Passenger Transport - November 9, 2009
PHOTO BY JEFF SWINGER, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER
When an emergency closed the San Francisco Bay Bridge on Oct. 27, the approximately 280,000 daily commuters who use the span turned to a reliable alternative: San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) trains. Their boardings led to the largest single-day ridership levels in the agency’s 37-year history.
BART reported that 437,200 trips were taken on Oct. 28—an agency milestone exceeded the following day with 442,000 riders. The previous all-time high for a single day had been 405,400 riders on Sept. 8, 2008.
Ridership levels on each of the days were approximately one-quarter higher than the average for that weekday, according to BART. Also, regarding service between the East Bay and San Francisco, BART carried 253,400 passengers on Oct. 29 and 260,600 on Oct. 30—more than 50 percent higher than an average weekday.
“BART has and always will step up to the plate to keep the bay area moving. We're proud that commuters realize they can depend on us to be their most direct and fastest route to travel between San Francisco and the east bay,” said BART Board Vice President James Fang.
The bridge closed following an incident when two rods and a crossbar, installed over the Labor Day weekend to repair a crack, fell onto the deck during the evening rush hour.
The falling 5,000-pound bridge parts caused minor injuries to one person and damage to three cars.
Caltrans reopened the bridge Nov. 2 following extensive repair work.
More than 5,000 employees of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), members of the Transport Workers Union Local 234, SEPTA’s largest union, went on strike at 3 a.m. on Nov. 3. While it was after the last World Series game to be held in Philadelphia, and therefore had no impact on patrons traveling to the stadium, the strike had an immediate impact on all riders, who take an average of more than 928,000 trips each weekday.
The walkout affected bus, subway, and trolley service in the city, as well as Frontier Division bus service in Bucks, Montgomery, and Chester counties. Regional rail; most suburban bus, trolley, and high-speed lines; and CCT Connect paratransit will continue to operate.
The union went on strike after walking away from contract negotiations because of disagreements over wage, pension, and health care issues. Employees want an annual 4 percent wage hike and want to keep the current 1 percent contribution they make toward the cost of health care coverage; the authority offered an 11.5 percent wage increase over 5 years.
Compounding the problems for commuters and other riders caused by the strike, moreover, was a fire aboard a regional rail train traveling between West Philadelphia and Center City Philadelphia during the morning rush hour on Nov. 4. A SEPTA spokesman said that investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire but they had no reason to think it was of a suspicious nature.
The spokesman said it was most likely an electrical fire that started at the front of the train. No injuries were reported in that incident.
The Sustainable Endowment Institute’s recently released “College Sustainability Report Card” for 2010 found that 64 percent of North American colleges and universities surveyed provide some form of financial incentive—subsidies, tax rebates, or reimbursement—to encourage students and employees to use public transportation. More than three-quarters of these institutions operate hybrid or other alternative-energy vehicles in their fleets, and sizable percentages offer car-sharing and bicycle-sharing programs.
In total, the organization ranks 105 of the 332 participating colleges and universities as “Transportation Leaders” with “A” grades for their innovative transportation initiatives. Here are just a few examples of forward thinking among universities and their communities:
* Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge is one of dozens of higher education institutions whose students, faculty, and staff benefit from free fares on the local municipality’s bus service. LSU also is implementing its own bus system, which will expand coverage and is free to the public.
* The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge subsidizes the purchase of public transportation and commuter train passes for students and employees. MIT’s fleet includes a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, and a student-run biodiesel processor provides fuel from waste vegetable oil. The institute has a bike-sharing program and partners with a car-sharing service, through which a hybrid option is available.
* In Austin, the University of Texas is another school that provides free rides on city buses with an ID card and offers carpool incentives. The university also makes shuttle service available between residential areas and outlying academic locations, and the Orange Bike Project on campus provides free bicycle rentals.
* The University of Utah uses biodiesel to power vehicles in the campus fleet. Carpool participants receive priority parking permits, and the university is adding car sharing on a pilot basis to its existing bike-sharing program. A free shuttle provides service to the campus. Parking and student fees fund regional transit passes for all full-time students, staff, and faculty.
According to the institute, “the Report Card is designed to identify colleges and universities that are leading by example on sustainability. The aim is to provide accessible information for schools to learn from each other’s experiences and establish more effective sustainability policies.” The institute is a nonprofit organization that supports sustainability in campus operations and endowment practices.
The survey pool includes 300 educational institutions with the largest endowments, as well as 32 others that applied for inclusion. Other categories of the study are Administration, Climate Change and Energy, Food and Recycling, Green Building, Student Involvement, Endowment Transparency, Investment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement.
The text of the report is available online.
A report released Oct. 26 by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) demonstrates how increasing government investment in both conventional and green transit bus systems would create high-quality manufacturing jobs, especially in states with double-digit unemployment rates, while significantly cutting auto-related global warming pollution. States that would benefit from this connection, according to the report, include Michigan, with 15.3 percent unemployment; California, 12.2 percent; Ohio, 10.1 percent; and Indiana, 10 percent.
EDF noted that this study, Public Transit Buses: A Green Choice Gets Greener, is the 12th installment of the series titled “Manufacturing Climate Solutions: Carbon-Reducing Technologies and U.S. Jobs,” prepared by the Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness and sponsored by the fund.
“If federal, state, and local policy were to shift to a clear, sustained commitment to public transit, the nation would have the manufacturing capability to meet the resulting increased demand for transit buses,” the study concludes.
The report highlights the importance of alternative fuel buses to U.S. public transit agencies, such as Los Angeles Metro’s 2,200 buses (88 percent of its fleet) powered by compressed natural gas and the growing role of diesel-electric hybrids. It also examines newer technologies such as hydrogen-electric hybrids.
“We’ve known for awhile that transit is good for the environment,” said Kathryn Phillips, an EDF transportation policy expert based in Sacramento, CA. “This study shows that transit investment also is good for the American manufacturers and American jobs.”
She continued: “Increasing government investment in bus transit systems could be our generation’s Works Progress Administration in terms of its economic and environmental impact. This report shows we have a great opportunity to create new manufacturing jobs during tough economic times and cut greenhouse gas emissions. We only need the political will to make it happen.”
The text of the report is available online.
Thomas E. Barron, an employee of Parsons Corporation since 1976, has been named the president of Parsons Transportation Group Inc. (PTG), with responsibility for the business unit’s worldwide operations. He is based in the firm’s Washington, DC, office.
Barron has held a succession of project management and business development positions during his tenure with the corporation, serving most recently as executive vice president and global business development manager for PTG. In this job, he was responsible for managing the business development operation for more than 4,000 employees and for working with company leadership to establish business strategies, develop new markets and customers, and assist with the financial performance, technical excellence, and quality of services.
Barron holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Northeastern University and completed graduate coursework in transportation planning. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
James Francis Mullervy, 75, of Severna Park, MD, a longtime employee of Westinghouse Electric’s Transportation Division and its successor companies, died Sept. 28.
Mullervy began his career with Westinghouse in Boston and later served as marketing manager for the company’s Transportation Division in Washington. He also managed the company’s government affairs efforts. At the time of his retirement in the 1990s, the firm was known as Adtranz; today it is part of Bombardier.
“He was very effective at both [marketing and government affairs] tasks and helped Westinghouse become a powerhouse in the rapid transit field,” said Terry Sanders, a retired Westinghouse colleague. “He was a wonderful and humorous gentleman and we had many great/fun times together.”
One of Mullervy’s major projects was the marketing, sale, and delivery of several major car fleets to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. He also represented Westinghouse on the United States Taiwan Transit Group, a joint industry initiative to market U.S. transit products in Taiwan.
He was a past member of the APTA Legislative Committee and the Passenger Transportation Committee of the former Railway Progress Institute, which later merged into the Railway Supply Institute.
Walter P. Dell, a 32-year member of the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) Board of Directors in Lansing, MI, died Oct. 23 at the age of 87. He represented Delhi Township on the CATA board for 32 years, from 1977 until his death.
Dell worked as a statistician for the National Football League and the Detroit Lions for 43 years, making him the statistician with the second highest seniority in the league. He also used his statistician skills at local high school games for many years.
He was a vocal advocate for public transportation services and funding, and represented the board as liaison to the Local Advisory Committee, which provides the board with support on issues related to seniors and persons with disabilities.
In addition, Dell was a philanthropist, supporting the Michigan State University (MSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was honored during halftime of the MSU-Iowa football game that was played the day after his passing.
By JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications
Editor’s Note: New APTA Chair M.P. Carter has made “Telling Our Story” her signature initiative, encouraging APTA and all its members to tell the story of public transportation’s many benefits in new ways, to even wider audiences. In the coming months, look for these APTA stories in social media settings, new materials, and in the publications you enjoy already.
Our story is one of great importance for lawmakers and the general public. Whether it’s a stronger economy, better environmental sustainability, or greater energy independence, public transportation takes us there.
These efforts will be guided by the new Telling Our Story Task Force, led by co-chairs Tom Costello, assistant managing director of the Champaign-Urbana (IL) Mass Transit District, and Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, director of project development for Parsons Brinckerhoff in Atlanta.
APTA invites all members to tell their stories and help spread the message of the importance of public transportation for a stronger, healthier, more prosperous America.
Public transportation systems around the nation, large and small, are showing that, when it comes to attracting more riders and promoting the benefits of the industry, there’s no substitute for telling our story in a compelling manner—whether through print advertisements, flyers, broadcast media, or an entire media campaign.
In South Carolina, the Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA) did just that with its recent “Drive Less, Save More” campaign, which featured radio, billboard, and print advertisements highlighting the savings possible through taking public transit.
“With economic conditions worsening in the first quarter of 2008, we wanted to make sure that our message was right on point and addressed what everyone was most concerned with—saving money,” said Michelle Emerson, marketing coordinator for CARTA.
One example was CARTA’s radio spot, “Stop Fighting the Pump,” in which a boxing announcer delivers a blow-by-blow account of “regular Joe” being pounded by gasoline prices, taking painful hits to the groceries, the vacation, and even his mother’s birthday present. “The strategy was to get drivers on regular commutes to start thinking that there may be an easier and cheaper way to commute—and to have a little bit of fun, too,” said Christine Wilkinson, CARTA transit administrator.
Emerson noted that the campaign increased CARTA’s visibility in the community and also “solidified our image as a professional, well-managed public service agency that provides services that benefit the entire community.” As a result, she said, “ridership during calendar 2008 increased 20 percent, and revenue increased 26 percent. On CARTA’s Express Commuter service, ridership increased 175 percent over 2007.”
Likewise, the Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District in Moline, IL, got out the word about the green benefits of its bus service, the Illinois Quad Cities MetroLINK, through its “Save Something Green” campaign.
The target audience includes those who “would not typically use transit but may do so if environmentally inspired,” as well as taxpayers who “need to be reminded that transit is an environmentally sound investment in the community,” explained Jennifer Garrity, MetroLINK administrative manager. The campaign thus reminds both groups about the system’s recent investments in buses powered by compressed natural gas and clean-burning diesel, she said.
MetroLINK saw a 22 percent increase in ridership the month it introduced the campaign, Garrity noted adding: “Ridership has continued to increase steadily, anywhere from 10-20 percent each month thereafter.”
Larger transit systems are also telling public transportation’s story to the public. Matthew Raymond, chief communications officer for Los Angeles Metro, explained his agency’s “Problem/Solution” posters: “Gas prices were rising to all-time highs in the late spring of 2008, and the unparalleled ‘pain at the pump’ was shocking even to jaded Los Angeles drivers. Metro needed to capitalize on the situation by capturing the essence of why commuting by transit is a great value.”
Community Transit in Snohomish County, WA, told the story of public transit’s economic benefits with its “Economic Engine” brochure, which highlighted the jobs and funding several new transit projects will bring to the region. “The strategy was to position ourselves as a major contributor to the economic recovery of our region,” explained Bonnie Ginsberg, the agency’s marketing manager.
“Public awareness was greatly increased as a result of this campaign, especially with regard to the major capital projects currently underway,” Ginsberg said, including Snohomish County’s first transit parking garage, construction of another park-and-ride facility, and construction and launch of Swift, the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit system. In addition, “a subsequent random customer survey poll indicated that Community Transit had a top-of-mind awareness with respondents,” she added.
Saving jobs, saving money, saving the environment: When public transit tells its story, it’s always a page turner.
BY ANTHONY FLINT, Special to Passenger Transport
Cheered by the Obama administration’s commitment to public transportation’s role in building livable and sustainable communities, elected officials, policy makers, and other presenters at the 2009 Rail~Volution conference in Boston, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, discussed how to respond to the energy and environmental challenges ahead.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who founded the annual summit on transportation and land use in 1995, observed that the new administration “has hit the ground running.”
Because Congress is busy with health care reform and the climate bill, he said, passage of a federal transportation authorization bill is facing a delay, possibly until after the November 2010 elections. He said of the authorization bill in the planning stages: “By Congressional standards it’s a quantum leap, but in terms of what you know we need, we’re not quite there yet. We have an opportunity to scale up the vision [element].”
The focus on infrastructure—including high-speed and intercity rail—“is going to take investment,” Blumenauer told the gathering of nearly 900 people representing more than 200 cities. “We need to make this a bipartisan initiative … It’s Congress that needs to step up and do [its] job.”
APTA President William Millar agreed that the Obama administration has attracted many talented people with backgrounds in running major transit systems and creating more sustainable metropolitan regions.
“We have a president who knows and understands cities, an administration that understands transit,” he said, adding: “The public is demanding more rail. Now is the time for our industry to work together to make sure high-speed rail connects to existing rail, bus, paratransit, and other transit services.”
In his remarks, Millar referred to Boston as “the original transit-oriented development city,” noting that the city has had public transportation since its ferries entered service in 1630. He described how the growing popularity of public transit provides a sound foundation for moving forward: transit use outstripped highway use by two to one despite the recession; voters continue to approve transit expansions even if doing so means taxing themselves; and light rail is flourishing in many places.
Numerous U.S. rail transit systems have entered operation since last year’s conference, including an extension of New Mexico Rail Runner commuter rail; METRO light rail in Phoenix; in Portland, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s Westside Express Service, the state’s first commuter rail line, and the new light rail MAX Green Line; Sound Transit’s recently opened Central Link Light Rail in Seattle; and Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Green Line light rail. In addition, the Metro Gold Line light rail extension in Los Angeles and Northstar commuter rail in Minneapolis/St. Paul are scheduled to open before the end of 2009.
Another speaker, former Massachusetts Governor, presidential nominee, and rail supporter Michael S. Dukakis, noted that the U.S. could “invest the cost of a month in Iraq on intercity rail and another month for a first-class public transit system.” He called for promoting transit investments with a marketing boost: “Let’s call it ‘the steel interstate.’ Let’s give it some pizzazz and zip.”
James Aloisi, outgoing Massachusetts transportation secretary, said he looks forward to the day when non-vehicular initiatives are no longer considered “enhancements,” and the federal-local transit funding ratio moves from 50-50 to 90-10 or 80-20.
Several Obama administration representatives shared their insights on public transportation issues.
Derek Douglas, special assistant to the president in the White House Office of Urban Affairs, said Obama is committed to integrated planning to make cities more economically competitive, sustainable, and inclusive, adding that Obama “views this reauthorization [of transportation funding levels] as an opportunity to transform these investments” and measure performance.
Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, said the agency is working to make sure its internal processes “are friendly to and supportive of denser development. We have a decision process that takes far too long, is far too complicated, and often has perverse results in what we reward.”
He continued: “We can’t afford failure; we can’t afford projects that get half-built, or go over budget. That’s the type of headline that will kill this movement.”
Ron Sims, deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), spoke about the administration’s sustainability and livability initiatives coordinating the agencies responsible for housing, transportation, environmental protection, and energy—promoting housing along transit corridors, for example. Funding recipients must also be more expansive in their approach, he said: “We’ll insist on regional planning.”
Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari agreed that local partners will be key to the regional development process, citing the torrent of applications for federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants.
“In terms of coordinating with land use at the local and regional level,” he said, “this will not be top-down; it will be those communities who can help themselves.”
He added that DOT needs to be “less prescriptive, and more performance-based,” noting some 110 “stovepiped” department programs that are often “beat to fit” to address local needs.
The importance of transit and high-speed rail for economic development was also a major theme at Rail~Volution, as participants commented on the billions in investment dollars occurring along new rail lines. Several sessions at the conference focused on ways to capture the value that such infrastructure creates, to help on the financing end.
Shelley Poticha, senior advisor with HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, addressed the Closing Plenary Session. “Now is the time to be loud and courageous,” she urged as she worked with attendees on a to-do list to take ideas forward.
Anthony Flint is a Boston-based writer at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
BY KAREN HOLMES, Special to Passenger Transport
Advances in the design and engineering of railcars to improve their performance in crashes are attracting heightened attention from public transit agencies and the media. New crashworthiness standards for rail vehicles have been developed and published, and on-the-rails experience is highlighting the difference that crashworthiness features can make in the outcomes of rail collisions. But what exactly is crashworthiness, and how it is designed into rail vehicles?
Crashworthiness Meets the New Science of Crash Energy Management
Simply put, crashworthiness is the ability to protect vehicle occupants during a collision. Crashworthiness features in railcars minimize the risk of serious injury for passengers and operators and can also reduce damage to rail equipment, lowering repair costs.
The U.S. has had safety standards for railcar design since 1939. Initially, these standards mainly addressed the structural strength of railcars. A substantial revision of the early standards was undertaken in 1956 to require improvements in passenger protection, including strengthened car end-posts to reduce the risk of one car climbing on top of the other in a crash (“telescoping”) as well as devices to help keep railcars from moving out of line during a crash (“overriding”).
More recently, the science of designing crashworthiness into railcars has advanced rapidly with the introduction of crash energy management (CEM): a method of designing and manufacturing vehicles in which specific structures within the vehicle are tasked with mitigating the destructive forces unleashed in a collision. Often this involves a controlled, limited collapse within shock-absorbing elements of the railcar, which prevents uncontrolled collapse in the rest of the vehicle.
“One of the most important structural features of CEM design is a crush zone at the front end of a railcar,” said Keith Falk, director of car systems engineering for MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) and a member of the Standards Committee on Rail Transit Vehicles organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) among transit systems, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and APTA to develop new crashworthiness standards in transit rail vehicles. “Up to a certain speed, virtually none of the energy of the crash is transmitted to the rest of the railcar,” Falk said.
CEM is made possible by advances in computing technology, which allows engineers to study the likely behavior of vehicle structures and materials in minute detail and thus better predict their behavior during a collision (see sidebar). Under some crash conditions, CEM railcars can protect occupants at collision speeds more than twice that of conventional railcars.
Before CEM, crashworthiness standards were based mainly on the concept of vehicle “buff strength,” which measures the largest force a vehicle structure can sustain without collapsing. However, buff strength alone does not guarantee that vehicle occupants will be protected. Two railcars with the same measured buff strength can perform very differently in a crash.
“With the conventional, buff-strength approach, the collapse could happen anywhere in the railcar,” said Clive Thornes, manager for vehicles engineering with Parsons Brinckerhoff and a member of the rail standards committee. “No distinction is made between the areas occupied by the operator and the passengers, which you want to protect from collapse, and the other parts of the railcar. With the CEM approach, you are trying to limit the collapse to the first two-three feet of the railcar, away from the main passenger compartment.”
Developing Crashworthiness Standards for Rail Vehicles
A new crashworthiness standard for heavy rail transit vehicles that came into effect in mid-2009—ASME RT-2—applies to rail cars used in high-speed, self-contained rail transit systems such as the New York City subway, Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Metrorail, and many others. A standard for crashworthiness in light rail vehicles—RT-1—has also been developed and has just been released.
Both standards were developed by ASME’s standards committee, composed of 20 members representing transit agencies, vehicle manufacturers, and other experts. The committee operates on consensus to ensure that the resulting standards will have industry-wide support.
It is still too early to tell what effect the new standards will have on the rail transit industry. “If agencies use the standards and specify them in their procurement of railcars, then the standards will have a positive impact,” said Thornes.
Experience with CEM Design: Heavy Rail
The New York City subway system already has extensive experience integrating CEM design into its railcar fleet. NYC Transit has used CEM-based crashworthiness standards in its procurements since 1999, and all new vehicles must meet those standards.
Of a total fleet of 6,300 vehicles, approximately 3,000 railcars meet CEM performance requirements, according to Falk.
CEM design recently came into play when an empty train crashed in an NYC Transit rail yard, derailing into an adjacent parking lot. “The crashworthiness elements did engage and absorb most of the energy of the crash,” Falk said. “The train happened to be empty but, had there been passengers aboard, the crashworthiness elements would have made a big difference to the outcome.”
Experience with CEM Design: Light Rail
Light rail poses special challenges for crashworthiness design. Light rail vehicles (LRVs) often run on city streets, where there is a greater risk of accidents involving motorists or pedestrians. In fact, collisions between automobiles and LRVs are the most common type of rail accident in the U.S.
To help protect motorists in collisions with LRVs, FTA has supported research to minimize the risk of severe injuries, particularly through modifications to the LRVs’ front end to make them more “crash-friendly.”
“If we can reduce the severity of injury to motorists who stray into the path of light rail vehicles without diminishing the safety of the operator and passengers, then that is all to the good,” said Mike Flanigon, FTA director of safety and security.
The first attempt to design CEM-based crashworthiness into light rail vehicles was for New Jersey Transit Corporation’s Hudson-Bergen line, which opened in 2000. The system’s vehicles feature a specially designed coupler capable of absorbing the energy of a 9 mph collision with no damage to the railcar or its occupants. Behind the coupler are collapsible tubes to absorb the energy of crashes at speeds of more than 9 mph and contain railcar damage in this area.
The latest word in light rail vehicle design can be found in the new METRO system in Phoenix, which entered operation in December 2008. The Phoenix railcars take CEM design a step farther by folding the coupler behind an energy-absorbing bumper that consists of gas shocks, energy-absorbing foam material, and a soft cover.
“The bumper has proven to be highly successful in minimizing damage and possible injury in several collisions involving light rail vehicles and motor vehicles,” said Richard Simonetta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail, operator of METRO.
The innovative bumper design also fares well in bottom-line terms. “In most cases, repair costs have been fairly minor, in the $500 to $1,500 range, though some have been more expensive,” said Larry Engleman, Valley Metro Rail’s director of safety, security, and quality assurance. “Usually, the train is drivable and able to continue in service until it reaches the end of the line. There is no doubt in my mind that repair costs would have been much higher with a conventional bumper,” he added.
Engleman also related an instance in which, he said, the shock-absorbing bumper prevented a death: “A motorist made an illegal left turn into the path of an oncoming train and the car was hit squarely on the driver’s side. If there had been a coupler on the front of our vehicle, as in a conventional railcar, it would have been a battering ram, headed straight into the driver’s compartment. As it was, the elderly gentleman driving the automobile emerged with only a cut on his arm, and was able to walk away from the accident scene, escorted home by a police officer.”
In another instance, the repair cost after a collision was zero. “The repair log simply notes, ‘Scratches buffed out,’” he said.
Experience with CEM Design: Commuter Rail
APTA assisted the Federal Railroad Administration, FTA, and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in convening the industry working group that developed the basis for the CEM design for commuter rail. To make CEM work, some exceptions had to be made to FRA regulations for rail vehicles, hence the necessity for broad industry input.
Metrolink in Los Angeles is preparing to receive the first two rail cars designed according to CEM principles—one cab car that can absorb three million pounds of energy in the front and two million pounds in the rear, and one coach car that can absorb two million pounds at either end. According to Bill Lydon, the agency’s director of equipment, Metrolink is the first commuter rail system to do this.
During a period when Metrolink was involved in several serious incidents, Lydon said, the agency became interested in CEM engineering. Lydon himself participated in the development of APTA’s Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards.
“After an equipment purchase fell apart, we were in the process of rewriting a specification at the time that one of the incidents occurred,” he said. Metrolink then began examining whether the new one could incorporate CEM technologies. Several federal agencies subsequently helped Metrolink develop that specification for the system’s commuter rail cars.
“This whole effort has proven to be industry-wide among builders, operators, and regulators,” Lydon noted. “From that perspective, it’s an interesting model for going forward with what is really a prototype unit, but there’s a lot of research, study, and actual testing behind it to support what we’re doing.”
The complete Metrolink order is for 117 cars, of which 59 are coaches and 58 are cab cars.
How It’s Done …Using Computer Simulations
Computer simulations play a central role in designing crashworthiness features into railcars, with engineers using the finite element (FE) model to simulate the behavior of complex structures in collisions.
FE models break complex structures into small blocks, referred to as elements. The computer model then assembles all the small elements to predict what will happen to the structure as a whole.
For example, simulating the crush behavior of the cab end of a rail vehicle in a collision with another vehicle may entail 300,000 elements or more, according to Steven Kirkpatrick, principal engineer with Applied Research Associates Inc.
Within the last decade, a complex form of FE model, known as explicit FE, has been applied increasingly often in vehicle design because it enables engineers to better predict the behavior of vehicles in higher-speed crashes.
“At speeds of 5-10 mph, typically there is a small amount of crushing and deformation, a controlled response, which is fairly easy to model. In a 25-35 mph collision, there is more displacement and a much greater risk of structural failure,” said Kirkpatrick.
With the advent of more powerful, affordable computers, explicit FE modeling is now widely used in vehicle design. “The automotive industry really pioneered work in this area, which has now been applied to railcar design,” he said.
A decade of experience with explicit FE models has greatly increased the accuracy of predictions about railcar performance in crashes and reduced the need for expensive physical testing of vehicles by crashing them into walls or into each other. Nonetheless, correlating computer simulation with the results of physical crash tests can still be important.
“If you’ve made incorrect approximations within the computer model, that could produce misleading results,” Kirkpatrick observed. “Comparing the predictions generated by computer simulations with the observed results from crash tests helps to validate the analysis.”
ASME Releases Structural Standards
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Rail Transit Standards Committee recently released structural safety standards for both heavy and light rail transit vehicles. Referred to as RT-2, this heavy rail standard addressing subway-type vehicles was released in 2008 and is now currently in force.
The RT-1 standard for light rail vehicle structures was released in September 2009.
Among its early adopters, Honolulu, HI, may be the first to officially reference RT-1 in the procurement specification for its light rail project.
Copies of the RT-1 and RT-2 standards are available through the ASME web site.
* Applied Research Associates. This web site contains several pages on crashworthiness and transit, including illustrations, movies, and links to research reports.
* Volpe Center paper on “Improved crashworthiness of rail passenger equipment in the United States."
* Martin Schroeder, Chief Engineer, APTA.
A 20-ton bus and a soft, furry bunny are hardly a match in most people’s minds, but they’re a perfect fit for a new bus service now on the streets in Houston.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County’s (Houston Metro) Quickline, which entered operation in the summer, combines elements of bus and light rail service, operating with limited stops, high-end bus stations, and high-tech, hybrid-diesel coaches sporting distinctive wraps for easy identification. The Quickline is the first of several “Signature” services the agency plans to launch in the next few years.
The weekday, rush-hour-only service makes eight stops along its nine-mile route, shaving 15 minutes off the commute of existing service on the corridor. It moves, in other words, as quickly as a bunny—and all for the same $1.25 fare as Houston Metro’s local routes. Within a few weeks of its introduction, Quickline reported boarding levels at nearly 60 percent of the agency’s first-year goal of 1,000 boardings per day.
The Quickline runs on a heavily traveled corridor that serves several west Houston neighborhoods and the Texas Medical Center, the largest medical center in the world.
Patrons board at upgraded bus stations equipped with digital next-bus arrival signs and such other amenities as additional lighting and better seating. The buses are very quiet with padded seats and improved climate control.
In preparation for introducing the service, Houston Metro branded the Quickline with a blue curbside line that runs the length of the route and in-pavement bunnies at key transit stops. In keeping with the theme “Changing the Art of Travel,” the agency promoted the line with a marketing campaign of bus cards, kiosk posters, and ads that combined bunnies with iconic paintings like the Mona Lisa. Staff distributed bunny squeeze balls along the line, and a cluster of topiary bunnies at the Texas Medical Center Transit Center has become a favorite backdrop for bus photos.
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that Philips Electronics has become the first company to submit an entry in the department’s Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize (L Prize) competition. Philips submitted its LED replacement for the 60-watt incandescent light bulb, which it developed in response to the department’s challenge.
The Energy Department launched the L Prize initiative to spur development of high-quality, high-efficiency LED replacements for the common light bulb. Americans buy an estimated 425 million 60-watt bulbs each year, representing approximately half the domestic incandescent light bulb market. The department suggested that replacing these bulbs with LEDs could save 34 terawatt-hours of electricity in one year, enough to power the lights of 17.4 million U.S. households, while also saving an annual 5.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
Philips noted that its submission will now undergo a comprehensive evaluation including performance testing conducted by independent laboratories; field assessments conducted with utilities and other partners; long-term lumen maintenance testing; and stress testing under extreme conditions.
Established through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the L Prize offers substantial rewards—both financial and other incentives—for the first manufacturer to meet its requirements, ensuring that performance, quality, lifetime, cost, and availability meet expectations for widespread adoption and mass marketing.
More information about the L Prize competition is available online.
Students at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, NC, are making room for a new learning tool: a recently retired Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) bus presented by CATS Interim Chief Executive Officer John Muth to CPCC President Tony Zeiss for the college’s Transport System Technology program.
“We are excited to be able to give this bus to CPCC so future mechanics can use it for learning and training,” Muth said. “CATS is committed to ensuring that our fleet is properly maintained, and we look forward to having technicians from CPCC as part of the CATS team in the future.”
The Charlotte City Council approved the donation of the 1997 40-foot Gillig bus to CPCC.
Zeiss called the bus “a great addition to our Transportation System Technology program, which has seen a great influx of students,” adding, “This partnership with CATS allows faculty to expand their teaching and prepare students for even more opportunities upon graduation.”
CPCC is the largest community college in North Carolina, offering close to 300 degree and certification programs; customized corporate training; market-focused continuing education; and special interest classes. It received the Community College of the Year award in 2002 from the National Alliance of Business for its response to the workforce and technology needs of local employers and job seekers through innovative educational and training strategies.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) are accepting applicants through Nov. 30 for an 18-month joint pilot project to allow seniors and persons with disabilities unlimited access to BART in San Francisco and all Muni transit services with the purchase of a single pass.
Participants will be selected through a random lottery before the first phase of the pilot begins in February 2010. Every six months during the pilot, 2,000 participants will be randomly selected to receive the Senior/Disabled Pilot Pass.
The current Muni Adult Fast Pass® allows unlimited BART access within the city of San Francisco and all regular transit services offered by Muni.
The Senior/Disabled Pass Pilot will assess the functionality, popularity, and potential costs of implementing a similar program for seniors and persons with disabilities. If deemed successful, the pass could be added to TransLink®, the regional transit smart card.
The public transportation management firm MV Transportation Inc. has entered into an agreement with The Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG) of Miami to become the exclusive U.S. distributor of VPG’s “MV-1” purpose-built paratransit vehicle through its MV Sales and Leasing Inc. subsidiary.
Under the terms of this agreement, MVSL will sell and lease the MV-1 to organizations receiving public transportation funding from governmental entities in the United States.
VPG created and designed the MV-1, or “Mobility Vehicle,” to meet or exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, in keeping with the principles of Universal Design: the idea that products should be equally accessible for all people regardless of mobility, age, or situation.
The MV-1, assembled by AM General in its Mishawaka, IN, plant, can accommodate up to two wheelchairs.
VPG offers it with an OEM-engineered and factory-installed dedicated Compressed Natural Gas powertrain option.
METRO light rail in Phoenix, US Airways Center, and the Phoenix Suns professional basketball team recently introduced the “Rail Ride Event” program. This unique partnership, which continues on a pilot basis through Sept. 30, 2010, allows ticket holders for events at US Airways Center to ride METRO at no additional cost on the day of the event, beginning four hours before and continuing through the end of the transit day.
According to METRO, the program may generate up to $340,000 in revenue during the year.
US Airways Center hosts nearly 200 events each year, including the Phoenix Suns and Mercury basketball games, concerts, and family shows. All ticketed US Airways Center events are included in the Rail Ride Event program.
“This program will encourage use of the METRO system as a great way to get to and from events at US Airways Center,” said METRO Board Chairman and city of Phoenix Vice Mayor Tom Simplot. “The new riders will soon discover how convenient, efficient, and safe the system is.”
“Suns fans who used light rail to travel to games last year told us that being able to avoid traffic and parking issues, as well as the ease and convenience of the trip, resulted in an experience that enhanced their enjoyment of attending a game,” said Phoenix Suns President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Welts. “We appreciate the willingness and creativity the leadership at METRO light rail demonstrated in developing this program for all US Airways Center events.”
METRO Chief Executive Officer Rick Simonetta called the program a “perfect fit,” adding: “Special event and recreation-oriented trips are already a significant portion of our ridership, nearly 40 percent. Teaming up with the Suns and a great venue like US Airways Center just takes it to the next level.”
Susan Finden poses in front of the image of herself and her cat Casper—who became famous for taking unaided trips on First Devon and Cornwall’s Number 3 route—on a bus introduced Oct. 12 as part of the Oct. 12 launch of four UGOBUS routes in the Plymouth area of the United Kingdom. According to the bus system, Casper routinely waits in line behind other passengers at a bus stop before boarding, sitting quietly as the bus moves, then disembarking. Other vehicles in the UGOBUS fleet showcase members of Plymouth’s Disabled Bus Users Group, the Plymouth Argyle soccer team mascot, and a police community support officer. First Devon and Cornwall is an affiliate of FirstGroup plc and a sister company to First Transit in the U.S.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus is adding audio capability to the on-board security cameras installed on all buses in its fleet.
“The safety and security of our employees and customers is our number one priority,” said Bill Lhota, COTA president/chief executive officer. “By utilizing audio technology in addition to our security cameras, we can improve our response to disruptive incidents while also reducing the potential for unsafe situations.”
On-board cameras can serve as a deterrent to illegal behavior and also allow law enforcement to identify individuals when incidents occur. COTA expects the addition of audio to act as a further discouragement, helping the agency to provide better service to its passengers.
COTA’s other safety and security efforts include the deployment of uniformed and undercover police officers on buses and K-9 units to search for illegal substances.
PASADENA, CA—Parsons Transportation Group announced the appointment of Garold B. Adams to the position of executive vice president and global business development manager. Adams joined Parsons in 1991 and served most recently as senior vice president and manager for the Road and Highway Division.
PHOENIX, AZ—Richard Simonetta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail, has announced that he will step down from that position on Dec. 31, 2009. He will remain in an advisory capacity through June 30, 2010.
Simonetta has spent more than 38 years in the transit industry, leading transit agencies of all sizes. He joined Valley Metro Rail in January 2004 and oversaw the on-time, on-budget start up of the Phoenix area’s first light rail line.
ORANGE, CA—Miguel Pulido, mayor of Santa Ana, CA, and a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors, has been named chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Energy Policy Committee.
Pulido has served on the OCTA board since 1997, and was an 18-year member of the Santa Ana City Council. He also serves on the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is responsible for air pollution control and clean air standards to protect public health.
TAMPA, FL—Elaine McCloud, who served as the first mass transit manager for the city of Tampa, has formed a transportation consulting, operations planning and transportation management firm. She is president and chief executive officer of McCloud Transportation & Associates LLC.
McCloud has 30 years of mass transit leadership experience at the senior executive level. Prior to coming to Tampa, she was a member of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) executive team. She also was a general manager for ATC/Vancom overseeing Detroit DOT’s paratransit operation, and served for 18 years in various leadership positions at the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority in Birmingham, AL.
BOULDER, CO—Transit Marketing Group announced the appointment of Ray Sienkiewich as contract administrator.
Sienkiewich has 25 years of expertise in contract administration, project management, purchasing, and inventory control, most recently as vice president of contract management with DesignLine USA. He has also been associated with ElDorado National, Neoplan, and Nova Bus.
CINCINNATI, OH—Arlene McKitterick was named chief financial officer for First Transit and First Services. She will direct and manage all financial aspects of the companies.
McKitterick joined FirstGroup America in March 2008 as the senior finance director for First Student’s Central Region. She has more than 14 years of experience within the transportation industry and previously served as a consultant for Zurich Insurance. In addition, she held senior finance positions at Wright Business Forms and Coach USA.
SAN BERNARDINO, CA—Doug Sawyer has been named a vice president in the San Bernardino office of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). He will serve as area manager in charge of PB’s San Bernardino and Ontario offices, which have a combined staff of close to 100.
Sawyer has 32 years of experience in design, project management, and construction management for transportation infrastructure and facility projects.
NEW YORK, NY—Vertical Transportation Excellence, a division of Gannett Fleming, announced the appointment of Dennis W. Olson, C.E.I., as a project manager for its New York City office.
Olson has 24 years of engineering, design, and project management experience, including assignments in the greater New York area.
APTA is hosting a two-hour webcast on the future of the public transit workforce Nov. 10 from the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore.
The program, “Investing in the Future of Public Transportation: New Workers, New Perspectives,” begins at 11 a.m. Eastern time.
This live webcast will bring together invited representatives of transit organizations, students, educational institutions, and key stakeholder groups from both the private and public sectors to engage in dialogue about why fewer students are setting their sights on careers in public transportation. The speakers will provide a fresh perspective of the challenges facing agencies and organizations in the years ahead as the baby boomer generation retires and the look of the industry changes.
Doran Barnes, APTA vice chair-human resources and chair of the APTA Blue Ribbon Panel on Workforce Development, will moderate the discussion.
Scheduled presenters include:
* DeVera Y. Redmond, small business specialist, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), U.S. DOT;
* Ethel Roy, director of human resources client services, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority;
* Jeff Rosenberg, legislative director, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO/CLC;
* Jill Hough, Ph.D., program director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University;
* Joel M. Volinski, director, National Center for Transit Research Center for Urban Transportation Research/College of Engineering, University of South Florida;
* Lydia Mercado, university programs specialist, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, U.S. DOT; and
* Students from North Dakota State University, Morgan State University, University of South Florida, and other university transportation centers and universities.
The fee for this event is $195 per connection for both APTA members and non-members; many individuals can participate from a single computer. To register, click here.
AECOM and Bombardier Transportation are sponsoring the webcast. More information is available from Starleetah Gaddis.
APTA is joining with the International Union of Railways (Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer, or UIC) to host three regional seminars on high-speed rail issues in early 2010. The seminars, titled “International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States,” will be held Feb. 8-9 in Washington, Feb. 9-11 in Chicago, and Feb. 11-13 in Los Angeles.
The programs, featuring practitioners from high-speed rail systems around the world, will focus on best practices and lessons learned from European and Asian systems. The curriculum will be tailored to the different issues in each city.
This set of seminars is the first developed under a new partnership between APTA and UIC. The two groups will now be able to engage in extensive information sharing that can cover the various technical, marketing, finance, and management aspects of high-speed rail systems.
APTA is the legacy organization of the former High Speed Ground Transportation Association, which in 2007 integrated its members and assets into the APTA structure and now functions through the constituent High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee.
During a recent meeting at the APTA offices in Washington, DC, APTA President William Millar, left, signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding high-speed rail with UIC General Director Jean-Pierre Loubinoux.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) recently joined with the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) to release A Guide to Planning Resources on Transportation and Hazards, published as TCRP Research Results Digest 90 and NCHRP Research Results Digest 333. This report highlights a framework for thinking about the stages of a disaster, and identifies some of the most current and innovative hazard-related research.
Another new TCRP publication—Research Results Digest 93: Rural Transit Achievements: Assessing the Outcomes of Increased Funding for Rural Passenger Services Under SAFETEA-LU (the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act)—summarizes a report that explores data and information on the changes in rural public and intercity bus transportation that resulted from the increases in funding made available through the federal transportation authorization bill.
Copies of these reports are available online.
BY M.P. CARTER, Chair, APTA, and Commissioner, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis, TN
Just over two weeks ago, APTA took the next big step on its road to the future. That is when we mailed and e-mailed packets to each APTA member to collect our vote on the proposal to update our association’s bylaws and prepare our association for the challenges ahead.
I am sure that by now you have heard about the steps that have led to this vote—the TransitVision 2050 report, the Framework for the Future Task Force recommendations, and the Governance Task Force that formed it all into the concrete action plan we are voting on today. Still, I think it is important to focus on why you should vote to approve our proposed bylaws amendments and help our association move forward on the emerging issues of the future.
Some have asked the question, “What is wrong with the way we do business today?” That is certainly a fair question and one that the task forces, executive committee, and board of directors have had to consider. What is broken? Nothing is exactly broken. But our governance structure does not represent the breadth of APTA membership as well as it could. . No one believes that the APTA Board of Directors, Executive Committee, or governance structure is lacking. What we do believe is that APTA can be even stronger by implementing the proposed bylaws changes. Our Executive Committee and Board of Directors can be invigorated with new voices. Both will gain a new agility, an ability to target their efforts on the most pressing issues of the day—as well as of the days after. Engaging more than two dozen committee chairs as members of the APTA Board of Directors will bring new ideas and voices to the table that may not have been heard before, and expanding the voting membership of the Board of Directors will ensure the inclusiveness of our association and demonstrate the value of our diversity.
Some have expressed fears that their voices could be lost in the process. I am confident that will not happen. Both the Governance Task Force and the Executive Committee were careful to guard against such an outcome. As an example, we were keenly aware of the need to preserve and encourage the role of small and medium size members and I am proud to report that those interests were vigorously defended at every stage of the process. Les White, who led the bylaws subgroup within the Governance Task Force, summed it up best: “I believe that our quest for the best and brightest in the transit industry will lead us to the small operators who will be able to effectively compete for leadership positions without the restrictions of artificial modal silos, or narrow portfolios, that limit who can serve.” That statement applies just as well if you substitute “business members,” “policy board members,” or any other APTA constituency for “small operators.”
Designing a governance system poised for the future that also preserves and strengthens each of our positions was a daunting process. Many of us doubted it could be accomplished. But through the perseverance, teamwork, inclusivity, and consensus building that has become the hallmark of our association, we have reached that goal.
There is simply not enough room to thank each and every one of the people who brought this project to fruition, but I cannot close without thanking my predecessors as APTA chair—Howard Silver, Michael Townes, and Beverly Scott—who brought us this far, and the leadership of the Governance Task Force—Michael Townes, Sharon Greene, Les White, and John Bartosiewicz—who put structure to theory.
And now is the time for each and every APTA member to act. Without your vote, the entire effort will have been for naught. I charge each of you to submit your vote today so we can continue APTA’s march into the bright and hopeful future that awaits us.
Help with the Voting Process
To assist you in reviewing the proposed changes, there are a number of tools available on our web site:
* an electronic version of the proposed bylaws;
* an electronic version of the transition plan;
* a side-by-side comparison of the old and new bylaws;
* a summary explanation of the proposed changes; and
* recordings of the webinars held on September 14 and 22, 2009, to explain the prposed changes.
Your vote on the enclosed ballot should be signed by an officer or official of your organization authorized to act on the organization’s behalf and returned as soon as possible to APTA’s chief counsel, James LaRusch.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, you may e-mail them.