious taskmaster,” he said. “He sought perfection—his basic belief was that, whatever it is, we have to make it better.”

Buchanan offered an example: “Houston has high temperatures and high humidity. When Alan went there, he decided that he wouldn’t put a bus that wasn’t air-conditioned on the road.”

APTA recognized Kiepper in 1985 with the Jesse H. Haugh Award, given to an outstanding public transportation manager, and named him to its Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1986, he received the National Public Service Award from the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society of Public Administration.

Also, while at NYC Transit, Kiepper was honored as an Angel of the American Poetry Society for introducing the “Poetry in Motion” program in the system’s buses and subways.

In addition to his APTA activities, he served as vice president and one of three American directors of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) and chairman of its International Metropolitan Railways Committee and North American Committee. He was a fellow of the London-based Chartered Institute of Transport and a member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board.

Kiepper served as clinical professor of public management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and as associate professor of public administration at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Administration.

Las Vegas RTC Launches Work on Two Transit Hubs

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) broke ground Aug. 31 on a new transit facility in downtown Las Vegas. RTC is using a $5.5 million American Recovery and Reinvestment (ARRA) grant for the $17 million Bonneville Transit Center, which will serve as the central transit hub for the ACE Rapid Transit system, ACExpress Commuter services, and the RTC’s fixed route transit system when it opens next year.

“The RTC’s new Bonneville Transit Center will be an excellent example of the RTC’s newest motto: quicker, cleaner, and greener,” said Jacob Snow, general manager of the agency. “It has been designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification and will include a number of sustainability elements including the use of solar power, water-efficient landscaping, and showers for those interested in cycling to and from work.” The site plan also includes preferred parking for hybrid vehicles, an on-site bike storage area with space for 100 bikes, and a self-service bike repair shop.

The RTC’s ACE Gold line, a Bus Rapid Transit service connecting downtown Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Strip, will stop at the Bonneville Transit Center when it opens in the spring of 2010. It will operate on a route equipped with level platform boarding, off-board fare collection, and a dedicated transit-only lane at some points.

The ACE Blue line, the current MAX line on Las Vegas Boulevard North, and the ACE Green line, which will be constructed on Boulder Highway, also will stop at the facility.

The kickoff at the Bonneville site follows the launch of work on RTC’s Centennial Hills Transit Center and Park & Ride, located in the growing northwest portion of the Las Vegas Valley. This project, which received $8.8 million in ARRA funding, provides such amenities as an air-conditioned waiting area, more than 900 free parking spaces, and several bike racks.

RTC routes based at the new transit center, scheduled to open in 2010, will include the planned ACExpress C Line, an express bus service designed to provide a faster ride for commuters into the center of Las Vegas. This limited-stop line—which also will provide service to the Bonneville facility—will operate in carpool lanes along one of southern Nevada’s most critical freeways, U.S. 95, cutting transit travel times in half.

EPA Seeks Entries for Clean Air Awards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting entries through Sept. 25 for its 10th Annual Clean Air Excellence Awards Program. The purpose of this program is to recognize and honor both individuals and organizations that have taken innovative steps to help improve air quality.

Award-winning entries are programs, projects, or technologies that must—either directly or indirectly—reduce pollutant emissions, demonstrate innovation, offer sustainable outcomes, and provide a model for others to follow. EPA accepts entries in five award categories and two special award categories:
* Clean Air Technology
* Community Action
* Education/Outreach
* Regulatory/Policy Innovations
* Transportation Efficiency Innovations
* The Thomas W. Zosel Outstanding Individual Achievement Award, which goes to an individual who has shown outstanding achievement, demonstrated leadership, and a lasting commitment to promoting clean air and helping to achieve better air quality.
* The Gregg Cooke Visionary Program Award, for an outstanding project or program that has achieved environmental excellence in more than one of the five general award categories.

EPA judges the entries using both general criteria and criteria specific to each category;  the program is open to both public and private entities in the U.S.

The entry form is available online. For information, contact Pat Childers.

DBEs Eligible for Bonding Premium, Fee Reimbursement

U.S. DOT has announced a new program under which Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) can apply to be reimbursed for bonding premiums and fees incurred when competing for, or performing on, transportation infrastructure projects funded by ARRA.

The department’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization administers the program, which is designed to help businesses that traditionally have less working capital than larger contractors.

Under the Bonding Assistance Reimbursable Fee Program, DBEs receiving ARRA funding assistance for transportation and infrastructure projects can obtain financial bonding assistance in the form of bonding fee cost reimbursement. DOT will directly reimburse DBEs the premiums paid to the surety company for performance, payment, or bid/proposal bonds, at a range of between 1 and 3 percent of the total bond amount.

DBEs that also obtain bond guarantees from the Small Business Administration’s Surety Bond Guarantee Program can be reimbursed from DOT for the small business concern (principal) fee of .729 percent of the contract price.

More information about the program, including the reimbursement application and program guidance, is available online.

TRB Report: Increased Density Could Lead to Better Livability

A report released Sept. 1 by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions, shows that—assuming that compact development focuses on new and replacement housing, as converting existing housing to higher densities could be prohibitively difficult—significant increases in density would result in modest short-term reductions in personal travel, energy use, and CO2 emissions, but the reductions would grow over time. It points to the importance of “compact, mixed-use development—individuals living in denser environments with jobs and shopping close by” —that allow for shorter trip lengths and more options for public transit, walking, and biking as viable alternatives to driving.

The authors cite research studies estimating that doubling residential density in a metropolitan area might lower household driving between 5 percent and 12 percent. If higher density were paired with more concentrated employment and commercial locations, and combined with improvements to public transit and other strategies to reduce automobile travel, household driving could be lowered by as much as 25 percent. Reducing vehicle use would also mean less petroleum use and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

The report recommended additional research in five areas:
* Isolating the effects of different types of development patterns on travel behavior;
* Changes in metropolitan areas at finer levels of spatial detail to help inform the needs and opportunities for policy intervention;
* What works and what does not with policy interventions to promote more compact, mixed-used development;
* Threshold population and employment densities to support rail and bus transit and walking and bicycling; and
* Changing housing preferences and travel patterns of an aging population, new immigrant groups, and young adults to help determine whether future trends will differ from those of the past.

Copies of the report are available from TRB at its web site.

A Historic Partnership: Veolia and New Orleans RTA

By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Many public transit agencies use an outside contractor to provide management services, but the “delegated management” contract between the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) and Veolia Transportation goes further, giving the contractor responsibility for all activities below the board level. The five-year contract, with a five-year option, began Sept. 1, although Veolia has had a management contract in New Orleans since October 2008.

“We have tried to be very careful about calling this arrangement unprecedented,” said Ruth Otte, executive vice president, marketing and communications, for Veolia Transportation, “but we have a lot of industry veterans in our company and spoke to several major figures in the industry, and no one knows about another case like this.”

For Justin Augustine, chief executive officer of the New Orleans operation, this contract means a return to NORTA, where he worked until 1994. “I always kept a home in New Orleans,” he explained. “After [Hurricane] Katrina, I came back to work on repairing homes. I saw the desperate state the city was in, and when I looked at the status of public transportation operations, I recognized that the agency needed help.”

Transportation Management of Southeast Louisiana (TMSEL), a company administered by NORTA, has formally employed the agency’s employees because of a state law that does not allow unionization by public employees. On Sept. 1, the former TMSEL employees became Veolia employees.

“The biggest change is that we have a fixed-fee contract,” said Dick Alexander, senior vice president of business development for Veolia. “NORTA knows what its costs are, so we’ll be paid on a per-hour-of-service contract. Our company will assume risks for the RTA—accident risk, operating risk, all those things.” He added that Veolia is negotiating contracts with the existing unions and will retain the same levels of pay.

Moving Forward
NORTA was still struggling with the aftermath of the hurricane when Veolia came to town. “Three years after Katrina, NORTA was still operating out of trailers and had only recently gotten off emergency generator power,” Alexander said. “One of the motivations the NORTA board had was to bring in an outside company for leadership and resources to get things moving, which is our goal.”

He continued: “This contract was a way to put a leadership structure in place very quickly, to get all these initiatives moving.”

Veolia already is working to adapt the existing NORTA bus routes to the changing residential needs of post-Katrina New Orleans—for example, by introducing “Lil’ Easy” neighborhood circulators in areas that no longer need 40-foot buses.

The infrastructure rebuilding effort is also well underway. Augustine reported that NORTA plans to reopen its main facility on Canal Street in September, and that all 31 of the agency’s streetcars damaged by flood waters—24 that operated on the Canal Street Line and seven from the Waterfront Line—will be rebuilt by the end of the year. The Carrollton facility and the streetcars stored there were not affected.

“During the first eight months, Veolia implemented a service delivery plan, a facility improvement plan, a bus replacement plan, a financial stability plan, and a reorganization,” Augustine said. “We created a new vision for regionalization in the community and designed a plan to improve the authority’s credibility, not only with the riders but with all stakeholders—businesses, the general public.”

“Our philosophy,” Alexander added, “is to expand and improve mobility with a strong focus on designing service to meet where the population is living now, not the same pattern as before Katrina. We’re working for improved efficiency, making mobility better, and serving as a very important catalyst for ongoing renewal.”

Learning About the City
Augustine explained how Hurricane Katrina destroyed 80 percent of New Orleans, meaning that NORTA’s rebuilding effort was only part of a much larger city-wide program. “Every piece of infrastructure had to be rebuilt,” he said. “The city had to restore the basic public services: police, fire, electricity, running water, sewage, cable … Our top priority is to provide safe, efficient service back to the streets of New Orleans, based on the redistribution of the population.”

“We spent countless hours going to every corner of the city to understand the population we serve,” he continued. “Then we had to examine the infrastructure and determine the population’s needs.” NORTA operated a pre-Katrina fleet of 382 buses, according to Augustine, but currently has 93 in operation, half of them new and the other half rebuilt.

“Veolia has joined with the union and the NORTA board to create a united vision of
making mobility happen in a way that’s custom-designed to meet the specific needs of New Orleans,” Otte said. “We report directly to the board in a very close partnership, and we’re taking the momentum we have now and continuing to drive forward.”

APTA Unveils Advertising Campaign at Capitol Hill Metro Stations

APTA recently unveiled a new, month-long advertising campaign targeting lawmakers at two of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Metrorail stations on Capitol Hill with a clear message: Increase our nation’s investment in public transportation.

The advertisements—running in Union Station and Capitol South stations frequented by Congressional staffers and influential opinion leaders—position public transportation as the solution to many of the economic, environmental, energy, and quality of life issues facing America today. The main message of the advertising is: “Whether it’s more jobs, a cleaner environment, energy independence, or a better quality of life, public transportation takes us there. Congress: Keep America moving forward by increasing investment in public transportation.”

APTA decided to pursue the informational campaign while Congress considers its next steps on the transportation authorization and climate change legislation. The APTA position is that—with public transit infrastructure in desperate need of improvements and service cuts around the nation—Congress must increase the federal investment in public transportation to meet the nation’s economic, environmental, and energy needs while increasing mobility options.

The advertising effort is part of APTA’s Public Transportation Takes Us There campaign, which also targets lawmakers through advertisements in popular Capitol Hill newspapers and web sites to advocate for increased funding for public transportation through the climate change and authorization legislation currently being considered in Congress.

Announcing the Launch of an Enhanced, User-Friendly Web Site

See anything different lately when you visit the APTA web site? How about a streamlined service that provides easier navigation with a single sign-on?

APTA launched its redesigned and redeveloped web site on Sept. 1. In addition to updating the site’s look, APTA has added features—such as updated member forums—in a more user-friendly, easier-to-navigate format that directs viewers to the specific content they want.

Another change? In the past, visitors often had to log on more than once for different applications: for example, after logging on to MyAPTA, the user then had to log in a second time to enter the member forums. Now all it takes is a single click on the home page.

And the new developments are ongoing. APTA is currently testing “committee collaboration sites” that will allow each committee to have a private, “committee member only” portal to provide such features as a private committee forum separate from general member-only forums, a place to share documents, and a shared committee calendar. APTA also is working on integrating other APTA web properties, such as the APTA Standards website, to further extend the single sign-on capabilities.

Sept. 22 Webinar on Governance Changes

The proposed changes to APTA’s governance and committee structure will be the topic of a 90-minute webinar on Sept. 22, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Webinar participants will include APTA Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D.; Michael Townes and Sharon Greene, co-chairs of the Governance and Committee Structure Task Force; Les White and John Bartosiewicz, task force members and subgroup chairs; and APTA President William Millar.

Attendance is limited, so register online. Registrants will receive a confirmation e-mail containing information about joining the webinar.

To access the audio portion of the webinar, dial in on 1-877-643-6951 (1-877-722-6536 in Canada) and use pass code 98006795#.

ERPP Calls for Increased Emergency Preparation

APTA’s Emergency Response Preparedness Program (ERPP) invites all public transit professionals to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities in September as part of National Preparedness Month (NPM), sponsored by the federal Campaign and Citizen Corps. APTA operates ERPP under the auspices of a Federal Transit Administration grant.

This is the sixth year for NPM, during which Americans are encouraged to take simple steps to stay ahead of emergency situations. This year, the program will focus on changing perceptions about emergency preparedness and helping Americans understand what it truly means to be “ready” as the nation braces for natural disasters, wildfires, and a potential H1N1 (formerly called Swine Flu) outbreak.

ERPP’s current efforts include disseminating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations pertaining to H1N1 and making information from available to APTA members through e-mails, monthly newsletters, teleconferences, and at APTA conferences and committee meetings.

For example, ERPP notes that emergency preparedness doesn’t just mean fire alarms, smoke detectors, deadbolt locks, and extra food in the pantry. Families can take more extensive measures, such as creating an Emergency Supply Kit; making a Family Emergency Plan; staying informed about emergencies and appropriate responses; and becoming involved in such community efforts as Citizen Corps.

More information about the program is available online.

Trapeze Software Acquires Assets from Continental AG

Trapeze Software, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Constellation Software Inc., has entered into an asset purchase agreement for the Public Transit Solutions (PT) business of Continental Automotive AG. This division develops, produces, and integrates Intelligent Transportation Systems including operation control systems, on-board computers, and passenger information displays.

Pending the successful closing of the transaction, the PT division will be renamed Trapeze ITS, based in Neuhausen, Switzerland. The headquarters of the North American operations will be in Cedar Rapids, IA.

Hans-Peter Schär will join Trapeze ITS as its managing director. He has more than 20 years in the public transport business, serving most recently as chief executive officer of VBZ Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich—the second largest public transport operator in Switzerland, with a daily transport capacity of more than 900,000 people. Dr. Markus A. Zoller, the current chief executive officer of Continental Automotive Switzerland AG and of the global Public Transit Solutions business, plans to leave the organization.

Daimler Buses Achieves Production Record: 3,000 Hybrid Buses

Daimler Buses North America announced that it has reached a milestone with its production of more than 3,000 Orion VII diesel-electric hybrid buses. More than 2,200 of the vehicles are already in service, with an additional 850 firm orders in backlog from regions including New York City, Seattle, Houston, Ottawa, and Puerto Rico.

MTA New York City Transit operates the largest number of the company’s hybrid vehicles, with more than 1,250 Orion VII buses now in service and 425 more to be delivered over the next nine months.

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County already operates 56 of the diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, with another 40 due for delivery this year, and the authority recently placed an additional order for 80 buses for 2010 delivery.

Also, Puerto Rico is transitioning into hybrid buses for its existing fleet of conventional diesel Orion transit buses with an order of 40 Orion VII diesel-electric hybrid buses. These will be produced and delivered in 2010.

Orion began development and production of hybrid buses in the mid-1990s, with pilot vehicles first deployed by NYC Transit. Series production began in the early 2000s. Looking to the future, the company last year introduced lithium-ion energy storage technology for buses in volume production, which will reduce the weight of the overall bus.

BART’s Deliciously Sweet Ride

Linton Johnson, right, chief spokesperson for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), presents a rider with a sample of Ghirardelli Chocolate’s new Luxe Milk™ Chocolates during the morning rush hour Sept. 4 at the Oakland City Center/12th Street Station in Oakland, CA. Ghirardelli donated $1 million worth of chocolates and coupons as part of BART’s “Rider Thank You” day, which coincided with the temporary closing of the Bay Bridge.

Fort Wayne’s Citilink Introduces Free Campus Shuttle

Citilink in Fort Wayne, IN, joined with Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast and Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) to launch its new campusLink shuttle service with ribbon-cutting ceremonies Aug. 17 on the IPFW campus. The service entered regular operation on Aug. 24.

The purpose of campusLink is to provide free shuttle service to students, faculty, and staff in and around the two campuses, but it is also available for use by the public. A federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant funds the shuttle as a demonstration project for its first three years of operation.

A second element of the CMAQ grant agreement will provide discounted pass sales for general Citilink transportation service for Ivy Tech and IPFW students, faculty, and staff at gradually decreasing discounts (80 percent/50 percent/20 percent) over a three-year period. In the first year, students, faculty, and staff can purchase a 31-day unlimited Citilink city-wide bus pass for only $9, compared with the regular price of $45.

Citilink is buying three new light transit vehicles for campusLink service with funds administered through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

UTA Introduces New Wireless Communications Software

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City has implemented new wireless communications software from In Motion Technology on all 530 buses in its fleet. The technology provides wireless communications capabilities that will allow in-vehicle credit card payments, Internet access, and other advanced services for passengers.

UTA bus passengers will be able to use the wired and wireless local area network created by In Motion’s onBoard Mobile Gateway, providing reliable connectivity to multiple devices and systems over a variety of networks. The technology also includes a Mobility Manager that allows UTA’s headquarters staff to track networks, devices, and vehicles from the field, as well as information and control over its wireless communications.

The technology also provides real-time communication enabling authorization of credit cards, ski passes, and other electronic fare media used by UTA passengers as they board, as well as wide-area and garage area communications. Riders will be able to access e-mail and the Internet from their laptops, personal digital assistants, or smart phones through the WiFi hot spot created by the onBoard Mobile Gateway.

Finances and Transit: Report

A recent study, sponsored by APTA’s Business Members Activity Fund, provides an assessment on how the collapse of the financial markets over the past year has affected transit agencies and the private sector public transportation industry.

Impacts of the Financial Crisis on the Transit Industry: Challenges and Opportunities, conducted by Jeffrey Parker and Associates, shows how recent changes in the credit market have led to limited access and higher costs of credit for transit agencies, placing additional burdens on the agencies’ operating and capital budgets. Another concern cited is how tight credit markets have affected available capital loans to some private firms, challenging ongoing operations.

The study’s conclusion is that a focus on getting “back to basics” in financial policy may be the long-term result of the recent market upheaval.

The report also mentions positive implications of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allows transit agencies to access credit markets at a reduced cost through the Build America Bonds program.

Transit issuer credit ratings still remain relatively stable, although borrowing costs have increased.

The report is available online.

New Art for NYC Transit

MTA New York City Transit unveiled “Whirls and Twirls (MTA),” a 53-foot by 11-foot wall installation comprising 250 porcelain tiles in six colors, on Sept. 9--the 82nd birthday of artist Sol LeWitt, who died in 2007. The artist created the proposal in 2004 and personally selected the setting in the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway complex.

‘Underground Art’ Has Double Meaning in London

The London Underground, or “the Tube,” is not only a way to travel around London; it’s also a source of artistic inspiration. As part of its Art on the Underground program, the system recently published a booklet containing stories inspired by the system’s Central Line and its staff.

Writer Sarah Butler was commissioned to undertake a six-month residency on the Central Line. During her stay, she worked with more than 100 front-line employees at 45 stations, helping the workers discover their natural flair for storytelling.

The writing project offered an opportunity for the widely scattered employees to work together, sharing personal stories that can now be enjoyed by passengers. The stories tended to fall into four distinct categories:

What’s in a Name? The storytelling project unearthed a goldmine of anecdotes about how staff members got their names.

Meetings with Drivers. Butler rode with Tube drivers and used their conversation as the basis for new short stories.

Central Line Whispers. Butler visited each Central Line station, collecting stories as she went. After inventing two characters who meet on the line, she would describe the story so far, then ask the next staff member to continue the plot.

Across: 3. to search for (4). For an added challenge, Butler created a story mirroring the shape of the Central Line, with 45 paragraphs (representing the 45 stations), each of which contains 45 words and begins with the first letter of a station name. The paragraphs can be read in any order and the story contains a puzzle, as the title suggests.

“Traveling by Tube offers—sometimes—a strange, contemplative slice of time during our day,” Butler said of the project. “It witnesses innumerable dramas, and brings together a phenomenal diversity of people. Ultimately, it connects: people to people, people to places, places to places.”

She described the Central Line as a unique and special place that “draws an invisible line across London, connecting east to west, rising up like the edges of a smile at each end.”

The text of the stories is available online.

U.S. Should Reward Governments for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions


The following op-ed ran in the Wilmington News Journal, Wilmington, DE, on Aug. 18, 2009.

Here’s the problem: We use a gas tax to fund our nation’s transportation system. That means that we pay for roads and transit by burning gasoline. It also means that when Americans drive less, transportation funds dry up.

How, then, can we in Washington ask cities and states to help combat climate change by reducing the amount their residents drive, when doing so will deprive them of federal transportation dollars? We would be punishing local governments for doing the right thing and that is not acceptable.

The solution is to reward state and local governments with federal funds based on how much they reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, the transportation sector is responsible for nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Automobiles and light trucks alone contribute half of that. In spite of fuel efficiency improvements over the past 30 years, transportation energy consumption has increased dramatically because the distances that Americans drive have doubled.

Without considering the transportation sector, even the most effective climate change legislation cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to turn the tide on global warming.

In the past, efforts to clean up our transportation system have focused on fuel economy and tailpipe emissions. Two years ago, Congress increased the CAFE standards for the first time in more than 30 years, and President Obama recently announced that we must reach the new fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2016.

In that same legislation that increased CAFE standards, Congress also established a Renewable Fuel Standard, requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel be sold in 2020—up from just nine billion today. Taken together, CAFE rules and the Renewable Fuel Standard are expected to save two million barrels of oil per day.

Both are very positive steps. But over the next 20 years, the amount that Americans drive, measured in Vehicle Miles Traveled, is expected to increase 50 percent, largely negating emission reductions resulting from the new CAFE rules and Renewable Fuels Standard.

If our goal is to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 percent over the next 40 years, we need to find new ways to reduce pollution from transportation. One solution is the Clean, Low-Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (S. 575), known as CLEAN TEA, which Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and I introduced in March.

Our legislation directs cities and states to determine how much they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their transportation systems by investing in driving alternatives, public transit, intercity passenger rail, transit-oriented development, sidewalks and more. States and cities with more ambitious plans will receive more federal funds – finally rewarding local governments for doing the right thing.

Clean transportation projects will be funded by reserving 10 percent of the pollution allowances created in climate change legislation, which could generate $5 billion to $12 billion annually. Ten percent may sound like a large piece of the pie, but remember that transportation is one-third of the problem and growing faster than any other sector. In addition, CLEAN TEA projects will boost the economy by creating thousands of green jobs and reducing transportation costs across America.

If we in Congress hope to reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and move to a clean energy economy, we must consider the transportation sector in our national debate. It is not enough to simply focus on power plants and refineries.

Our CLEAN TEA bill is a key part of the answer and I intend to make sure it becomes an integral part of the congressional climate debate as we move forward in the months ahead.

Sen. Tom Carper is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. He began his Senate career in 2001 as Delaware’s junior senator and was re-elected in 2006. He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and chairs the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security.