Passenger Transport - October 26, 2009
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Senate to Consider Six-Month Extension of SAFETEA-LU

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has announced its plans to introduce a “clean” six-month extension of SAFETEA-LU instead of the 18-month extension proposed by the administration.

EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) say they plan to “hotline” the six-month extension of contract authority for surface transportation programs and expenditure authority from the Highway Trust Fund at gross Fiscal Year 2009 levels (gross meaning before the $11.9 billion in FY 2009 contract authority rescissions) as an amendment to the House-passed three-month extension bill, H.R. 3617. Hotlining refers to sending an e-mail request to all 100 Senate offices to see if the senators have any objections to the legislation being considered and passed by unanimous consent at the close of the day’s business.

The success of this effort relies on whether the House agrees to accept the Senate legislation as is.

Climate Change Events Highlight Major Role of Public Transportation

Discussions in Washington last week focused on climate change. At an Oct. 21 Capitol Hill panel discussion, “Transportation Strategies to Cut Carbon Emissions,” APTA President William Millar reminded an audience of transportation officials, advocates, and congressional staff of the significant role public transportation can play in addressing the issue of climate change.

The event, convened by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, focused on the July Moving Cooler report’s implications for upcoming legislation.

Several speakers contributed to this panel along with Millar, including Janine Benner, legislative director for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Paul Schmid, transportation legislative assistant for Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE); and Caitlin Rayman, assistant secretary for transportation policy, Maryland DOT.

Benner and Schmid both spoke about CLEAN-TEA (the Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act), which would designate 10 percent of proceeds from a carbon emissions cap-and-trade program to clean transportation, including public transit.

Rayman noted that “Some states have only just begun to address” greenhouse gas emissions, adding: “Some have projected VMT [vehicle miles traveled] increases of more than 6 percent per year.”

Millar emphasized that, while Moving Cooler makes no recommendations, “it does provide objective analysis of some 50 different transportation and land-use strategies.” This analysis concludes that combining an increased investment in public transportation with other strategies could save the nation as much as $112 billion and reduce greenhouse gases by 24 percent.

“It’s very likely there’s no single way out” of climate change, Millar said, “because there was no single way in,” given that the condition is most likely the result of a combination of human sources. He acknowledged the importance of better fuels and more stringent fuel economy standards but added that “they can’t do it alone.”

Millar added that public transportation is a much better investment when bundled with other activities, such as land use, and revenues generated from climate-change legislation would offset the up-front costs of such activities.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair, Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), and John Kerry (D-MA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, recently introduced climate change legislation.

Climate Change Conference
Public transportation also played a prominent role Oct. 20 at the Congressional Quarterly/Roll Call Group’s “Climate Change Conference 2009: From Kyoto to Copenhagen.”

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) of the EPW Committee keynoted the morning general session, discussing the importance of Congress moving climate change legislation forward. He identified public transportation as a solution to address climate change in this sector, highlighting the need to address transportation sector emissions. APTA staff participated in a special breakout session on this topic.

Additional keynote speakers included Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bernie Sanders (IN-VT), also of the EPW committee.

APTA has been working very closely with this Senate committee, advocating for greater investment in public transportation as a part of the climate change legislation.

Public Transit Return on Investment: Both Immediate and Long-Lasting

Increased investment in public transportation provides jobs, wages, and business income in industries that have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn, according to a report released Oct. 22 by APTA. The report, Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment, finds that every $1 of investment in public transportation returns many times its investment. The average return is almost four times the investment in economic returns. In some areas of the nation this figure could be as high as $9.

In addition, every $1 billion invested in public transportation results in $3.6 billion in business sales and generates nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

“A lot of unemployed Americans are hurting right now as the job market continues to retract,” said APTA President William Millar. “If we act now to include funding for public transportation in the climate change legislation and move quickly on transportation authorization, it can result in creating and supporting millions of jobs over the next six years and beyond. This report shows that investment in public transit puts Americans back to work in good, green transportation jobs, boosts the GDP [Gross Domestic Product], and helps the environment.”

Glen Weisbrod of Economic Development Research Group, which prepared the report, agreed. “This investment not only brings an immediate economic impact on job creation and business sales, but it also provides the long-term benefit of improving our nation’s transportation system, which in turn improves the efficiency of our economy,” he said.

Reno RTC Introduces Region’s First BRT Service

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) in Reno, NV, introduced its first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services, RTC RAPID and RTC RAPID CONNECT, on Oct. 11, with formal dedication ceremonies the following day. The services operate on a four-and-a-half-mile segment of Virginia Street from the RTC CITICENTER to the Meadowood Transfer Station.

RTC RAPID, which will begin operating with modern, 60-foot articulated diesel-electric hybrid vehicles in 2010, is a new limited-stop transit service that relies on technology to operate more quickly than regular bus service, serving 14 stations every 10-12 minutes at its peak. RTC RAPID CONNECT replaces the existing regular bus service on the street, serving all stops including all RTC RAPID stations.

The new service will receive federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality funding, thus freeing up $2.4 million to $3.9 million in annual sales tax money to protect existing transit service that had been threatened with cuts.

As the service evolves, RTC RAPID will introduce level-boarding stations with additional amenities. Design improvements will help vehicles move around traffic, allowing RTC RAPID vehicles to travel faster, and technology will allow the buses to communicate with traffic signals to extend green light time. The ultimate goal is for RTC RAPID vehicles to travel up and down Virginia Street at a significantly faster rate than regular transit buses.

Once construction along the line is complete, northbound RTC RAPID will change its route, turning off Virginia Street onto Center Street to RTC CITICENTER.

 

 RTC Washoe Executive Director Lee Gibson announces the introduction of RTC RAPID in Reno. Gibson is a former assistant general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, where he launched similar BRT service.

 

Walder Is New Chairman, CEO of New York MTA

Jay H. Walder assumed his duties Oct. 5 as chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by meeting with employees at the Corona Subway Maintenance Shop and the Casey Stengel Bus Depot in Queens, before greeting customers at the Main Street Station on MTA New York City Transit’s 7 subway line.

With his appointment to the MTA by New York Gov. David Paterson, confirmed by the New York State Senate on Sept. 10, Walder returns to an agency where he previously worked from 1983 to 1995, eventually serving as executive director and chief financial officer. His term expires in 2015.

In 2001, Walder joined Transport for London, where he served as managing director for finance and development until 2006. He is credited with the introduction of the system’s extremely popular “Oyster card” and with drafting the transportation plan for London’s successful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

“I am proud of the MTA’s progress over the past 20 years, but we need to do more. Our customers have raised their expectations and we cannot be satisfied with the status quo,” Walder said. “In partnership with the MTA’s hard-working men and women, I know we can meet those expectations. It will not be easy, but I come to the job with my eyes open and my sleeves rolled up.”

Walder said his first priority was to work intensively with the organization to bring himself up to speed on the MTA’s operations and better understand its challenges. He committed to quickly identifying priorities and producing a plan of action.

Ghearing Is Transit Manager in Merced County, CA

Rodney Ghearing, former operations officer for the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority in Bridgeport, CT, has joined the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County, CA, as transit manager.

In his new position, Ghearing oversees the operations of the county-wide service “THE BUS” under a Joint Powers Agreement with six cities and the county. Before coming to Merced County, he served in various capacities in transit systems across the country in a career spanning over 37 years.

Ghearing also participated in the first International Transit Studies Program (ITSP) trip to Europe in 1994, and was the ITSP team leader in the spring of 2003.

Meyer Receives Appointment as Dickerson Chair

Professor Michael D. Meyer of the Georgia Institute of Technology has been appointed to the Frederick R. Dickerson Chair, the first person to hold this title. He is the director of the Georgia Transportation Institute, an interdisciplinary research organization that helps provide support to students on transportation issues both locally and nationally.

Meyer has been a professor at Georgia Tech for more than two decades, holding a number of leadership positions there, including chair of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

According to Joseph Hughes, Ph.D., current chair of the school, an endowed chair is the highest distinction awarded to professors in all U.S. university systems. It is, said Hughes, “the cream of the cream, the highest rank in academia.”

Dickerson is a professor emeritus at Georgia Tech who donated the funds to create the position to focus on current transportation research needs. The endowment will also provide financial support directly to Meyer’s research program.

This was a highly competitive international effort. A faculty committee reviewed all the applicants and conducted the interviews, then made recommendations to Hughes. He, along with the dean of engineering and the president of Georgia Tech, reviewed the final applicants and made their recommendation to the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents, which made the final selection.

“The one thing people may not know about Mike,” said Hughes, “is that he’s one of the best instructors that I’ve ever had the chance to work with. He has students that love his classes, love to interact with him, seek him out on matters from engineering education to ‘What should I do with my future?’ He’s amazing with students, a passionate teacher.”

FRA Releases Preliminary National Rail Plan

BY JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications

In preparation for the construction of high-speed rail in the United States, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released its Preliminary National Rail Plan (NRP), as mandated by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 2008.

FRA drafted the document in consultation with APTA and numerous other stakeholder groups. In its preparation of the final NRP, the agency will hold a series of webinars from December 2009 through February 2010 and regional meetings from March through May 2010. The agency will also invite written comments from the public.

The preliminary plan identifies four broad objectives and principles for passenger and freight rail to be undertaken in the development in the final NRP, which will make specific recommendations:
* Improving performance (safety, speed, reliability, comfort, and convenience);
* Better integrating all transportation modes by more accurately determining capacity and where intermodal connections can be improved;
* Identifying projects of national significance; and
* Increasing public awareness of the issues and potential benefits from improvements via an extensive public outreach effort.

FRA places great emphasis on the importance of multi-modal interconnectivity in the document, which states: “States should look at opportunities to exploit the inherent efficiencies of each of the modes and identify projects that will improve multimodal connections and travel. These strategic investments can repay the taxpayers many times over.”

The document also raises the issue of U.S.-based rail infrastructure manufacturing as an economic boon to the nation and a way for rail systems to save costs via economies of scale. But it notes that more standardization of equipment would be needed: “The development of passenger car standards that ensure interoperability of equipment and permit the same equipment to be used on various routes over the course of its designed lifetime could also result in lower unit costs and increased utilization.”

The preliminary plan calls for continued emphasis on workforce development: “This will provide for a highly technical work force at all levels that will be needed to build and operate [rail] systems.” Workforce development was a key initiative of APTA Immediate Past Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., which will continue under current Chair M.P. Carter.

Passenger rail has many unique benefits important to the nation, the document notes. These include such advances in rail safety as positive train control and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, as well as the inherent fuel efficiency of rail transit.

According to the FRA document, rail passengers consume 21 percent less energy per mile on average than car passengers and 17 percent less than airline passengers on short-haul flights. In addition, expansion of passenger rail will be key to developing more livable communities, the document states.

The document notes that an increasing population and growing economy demand the major expansion of passenger rail called for in PRIIA, adding that commuter rail grew by 28 percent between 1997 and 2007. In addition, travel on Amtrak has grown by more than one-third between 1998 and 2008, the FRA report says.

Governance Vote Underway

Following the Oct. 4, 2009 unanimous action by APTA’s Board of Directors, all APTA members must now vote on the proposed amendment of APTA’s bylaws necessary to put the new governance structure in place. Voting packets were mailed and e-mailed to each APTA member’s designated representative on Oct. 21, and ballots and related materials are available online as well.

Electronic versions of the proposed bylaws, transition plan, ballot, a summary of the proposed changes, a side-by-side comparison of the current and proposed bylaws, and recorded webinars explaining the changes can be found at the following links:
* Proposed bylaws;
* Transition plan;
* Ballot;
* Summary;
* Side-by-side comparison; and
* Webinars.

Any questions should be sent here.

New Mexico’s NCRTD Breaks Ground for Facility in Espanola; Dignitaries Celebrate Second Anniversary of Agency

The North Central Regional Transit District (NCRTD) in Santa Fe, NM, broke ground Oct. 9 for its new, 12,000-square-foot public transportation facility in Espanola and commemorated its second year of operation at ceremonies attended by such dignitaries as Ben Lujan, speaker of the state House of Representatives. The district received $2 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for purchase and renovation of the new facility.

Representatives of the state’s Congressional delegation, New Mexico DOT, and local governmental entities participated in the program. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, strong supporters of public transit, sent congratulatory letters recognizing the NCRTD for reducing the region’s carbon footprint; providing transportation choices to commuters; and helping families save on their household transportation expenses.

The NCRTD, commonly known as “the Blue Buses,” provides free bus service throughout north central New Mexico, connecting with Rail Runner commuter rail and park-and-ride services in Espanola, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe.

Legislation signed by Richardson in 2003 authorized the creation of regional transit districts in the state; the following year, NCRTD, encompassing 10,079 square miles within a region of four counties and five northern Pueblos (Native American jurisdictions), was the first district certified by the New Mexico Transportation Commission. The district received a $250,000 startup grant from New Mexico DOT in 2005 and began providing public transit services in October 2007, creating and expanding 15 fixed routes since that time.

In April 2008, the NCRTD Board of Directors approved a Regional County Gross Receipts Tax Resolution adopting a tax of one-eighth percent. Voters approved the regional transit funding referendum for a tax of one-eighth of 1 percent on Nov. 4, 2008, to generate an additional $8 million for NCRTD operations including Rail Runner.

“I am extremely proud of the work the organization has accomplished throughout these difficult times and I am extremely grateful for the cooperative and collaborative effort by the member organizations,” said NCRTD Board Chairman Alfred Herrera.

 

 Marking the start of construction on NCRTD’s facility in Espanola, NM, are, from left: front row, Mary Lou Quintana, Santa Clara Pueblo; Jennifer Catechis, representing Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM); Michele Jacquez-Ortiz, representing Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM); Elias Coriz, Rio Arriba County commissioner; Jack Valencia and Ivan Guillen of NCRTD; Alfred Herrera, chairman of the NCRTD board; New Mexico DOT Adjutant Secretary Rebecca Montoya; Josette Lucero, NCRTD executive director; and Ben Lujan, speaker of the New Mexico state House; second row, Anthony Mortillaro, Los Alamos County; Edwin Tafoya Sr., Santa Clara Pueblo; Charlie Gonzales, Taos County; James Rivera, Pojoaque Pueblo; Liz Stefanics, Santa Fe County commissioner; Pablo Sedillo, representing Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); Mike Anaya, Santa Fe County commissioner; and Robert Gibson, Los Alamos County.

Join the Dialogue on ‘United We Ride’

The National Academy of Public Administration and Easter Seals Project ACTION are hosting an online national dialogue on the federal United We Ride initiative Nov. 2-13, on behalf of the Federal Government Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM). The purpose of the conversation is to assess success to date in transportation access for persons with disabilities, older adults, and persons of limited income.

The federal government, through a multiple agency partnership led by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), has been working to address access to transportation resources through its United We Ride initiative; its initial action plan in 2004 was to address the coordination of transportation services across 64 different federal programs.

Registration is now open at the site. Participants can share their thoughts on questions associated with how to increase access at the community level.

While significant progress has been achieved through United We Ride and new FTA projects, challenges to coordinating stovepiped funding, policies, programs, and services still exist. One significant finding thus far is that innovations can occur through coordination and joint strategic planning across many different groups at the state and local levels.

The virtual town hall forum uses collaborative web-based technologies to engage participants in a creative, interactive conversation about the future of coordinating transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with limited incomes. The outcome of this dialogue will inform future policy decisions, programs, and updates to the CCAM strategic plan; feedback will be given to the members of the CCAM to assist them in developing the council’s 2010-2015 strategic plan.

All individuals who register and provide e-mail addresses will receive this feedback.  Additionally, the results will be posted on the dialogue web site.

ATU Seeks Replies to Survey

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) recently sent a survey to APTA member public transit systems soliciting their views on whether they support the use of federal formula funds for operating assistance. The ATU makes clear that it supports legislation that would allow all transit systems to use at least a portion of their formula funds for operations.

The ATU has informed APTA of this effort and offered to share the result of its survey with APTA, which encourages its members to review and respond to the ATU survey.

Four APTA Employees Honored

This has been a banner year for APTA employees in the Member Services Department, four of whom have received special recognition in the public transportation industry and beyond.

They are:

Kathryn D. Waters, APTA vice president-member services, is the 16th recipient of the W. Graham Claytor Jr. Award for Distinguished Service to Passenger Transportation presented annually by Railway Age magazine. The award is named for the late president of Amtrak.

Waters, who joined APTA in November 2007, was described as “one of our industry’s exemplary railroaders, and also as a role model for women who aspire to transportation careers,” by Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono. She has nearly 30 years experience in the transit and railroad fields, serving in positions that include senior deputy administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore and vice president-commuter rail and railroad management with Dallas Area Rapid Transit. She is a former chair of the APTA Commuter Rail Committee and served on the APTA Executive Committee as vice chair-commuter & intercity rail.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) honored Lenay Gore, APTA director-meetings and conventions, with its Distinguished Service Award. This recognition goes to association members who have rendered distinguished service to IAEE and the exhibitions and events industry as a whole.

APTA Director-Membership Helene Brett is one of seven “Women in Transportation” profiled in the September/October 2009 issue of Metro Magazine. A 30-year employee of APTA, Brett has seen the association’s membership grow from 643 to around 1,500.

Adam Martin, an administrative assistant in the Member Services Department, is one of Mass Transit Magazine’s “2009 Top 40 Under 40.” Martin, whose APTA career began in the Government Affairs Department, participates in the coordination of 15 to 20 of APTA’s conferences and workshops every year.

Highlighting … the Pioneering Signatories of the 2009 Pilot Phase of the APTA Sustainability Commitment

On Jan. 1, 2009, APTA launched the pilot phase of its Sustainability Commitment.

As Fred Hansen, chair of the APTA Sustainability Task Force and general manager/chief executive officer of Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, has noted: “Increasing public and political attention is being paid to the role of transportation in addressing climate change and energy security issues, while also improving the livability of our communities. For this reason, it is particularly important to have a large majority of APTA members sign on to this commitment if we are to credibly promote the sustainability credentials of the transit industry in the eyes of a new Congress and new administration, as well as the public at large.”

Since January, 43 APTA members have signed on and committed to a core set of actions on sustainability. These include:
* Making sustainability a part of their organization’s strategic objectives;
* Identifying a sustainability champion within their organization;
* Establishing an outreach program on sustainability for their employees; and
* Setting a base-line measurement of key sustainability indicators (such as carbon emissions, fuel and water use, pollutants).

APTA members were able to sign on voluntarily to the pilot phase of the commitment by Sept. 30, 2009.

APTA will launch the Sustainability Commitment in its final form in January 2010 for all APTA members.

Further information on the program is available from Petra Mollet.

Here are the 43 signatories to the APTA Sustainability Commitment in its 2009 phase:
AECOM, New York, NY
Ben Franklin Transit, Richland, WA
Bombardier Transit Corporation, Saint-Bruno, PQ, Canada
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
CDM, Cambridge, MA
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL
Chapel Hill Transit, Chapel Hill, NC
DRI Inc., Dallas, TX
ERM West Inc., Bellevue, WA
Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA
Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority, Bridgeport, CT
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland, OH
Greater Lynchburg Transit Company, Lynchburg, VA
Greater Peoria Mass Transit District, Peoria, IL
Hampton Roads Transit, Hampton, VA
HDR Inc., Omaha, NE
IMPulse NC, Inc., Mount Olive, NC
Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo), Indianapolis, IN
InfraConsult, Scottsdale, AZ
Intercity Transit, Olympia, WA
King County Department of Transportation, Metro Transit Division, Seattle, WA
Lea+Elliott, Inc., San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta, GA
Mountain Metropolitan Transit, Colorado Springs, CO
MTA New York City Transit, New York, NY
National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak), Washington, DC
New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ
Paratransit Inc., Sacramento, CA
Parsons Brinckerhoff, New York, NY
Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, St. Petersburg, FL
Proterra LLC, Golden, CO
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco, CA
San Mateo County Transit District, SamTrans bus service, San Carlos, CA
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, San Jose, CA
Sound Transit, Seattle, WA
South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink), Vancouver, BC, Canada
Telvent Transportation North America, Rockville, MD
Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY
Triangle Transit, Durham, NC
Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Portland, OR
Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT
VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX

Seeking Comments on Standards

The APTA Standards Development Program has announced that is seeking public comments until Nov. 13 on about 12 documents in three programs: security, bus standards, and sustainability and urban design.

The APTA program has begun posting documents for public comment on a quarterly basis. A work group gives preliminary approval before the standard is released for public comment; after the comment period ends, the standards documents go for review to chief executive officers and to specialized policy and planning committees. The final documents will be published online.

To access the documents and make comments, click here.

Host an International Intern

APTA invites its business members to participate in an international internship program in the summer of 2010. APTA is partnering with the Federal Transit Administration to pilot this program, through which the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Agency in India will send graduate-level students and recent graduates.

The schedule will include a week-long orientation/training in Washington, DC; 12 to 15 weeks of internship at the business member’s organization; and several days at the APTA Sustainability Conference.

Business members interested in hosting an intern during the summer of 2010 are asked to apply no later than Oct. 30. They must commit to the following:
* Paying a stipend set by APTA to the intern for the duration of the program (this will be an average of the intern pay rates used by participating organizations);
* Arranging and paying for housing for the intern in your city; and
* Covering the costs to send the intern to the APTA Sustainability Conference in New York City during the summer.

More information is available online or from Jessica Bechir.

Public Transit Message Transmits

A print advertisement from APTA’s Public Transportation Takes Us There campaign recently published in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call was among the top three most remembered advertisements in that issue, according to results of a Roll Call survey. In addition, more readers remembered seeing the ad than any other transportation advertisement.

The ad, which highlights the environmental benefits of public transportation, is one of a series, which also appears in “station domination” posters and banners at two prominent Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail stations on Capitol Hill.

Notably, of the readers who said they had involvement with transportation, 56 percent recalled seeing the advertisement—a significantly higher portion than the 37 percent of these readers who have historically recalled seeing transportation ads.

The Public Transportation Takes Us There campaign is part of APTA’s Research, Communication and Advocacy program.

APTA, CUTA Staff Members Meet

Members of the APTA staff meet with their counterparts at the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) at its offices in Toronto. From left are: kneeling, CUTA employees Bernard D’Amour, Executive Director Michael Roschlau, and Becky Benaissa; standing, Maureen Shuell; APTA’s Rose Sheridan, Kathy Waters, and Art Guzzetti; Nancy Ortenburg and John Moudakis of CUTA; Petra Mollet of APTA; and Christopher Norris of CUTA.

Rogoff to Business Leaders: Take Steps Now to Become ‘Ambassadors’ for Transit

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), participating in the Oct. 6 General Session titled “APTA Business Members Present: Doing Business in the New Economy,” called on business leaders to “serve as ambassadors for transit” by speaking to community leaders who may not understand the economic benefits that come from supporting public transit.

In his remarks, he emphasized public transportation’s “full seat at the table” in the federal transportation funding process, equal to that of highways.

“For so many years, we [public transit] were expected to be the lesser cousin when it came to surface transportation—the runt of the litter,” Rogoff said. “We were told to not compare ourselves to highway investments because highway investments paid for themselves through the Highway Trust Fund, while transit investments needed a combination of funds from the Trust Fund and the General Fund. Well … that paradigm is now dead. It’s been dead for well over a year, when the Highway Trust Fund first had to be bailed out with an $8 billion infusion of General Fund revenues.”

He continued: “We are all in the same lifeboat—highways and transit together. Everything is up for grabs, including the federal financing of our enterprise, which is why we all must lean forward and explain that yes, our enterprise provides all those benefits you want, and yes, it requires subsidies to do it—just like highways. We need to lean forward and make this case without apology.”

Panelists at the session represented large transit agencies, a bus manufacturer, and a design and engineering firm. Sharon Greene, APTA vice chair-business members and principal, Sharon Greene and Associates, served as moderator.

Frank Wilson, president and chief executive officer of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro), described how the concurrent construction of five new light rail lines means “business as un-usual” at his agency. He reported that the various contractors on these projects have signed on to provide interlocking, not sequential, guarantees: if one firm is unable to complete its portion of the work, the others are bound by contract to take up the slack.

Another innovation, according to Wilson, is a contract under which a supplier takes full responsibility for its product for the first five years of operation. “It isn’t a warranty; the supplier steps up and serves as the owner for those first years,” he explained.

On the other hand, he said, businesses in the construction zone may receive financial support to sustain them during a rough period. “We can’t afford to have small businesses become casualties to the effort of improving neighborhoods,” he said.

Paul Soubry, president and chief executive officer of New Flyer, stressed the importance of understanding the needs of all stakeholders: the community as a whole, then suppliers, then employees, shareholders, and customers. He also called on businesses to invest in their employees to make them want to stay and to understand that value, not necessarily the lowest price, should be the primary issue for businesses and taxpayers.

“I think the days are past of thinking we can sell a bus, have it roll over the warranty line, then wait to sell the buyer parts,” he said. “We must sell the best bus for life, getting closer to the customer to maximize investment and minimize cost. To do this, the industry’s going to have to be engaged, not just sell a product.”

Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., executive director/chief executive officer of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the incoming APTA secretary-treasurer, described how his agency reinvested itself when it assumed responsibility for parking, taxis, traffic engineering, and bicycle and pedestrian networks—all at a time when California had taken state funding away from transit agencies.

Ford called the integration of parking into his agency “an eye-opener … Now, when we discuss placing a stop sign or traffic signal, we have to take into account the impact on transit. Over the past three years, we’ve worked to get people to think of transit as a unit rather than its components, and we look for something that will benefit all of them.”

Jane Chmielinski, executive vice president and chief corporate officer for AECOM, noted the possibilities of growth that come from responding to a tightened economy. “The challenges to transit have always been there: the need to do more, better, faster, with less,” she explained. “When there’s a downturn in the economy, what do we learn?”

She suggested having “more in the toolbox than just design-build”; determining ways to deal with risk; making the effort to attract workers and keep them motivated; and “respecting all disciplines that go into what makes transit so terrific.”

Chief Executives Share Lessons Learned from Turbulent Times

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

“These have been some of the best of times and they have also been some of the most challenging times.” With those words, moderator Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and APTA’s immediate past chair, opened the session on “Steering Agencies Through Turbulent Times,” held Oct. 5 in Orlando.

“Hopefully there will be ideas that come up that make you say: ‘Gee, I’m glad I came to this session,’” Scott said before introducing the presenters who would talk about “how to continue to inspire your organization and continue to keep your organization focused and keep it forward.”

The first presenter was Mark R. Aesch, chief executive officer of the Rochester Genesee [NY] Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA), who began by noting that, in 2008, ridership on his system was its highest while fares were at their lowest. How did the agency accomplish this?

RGRTA engineered a “very sophisticated” multi-year financial tool to see where it will sit in the future, he explained—making decisions today that will help determine the position of the system five years from now. It also has a predictive tool related to its customers, which should enable the agency to retain its reduced fares for the next three years.

“If there’s one piece of counsel I’d offer, it’s to really focus on building quality information systems so, rather than tell how you’re performing today, which is reactive, you have predictive models, so you can position yourself for the years ahead,” Aesch said.

He then provided a bad news/good news set of observations. Concerning bad news, “if your agency is starting to go through a difficult time, you’d better get used to it,” Aesch said. But the good news is, “if you approach turbulence with the challenges it represents, there’s no doubt you can make your agency better. Because you don’t manage turbulence, you lead. You don’t curl up in the bunker. That’s the time you need to be reliable and accessible and consistent in your message,” he continued.

Honesty is the best policy, he emphasized, telling session participants to be truthful about their information. “When it became apparent we had to lay folks off, I wouldn’t say that everything would be OK,” he said, adding: “The more control you can give your employees, even in relatively small ways, the better off you’ll be.”

Stating that he wasn’t known for being particularly religious, Aesch nonetheless has memorized the Serenity Prayer. He recited the prayer to rueful laughter: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

He closed by noting: “We are the targets—don’t take it personally. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you do have to accept it. Turbulence and those types of challenges can bring out the best in an organization. If you want to see your leaders shine, you should look forward to turbulence. It’s a good way to separate your true leaders from those who are just hanging around.”

Aesch wasn’t the only presenter who observed that negative situations could produce positive actions. “Some of the best I’ve ever been has been in times of turbulence,” said Stephen G. Bland, chief executive officer of Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County. “It gives you an opportunity to become sharp, to build your skills, to build camaraderie.”

When a system encounters problems—regardless of whether the cause is internal (such as employee issues or accidents) or external (such as delays because of bad weather or withheld funding)—the media will nonetheless either ask, or, in some cases, demand responses.

Bland noted that his agency has seen some of its highest returns in media training—putting people on camera. “It’s valuable not just for the TV presence for your agency, but being able to get up in front of your employees,” he said.

Sometimes, he added, if something works well, you should maintain that routine. For example, he said: “We found that our police chief was a very good communicator so, whenever it’s a police action, he goes before the camera … and you can’t beat a guy in uniform.”

Gary C. Thomas, president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit and APTA vice chair-rail transit, spoke next about overseeing the largest public transportation expansion project in the country. People in Dallas understood that construction prices were “off the charts,” Thomas said, but when the project wasn’t completed on time, “we had busloads of people showing up at meetings to express their concerns about the delays … because there’s such a pent-up demand for public transportation in our region.”

To cope with those kinds of problems, he said, there’s the need to ensure that “the people on the bus feel comfortable to talk to you, to have that open dialogue so they can have that honest conversation with you—and together we start to formulate the solutions for how to move forward.”

Thomas added: “It’s about consistency, making sure you stay level. Don’t let them see you sweat. You’ve got to stay constant, focused—because everyone is watching you as a leader to see how you’re going to react.”

He stressed that working through turbulent times also includes having “faith in the people around you. Make sure you have complete confidence in the people, listen to what they have to say, and work as a team.” To ensure that he hears from his employees directly, he meets twice a quarter with a random group of 17-18 of them, conveying to them that “it takes every one of us doing what we do to get the job done.”

The last presenter was John B. Catoe Jr., general manager, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and chair of Leadership APTA. “In the beginning of June,” he began, “we were finishing up our budget in troubled financial times. Then, on June 22, I was notified of a train accident beyond anything I could have imagined.”

In describing those very difficult times, Catoe said: “Our days felt darker than the darkest nights. You felt that you could not see the light. But during those times, you must find the light in the darkness ... and stick to the principles you’ve always believed in: accountability and the ability to communicate.”

He noted that, when faced with the kind of adversity the June 22 incident provided, “you become the face of the system to reassure the public about its safety.” Further, he said: “When morale of the employees is at their lowest, that’s when you must be at your highest.”

Catoe stressed the importance of communicating with the agency’s board of directors every day during times of crisis, as well as with employees “to reassure them to continue to focus,” and with the media.

“It is the defining moment of the organization for how employees will react to a crisis,” he said, adding that over his decades of experience “I learned from the worst managers what not to do.”

In closing, Scott spoke of the importance of not only being positive but projecting a positive image. “When times are really challenging,” she said, “I cannot say how much your people—and your customers, too—will take their energy from you.” She then asked the panelists for “one more reflection—say anything.”

“Sometimes in our industry we tend to look inward and talk about how difficult it is, but it’s difficult in every industry,” said Aesch. “Be optimistic, and work to chart a path—rather than saying ‘woe is me, this is hard,’ figure out how to realize your vision.”

Clarity, Bland noted, is key: “When we can get the message right, that’s the most important thing we can do.”

Thomas advised being “true to yourself, making the best decisions you can based on the information you have at the time, and having the best team.”

Catoe reiterated the need to focus on the core mission, “what you’re there for. For the Washington region, if we’re not there, it will shut down.” He further advised: “Understand that crises will arise; make sure that you’re prepared as best as you can to respond to those. We find ways to overcome the adversities, and then we move forward.”

Small Operators Share Their Best Practices

By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Chief executives of three smaller public transportation agencies joined suppliers Oct. 6 in Orlando to share experiences unique to transit organizations of their size and to present best practices to benefit similar systems.

Carl G. Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer of Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) in Monterey, CA, described his agency’s growing reliance on public-private partnerships. He explained that—as federal revenue levels have remained flat and the state eliminated transit assistance—MST could only do so much by raising fares. That’s where the partnerships with local business and military interests come in.

For one thing, according to Sedoryk, farms in the region served by MST are responsible for 90 percent of the nation’s fresh produce, as well as a growing wine industry. The agency entered into a partnership with local wine growers and makers to introduce the Carmel Valley Grapevine Express, originally to transport workers but now also serving tourists. As another component of the partnership, one winery has provided 30 acres of land to grow mustard seed, which will be converted to biodiesel for use in MST buses.

MST is also helping area military installations cope with traffic congestion, using funds from the federal transit commuter benefit of up to $230 a month—approximately $2 million with no match required—to create 11 new express routes providing peak hour service to local Army and Navy communities. Nearly 1,000 military personnel signed up for the program in its first months, Sedoryk said, and enrollment continues to grow.

He noted that the city of Monterey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium provide a 20 percent local match and 100 percent of operating costs for the MST Trolley, which operates during the summer and on holidays.

Sedoryk provided a few guidelines for establishing partnerships: “Know your local businesses, remain active in local trade associations, nurture relationships with your key stakeholders, and don’t ignore the private sector.” Sedoryk pointed out that support from partners and allies can lead to assistance with transit tax and revenue measures, increased marketing exposure, and attracting non-traditional and/or choice transit riders.

Creation of an effective marketing plan was the theme of Michael S. Harbour, general manager of Intercity Transit in Olympia, WA. “Make your transit system easy for everyone to use,” he said. “Get people to try it once, then market it 24 [hours a day]/seven [days a week]/365 [days a year].”

He recommended designing high-frequency corridors, implementing a simple fare structure, providing outreach programs such as travel training, targeting specific populations such as young riders and commuters, and trumpeting any positive recognition. [Intercity Transit received the 2009 APTA Outstanding Public Transportation System award among agencies providing more than four million and fewer than 30 million annual trips.]

Daniel Ours, executive director of the Lakeland Area Mass Transit District (Citrus Connection) in Lakeland, FL, spoke about how individual community partners are helping to finance new bus shelters. For example, a Veterans Affairs clinic is providing support for a bus stop near its facility.

Kirk Shore, AVM product line manager with Clever Devices Inc. and a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2009, reported that small transit systems should develop a formal process for meeting their future needs. He emphasized that investing in new technology is preferable to maintaining the status quo.

Alessia Marzano, a statistical expert in the Research Department of ASSTRA-Associazione Trasporti in Rome, the Italian association of public transit agencies, spoke about the reorganization of service in the Emilia-Romagna region. The marketing and communications campaign promoting the changes included door-to-door distribution of informative materials,
educational projects for students, and substantial information on the agency’s web site. As a result, she said, daily ridership on the area’s routes has shown a 71 percent increase with high customer satisfaction levels.

Jeanne Krieg, chair of the APTA Small Operations Committee and chief executive officer of the Eastern Contra Costa Transit Authority in Antioch, CA, served as moderator.

Motor Coach Industries Inc. sponsored this session.

Workforce Development: Building Transit’s Workforce, 2010 and Beyond

BY JOE NIEGOSKI, APTA Director-Educational Services

Tomorrow’s executive leaders and managers need a portfolio of cutting-edge plans, state-of-the-art blueprints, and innovative best practices to hire and develop a world-class workforce for 2010 and beyond.

Recognizing these and other transit industry workforce needs and challenges, Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., immediate past APTA chair, selected workforce development as one of her key initiatives during her term in office. She appointed Doran Barnes, APTA vice chair-human resources and executive director of Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, as chair of a blue ribbon panel to oversee this effort.

APTA’s new chair, M.P. Carter, recognizing the work that lies ahead, has also made workforce development one of her initiatives for 2009-2010.

On Oct. 6 in Orlando, more than 120 people participated in what Barnes termed “a mini-conference within a conference” as he moderated a session titled “Workforce Development: Building Transit’s Workforce 2010 & Beyond—An Executive Leadership Round Table and Working Session.”

Presentations
Mary Ann Collier, chair of the APTA Human Resources Committee; co-chair, Collaborations and Partnerships Working Group, blue ribbon panel; and director of human resources for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District in Stockton, CA, was the first presenter. She cited the year-long efforts of panel and advisory members and discussed topics such as accomplishments in proposed legislation, higher education programs, and current successes in youth outreach.

In particular, Collier recognized the success of the “9000 in ’09” youth outreach project, which reached more than 13,000 students, far exceeding the initial goal. She also focused on an upcoming industry survey on workforce metrics.

Ken Mall, managing director, workforce consulting, with Educational Data Systems Inc., shared the preliminary results of an APTA survey about industry training needs, which underscored the impact of baby boomer retirements. Transit agencies most often cited the need for supervisory training for managers at all levels, followed closely by coaching/mentoring, interpersonal communication, new technology, and safety. Business leaders identified supervisory and leadership skills, new technologies, and mechanics and maintenance training as their top three training priorities.

Tawnya Moore-McGee, vice chair of the APTA Human Resources Committee and assistant general manager, Human Resources Division, of Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County, provided success stories on how her organization is using many social media tools and resources to recruit the next generation.

Bertrand Barthélemy, training director for Veolia Transport, Campus Veolia Environnement, in Paris, France, spoke about how co-investing in human resources development and training through public-private partnerships can help overcome workforce challenges. “Our experience over five continents has shown us that employee development is an investment, rather than a cost,” he said.

He stated that everyone at all levels in his organization participates in training, and that the training program goal is mastery of skills, which in turn will build capacity over time.

Enrique Washington, partner, Generator Group LLC, provided preliminary findings of current Transit Cooperative Research Program research to help identify and understand trends and best practices that will be published in a guide for recruiting minority chief executive officers in public transportation. Washington highlighted research that examines a range of organizations in both the private and public sectors to provide transit properties with a foundation for successfully identifying, recruiting, and retaining minority CEOs.

Roundtable Discussions
During the second half of the session, attendees joined several topic tables for discussions on the findings and recommendations of the various blue ribbon panel working groups (which are shown in parentheses).

Dr. Jill Hough, program director, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Small Urban and Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University (Higher Education), and Robert Prince, vice president and industry liaison, AECOM (Collaborations and Partnerships), co-facilitated conversations on opportunities for higher education and industry partnerships, curricula development, and industry research.

Aida Berduo Douglas, business development manager/DBE officer, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX (Youth Outreach), co-facilitated a group with Stephanie Pinson, president and chief operating officer, Gilbert Tweed Associates (Industry Image). Douglas highlighted a proposed pilot toolkit to be used by teachers and school systems to begin educating youth about the industry’s career possibilities. Pinson addressed ways to improve the image of public transportation as a career, promote green sector jobs, and making the business case for workforce development.

Dr. Stephen Van Beek, president, Eno Transportation Foundation, and Brian Turner, director, Transportation Learning Center (co-chairs, Metrics and ROI), provided highlights of their working group and discussed a forthcoming survey and research to establish an industry-developed model that measures the ROI on workforce development and training.

Leadership APTA graduates from the Class of 2009 conducted roundtable discussions on Executive Development and Net Generation Ridership projects. Dr. Dianne Mendoza, vice president, business and community development, Capital Metro, and Curvie Hawkins, director of planning, Fort Worth Transportation Authority, respectively, led these discussions.

On the subject of both overseas and domestic programs, Cheryl deHoog, director, organizational development and training, Veolia Transportation North America, and Benjamin Koskas, international training project manager, Veolia Transport, Campus Veolia Environnement, Paris, France, offered insights into organizational investments in human capital development.

Rounding out the sessions, Elaine Lees, partner and vice president, talent management, Generator Group, focused on the role of talent acquisition for the 21st century, explaining how integrated management can optimize acquisition and other workforce development initiatives.

Federal Partnerships Aimed to Help Foster More Sustainable Communities

BY KATHY GOLDEN, Editor

Representatives from three federal agencies shared their perspectives on how their partnerships are helping to foster livability and sustainability in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout the nation at an Oct. 6 session titled “Partnerships for Sustainable Communities."

Diana C. Mendes AICP, chair, APTA Policy & Planning Committee, and senior vice president, AECOM, Arlington, VA, moderated the session, stressing the importance of partnerships “as we try to promote more integrated planning.”

Mendes referred to a recent APTA survey that asked: “What ways could federal partnerships support the livability efforts that your agency or community is pursuing?” The most common responses were to better align the funding process to support livability principles and to promote more integrated planning at the metropolitan level among transportation, economic development, housing, and land use. Many communities, she added, are used to working with U.S. DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or the Environmental Protection Agency, so the purpose of the session was to help understand how partnerships among all three entities are invaluable.

Robert J. Tuccillo, Federal Transit Administration associate administrator for budget and policy, said it is “an exciting time for those of us working at DOT and HUD and EPA because this administration has decided to take on a major initiative, which is the livability—or sustainability—communities initiative.” He said communities nationwide are facing the challenges of growing congestion, increased energy use, and—citing a recent Texas Transportation Institute report on congestion—a nation dependent on foreign oil, and that “we need to change this.” The transportation sector alone, he added, is the second highest contributor of all emissions, next to power generation, but “public transit can be a part of the solution.”

Tuccillo, in noting the growing and aging population (more than 65 million Americans will be over age 65 by the year 2030), stressed the need to address the necessity of sustainable communities and why people must realize the benefits of transit-oriented development (TOD). Not only does TOD improve property values, he said, it also encourages a healthy lifestyle by encourage biking and walking “for those of us here now and for future generations.” He urged the three agencies to continue joint research, training, and technical assistance efforts.

This partnership, he added, is based on six guiding principles the agencies negotiated:
* Provide more transportation choices;
* Promote equitable, affordable housing;
* Enhance economic competitiveness;
* Support existing communities;
* Coordinate policies and leverage investment; and
* Value communities and neighborhoods.

Brett Van Akkeren, director, Development, Community, and Environment Division, for EPA’s Smart Growth Program, spoke about the partnership among HUD, U.S. DOT, and EPA, which has three working groups examining such issues as:
* Why can’t we spend federal transportation dollars to support TOD and bike and pedestrian access?
* What are the federal administrative, regulatory and legislative barriers—and solutions?
* How do we refine what affordable housing means and implement it throughout the federal policies, investments, and actions?
* How will we measure success?

He commented that this administration wants to make sure that “what we’re doing has results. We want to know if it’s working. If it’s not, we will change it.”

Yvette Taylor, FTA’s regional administrator for Region IV (Atlanta), reported extensive conversation and collaboration at the regional level. She added that FTA has “reached out to EPA, have a representative from HUD, EPA, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and have talked about our goal to facilitate a national initiative of sustainability and livability.”

Taylor emphasized the need to improve public transportation for America’s communities by administering federal funding and providing technical assistance to support a variety of locally planned, constructed, and operated public transportation systems throughout the Southeastern Region. But the biggest challenge, she maintained, is still funding.

The session was sponsored by GJB Consulting LLC.

General Forum: Transit's Future in a Green Economy

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but uses 25 percent of the world’s energy—a major reason for making the shift to greener practices, including taking public transit instead of driving.

That was the message of Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, at a General Forum on “The Future of Transit in a Green Economy,” held Oct. 7 during the APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando.

“The transit industry holds the key to a lot of the things that need to happen over the next few years” as far as implementing more ecologically sensitive operations, said moderator John M. Inglish, chair of the APTA Sustainability and Urban Design Standards Policy and Planning Committee and general manager/chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City. He noted that corporations are beginning to understand the importance of “doing things in a green way” and reminded transit agencies to sign on to the APTA Sustainability Commitment.

Callahan explained that APTA is one of more than 160 members of the Alliance, which works to bring together government, industry, and the public sector to conserve energy and encourage energy efficiency. For example, the Alliance promotes the Drive Smarter Challenge, with tips on how drivers can reduce their fuel bills.

“Energy efficiency has been powering the U.S. economy for more than 30 years,” she said, noting the origins of the Alliance at the time of the 1970s gasoline shortage. However, she added, the situation has become much more serious: total energy use in U.S. buildings is as much as the total amount in India and Japan combined, although federal legislation beginning with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has begun to help with reductions in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions.

Callahan also cited President Barack Obama’s focus on regional and local transit planning as part of his green efforts, and the current interaction among U.S. DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Increasing efficiency is the quickest, cheapest way to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “As time goes on, green becomes business as usual, with better cars increasing vehicle fuel efficiency; better fuels with low or zero CO2 levels; a reduced rate of growth; and, eventually, optimizing the system’s operations.”

Stephen R. Van Beek, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Eno Transportation Foundation, compared climate change mediation efforts with “health care for the planet.” He pointed out the importance of governmental and institutional efforts to work with the situation, as individual climate efforts will be inefficient and expensive without an overall policy infrastructure.

In addition to promoting transit use and providing transportation alternatives, Van Beek recommended supporting research on lifecycle greenhouse gas emission levels and using tax incentives to encourage going green.

Stephen R. Beard, vice chair of Leadership APTA and senior vice president and national director of transit for HDR ENGINEERING INC., offered a private-sector perspective on the issue. “I’ve heard plenty of evidence that we’re in a green economy,” he said. “I see the pressures and expectations from transit passengers and the general public. I hear it in a very strong way through governmental policy. The question is, how do these things translate into the way we do business?”

Beard described how his firm understands that “sustainability is good for business” and, in keeping with that insight, is forging new partnerships specifically devoted to environmental and climate change issues. Going green, he said, reduces the firm’s costs in many ways; helps define internal environmental policies; changes how services are delivered; serves to recruit and retain employees; and ultimately yields a more responsible corporation.

HDR’s specific efforts include signing on to the APTA Sustainability Commitment at the gold level, establishing a National Sustainable Solutions Leadership Team to oversee both internal and external efforts, and releasing an annual Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Report. The company is also building its hybrid fleet, increasing transit-supportive office locations, subsidizing transit passes, providing carpool spaces, and offering vanpools.

Trish Webb, director of corporate sustainability for the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) in Burnaby, BC, spoke about her agency’s sustainability vision, which has as its goal moving the region toward sustainability through transportation excellence. The plan has environmental, social, and fiscal aspects, created with the help of TransLink employees and regional stakeholders.

“The goal of our policy is to become a world leader in transportation sustainability,” she added.

Webb described a 30-year plan for sustainability in the region served by TransLink. The goals include reducing greenhouse gas levels created by replacing most driving trips with walking, cycling, or transit; establishing most jobs and housing on frequent transit routes; making travel safe, secure, and accessible; and ensuring stable, sufficient funding levels that positively influence transport choice.

The General Forum was sponsored by Veolia Transportation.

Working to Make the New Starts Process Easier to Navigate

BY JAY HAMBURG, Special to Passenger Transport

Simplifying the federal approval process for transit New Starts and Small Starts may never be easy, but several speakers in Orlando on Oct. 7 offered suggestions for smoothing the procedure—and shared stories with each other about navigating the complexities of the programs while expressing hope for more flexibility in the future.

At the session, titled “New Directions in Advancing New and Small Starts,” moderator David Vozzolo, vice president of HDR ENGINEERING INC., raised a question: can transportation leaders explain to frustrated voters why a rail project the voters supported seems to hit several stop-and-start points because of complicated regulations? “I don’t even try,” said Toru Hamayasu, chief of the Transportation Planning Division for the City and County of Honolulu DOT.

According to Hamayasu, voters who approve public money for public transportation projects would rather see progress on the ground, which reassures them that improvements are moving forward, than an explanation on the finer points of federal approval. He noted that transportation leaders have to work continuously with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to make sure no unexpected complications crop up in the multi-step approval process.

Hamayasu said his group often asks for many clarifications from FTA to make sure they don’t hit any unseen obstacles, adding: “We’re always nervous.” He explained that the Honolulu Rail Transit Project took a long time to get underway and is slated for completion in 2019.

Transportation leaders also must be realistic in their expectations and keep election timetables in mind, said RoseMary Covington, assistant general manager of planning and transit system development for the Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT).

“The voters expected something to have happened by now,” Covington said of a Sacramento-area transit project. To reassure them that progress is continuing, the agency plans to open a new segment by the next local election cycle.

Sacramento’s “Green Line to the River District” project was funded by local money to start it moving quickly. What that means, however, is that RT can’t be guaranteed that those local millions will qualify as a required match to obtain future federal dollars, said Covington.  So when the transit system applies for federal support for other parts of the larger project, it will need a local match.  She called for additional clarification and leniency on the issue so local transit authorities don’t hesitate to gather local dollars to start the building process.

Richard Simonetta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix, said the Small Starts program is easier and smoother to negotiate than the New Starts program, but it also has limitations: for example, a relatively small rail project planned for the Mesa, AZ, area just barely makes it in under the $250 million Small Starts cap.

It is hard to build a wide-ranging, overall transit system in that fashion, he said, but he believes FTA is becoming more open to finding ways to further refine its funding procedure.

Several other panelists expressed similar hopes. Karen Waterman, transit development manager for Hampton Roads Transit in Hampton, VA, emphasized that the current stop-and-start method that can go along with the approval process can erode both public support and political will for a project.

Laurie Hussey, principal with Cambridge Systematics, added that local transit agencies may have trouble keeping up with the ongoing modifications to the federal process, even though these changes are intended to ease frustrations.

Vozzolo summed up the situation that occurs when a federal program tries to establish consistent, national requirements while dealing with local projects that have unique challenges.

“That’s kind of a conflict when trying to individualize projects and advance them quickly,” he said. “But I really do sense that they [FTA] are very open to fresh, new approaches.”

Making a Positive Impact with Transit Mega Projects

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Every public transportation capital project that involves major construction will cause upheaval in its community, but some are more overwhelming than others. Transit agency representatives shared their experiences with three massive North American transit projects—the new Hudson River tunnel connecting New Jersey with New York, Toronto’s extensive expansion of light rail lines and bus service, and the newly opened Central Link light rail line in Seattle—at an Oct. 6 General Forum on “Transit Mega Projects.”

Richard R. Sarles, executive director of New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit), reported on construction of the tunnel, known as the Access to the Region’s Core project. NJ Transit is partnering with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build the first new tunnel under the Hudson River in a century.

When the two-tube tunnel is complete, scheduled for 2017, it will connect NJ Transit’s Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus, NJ, with a new station underneath West 34th Street in Manhattan, adjacent to the current Penn Station. Sarles said the area anticipates 44,000 new permanent jobs and an additional $10 billion in the gross regional product once the tunnel opens.

“It seems very simple, but once you get to Manhattan it becomes very complicated,” Sarles noted. He recounted the effort that began in 2002 to create the plans for a tunnel, working with the New Jersey and New York state governments, New York City, several New Jersey municipalities, elected officials, unions, and other stakeholders.

“We were under pressure to create more capacity for the trans-Hudson route,” Sarles said, commenting that double-decker cars, improved signals, and other improvements could only do so much. “We and our partners saw that we had to take the project and move forward with it. The existing, 100-year-old tunnel is at capacity during peak periods, so we had to do something.”

NJ Transit held more than 200 one-on-one meetings with decision makers throughout the region before beginning the public information process. “The response was tremendous: the leaders said no one before had ever bothered to come across the river and meet with them,” Sarles said. “Because of this, we were able to invoke bipartisan and bi-state support for the project.”

Adam Giambrone, Toronto councillor and chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), described the Transit City plan, which includes 122 km of light rail transit on seven lines opening by 2020 as well as one new subway line; extensions to existing subway lines; and 160 new bus routes. The 25-year vision of rapid transit and highway improvements in the region has a total cost of $50 billion (Cdn.).

TTC selected light rail instead of subways for the major expansion, Giambrone said, because light rail will meet the projected ridership demand with stop spacing and vehicle speeds comparable to subways, but more quickly and cost-effectively.

He showed scenes of Toronto’s inner suburbs—six-lane highways with sprawling, inefficient land use—and an artist’s renderings of the future, when light rail will run in the middle of the road; bike lanes will be added; and new, taller buildings along the line will provide increased residential density.

Michael Williams, project development officer for Sound Transit, recounted the process that led to the launch of Seattle’s initial light rail line. The first Central Link extension, to Sea-Tac Airport, is scheduled to open before the end of the year, and construction began in March for another extension that will serve the University of Washington and Capitol Hill when it opens in 2016.

Calling the 13.9-mile Central Link line “one of the most complex and challenging projects in the country,” Williams noted that Sound Transit had to cope with waterways, hills, and the built environment in the design and construction process. Central Link has stations at grade, elevated, and in tunnels—both the existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, retrofitted to accommodate light rail as well as buses, and the twin-bore Beacon Hill Tunnel, with a station at a depth of 160 feet.

Ultimately, he said, Sound Transit will administer a total of 55 miles of light rail as part of $18 billion in new projects approved by the region’s voters.

Flora Castillo, an NJ Transit board member and APTA vice chair-transit board members, served as moderator.

Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan Inc. sponsored the session.

Transit Board Members Welcome Rogoff

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), made such a positive impression when he attended the Oct. 4 meeting of the APTA Transit Board Members Committee in Orlando that the committee members voted unanimously to make him an honorary member.

Rogoff acknowledged the hard work performed by transit board members, especially at a time when demand for service is very high and revenue is tight: they help, guide, and protect the general managers and staff to let them do their job in providing services.

The administrator also spoke positively about one particular transit board member—M.P. Carter of the Memphis Area Transit Authority—becoming chair of APTA.

 

Welcoming FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, second from left, as an honorary member of the APTA Transit Board Members Committee are, from left, committee membership chair John Danish, Dallas Area Rapid Transit board; committee Secretary Alison Hewitt, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board; Chair W. Randy Wright, Hampton Roads Transit board; Vice Chair Gloria Leonard, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority board; and Flora Castillo, APTA vice chair-transit board members.

 


 

Welcome, New Advisory Board!

We’re excited to announce that Passenger Transport has an Advisory Board. The formation of what we know will prove to be an invaluable group is yet another change in what has been a year of change for our newspaper.

As you know, we moved from a weekly publication to bi-weekly (publishing Passenger Transport EXPRESS in the alternate week). We’ve added an electronic version, so you can “read all about it”—including any breaking news. And we radically re-designed the paper and changed its content.

We instituted all these changes not only to keep up-to-date technologically, but also to keep APTA members and other readers up-to-date on what is happening in, with, and to our industry.

And along the way—let us toot our horn here—we won TWO awards for best revamped newspaper! So now we can call Passenger Transport the title it has earned—an award-winning paper!

These changes reflect the many suggestions given by our readers who requested that we provide more stories with expanded coverage and analysis on the critical issues facing public transportation.

In this age of media—including social networking—it’s more important than ever that Passenger Transport serves as the vehicle for reaching the widest possible audience. Or, to echo the signature initiative of M.P. Carter, APTA’s new chair, it’s critically important not only that—but how—we tell our story of the substantial benefits of public transit.

To support our efforts in continuing to focus on the most relevant, timely, and pivotal topics, we have assembled an Advisory Board comprising a solid cross-section of transportation professionals.

These APTA members have volunteered to serve as an occasional sounding board for the editors, and—we cannot stress this enough—suggest innovative, at times envelope-pushing, story ideas.

So, at the risk of a bad pun, we welcome our 12 new members “on Board.”

 

 

 

Bonnie Arnold, director of marketing & customer service, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/
Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL 

Flora Castillo, board member, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Board of Directors, Newark, NJ 

Chuck Cohen, executive director, Palm Tran, Palm Beach, FL 

 

 

 

Tom Costello, assistant managing director, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL 

Dwight Ferrell, chief operating officer and deputy general manager, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta, GA 

Carolyn Flowers, chief operations officer, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA 

 

 

 

Tom Greufe, senior vice president, safety, Forsythe Transportation,
Cave Creek, AZ 

Kim Green, president, GFI Genfare,
Elk Grove Village, IL 

Cliff Henke, senior analyst, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Arcadia, CA 

 

 

 

Jill Hough, Ph.D., program director, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Fargo, ND 

Nick Promponas, senior vice president, First Transit, Tempe, AZ 

Carolyn Young, executive director, communications & technology, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Portland, OR