Passenger Transport - December 21, 2009
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Transit Funding Approved for 2010; Awaiting Presidentís Signature

The House and Senate have approved a $1.07 trillion omnibus appropriations measure that the president is expected to sign. Within this bill—the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations, which includes all discretionary funding for DOT—is $10.7 billion for public transit programs: an all-time high, representing an increase of more than $500 million over FY 2009. In addition, $2.5 billion in grants is provided to support intercity rail service and high-speed rail corridors within the programs of the Federal Railroad Association.

Further, the Department of Homeland Security announced Dec. 14 that $253 million in grants will be available to high-risk metropolitan transit systems under the Transit Security Grant program. This money will go toward equipment and training, which over the past several years has included such information technology items as perimeter security systems, surveillance systems, and interoperable communications.

House Wraps Up Work for 2009
As the House of Representatives wrapped up its work for the year last week, it passed:
* A five-day extension of SAFETEA-LU until Dec. 23;
* The FY 2010 Defense appropriations, which included a two-month extension of SAFETEA-LU, effectively extending highway and transit funding at FY 2009 levels for two months to give the Senate time to consider a second stimulus bill in January; and
* A second stimulus bill, referred to as the "Jobs" bill.

At press time, the Senate was still in session, but was expected to pass both extensions.

The "Jobs" bill, which the Senate is expected to take up in January, would provide an additional $8.4 billion for transit and extend SAFETEA-LU through Sept. 30, 2010.

The plans for the proposed second stimulus bill began on Dec. 8, when President Barack Obama spoke about job creation, focusing on the need to invest in America’s roads, bridges, and infrastructure and calling specifically for additional funding in transit and rail, among other areas. By asking for new investments in a wide range of infrastructure, the plan is designed to fund projects that can start quickly while continuing a sustained effort at creating jobs and improving America’s productivity.

APTA President William Millar applauded Obama’s plan and noted that the industry stands ready to put additional investment to work immediately. “The public transportation industry has identified more than $15 billion in public transportation capital projects that can be started in 90 days,” he said. “It is estimated that this investment in public transportation would support and create more than 450,000 jobs.”

Congressional leaders, including James L. Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and David R. Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, worked on the infrastructure focus to the Jobs package.

The "Jobs" bill appropriates a total of $37.3 billion for DOT—including $27.5 billion for highway and transit projects under conditions almost identical to those governing the $27.5 billion in the first stimulus package, and $8.4 billion appropriated for public transit, again under conditions similar to those governing the same amount in the first stimulus bill. The ratios for the amounts are different, however, in that ARRA gave $6.9 billion to capital formula grants and $750 million each to rail modernization and New Starts/Small Starts, while the proposed bill gives $6.15 billion to formula grant programs, $1.75 billion for rail modernization, and $500 million to New Starts/Small Starts.

House, Senate Examine Rail Transit Safety

Rail transit safety is a significant issue on Capitol Hill, with a focus on funding infrastructure. The House held a recent hearing to look at the federal role in ensuring public transit safety; the Senate called its own hearing to consider the Obama administration’s proposal to overhaul safety regulation of the nation's subway and light-rail systems.

House Hearing, Dec. 8
On Dec. 8, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met to scrutinize DOT’s role in ensuring the safety of public transit systems. This hearing, “Public Transit Safety: Examining the Federal Role,” was part of the subcommittee’s effort to authorize federal surface transportation programs under SAFETEA-LU, which expired Sept. 30 and has been funded through continuing resolutions, the latest extended for two months.

Those testifying included DOT Secretary Ray LaHood; Federal Transit Administrator (FTA) Peter M. Rogoff; Katherine Siggerud, Government Accountability Office managing director, physical infrastructure issues; Richard W. Clark, director of the Consumer Protection and Safety Division, California Public Utilities Commission; and APTA President William Millar.

Announcing that “safety is my department’s highest priority,” LaHood noted that rail transit systems are the only transportation mode within DOT without comprehensive Federal safety regulation, oversight, and enforcement. Further, he said, “the Department of Transportation is prohibited by law from issuing regulations on the safety of rail transit systems.”

He discussed how he instructed his deputy secretary, John Porcari, to convene a team of safety officials and experts to address the patchwork quality of regulatory oversight for rail transit and commuter rail passengers and develop options for transit safety reforms.

Their resulting legislative proposal would require several actions, including mandating that the secretary of transportation, acting through FTA, establish and enforce minimum federal safety standards for rail transit systems (other than those subject to regulation by the Federal Railroad Administration) that receive federal transit funding; establish a safety certification program; and ensure that a state agency overseeing transit systems would be fully financially independent from the systems it oversees.

He called on lawmakers to pass the Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, which would implement comprehensive safety-monitoring systems.

“Aggressive reform is needed in the existing federal transit oversight authorities,” LaHood said, adding: “We cannot rest on the laurels of a good safety record—especially as our transit infrastructure ages. We must take action to ensure consistency in the way rail transit safety oversight is addressed.”

Clark noted: “Safety oversight is often reactive. Public attention is aroused too often only after catastrophic events and media attention. Good governance demands a proactive approach where there are clear standards and practices to identify and mitigate hazards before they become tragic events. Proactive safety oversight built upon a systems safety approach and hazard management is necessary to the advance of public transportation.”

Siggerud testified on FTA’s State Safety Oversight (SSO) program and the potential change to its oversight role. “Our 2006 report,” she said, “found that officials from the majority of oversight and transit agencies stated that the SSO program enhances rail transit safety, but that FTA faced several challenges in administering the program.”

Millar stressed that the nation’s 48 rail transit operations are safe, “and their customers should utilize them without hesitation, but safety can always be improved.” He emphasized the critical need for an improved and reliable national transit operations database that agencies and other industry practitioners can use to benchmark their operating performance, including trends in safety.

“Federal safety priorities must also address the delivery of adequate resources to support and sustain research to close gaps in the body of knowledge to enhance safe transit operations,” he added.

Senate Hearing, Dec. 10
“Examining the Federal Role in Overseeing the Safety of Public Transportation Systems” was the subject of a hearing convened Dec. 10 by the Senate Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Those offering remarks included subcommittee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), chairman of the full committee; Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD); Brian Cristy, director, Transportation Oversight Division, Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities; John B. Catoe Jr., general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA); and Millar.

As Menendez said in his opening remarks: “… No matter how well we regulate transit safety, we cannot expect safe systems if we do not invest in new infrastructure. This is why I am hopeful that robust rail modernization funds will be a part of a forthcoming jobs bill.”

Dodd noted the positive aspects of public transportation, saying: “The more Americans use transit, the better off we all are. Transit is a win-win-win-win-win.” He continued: “But our first priority must be to ensure that Americans can use our rail transit system with the confidence that they will be safe … That means infrastructure must be repaired, operators must be properly trained, and problems must be swiftly corrected.”

Last July, Mikulski introduced the National Metro Safety Act, which would require strong new federal standards for heavy rail systems nationwide. However, standards alone would not be enough, she said, noting that the sufficient amount of resources would also be required. “That will make ‘America’s subway’ [Metrorail, operated by WMATA] and subways all across America safe, reliable, and sound,” she said.

At the hearing, Mikulski called for swifter action by WMATA.

Cristy testified about SSO programs, saying his department “supports a strong rail transit system SSO program with new enhancements to allow the FTA to become a more active participant in the safety regulatory process.” He added, however, that the success of any program requires that the local transit authority be an equal partner, with full support of the program coming from the top down to the operator level.

Echoing the comments of others testifying, Millar said: “While it will take many steps to improve transit’s enviable safety record, it will also take significant financial investment to bring public transportation systems up to a state of good repair, to increase the training of transit employees, and to correct safety deficiencies identified. It is simply not enough to pass laws and issue regulations, if safety is to be taken to the next level, investment must be made.”

ITS America Letter Thanks Obama for Support of Transportation Jobs; APTA Among Signatories

APTA is among the signatories of a letter to President Barack Obama from Scott F. Belcher, president of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, thanking the president for his support of creating jobs through the modernization of the nation’s transportation and communications infrastructure.

The letter notes that Intelligent Transportation Systems and operational investments “will expand green jobs, small businesses and the smart-tech industry while also saving lives, time and money by preventing traffic crashes, improving emergency response, reducing congestion, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, improving transportation system performance, and creating more livable, sustainable communities.”

It cites a Government Accountability Office study that shows more than $30 billion in environmental, mobility, and safety benefits stemming from an investment of $1.2 billion for the deployment and operation of real-time transportation system information programs in all 50 states and the nation’s largest 50 metropolitan areas.

The full text of the letter is available here.

Happy Holidays from 'Passenger Transport'

APTA joins all its members—including the Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT), which operates its festive Holiday Bus on a different route each day through Jan. 3, 2010—in wishing Passenger Transport’s readers a happy holiday season. Continuing a 17-year tradition, RT employees and their families painted the exterior of the Holiday Bus with colorful wreaths, poinsettias, ornaments, and candy canes, filling in an outline created by graphic designer Rick Sloan. Passengers ride free on the decorated bus and have an opportunity to donate cash or non-perishable food items to a local food bank.

 

Metro Transit Completes Its Hiawatha Line

Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul celebrated the completion of its Hiawatha Light Rail Line with the Dec. 12 opening of the final station, American Boulevard Station, in Bloomington, MN.

At ceremonies Dec. 9, officials from the Metropolitan Council, Hennepin County, and Bloomington dedicated the $2.4 million station and recognized the construction workers who completed the work on budget and six weeks ahead of schedule. A reception for the workers followed at a nearby hotel.

The station, located on 34th Avenue just south of I-494/Highway 5, will serve as the transportation anchor for a future transit-oriented development initiative in Bloomington’s Airport South District. It is the first Hiawatha Line station to feature a split-platform design, with trains headed to Minneapolis stopping north of American Boulevard and Mall of America-bound trains stopping south of the intersection.

“American Boulevard Station is an important and visible component in Bloomington’s vision to transform this area into a sustainable, urban environment with a mix of residential, commercial, and retail uses that capitalize on our unique assets: converging transit routes, the Minnesota Valley national wildlife refuge, Mall of America, and proximity to the airport,” said Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead. “Because we are focusing over the next decade on the economic, environmental, cultural, and social aspects of development, the Airport South District will be viewed as a great place to live, work, and play.”

Construction of the station began in June 2009. Funding came from a combination of sources including the Bloomington Port Authority, Hennepin County Regional Rail Authority, Metropolitan Council, and federal grants.

 

Braving howling winds and temperatures in the single digits, Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead and Metropolitan Council Member Polly Bowles snip a red ribbon officially dedicating the last new station on Metro Transit’s five-year-old Hiawatha Light Rail Line at ceremonies Dec. 9. The American Boulevard Station opened to the public on Dec. 12.

 


 

 

Transit Ridership Numbers Reflect Economic Situation

With high unemployment, significant decreases in gasoline prices, and less state and local revenue available for public transportation operations, U.S. public transit ridership declined by 3.8 percent in the first nine months of 2009 compared to record levels in the same period last year. Trip numbers on all major modes—bus, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail—declined; paratransit (demand-response) and trolleybus, however, saw increases.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment accelerated monthly from January through September 2009, reaching 9.8 percent in September. This is 58 percent higher than the unemployment rate for September 2008.

“Nearly 60 percent of riders take public transportation to commute to and from work,” said APTA President William Millar, “so it is to be expected that public transit ridership would be lower when unemployment is high.”

Public transit system budgets also have felt the serious impact of decreases in local and state funding; in many cases, this has led to service reductions and/or higher fares.

Light rail (streetcars, trolleys) declined by less than 1 percent during the first nine months of 2009, while ridership on heavy rail (subways) declined by 3.0 percent. Commuter rail ridership decreased by 5.1 percent over the first three quarters of the year. The national average for bus trips declined by 5.0 percent. Each area reported some increases and some decreases. For more details, go to the complete APTA ridership report here.

Denver RTD Names Washington to Top Position

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors in Denver voted Dec. 15 to name Phillip Washington its new general manager and chief executive officer. He has served in this post on an interim basis since General Manager Cal Marsella stepped down in July.

Earlier, Washington was RTD’s assistant general manager for administration for the past nine years. He came to Denver after a distinguished 24-year military career, retiring as a decorated active-duty U.S. Army soldier with the rank of Command Sergeant Major (E-9).

“It speaks volumes about what an exceptional agency we have that, following an exhaustive nationwide search, the best candidate for the job was right here at RTD,” said Board Chairman Lee Kemp. “Phil has clearly demonstrated to us over the past six months that he is more than ready to lead this agency forward.”

Wells Is New Administrator of Maryland MTA

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has announced the promotion of 20-year MTA employee Ralign T. Wells to the position of administrator. He succeeds Paul J. Wiedefeld, who is assuming a leadership role at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Wells joined the agency as a part-time bus operator and rose through the ranks, serving since October 2007 as deputy administrator for operations. His other positions include supervisor, superintendent, deputy director of bus operations, and director of Metro Subway operations.

“With two decades of experience in virtually every major area of transit operations at MTA, Ralign Wells is uniquely qualified to lead the organization,” said Maryland DOT Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley. “He is a strategic leader with a clear sense of purpose and creativity when faced with diverse challenges.”

Wells stated: “"From my time in the driver’s seat of a bus, I know the value of good public transportation. As administrator, I pledge to do everything I can to make MTA the best choice for getting around safely and efficiently.”

First UMTA Administrator Villarreal Dies

Carlos C. Villarreal, 85, of Rockville, MD, who served in the Nixon administration as the first head of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, now the Federal Transit Administration, died Dec. 14.

President Richard Nixon selected Villarreal in 1969 to serve as UMTA administrator, a position he held until 1973. During his tenure, he oversaw a massive increase in public transit assistance funding, from $175 million to $1 billion, and supported technology development in transit. He also served from 1974 to 1979 as vice chairman of the Postal Rate Commission.

Villarreal worked for Wilbur Smith Associates both before and after his UMTA service. He was executive vice president and a member of the company’s board of directors before he joined UMTA, and returned as its executive vice president of international operations after leaving government service. His projects included the feasibility study for the Chunnel between England and France; the subway system in Singapore; traffic engineering in Moscow; and road work in Dubai.

He was a member of the APTA Procurement and Materials Management Committee and Rail Transit Committee. 

 

Stephen Parry Dies; Longtime Transit Professional

Stephen T. Parry, 59, a transportation planner who began his career while a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, died Nov. 29 of complications from a hemorrhagic stroke. His fascination with buses and their routes began in childhood.

During his college years, Parry designed the college’s two-line Bengal Bus system, which remains in operation today; he served as student body president and graduated in 1972. He received a one-year Thomas Watson Fellowship in 1973 that allowed him to study transportation systems around the world, and later earned a master of public administration degree from Pepperdine University.

Parry served the former Southern California Rapid Transit District, now part of Los Angeles Metro, for 23 years, first as a transportation planner and eventually as director of schedules and operations planning. His major accomplishments included coordinating transportation plans for NFL Super Bowls and the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II; organizing crisis mode plans during the 1992 riots following the Rodney King verdict; and spearheading bus service during the 1984 Olympic Games.

He became director of service development at AC Transit in Oakland, CA, in 1995, and joined CHK America in Santa Barbara, CA, in 2001.

Reviewing the Best and Worst of Times for Public Transit in 2009

BY WILLIAM MILLAR, APTA President

To quote Dickens in reference to last year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Who would have expected the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—with $8.4 billion for public transit investment and $8 billion as a “down payment” for high-speed rail—to have such an impact on public transportation?

Who would have expected that high-speed rail would move from “maybe one day” to “the process has begun”?

And who would have predicted the worst recession since the time of FDR? Unemployment is still high, and with 58 percent of transit trips for work purposes, it’s no wonder that ridership has retreated from 2008’s record levels. I’m optimistic by nature, but I don’t see state and local revenues turning around too quickly in the next year, and there’s no indication that sales tax revenues are turning around either.

So looking back—for good, for ill—2009 has been an extraordinary year indeed. Here are just a few reminders of what has taken place.

Jobs
What’s the most obvious economic benefit of public transit? Clearly that answer is—jobs! Earlier this year, APTA released its “Job Impacts Report,” which found that public transit supports 1.7 million jobs in total and directly employs 380,000 people. In addition, every $1 billion investment in public transit translates into an average of 36,000 jobs. And, with the passage of ARRA, 252,000 jobs in public transit are being either supported or created.
 
Legislative Efforts
We focused a lot of time and energy on legislative efforts this year, and have ARRA, record 2010 federal appropriations, a transit-friendly $500 billion surface transportation authorization proposal, and progress on climate change legislation to show for it. Much work remains to be done, but I believe we’ll see a new surface transportation bill enacted in 2010.

High-Speed Rail
Thanks to an infusion of $8 billion, high-speed rail is on the way! To guide development of all type of rail in the United States, the Federal Railroad Administration released its Preliminary National Rail Plan, which calls for improving performance, 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.

Economic Impact
In June, our study “Challenge of State and Local Funding Constraints on Transit Systems: Effects on Service Fares, Employment and Ridership” found that more than 80 percent of public transit systems responding saw flat or decreased funding from local, regional, and state revenue streams. Among those systems facing this decrease in financial support, nearly nine of out of 10 (89 percent) were forced to raise fares, cut service, or do both.

Ridership was also affected, declining by 3.8 percent in the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period last year. Trips on all the major modes of public transportation—bus, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail—were down, while paratransit (demand-response) and trolleybus were the only two modes that saw increases.

But don’t forget we’re comparing 2009 statistics with 2008, our highest ridership in 52 years! So given that fact, and given the status of the economy, ridership still was better than expected.

This downturn in ridership is a reflection of our difficult economic times. When people don’t have jobs, they don’t have a daily commute; when people don’t have jobs, they don’t go shopping as much. But just like the unemployment rate, public transit use is a lagging economic indicator. We should therefore expect that when employment rebounds, so should transit ridership.

Ballot Initiatives
Voters on Nov. 3 passed pro-transit ballot initiatives in Colorado, Michigan, and Maine, while defeating one anti-transit measure in Ohio. With the successful passage of two additional transit-related initiatives earlier in the year and a special election on Dec. 8—where voters in Oklahoma City approved a one-cent sales tax extension—these results mean that in 2009, 8 out of 11 public transit ballot measures were passed—a success rate of 73 percent! These “yes” votes for public transportation can mean only one thing: the public wants more public transportation services and will tax themselves to gain it—even when unemployment is high and economic uncertainty is foremost in so many people’s minds.

New Campaign—and a Strategy of Telling Our Story
This past year APTA introduced a campaign, “Public Transportation Takes Us There,” that emphasizes how public transportation helps the nation move—by focusing on “Three Es (economy, energy, and the environment) and a Q (leading to a better quality of life).” This campaign continues to offer transit systems an array of advocacy tools they can use in their local communities—from sample letters to the editor to press releases.

We also began to implement APTA Chair M.P. Carter’s signature initiative, “Telling Our Story.” Those of us who have been around for a while know about—and often speak of—these benefits. Through Telling Our Story, we’re continuing those efforts—and expanding them. We’re using social media, such as Facebook, and we’ve developed sample press releases and fact sheets to help all of you shout this story out to anyone, anywhere, who will listen!

So take advantage of Congress being in recess—and home!—to tell our story one more time. Be sure to make an appointment, or—better yet—bring your representative to your property or business. Let that individual see how we’re putting Americans to work in green public transit jobs.
     
Summing Up
It has been a busy and difficult year. Despite the difficulties, however, you can see in the pages that follow that we’ve made progress in advancing public transit, but we need to do more.

As Leonardo DaVinci said: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

We need to keep “happening to things,” by continuing to tell our story. Happy Holidays and, hopefully, Happier New Year!

Communicating the Many Benefits of Public Transit

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

Who knows the many benefits of public transportation? The readers of Passenger Transport certainly do. But do they take full advantage of the stories they have to share about those benefits?

That’s the question M.P. Carter posed rhetorically in her first speech as APTA chair at the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando, and that’s why she has made “Telling Our Story” her signature initiative: to ensure that APTA members continue to tell their stories—far and wide.

The goal? By educating even more Americans about the benefits of public transportation and generating more enthusiasm about its value to individuals and communities, APTA and its members will spur action for increased support and funding for public transportation at both the local and national levels.

By now, readers may have already seen the Telling Our Story icon that appears on this page and the APTA  and publictransportation.org web sites. That icon represents this initiative’s strategy: to build stronger emotional connections with public transit through personal stories and testimonials; use social media tools to educate and activate stakeholders and younger adults; create more opportunities and generate ideas and easy-to-use tools to mobilize and energize members; and develop stronger relationships with partners and coalitions.

“This strategy takes our campaign ‘to the streets’ to engage local and regional communities that can best provide a firsthand account of how public transit benefits their lives and how communities’ economy and sustainability will suffer if adequate funding is not appropriated,” said Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, co-chair of the Telling Our Story Task Force, APTA vice chair-marketing and communications, and director, project development, for Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Stories can focus on success in marketing, communications, outreach, or advocacy. Transit agency officials can talk about how they promoted their system or handled challenges. Business members can discuss or even demonstrate innovations in the industry.

What’s exciting about Telling Our Story is that “storytellers” can share the benefits of public transit in many directions, as in:
* Tell your local legislators your stories of how public transportation benefits their constituents—riders!—to encourage them to increase transit funding.
* Tell the public about transit’s many benefits to let them see how taking public transportation can cost them less and help the planet at the same time!
* Tell land developers how your company can form a partnership to help create transit-oriented development.
* Tell us at APTA your stories of the challenges you have faced and how you have overcome them – to aid us in advocating on your behalf to Congress.

The message? Three Es and a Q, which translates to: Public Transportation Takes Us There: Economy, Energy, Environment—all leading to an improved Quality of life.

We began this endeavor in October; our latest effort was to launch this initiative online on such social media as Facebook (go here and click on the “Telling Our Story” logo).

You can join in the conversation, too. In addition to using Facebook, APTA posted the winners of its Dump the Pump online video contest and exhibited “Telling Our Story” at AARP’s Annual Expo and the National League of Cities meeting. In addition, we worked with APTA’s business members to release a new report, The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation. This report, which targets investors in public transit infrastructure, has proved to be an effective development proposal tool.

More plans?

Start 2010 off on the right track with “Tell Your Story to Congress District Days”—Jan. 6-8—designed to take place while members of the U.S. House of Representatives are home on recess.

We urge all APTA members to contact their Congressional representatives on those days. The timing is critical because it is expected that Congress will focus on a second economic stimulus bill in January, and the goal is to ensure that funds for public transit are included by APTA members telling their stories, connecting public transportation with job growth.

While all the details are available online (just click on the Telling Our Story icon here), here are just a few suggested activities.

Agency members could:
* Invite the representative to tour a project funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money, highlighting the number of jobs created or supported by this funding;
* Invite the representative to a ground breaking, contract signing, or ribbon-cutting ceremony for an ARRA project;
* Invite the representative to ride the bus or train and, in the course of the ride, talk about how many people ride public transit to commute to work; or
* Schedule a meeting at the district Congressional office to discuss local projects that need funding. Unveil a project rendering or have local advocates accompany you to the meeting.

Business members could:
* Invite the representative to visit your manufacturing plant and meet with employees;
* Schedule a meeting at the district Congressional office to discuss a project you are engaged in—and the impact those projects have on job creation or support; or
* Invite the representative to meet with you and other local business leaders to discuss the outlook for the economy in 2010.

Wondering what information will work best as complements to the story you have to tell? Plan to use some of the communications aids that APTA has prepared in its Telling Our Story tool kit—such as fact sheets and sample press releases.

From APTA’s offices, we will continue to issue monthly reports on how much money people save by riding public transit; we will feature stories and testimonials online and in print; and we will continue to highlight stories about people, agencies, and businesses in Passenger Transport.

In the longer term, we will develop Telling Our Story activities around Earth Day’s 40th anniversary in April 2010, Dump the Pump Day in June, and APTA’s 2nd Youth Summit, also in June.

So join us in Telling Our Story—online on Facebook, through e-mail to APTA staff, and everywhere and anywhere you can where you live.  

It’s our story, and we’re sticking to it!

Telling Our Story Task Force Roster

APTA Chair:
Mattie “M.P.” Carter
, Commissioner, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis, TN

Task Force Co-Chairs:

Tom Costello, Assistant Managing Director, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL
Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, Director, Project Development, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Atlanta, GA

Task Force Members:
Debra Alexander, Assistant Executive Director, Capital Area Transportation Authority, Lansing, MI
Bonnie Arnold, Director of Marketing and Customer Service, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL
Vicki Bowman, Marketing Manager, Motor Coach Industries, Inc.,Schaumburg, IL
RoseMary Covington, Assistant General Manager of Planning and Transit System Development, Sacramento Regional Transit District, Sacramento, CA
John Cowman, Board Member, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
Greg Evans, Board Member, Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR
Jerry Franklin, Vice President, Executive Affairs, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
David Longo, Acting Associate Administrator, Communications & Congressional Affairs, Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC
Morgan Lyons, Director, Media Relations, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
Cynthia Jones Parks, President, Jones Worley Communications, Atlanta, GA
Stan Rosenblum, Division Vice President, Jacobs, New York, NY
Mike Scanlon, General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, San Mateo County Transit District, San Carlos, CA
Dave Turney, Chairman, President, and CEO, DRI Corporation, Dallas, TX
Aaron Weinstein, Department Manager, Marketing and Research, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Oakland, CA

2009: The Legislative Year in Review

BY MEREDITH SLESINGER, APTA Legislative Assistant

The past year has been a notable one for public transportation, both for issues facing the industry and the legislative steps taken in response.

No sector has been immune from the challenging economic conditions that have faced the country over the past year, and public transit is no exception. From both the policy and political perspectives, 2009 was not about maintaining the status quo.

The past year brought us the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a $500 billion surface transportation authorization proposal, climate change legislation, and an overhaul of transit safety regulations, to name just a few items on the legislative agenda.

ARRA Deploys Billions for Transit and High-Speed Rail
President Barack Obama was sworn into office in January, and his administration has taken a dramatically different approach to policy issues affecting public transit than did its predecessor.

The first legislative priority for the incoming administration was to craft a stimulus plan to combat the impacts of the recession. On Feb. 17, the president signed into law H.R. 1, or ARRA, to provide $789 billion in spending and tax relief.

The package included $8.4 billion for new mostly capital investment in public transit for programs administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), with $6.9 billion distributed through existing formula programs. The Urban Formula program (§5307) received $5.44 billion and the Rural Formula program (§5311) and the Growing States and High Density formula program (§5340) received $680 million each.

ARRA also allocated $9.3 billion for the development of intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This figure includes $8 billion for high-speed rail and $1.3 billion to Amtrak for capital investment and upgrades.

In addition, ARRA made available two $750 million grants under the Fixed Guideway Modernization program and the New Starts/Small Starts program respectively. A new discretionary grant program, Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER), appropriated $100 million for transit agencies to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

The transit portion of the bill also included appropriation of $1.5 billion for a new multi-modal discretionary grant program, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER), for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure. The TIGER program ultimately received $57 billion worth of applications.

Other ARRA provisions of importance to APTA members include $150 million in funds for transit and rail security and a change to the commuter tax benefit that finally put transit and parking benefits on equal footing.

Today, 10 months after ARRA’s enactment, FTA has obligated 87.6 percent of the available funds: $7.2 billion for 690 grants. Approximately $459 million for 55 grants are pending review and approval, leaving only approximately 7 percent of funds remaining for obligation.

FY 2009 Transportation Appropriations
In addition to the ARRA funding, the transit title of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act that passed in March allocated $10.231 billion in new budget authority for transit programs—a $740 million (7.8 percent) increase over FY 2008. This amount is $106 million less than authorized by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

The bill provided $8.26 billion for formula and bus programs, but cut $100 million from the authorized level in SAFETEA-LU from the discretionary Bus and Bus Facilities program. However, this still provided an increase of $60.9 million over the FY 2008 level for Bus and Bus Facilities.

The New Starts/Small Starts Capital Investment Fund received $1.81 billion, equal to the authorized level in SAFETEA-LU and $240 million more than last year’s appropriation.

House T&I Committee Releases Authorization Proposal
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN); Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL); and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the T&I Highways and Transit Subcommittee, in June introduced a $500 billion authorization proposal, the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 (STAA), which calls for $99.8 billion for public transit programs administered by FTA—an increase of more than 90 percent over SAFETEA-LU levels. STAA also calls for $50 billion in general funds for the development of high-speed rail.

However, the House Ways and Means Committee did not take up the revenue portion of the bill, leaving the financing of the legislation as an ongoing debate.

The Obama administration proposed an 18-month extension to SAFETEA-LU, which was approved by two Senate committees, Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and Environment and Public Works (EPW), but Oberstar adamantly opposed any extension. He continues to maintain that a long-term bill cannot wait: a new six-year bill is necessary to build on the transportation investments in ARRA, create jobs, and institute reforms that bring about transformational change to transportation policy and programs.

At the end of July, the House and Senate passed H.R. 3357 to transfer $7 billion in general funds into the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). This infusion of funds into the account was necessary to maintain solvency of the HTF through Sept. 30 and the expiration of SAFETEA-LU. Without this transfer, the federal government would have been unable to reimburse states for highway projects funded through the FY 2009 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill.

A major concern surrounding extension legislation has been the possibility that the HTF will require another general fund transfer.

Climate Change Legislation
In late June, the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey climate change bill after its authors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA).

The bill establishes a cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gases to combat climate change. Under the plan, the government would set limits on the total amount of greenhouse gases that could be emitted and regulated companies would then buy and sell (trade) permits to emit these gases. Over time, the cap on emissions would be lowered and entities that produce more greenhouse gases would see costs rise, and thus have an economic incentive to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, the Waxman-Markey bill allowed transit to compete for a very small amount of cap-and-trade revenues, but it did not guarantee transit investment.

However, in the Senate version of the legislation reported out of EPW—the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), also known as the Kerry-Boxer bill after its authors, EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA)—transit would receive about 2.5 percent of emissions allowances, translating into between $1.4 billion and $3 billion annually for transportation investment. Half of the revenue would be distributed directly to public transportation providers through the §5307/5340 and §5311 formula programs. The other half would be allocated to planning activities and a competitive multi-modal program for projects, including transit investments, in the new regional and state emission reduction plans.

APTA continues to monitor and advocate for guaranteed transit funding in Kerry-Boxer and alternative legislative proposals.

All-Time High Funding in FY 2010 THUD Appropriations
The FY 2010 THUD bill, approved by the Senate Dec. 13 and awaiting the president’s signature at press time, is the vehicle for an omnibus appropriations package that will keep federal agencies operating through Sept. 30, 2010. The bill contains $10.7 billion for public transit, setting a new record high.

The formula and bus programs account receives $8.3 billion, but the bill does not provide specific program funding allocations. The conference report on the legislation notes that these decisions will be made by the authorizing committees in future legislation.

The legislation contains $2 billion for FTA Capital Investment Grants (New Starts), 9.4 percent above the original budget request, and $2.5 billion for high-speed rail and intercity rail corridors, a compromise between the $4 billion proposed by the House and $1.2 billion by the Senate. Amtrak receives $1 billion for capital and debt service payment grants.

Another provision of note in the bill is $600 million for capital investments in surface transportation, modeled after the TIGER program established through ARRA. Finally, as authorized under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the legislation provides $50 million for projects such as positive train control. Applicants must demonstrate that they are currently developing the required plans required by the act in order to qualify for a grant under this program.

Surface transportation programs were authorized through Dec. 18 under a second continuing resolution (CR) after the Sept. 30 expiration of SAFETEA-LU. As Passenger Transport went to press, it was proposed that a “Jobs Bill” attached to the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations bill (the final unfinished FY 2010 bill) could extend SAFETEA-LU and provide additional transportation infrastructure investment. If the House and Senate are unable to pass such legislation, it is likely that a third short-term extension of the SAFETEA-LU law would be enacted through February 2010, with further debate on a second stimulus and longer-term extension to be continued when Congress returns from recess in January.

DHS Appropriations Enacted
On Oct. 28, President Obama signed into law H.R. 2892, the FY 2010 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill. This legislation provides funding for the department and agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which are critical for carrying out programs to advance public transportation and rail security plans, projects, and research.

The bill provides $300 million for Rail and Public Transportation Security grants, $50 million more than the budget request and the House level, and $56 million less than the Senate level. A minimum threshold of $20 million is set aside for Amtrak security improvements. The bill also continues a legislative provision requiring the department to provide grants directly to public transportation agencies.

The conference report also makes note of the fact that 90 percent of funds appropriated in FY 2006 for rail and transit security remain unexpended.

Proposed Federal Rail Transit Safety Oversight
In early December, the Obama administration proposed a bill, The Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, that would authorize the secretary of transportation to establish and enforce federal safety standards for all rail systems receiving federal dollars for transit. This eliminates a prohibition on imposing safety standards that has been in effect since 1965.

The bill would allow states to be eligible for federal transit assistance to hire and train staff to provide oversight to enforce the new federal regulations. State programs would be required to be fully staffed and given adequate resources and authority to enforce federal safety regulations to be eligible for federal funds.

Finally, the legislation would require the state agencies responsible for safety oversight to be financially independent from the transit systems they oversee. FTA would provide enforcement of all federal regulations in instances where states choose not to participate in the program where the state program is found to be inadequate in terms of enforcement.

Throughout the year, APTA was also actively engaged in issues surrounding Sale-In/Lease-Out and Lease-In/Lease-Out transactions, alternative fuel tax credits, livable and sustainable communities, and implementation of Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act provisions.

The outlook for the year ahead is a continuation of the packed legislative agenda we have seen in 2009, with transportation authorization, climate change, job creation, and safety among the leading issues as we move into 2010. 

High-Speed Rail Tops New Policy Directions for 2009

BY ART GUZZETTI, APTA Vice President-Policy

As much as any year in recent memory, 2009 saw the emergence of new directions in transportation policy: high-speed rail as a national priority; increasing attention to climate change; new directions put forth by the Obama administration; and the need to align APTA’s governance and committee structure with long-term changes.

New Policy Themes and Approaches
The Obama administration has sought to connect transportation policy with broader themes of economic recovery, energy, environment, and urban development.

APTA’s initial work with the Transportation Transition Team, President Obama’s group tasked with identifying key transportation issues for the administration to pursue, has translated into ongoing dialogue on new, cutting-edge issues. Attention early in the year was on shaping economic recovery programs, including new programs focused on high-speed rail, multi-modal approaches, energy, and climate-friendly transportation approaches.

In June, DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency announced an interagency partnership for sustainable communities to develop federal policies that could help support and shape state and local land use decisions and infrastructure investments.

Work also has continued in numerous other policy areas, including state of good repair, performance measures, safety, and greenhouse gas reduction. A highlight was DOT’s sponsorship of a transit panel at the recent international climate change talks in Copenhagen. The panel, “Buses, Trains, and Commuter Vans: Reducing Carbon Through U.S. Public Transit,” included presentations by APTA members.

High-Speed Rail
The administration introduced high-speed rail as a signature issue in February and unveiled a national vision in an April White House ceremony. Since then, its activities have included discussions of a National Rail Plan; a U.S. Rail Manufacturing Summit; and working with APTA’s membership, DOT, and other key industry partners to help shape an ongoing, vibrant national high-speed rail program.

To set direction to key partnerships, APTA and the International Union of Railways (UIC), the organization representing high-speed rail systems around the world, developed an International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States, to be held in Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles in February 2010.

APTA also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the States for Passenger Rail coalition, and established a separate MOU with UIC. The association has forged many additional strategic partnerships on high-speed rail, including the One-Rail coalition, a group with membership of all components of the rail industry including freight rail and rail labor.

Changes in Governance and Committee Structure
A comprehensive assessment of APTA’s governance and committee structure began in January 2009. The APTA Board of Directors approved bylaws changes in October that will align APTA’s governance model with the themes of APTA’s TransitVision 2050 initiative and the issues that will confront the public transportation community over the next 40 years.

Some of these changes would include members of the APTA Executive Committee serving without portfolio and chairs of designated committees serving on the APTA Board of Directors, and strengthening the role of committees and the board. The changes are aimed at broadening opportunities for participation in APTA governance, and providing a path to leadership.

A vote is currently underway by the full APTA membership to approve the related changes to the bylaws.

New Policy Research
In January 2009, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, established by Congress in SAFETEA-LU, released recommendations on transportation funding. The report acknowledged an enormous backlog in federal transportation needs and identified numerous revenue options, many of which will be required in combination to address the magnitude of the funding shortfall.

Through the assistance of APTA business members, an April 2009 report—“Impacts of the Financial Crisis on the Transportation Industry: Challenges and Opportunities”—assessed the full impact of the economic collapse on transportation finance, and how transit agencies and businesses were affected.

Also released in April was “Job Impacts of Spending on Public Transportation: An Update,” which examined the job-creation impact of transit investment.

The report found that every $1 billion in public transportation capital and operations supports an average 36,000 jobs, which in turn results in approximately $3.6 billion of business sales and the generation of nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.

In November, APTA issued “The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation,” which provides vital information to private investors as they consider investments or future expansion into the public transportation industry.

A landmark report, “Moving Cooler: An Analysis of Transportation Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” analyzed the full range of transportation solutions and concluded that bundling together such strategies as land use, road pricing, and public transportation was necessary to achieve the greatest impact.

Development of this report was a collaboration among APTA, the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), FTA, EPA, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, Shell Oil Company, and the Urban Land Institute.

Other policy initiatives explored tactics and strategies for enacting transportation ballot measures; surveys to gauge the impact on transit of the economic hard times; and a report on how regional planning and governance can be strengthen to the benefit of transit.

New Monthly Lecture Series
Also this year, APTA introduced a new monthly lecture series—“Transportation Tuesdays at APTA”—where transportation officials, stakeholders, and key partners convene at the APTA offices in Washington for a presentation and discussion.

Recent speakers for this program have included FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, Federal Railroad Administration Deputy Administrator Karen Rae, and FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez.

Rail, Bus Systems Move Forward Across North America in 2009

The year now ending was a noteworthy one for the opening of new rail transit systems.

During 2009, Portland, OR, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, saw their first commuter rail lines enter service. Public transportation systems throughout North America also introduced new light rail systems and extensions, from Valley Metro Rail’s METRO in Phoenix, which opened late in 2008, to Sound Transit’s Central Link in Seattle; new lines in Dallas and Portland (each, coincidentally, named the “Green Line”); Los Angeles Metro’s Gold Line Eastside Extension; and the SkyTrain Canada Line in Vancouver, BC.

Westside Express Service (WES), the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon’s (TriMet) commuter rail line that opened Feb. 2, provides the first passenger service between Beaverton and Wilsonville, OR, since 1933. Passengers can transfer to TriMet’s MAX light rail at Beaverton for service into Portland.

Metro Transit’s Northstar Commuter Rail makes six stops on the route between Big Lake, MN, and Target Field in Minneapolis, where riders can make connections with the Hiawatha Light Rail Line and regional bus routes. It opened Nov. 16, 10 weeks ahead of schedule and $10 million under budget.

METRO light rail in Phoenix entered operation Dec. 27, 2008, with crowds throughout the day despite the coldest weather of the year. The 20-mile line has 12 stations in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, AZ.

The July 18 opening of the 14-mile Central Link light rail line in Seattle is the beginning of Sound Transit’s plans for 55 miles of light rail service in the region by 2023. Four of the line’s 12 stations are located in the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, while other parts of the line are at grade or elevated up to 80 feet above ground at the Tukwila International Boulevard Station. The first extension to the line—Airport Link, providing direct access to SeaTac Airport—opened Dec. 19.

TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, launched the Canada Line Aug. 17 in the midst of the region’s preparations to host the world for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The new 19-km line—the first in Canada to connect directly with a major airport—has 16 new stations. Another benefit of the line, according to TransLink, is that it will contribute toward meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals in British Columbia.

TriMet’s MAX Green Line, which opened Sept. 12, is the agency’s fifth light rail line in its three-county service area, running 8.3 miles from downtown Portland to Clackamas County.

When Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened the first three miles and four stations of its own Green Line, the latest component of its light rail network, on Sept. 14, the line restored rail service to four distinctive neighborhoods of the city for the first time in more than 50 years. The remaining 25 miles of the Green Line, scheduled to open in December 2010, will extend southeast to Pleasant Grove and northwest to Farmers Branch and Carrollton.

In Los Angeles, the Edward R. Roybal Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension connects the existing Gold Line to Pasadena with eight new stations in neighborhoods including East L.A. and Little Tokyo. It opened Nov. 14, boasting a flawless construction safety record of more than four million hours.

The largest transit public works project in the nation—the new tunnel under the Hudson \River, which will ultimately double capacity on the nation’s busiest rail corridor—broke ground in June as a partnership between New Jersey Transit Corporation and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. The $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core project includes two new single-track tunnels to supplement the existing two tracks, which opened for service in 1910, and expansions to New York Penn Station.

The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) returned six of its candy-apple-red Canal Streetcars to service on the Canal and Waterfront lines on Dec. 12, 2008. The 24-car fleet suffered serious damage from the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Numerous other rail projects broke ground or moved closer to their opening dates during 2009. In Pittsburgh, the Port Authority of Allegheny County completed the mining phase of its North Shore Connector light rail project early in the year. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority reopened the northbound side of the Cortlandt Street Station on the R and W subway lines, adjacent to the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, on Nov. 25. The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX, is preparing to open Capital MetroRail service in the first quarter of 2010.

The Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City worked throughout the year on its $2.8 billion FrontLines 2015 project, which includes four new TRAX light rail lines and the FrontRunner South commuter rail line. Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County broke ground for two new light rail lines on July 13.

BRT and Other Bus Services
New and extended rail lines were not the only advances public transit agencies saw in 2009. More agencies moved forward with bus rapid transit (BRT) systems and other innovations in bus service.

During the summer, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County introduced the Quickline: a weekday, rush-hour-only service that offers such BRT components as limited stops, high-end bus stations, and high-tech, hybrid-diesel coaches. The line makes only eight stops along its nine-mile route, shaving 15 minutes off the commute of existing service on the corridor.

Reno, NV, welcomed its first BRT service, RTC RAPID, on Oct. 11. The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC) operates limited-stop service to 14 stations on RTC RAPID, which will shift next year from standard buses to 60-foot articulated diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. The same day, the agency introduced RTC RAPID CONNECT, an improved bus line that replaces the existing regular service on the RTC RAPID route.

Swift, the first BRT line in Washington State, entered operation Nov. 29 in Snohomish County, WA. Community Transit runs the service at designated stops between the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline, WA, and the Everett Station.

The Transit Authority of River City in Louisville, KY, acknowledged the importance of regular internal communications and web site bulletins to keep its bus operations on the road during a severe ice storm on Jan. 28.

Valley Metro in Phoenix opened the first new construction project in its 23-year history, the Superstition Springs Transit Center in Mesa, AZ, on Nov. 5. Transit agencies in El Paso, TX; Columbus, OH; Las Vegas; and Cleveland broke ground during the year for new bus facilities.

The Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in Burnsville, MN, is preparing for the first step toward BRT service with the opening of the new Apple Valley Transit Station scheduled for Jan. 4, 2010.

Another form of innovation is underway in New Orleans, where NORTA has entered into a “delegated management” contract with Veolia Transportation that gives the contractor responsibility for all activities below the board level. While many transit agencies contract with outside firms for management services, Veolia now employs NORTA’s entire workforce.

 

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine greets workers during ground-breaking ceremonies for the new tunneling project under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York.

 

APTA Standards Promote Safety and Efficiency

BY KEVIN DOW, APTA Program Manager-Technical Services

One of APTA’s key efforts has been to bring together public transit agencies, business members, and the federal government to write consensus-based and voluntary standards for the industry. These standards are designed to improve safety, reliability, performance, and efficiency of agency operations and equipment.

APTA members, as well as their partners at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Transportation Security Administration and hundreds of volunteers, participated in dozens of working groups, devoting thousands of hours to craft and codify these industry best practices.

This year, the Standards Development Program focused on:
* Accessibility
* Bus Transit
* Commuter Rail
* Information Technology
* Procurement
* Rail Transit
* Security
* Sustainability and Urban Design
* Universal Transit Fares

Each standard, recommended practice, technical specification, and report written to date has had an impact on how we do business. Following are highlights from this year’s efforts.

Gap Safety Management
The Accessibility Consensus Standards Program continued its efforts to reach agreement from all stakeholders to gain approval on three primary documents.

Whether a station is built on a curve in the rail, or the height requirements for platforms change at some point during rail system construction, people with mobility issues may have difficulty boarding or alighting from rail cars. The Standard for Gap Safety Management addresses the gap between a rail platform and the rail vehicle, both horizontal and vertical. The document had been balloted at the working group level as Passenger Transport went to press, and release of the standard for public comment is expected in January.

Two other standards are nearing completion and will be released next year: the Recommended Practices for Handling Reservation Hold Times for ADA Complementary Paratransit Call Centers, and Recommended Practices for a Fixed Route Stop Announcement and Route Identification Program. These efforts will help ensure that citizens with mobility challenges can more easily navigate to their destinations using transit.

Sustainability and Urban Design
In a climate of energy conservation and environmental consciousness, the Sustainability and Urban Design Standards (SUDS) program is developing tools to help agencies establish ways to be good stewards of their communities. For example, the group has devised a software program to account for agency greenhouse gas emissions, which has been conceptually completed and will be rolled out next year as an online resource.

SUDS is also developing resources for communities to use in planning, such as Why Design Matters, Transit Area of Influence, and Joint Development. The importance of local and regional partnerships for design is a key topic this group will be pursuing in the coming year.

Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines
The update to the Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines, also known as the White Book, will be released in January 2010 for beta testing. It includes both technical specifications for the vehicles and standardized terms and conditions that can be included in the procurement contract. These guidelines, developed jointly between agencies and manufacturers, are expected to save millions of dollars on bus procurements.

Roadway Worker Protection
Protecting the people who work on our railroad tracks remains a high priority. FTA continues to support APTA’s efforts to create a standard that will codify best practices in promoting adherence to stated safety guidelines in the right-of-way. After many months of effort, this document is expected to be released in January for public comment.

Transit Security
Securing transit systems against both terrorist threats and home-grown crimes has been a top concern of the industry. The Security Standards Program has had a productive year publishing six documents, and is nearing completion on several more.

Finished this year were Recommended Practices for a Continuity of Operations Plan, First Responder Familiarization, Special Events Service, Trash/Recycling Container Placement, CCTV Camera Coverage, and Development and Implementation of a Security and Emergency Preparedness Plan. Seven more documents—ranging in scope from security inspections to mutual aid to emergency communications strategies—are in final review. Several dozen additional documents are “in the pipeline,” to be completed in the upcoming year.

Rail Vehicle Crashworthiness
APTA has worked very closely with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in its release this year of a crashworthiness standard for light rail vehicles, a companion document for the heavy rail crashworthiness standard completed in 2008. This standard is designed to protect not only those riding inside the light rail vehicle, but also occupants of small cars and other vehicles that could be involved in a collision with the train.

Driver Distractions
The Bus Standards Program completed two documents this year related to another high-profile issue for our industry: distracted drivers. Distractions can be either agency-controlled, such as dispatch communications, or driver-controlled, such as texting and talking on cell phones.

These documents make recommendations that agencies develop policies, procedures, and training programs to limit both types of distractions, along with recommendations for enforcement and analysis of policy effectiveness.

TCIP Implementation Requirements and Capabilities Editor
The IT Standards Program rolled out a program this year, in cooperation with the National Transit Institute, to train agency technology specialists in the use of the new TCIP Implementation Requirements and Capabilities Editor, an electronic tool designed to help agencies easily define their IT enterprise system architecture and output standard TCIP language to state requirements for any future system procurements. Several pilot programs are underway, putting the tool through testing in real-world acquisition projects.

TCIP compliance is trending toward becoming de facto language for transit industry IT contracts.

Hours of Service
Operator fatigue has been a contributing factor to accidents in both rail and bus operations. Before this year, no standards existed for the amount of time required between shifts, or how many consecutive hours would be allowed for a shift.

In response to an increase in recent incidents, and in cooperation with FTA, APTA published a Standard for Train Operator Hours of Service Requirements in January. A similar document for bus operations is due for publication soon.

Training for Mechanics
The Bus Standards Program has published seven out of eight proposed programs to help agency maintenance personnel to design and implement training programs to prepare their mechanics to take the new ASE Certification tests to be Certified Transit Mechanics. APTA, the Transportation Learning Center, and labor representatives are also working in cooperation to gain consensus on a set of standard training objectives for rail vehicles, signals, elevators and escalators, and traction power.

Each of these efforts is expected to be completed early next year.

Contactless Fare Media Standard
Every year, more agencies are pursuing integration of their fare collection systems with both interconnected modes in their own systems and with outside, regional systems to promote a single and unified way for our customers to pay their fares. Part V of the Contactless Fare Media System Standard, the last in this series, was completed this year. This part of the standard defines how to test and certify that a system is compliant with the hardware and software specifications of the CFMS standard.

This year was a productive one for the APTA Standards Development Program, with the completion of many large-scale and high-profile efforts through the efforts of many members and associates.

We look forward to the coming year as we finish standards already in progress and seek new areas in which we can achieve better safety, reliability, performance, and efficiency while reducing liability.

At TriMet, Much to Celebrate Even in Tough Economic Times

BY CAROLYN YOUNG, Executive Director of Communication and Technology, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Portland, OR

Young is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

What a difference a year makes. To the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), 2008 brought record ridership and, at times, too much of a good thing. Buses and trains were overcrowded and agencies did not have enough revenues to expand service to meet the demand.

Fast forward to 2009. The deep recession meant fewer jobs, fewer riders, less revenue, and reduced service.

While TriMet juggled these challenges alongside our peers across the country, 2009 did bring some high points. The agency—now in its 40th year—opened two new rail lines, revitalized Portland’s downtown transit mall, celebrated record ridership levels, and introduced a number of web-based and mobile tools to help riders use our system.

Growing the Transit System
In February, we launched Westside Express Service or WES, a 14.7-mile commuter rail service connecting four Portland suburbs.

WES is the first commuter rail service in Oregon, operating with self-propelled cars on existing freight tracks. It provides a much-needed transportation alternative for commuters in the busy Highway 217/I-5 corridor. While the double-digit unemployment has impacted the ridership on the weekday commuter service, we expect to see more riders once the economy begins to recover.

The riders who have discovered WES enjoy the fast travel times along with free Wi-Fi and beautiful scenery.

In September, we opened our fifth MAX light rail line: the Green Line, an 8.3-mile extension that finally connects all three counties in the TriMet district by rail. The Green Line carries riders between downtown Portland and Clackamas County, the third most populous county in Oregon and one of the fastest-growing communities in our region.

The Green Line project also included a new alignment along the downtown Portland Transit Mall which, after two years of construction, has been revitalized with renovated streets, sidewalks, and storefronts. These projects allowed us to expand and improve our system at a time when riders need it most.

Thanking Riders
TriMet was created 40 years ago when the previous transit provider was facing bankruptcy. Over the decades of providing bus service and introducing rail, the agency finally reached a key milestone when ridership topped 100 million trips in one year. We held a celebration event in June 2009 to thank our riders for helping us reach this milestone.

Hosting a party in tight economic times is challenging, but we cleared out our closets of trinkets from past celebrations—such as posters, umbrellas, and other goodies—and gave free day passes to 100 lucky riders. Riders appreciated the low-cost event, which highlighted the critical role transit plays in this region and garnered a lot of earned media.

Helpful Online Tools
In terms of the rider experience, we have focused a lot of our efforts on things we can do in-house to benefit customers without extra cost. For example, making our schedule, stop, and arrival data available to third-party developers means that TriMet’s riders now have access to dozens of useful transit tools for the web and mobile devices. These tools provide significant value to riders, and we don't have the resources to develop them ourselves.

Also this year, we introduced a new interactive system map on our web site, trimet.org, that combines a trip planner with a Google-like interactive map to provide a map of your trip that includes stop details and street-level views.

We launched TriMet’s presence in social media, exploring new ways to engage with customers on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr. And we recently initiated a complete facelift of our website, integrating new features and navigation that will make it easier for passengers to plan trips, get service information, and share it with others.

I am proud of these achievements as TriMet employees continue to look for ways to improve the rider experience, while working within our existing resources.

Stimulus Funds Improve Service
Many agencies faced budget shortfalls this past year. For TriMet, our budget gap was $31 million. We made tough choices including budget cuts, doing more with less, a hiring and salary freeze, and executive furloughs. Eventually we had to cut service to help fill the shortfall. But we are looking ahead, and determining what service to restore as the economy recovers.
Federal stimulus funds we received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act softened the economic blow while allowing us to invest in making our transit system more robust. We built a new transit police precinct to help us patrol our new Green Line and a new park-and-ride, and added flat-screen displays to MAX light rail stations and major bus stops so riders can see real-time arrival information and service alerts. We’ve added heated switches and ice caps to keep our trains running during winter storms, and made improvements to MAX stations that opened nearly 25 years ago.

The past year brought as many challenges as it did successes for TriMet. However, I believe our agency is poised to emerge from the recession strong and financially stable, with a plan to restore service and grow the transit system to meet the needs of our riders.

2009 at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District

BY TOM COSTELLO, Assistant General Manager, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL

Costello is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

The year 2009 was challenging for everyone at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) and, fortunately, everyone was up to the challenge.

Uppermost among the challenges was the “Extreme Makeover”: a major set of improvements and expansion of MTD services, primarily on the University of Illinois campus. A great deal of negotiation, preparation, and execution went into making this effort a success. Adjustments remain to be made, but overall ridership has remained steady.

Here are a few other examples of what made 2009 a notable year for the system:
* Zipcar carsharing made its debut in the service area, sponsored in part by MTD.
* The MTD was named a “Bike Friendly Business” by the League of American Bicyclists, becoming the first transit system in the U.S. to receive that designation. In other bike-related news, for the second year the agency spearheaded a bike light giveaway on campus.
* Nine new hybrid buses entered service in the fall and are getting a very positive response from the public.
* The MTD completed improvements to the Illinois Terminal, its intermodal center in downtown Champaign, during the year. In addition to driveway reconstruction and a bridge height increase, the overhaul incorporated a number of cosmetic upgrades, particularly in the Amtrak area.
* The MTD introduced significant fare relief by lowering the cost of its Annual Pass from $235 to only $60. Sales are robust and passengers have expressed gratitude for the lower cost of travel in this time of economic hardship.
* Lastly, the agency received federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and later was awarded an additional stimulus grant.

All in all, 2009 was another memorable year for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District. We are looking forward to making even greater improvements, continuing our commitment to sustainability, and exploring opportunities to better serve the communities of Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy.

Small Urban and Rural Transit Center Grows to Meet Industry Challenges

BY JILL HOUGH, Ph.D., Program Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, and TOM JIRIK, Communications Coordinator, Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND

Hough is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

The Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at North Dakota State University (NDSU) is helping small transit agencies address high fuel prices, economic concerns, changing demographics, and other factors that are having significant impacts on their systems.

Small urban and rural agencies are coping with increased ridership, changing demands, and difficulties in obtaining sufficient operating funds. Frequently they serve large areas with declining populations and an increasing proportion of elderly residents. They are trying to do more with their limited budgets and are looking for tools to help them make smart decisions.

As an organization that targets its programs to those agencies, SURTC is in a unique position to respond.

In 2009, SURTC provided more than two dozen training sessions reaching more than 800 individuals on topics ranging from personnel and financial management to emergency evacuations. Other programs covered the Passenger Service and Safety (PASS) driver certification program and applications of technology in small urban and rural systems.

This increase in training was a result of a strategic planning effort with clients and transit leaders who recommended that SURTC become the “go-to” transit information source for small urban and rural transit agencies. The various training offerings have been so successful that frequently SURTC staff are asked to return or give related trainings in other states.

A key SURTC training program has been a three-day “Principles of Transit Management” class covering:
* human resource management;
* financial management;
* administration;
* operation and service design;
* procurement;
* vehicle and facility maintenance;
* safety, security, and emergency management; and
* drug and alcohol program compliance.

Attendees also receive a binder and five CDs with resources and references to help them when they return to their agencies.

SURTC conducts much of its training in the Dakotas and surrounding states, but locations as far away as Rhode Island, Texas, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Alaska have hosted training sessions. Each completed training session results in more examples and experiences to bring to future efforts.

In addition to the training efforts at SURTC, the center’s research and education programs are thriving. The research program has two major thrusts:
* Addressing management and institutional issues faced by transit client groups; and
* Exploring technical and operating issues, with a special emphasis on Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Our researchers are addressing complex topics related to energy, technology, Native American transit programs, the mobility needs of the elderly, and transit planning. Significant research efforts include projects focused on alternative fuel use in smaller transit fleets, transit coordination in rural areas, and the unique mobility needs of elderly women in rural areas.

SURTC also concentrates on one of the largest areas needing attention: workforce development. The center has been working with APTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Workforce Development, as well as the Council of University Transportation Centers (CUTC), to address this issue and hosted a “Solutions Summit for Workforce Development” in Fargo this past September, along with other sponsors including APTA, CUTC, the Federal Transit Administration, Community Transportation Association of America, and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. CUTC is using the results of the summit in the development of national policy workforce recommendations it is preparing to release.

With assistance from U.S. DOT’s University Transportation Centers program, the academic component of SURTC’s program is growing. Public transit is an important part of the curriculum in transportation and logistics programs at North Dakota State University, sponsored by SURTC. We use interactive technology to link other states to our transit class, allowing students in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah to access the course.

In addition, our graduate and undergraduate students are taking on a greater role in SURTC’s research program, and our talented staff has established a track record of responsive, high-quality work that transit agencies can use to improve the mobility of the people they serve.

SURTC is a program of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at NDSU. The institute educates people, conducts research, and provides outreach in the areas of small urban and rural transportation and logistics to enhance the mobility of people, goods, and agricultural commodities.

This Year at the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority

BY BONNIE ARNOLD, Director of Marketing, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL

Arnold is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

This year, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) celebrated the 20th anniversary of Tri-Rail, marking a major milestone in the history of an organization that was put into service as a five-year traffic mitigation project. We also celebrated the fact that, for the first time in its history, Tri-Rail carried more than four million passengers in one 12-month calendar cycle.

SFRTA slightly revised the train schedule toward the end of the fiscal year to allow for better on-time performance. Our passengers realized the benefit of this change when on-time performance increased from the 70th percentile to the 90th percentile.

After the record ridership of 2008, the system experienced a slight decline in ridership in the beginning of Fiscal Year 2010. Multiple factors contributed to the decline, including a 25 percent fare increase in June, the first since 1995, and the fact that gas prices hovered around $2.50 a gallon, down from last year’s high of approximately $4.10 a gallon. Most important, however, is the fact that Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. The bottom line is that if you don’t have a job, you don’t have to commute to work.

SFRTA continued its commitment to promote public transportation in general, and Tri-Rail specifically, as the environmentally responsible choice for daily commuting and leisure travel. Our trains operate on one of the purest biodiesel formulas in the country.

This year we introduced our first-ever mascot, Conductor George Green, who spreads the message that Tri-Rail is the “green way to go” throughout the community at appearances in schools and public events in the Tri-County region.

Legislative Accomplishments
Once again, the Florida legislature stymied our efforts to secure a dedicated funding source to support SFRTA. We came away from the 2009 session in Tallahassee empty-handed.

In recent months, however, our federal funding partners and elected officials made clear that the state could expect to see no additional funding for the proposed high-speed rail line connecting Tampa, Orlando, and Miami--if SunRail, the commuter rail system proposed for central Florida, and Tri-Rail do not receive a dedicated funding source that would secure their operations.

State legislators finally heard what federal elected officials were saying and state Senate President Jeff Atwater called a special session, which concluded in Tallahassee on Dec. 8. After intense negotiations, SFRTA came away with a dedicated source of revenue from the Transportation Trust, which is funded by gas taxes.

The legislation provides for an additional $13.3 million in the first year, which increases to $15 million if and when SFRTA takes over the dispatch and maintenance of the South Florida Rail Corridor. While it doesn’t provide funding for expansion projects, it does secure the service SFRTA is currently operating.

The bill also included the “Florida Rail Enterprise Act,” the purpose of which is to create a commission to plan, construct, maintain, repair, and promote a high-speed rail system, as well as to provide oversight to any passenger rail system in Florida.

The passage of this bill was 20 years in the making. SFRTA is grateful to the tri-county business leaders who spearheaded the effort; to the legislators who supported it, especially Atwater; and to the Tri-Rail passengers who let their voices be heard and called their elected officials when asked. This triumph truly belongs to them.

Sound Transitís Central Link Light Rail Line: A Major Milestone for Regional Service

BY CLIFF HENKE, Senior Analyst, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Arcadia, CA

Henke is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

Sound Transit in Seattle achieved a major milestone this year in its development of a regional multi-modal transit system with the July opening of the Central Link Light Rail line. The line connects downtown Seattle with Tukwila, WA, 13.9 miles to the south; a 1.7-mile segment between Tukwila and Sea-Tac International Airport opened Dec. 19.

Rail was a long time in coming to Seattle—in part because of the hilly topography that makes the area so appealing. Achieving the relatively flat grade needed for a light rail system requires complex and costly tunnels as well as many stretches of aerial track. In fact, the terrain and the associated construction costs were major reasons why a rail system proposed originally in the 1960s and again in the 1970s was deferred in favor of an expanded bus system.

Although the bus system continues to serve Seattle well, buses alone will not be enough to handle the growing travel demand in the region. With the city’s already dense development constrained by hills and surrounding bays, lakes, and waterways, not enough space is available for wider roadways.

“Leaders in the region have long been convinced that expanding transportation capacity and maintaining Seattle’s livability requires an investment in grade-separated rail, as well as expanding and interconnecting the other modes of public transit: vanpools, city bus, regional bus, commuter rail, streetcars, and ferries,” said Jared Smith, principal-in-charge for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), which has been supporting the development of transit in Seattle since the 1970s in a range of planning, design, and construction management roles.

Central Link is the first segment of a planned 55-mile regional light rail system that will serve King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties—part of the largest transportation project undertaken in the history of Washington State. It created thousands of jobs for the Puget Sound region and its construction involved approximately eight million craft-labor hours.

The 13.9-mile Central Link route contains 12 stations and offers a fast, reliable alternative for commuting and intra-city travel. The project is the result of more than a decade of planning and negotiation among local, state, and federal transportation agencies, as well as engineering and construction innovation and effort.

It is a key component of Sound Transit’s high-capacity transit system, which is expected to carry more than 128,000 passengers by the year 2020 and help meet the transportation needs of the growing region.

The technical challenges of this large-scale, complex project ranged from the record-setting Beacon Hill Station, built 165 feet below surface—the deepest constructed in soft soils in the U.S.—to the innovative 4.3-mile-long aerial light rail guideway of the Tukwila segment. The work performed for both the Tukwila elevated structure and the Beacon Hill Station represents significant advances in engineering and construction techniques and methodology.

Until Dec. 19, the alignment ran from downtown Seattle south to a temporary terminus at International Boulevard in Tukwila. With the opening of the new Airport Station on Dec. 19, the line provides a direct route to Sea-Tac International Airport. Future planned extensions will create a regional light rail system that will run north to Lynnwood/Snohomish County, east to Redmond’s Overlake area (adjacent to the Microsoft campus), and south to the Federal Way area.

The Bigger Picture
In November 2008, voters approved a $17.8 billion (in year of expenditure) regional transit system plan that will add another 36 miles of light rail over the next 15 years, along with bus and commuter rail improvements. The expansion, known as Sound Transit 2 (ST2), will more than triple ridership.

ST2 also calls for substantial enhancement of commuter rail service and capacity and a 17 percent increase in bus service levels.

“Voters demonstrated their support for transit by approving a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund the next phase of the system expansion,” noted Smith. “The challenge now is to integrate modes effectively, foster communication among transit providers, and maintain the system’s flexibility into the future.”

At the heart of the plan is the intention to complement regional growth and to improve transit connections between regional centers—such as Bellevue, Tacoma, downtown Seattle, the University of Washington, and the airport—thereby reducing the need for the automobile and dramatically improving mobility for the region’s residents. Construction on the University Link, a three-mile light rail extension that will connect Seattle’s central business district with the University of Washington to the north, began in March 2009.

So far the development of a new transit system in Seattle has been a resounding success. “Enthusiastic crowds boarded trains throughout the Central Link’s opening weekend, and since then ridership has been consistent with projections,” said Smith. “Seattle is serving as a shining example of the axiom ‘if you build it they will come’ and will continue to do so well into the future.”

Public Transportation in 2009: A Look Back in Pictures


 

 

White House photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Feb. 17 in Denver.

 

Photo by Herman Sandoval, LYNX
APTA Chair M.P. Carter speaks to the APTA membership at the Oct. 5 Opening General Session of the Annual Meeting in Orlando.


 

Photo by Herman Sandoval, LYNX
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff join APTA leaders and LYNX employees holding up signs that spell out “252,000 JOBS!”—the number of public transit jobs created since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—at the Oct. 5 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando.

 

 

White House Photo/Chuck Kennedy
President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, announces the administration’s vision for high-speed rail.

 

 

Photo by Jim Berard/House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
APTA shares its compendium of ARRA public transportation projects—and the jobs they create and support—with legislators and transportation leaders at a Dec. 2 event in Washington. From left are APTA President William Millar; Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA); Peter DeFazio (D-OR); and James Oberstar (D-MN); and AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Barrett
Speakers at the 2009 APTA Legislative Conference include Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

Photo by Herman Sandoval, LYNX
FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff addresses the APTA Business Member Board of Governors during the 2009 APTA Annual Meeting.

Photo by Heather Trimm
APTA 2008-2009 Chair Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., welcomes participants to the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle.

Photo by Brian Oh
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo speaks of the current “rail renaissance” at the 2009 APTA Rail Conference in Chicago.

 

 

 

Central Link light rail, which opened July 18 in the Seattle area, is the first component of a light rail network that eventually will cover 55 miles regionally.

Port Authority of Allegheny County workers in Pittsburgh celebrate a breakthrough in the North Shore Connector light rail project when the 500-ton tunnel boring machine completed the second of two tunnels underneath the Allegheny River on Jan. 15.

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Barrett
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, and APTA join together July 26 in Washington to honor former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta for his lifelong commitment to accessibility and disability rights. From left are APTA President William Millar; Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Mineta; and Michael Winter of FTA.

APTA showcases its “Public Transportation Takes Us There” campaign with ads in two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail stations on Capitol Hill.

 

 A video depicting a woman “breaking up” with a gas pump took the top prize in APTA’s recent “Dump the Pump” contest for online videos generated by public transportation riders

 

 

 

Photo by Heather Trimm
Bus transit professionals examine a range of bus and paratransit vehicles during the 2009 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Seattle.

Photo by Herman Sandoval, LYNX
This year’s APTA Annual Meeting in Orlando was the first to include a Products and Services Showcase.

 

 

 

Photo by Brian Oh
Crowds at the APTA Rail Conference in Chicago listen to Metra Executive Director Philip Pagano at the Opening General Session June 15.

Photo by John Bell
A competitor in the 2009 APTA Bus Roadeo operators’ competition displays his previous experience.

 

Palm Tran Reports Its Major Accomplishments in 2009

BY CHUCK COHEN, Executive Director, Palm Tran, West Palm Beach, FL

Cohen is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

For Palm Tran, 2009 represents a year of project completions, service implementations, new beginnings, and increased ridership. The agency has celebrated grand openings, ribbon cuttings, and ridership rebounds—all while working to increase the availability of public transportation in Palm Beach County.

Opening of the Intermodal Transit Center
Palm Tran opened its Intermodal Transit Center—a project that had been on the books since 1992—on May 10, 2009. This was a major project for Palm Tran: the Intermodal replaced Palm Tran’s existing downtown bus stop, previously located at Quadrille Boulevard and Clematis Street.

The new facility is located next to the historic Seaboard Railway station in downtown West Palm Beach, allowing convenient connections to South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail commuter rail, Amtrak intercity rail, or Greyhound intercity bus. It is a key piece in the development of the “Transit Village” planned for the city of West Palm Beach, offering 18 bus bays; commuter restroom facilities and water fountains; seven covered bus shelters with benches and lighting; an “Art in Public Places” sculpture; and a “Kiss & Ride” passenger drop-off area.

Palm Tran modified eight of its routes to serve the Intermodal, making it accessible from all areas of the county.

Route 95: The Commuter Express
Route 95, Palm Tran’s first park-and-ride express route, entered service on Aug. 20. Designed with long-distance commuters in mind, this limited-stop express bus line covers 40 miles from end to end, originating at Halpatiokee Regional Park in Stuart and traveling south via I-95, picking up passengers at the West Jupiter Recreation Center, the Gardens Mall, and ending at the Intermodal.

Because the Commuter Express can take advantage of high-occupancy vehicle lanes on I-95, riders see an even further reduction of their travel time,

The Commuter Express became a reality through funding and assistance from Florida DOT and Martin County. Passengers ride in state-of-the-art hybrid buses, complete with free Wi-Fi internet access.

New Park-and-Ride Locations
By establishing partnerships with local governments, FL DOT, and neighboring municipalities in Palm Beach County, Palm Tran opened five new park-and-ride lots during 2009. This is a demonstration of the agency’s dedication to expanding public transportation options in South Florida.

Paratransit Excellence at Palm Tran Connection
Palm Tran Connection, Palm Tran’s paratransit service, received the 2009 Urban Community Transportation Coordinator of the Year award at the 2009 annual conference of the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged for delivering outstanding performance, service delivery, and cost-effectiveness.

The paratransit system also earned the commission’s 2009 Innovation of the Year Award for its role in operating The Link, Palm Tran’s route-deviation service. The Link was cited for offering greater mobility options for residents in areas where fixed route service is not accessible and for serving as an alternative method of transportation for paratransit riders. Connection remains responsible for daily operation of the The Link.

Ridership Crests Above 10 Million
Palm Tran’s fixed route service has shown steady annual improvements in both ridership and performance, providing more than 10 million rides for 2009—only the second time in its history it reached that level. Through the work of staff, the efforts of the Palm Tran Service Board, and the support of Palm Beach County’s Board of County Commissioners, the agency has seen its daily fixed route ridership increase by 30 percent in the last five years.

Palm Tran first reached the 10 million annual rides mark in Fiscal Year 2007. However, the agency instituted its first fare increase in more than seven years in FY 2008, and that year’s annual ridership dipped slightly to 9.8 million passengers.

Through the expansion of public transportation options and completion of the transit projects described above, Palm Tran’s FY 2009 fixed route ridership increased again, surpassing the 10 million mark for the second time in the last three years.

Looking forward, Palm Tran’s plans include new and replacement buses, implementation of an Automated Vehicle Location system, and the construction of an additional maintenance facility. These projects are being made possible in part by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds received by Palm Beach County. Palm Tran will also continue to expand its use of “green” technologies, retrofitting older buses with new engine cooling systems to improve fuel consumption and integrating additional hybrid buses into the fleet.

 

Cutting the ribbon Nov. 9 at Palm Tran’s Wellington Park-and-Ride are, from left, Brad Merriman, Palm Beach County assistant administrator; Palm Tran Executive Director Chuck Cohen; Sid Dinerstein, Palm Tran Service Board; Darell Brown, mayor, Village of Wellington; Jess Santamaria, county commissioner; Matt Wilhite, councilman, Village of Wellington; Dr. Carmie Priore, vice mayor, Village of Wellington; Howard Coates, councilman, Village of Wellington; Bob Weisman, county administrator; and Larry Merritt, Florida DOT plans and programs manager.

 


 

NJ TRANSITís Year in Review

BY FLORA M. CASTILLO, Board Member, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ

Castillo is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.

This was a productive, eventful year for New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT). Throughout 2009, the agency advanced several expansion projects, service enhancements, and customer service initiatives under the leadership of its board of directors.

Largest Transit Project in U.S.
The biggest news of the year took place this summer, when NJ TRANSIT broke ground on the Mass Transit Tunnel project—the largest construction project in the agency’s history, and the largest transit project in the U.S.

The $8.7 billion project will double peak train capacity into New York City with two new tracks under the Hudson River and will create a spacious and modern expanded Penn Station terminal. It will ultimately provide a one-seat ride for thousands of additional customers each day and will ensure the mobility necessary for our regional economy to stay competitive for the next 100 years.

NJ TRANSIT advanced another significant project this fall with the start of construction on the $40 million Pennsauken Transit Center. This facility, which has received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will offer convenience and new travel options to South Jersey rail customers by directly linking the River Line with the Atlantic City Rail Line, epitomizing NJ TRANSIT’s focus on expanding the reach of the transportation network through intermodal transit hubs.

This year’s station improvement projects included work to make Ridgewood Station on the Main Line, Plauderville Station on the Bergen County Line, and Somerville Station on the Raritan Valley Line fully accessible to customers with disabilities and more convenient to all customers.

NJ TRANSIT also maintained its commitment to keeping its customer facilities and infrastructure in a state of good repair with renovation projects at stations including Chatham and Morristown on the Morris & Essex Lines and Rutherford on the Bergen County Line.

Other construction projects advanced this year included renovations to modernize the Broadway Bus Terminal in Paterson and the third and final phase of the Hoboken Ferry Terminal restoration, which will ultimately restore permanent ferry service to the historic building. In addition, NJ TRANSIT opened the new 31st Street entrance to the NJ TRANSIT Concourse at New York Penn Station this past summer, giving customers direct access between the concourse and street level.

Customer Service Improvements
On the customer service front, the agency launched a completely redesigned web site in the fall, featuring a new, streamlined look and improved functionality to help customers access essential travel information and trip-planning tools. The new site also includes an expansion of the popular “DepartureVision” feature, introduced by NJ TRANSIT this summer, which enables customers to view train departure screens on their computer or mobile device.

NJ TRANSIT launched rail service to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in July, providing a new, convenient travel option to football games and other events via Hoboken Terminal or Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus Junction. With connections to 11 of NJ TRANSIT’s 12 rail lines, this service gives fans statewide a way to avoid the hassles of traffic and parking when attending large events.

October marked the launch of the second phase of NJ TRANSIT’s “Go Bus” service—an enhanced bus service that serves as a model for heavily traveled corridors and paves the way for bus rapid transit in the state. Go Bus 28 links residential areas in Bloomfield and Newark with major employment centers in downtown Newark and at Newark Liberty International Airport. Designed by and for customers, the enhanced Go Bus service features a unique identity, easily identifiable bus stops, and upgraded onboard amenities.

Also in October, NJ TRANSIT began weekend rail service on a portion of the Montclair-Boonton Line from Bay Street Station in Montclair to Newark Broad Street and Hoboken Terminal, with connections to Midtown Direct service to New York or to points west on the Morris & Essex Lines.

Fleet Upgrades
1NJ TRANSIT made upgrades to its fleet over the course of the year,  including the continued delivery of the last of 329 multi-level vehicles that add thousands of seats to the busiest rail lines. The agency also continued to take delivery of 1,145 low-emission diesel buses that will make the entire bus fleet accessible to customers with disabilities.

During 2009, NJ TRANSIT served nearly a million customers on a typical weekday on its 12 rail lines, three light rail lines, and 240 bus routes.

As the year winds down, NJ TRANSIT and its Board of Directors look forward to continuing to provide residents in the nation’s most densely populated state the mobility needed to access jobs, school, medical appointments, and leisure activities day in and day out. Over the years, many men and women have served on the corporation’s board, building a proud tradition that weaves together complementary traits of careful study and bold action, both of which are essential qualities of effective management.

The current members have upheld this tradition, tackling their jobs with passion and dedication, and were proud to mark the 30th anniversary of the first NJ TRANSIT Board meeting on Dec. 11, 2009.

Industry Says Goodbye to Transit Leaders, Advocates

Over the past year, the public transportation industry said goodbye to transit agency chief executives and board chairs, a former U.S. secretary of transportation, an influential conservative leader and outspoken transit booster, and long-time transit professionals. Here’s how they were remembered in the pages of Passenger Transport.

Paul Weyrich, one of the giants of the modern conservative movement and a strong supporter of public transportation, died Dec. 18, 2008, at 66. In addition to being the chair and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation and the co-founder and first president of the Heritage Foundation, he was a longtime friend and ally of APTA, authoring numerous reports on transit-related topics released under the Free Congress Foundation banner. He introduced the first report in the series, Conservatives and Mass Transit: Is It Time for a New Look?, at the 1996 APTA Legislative Conference in Washington.

Claude S. Brinegar, U.S. secretary of transportation under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, died March 13 at 82. He was the department’s third secretary, serving from 1973 to 1975—the period during which the federal government instituted public transit subsidies from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

Alan F. Kiepper, 81, APTA chair in 1990-91 and a member of the APTA Hall of Fame, died Aug. 26. Kiepper’s long career included serving as general manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, general manager of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, and president of MTA New York City Transit. He also was an executive vice president with Parsons Brinckerhoff and, most recently, was a consultant to ARINC.

Harold C. Jenkins, 74, founding general manager of the Cambria County Transit Authority (CamTran) in Johnstown, PA, died April 14. Before the creation of the authority in 1976, he served as the city’s public works director. Jenkins received APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Manager award, then known as the Jesse L. Haugh Award, in 1986, and retired from CamTran in 1993.

Hershel Payne, founding chairman of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) Board of Directors, died Dec. 16, 2008, at 70. Payne was a member of The T’s board from 1983 to 1993. In recognition of his service to public transportation in the city, The T named its new headquarters in his honor at dedication ceremonies in 1997.

Walter P. Dell, a 32-year member of the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) Board of Directors in Lansing, MI, died Oct. 23 at 87. He represented Delhi Township on the CATA board for 32 years, from 1977 until his death.

Elonzo (Lonnie) Hill, 71, a longtime employee of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) who joined the board of the Metra commuter rail system following his retirement, died Feb. 18. Hill began his 37-year CTA career as a bus operator and retired as executive vice president in 1997. He joined the Metra board, representing Cook County, in 2003.

James M. Brunkenhoefer, 61, U.S. national legislative director of the United Transportation Union, died Dec. 19, 2008. Brunkenhoefer, who received his nickname of “Brokenrail” on his first day of work, began his railroad career in 1966 as a trainman for the Southern Pacific Transportation Co. on the Dallas-Sabine District, rising through the ranks to serve six terms as the union’s national legislative director beginning in 1987.

Clark Campbell, 86, a bus driver in Winston-Salem, NC, for more than 62 years, died Dec. 30, 2008. Campbell began his career in 1944 with Safe Bus Company Inc., predecessor to the Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA), and drove for the last time in 2006. WSTA honored Campbell in 2007 by naming its transportation center in his honor.

Howard L.E. Price, a longtime train operator, conductor, and transportation supervisor for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia and its predecessor organizations, died June 30 at 99. Price operated multiple generations of high-speed electric railway equipment for the former Philadelphia & Western Railway and Philadelphia Suburban Transportation Company (Red Arrow Lines) as well as SEPTA. As recently as 2008, he advised and assisted PTSI Transportation in an assignment for the Denton County Transportation Authority in Lewisville, TX.

John D. Byrd, 62, a public transit professional for more than 35 years, died unexpectedly April 11 in San Francisco. At the time of his death, he was deputy director of rail operations for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Byrd was a 2001 graduate of Leadership APTA who began his career in 1972 as a train operator with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and also served transit agencies in Los Angeles, San Jose, Minneapolis, and Orange County, CA.

Robert P. Rizzo Jr., 60, manager, paratransit contract operations, for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, died suddenly Feb. 17. Rizzo was a history and civics teacher in Boston whose transportation career began in 1974, when he was named to the Boston Public Schools Superintendent’s Desegregation Implementation Team as a transportation supervisor and later assistant director of school transportation. He joined the MBTA in 1987.

James A. (Jim) Ditch, 62, former executive director of maintenance and facilities with Long Beach Transit (LBT) in Long Beach, CA, died Sept. 24. Ditch was a 19-year employee of LBT who retired in 2008; earlier this year, the agency honored him by dedicating the James A. Ditch Maintenance Facility and Learning Center.

James Francis Mullervy, 75, a longtime employee of Westinghouse Electric’s Transportation Division and its successor companies, died Sept. 28. Mullervy began his career with the company, now part of Bombardier, in Boston; he later served as marketing manager for its Transportation Division in Washington and managed the company’s government affairs efforts. At the time of his retirement in the 1990s, the firm was known as Adtranz.

Amy Allison Coggin, 53, an APTA employee from 1988 to 2003, died Aug. 15. She served APTA in positions including executive director, policy/intergovernmental relations, and director of communications.

An Active Year for TCRP

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) reported a very active year in 2009, publishing 26 reports: 10 research reports, two legal research digests, five research results documents, two syntheses, and seven web-only documents.

TCRP approved nine new research projects in November in the areas of transit safety culture; command-level decision making for transit emergency managers; paratransit emergency operations and preparedness; transit industrial control systems and cyber security; transit state of good repair; professional development and human capital needs to develop a sustainable workforce; appropriate warrants for major capital investment projects; changing institutional and business models; and the third update of the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual.

The TCRP Dissemination Program, as managed by APTA, focused on several distribution venues to promote and deliver TCRP reports and products to the industry: communiqué and web site dissemination, major industry events, state-sponsored workshops and seminars, and transit-related events.

Another important aspect of the dissemination process is the TCRP Ambassador Program. Managed by the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), this program uses a cadre of volunteer transit professionals to represent the program at more than 40 industry events and venues.

In addition, TCRP implemented a new initiative this summer—the Chapter Representatives Program.

More information on TCRP programs and how to submit topics for research can be found online,

Art Students Bring Green Display to Big Blue Bus Store

Who knew that a pile of recycled bus maps could be transformed into a wintry forest of elegant birch trees? Or that discarded plastic shopping bags could be shredded to look like freshly fallen snow? And who would think of taking eight tiny toy buses, outfitting them with reindeer horns, and launching them into the air, connected to some kind of invisible sleigh?

These imaginative and eco-friendly holiday decorations are the brainchild of two interior design students from the Art Institute of California-Los Angeles, whose visions of a wintry wonderland are on display throughout the holiday season at the Big Blue Bus transit store in downtown Santa Monica, CA.

All the individual displays contain either recycled or natural materials, including old Big Blue Bus maps and bus tokens, pine cones, water bottles, empty food boxes, recycled wood planks, paper towel rolls, discarded tree branches, and bicycle tires.

In addition to the birch forest in the window, the decorations include ornaments made from day passes, wreaths wrapped in recycled paper ribbons, baskets made from plastic bags, and bows and wrapped packages made from Big Blue Bus maps.

““So many people do a double take when they walk by or come into the store,” said Dan Dawson, customer relations manager for the Big Blue Bus. “When you tell them the display is made from paper maps, a little paint, and some fish line, they just can’t believe it!”

Interior design students Dimitra Dorbacopoulos and Margallet Yosef are completing their final year of a four-year bachelor’s degree program at The Art Institute, and were selected for the project because of their exemplary performance in their work, both inside and outside the classrooms. Both students will be graduating this month.

“We hoped that by doing this display, it would set an example to society that the beauty in artwork lies not only in creativity, but in the process as well,” said Dorbacopoulos. By using natural and recycled materials, she said, “We hope that everyone who sees this display will be inspired to be more resourceful and maybe even to utilize materials found all around us to improve the spaces where we live and work.”

 

Photo by William Mondragon
The window display at the Big Blue Bus transit store in Santa Monica, CA, features a forest of birch trees created from recycled bus maps.

Pierce Transit Mourns Loss of Four Police Officers

Pierce Transit in Lakewood, WA, provided transportation to 8,000 police officers and firefighters attending the Dec. 8 memorial service at the Tacoma Dome for four members of the Lakewood Police Department killed Nov. 29.

Two of the officers, Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officer Ronald Owens, worked closely with the Pierce Transit Office of Public Safety-Transit Police Division as members of the off-duty program. The other victims were Officers Tina Griswold and Greg Richards, and the incident continues to be felt throughout the communities of Pierce County.

“Sgt. Renninger and Ofc. Owens were members of the Pierce Transit family,” said Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith. “They protected our community; we will never forget their sacrifice.”

Eno Extends Deadline for Upcoming Transit Executive Seminars

The Eno Transportation Foundation has extended the nomination deadline for the 2010 Eno Transit Executive Seminar until Jan. 11, 2010. Two sessions are available, each limited to 25 students: April 18-23 in Salt Lake City and July 18-23 in Washington.

The seminar is a week-long educational course designed by the foundation, along with APTA, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Transit Cooperative Research Program, to support the development of the next generation of transit executives. Eno’s Center for Transportation Leadership, headed by Dr. Barbara Gannon, created a program that will prepare managers moving into executive roles with critical problem-solving skills.

The week’s activities will include presentations, in-depth conversations with industry leaders, small group exercises, backstage tours of the host-city transit system, and opportunities for individual coaching.

Nomination information is available online.  For more information, contact Lindsey Robertson.

FHWA Administrator Stresses Intermodal Benefits of Public Transit

“We cannot maximize the benefits of intermodal transit unless the systems are in good repair,” said Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Dec. 8 at APTA’s monthly Transportation Tuesday session—the first time an FHWA administrator spoke in the APTA offices in Washington, DC.

Stressing repeatedly that “at the end of the day, what we do is for the taxpayer,” Mendez pointed out that, while safety is the number one priority within DOT, “we can only engineer so much into the infrastructure.” Individual personal responsibility must also be present, he said.

One area on which Mendez focused was the newly implemented FHWA program titled “Every Day Counts,” which explores new ways to speed delivery of projects. “We have to get more creative to deliver faster on our major highway projects—and to deploy the latest technology and innovation sooner,” he explained.

The latter part of the presentation focused on funding. While Mendez noted that he had no inside word on federal transportation authorization, he did say: “The issue for us is to ensure that collectively we move forward—moving transportation into the 21st century.” He mentioned the Highway Trust Fund (“an issue we will have to contend with”) and said that public-private partnerships and many other funding options “that make our tax dollars go further will be on the table.”
He added: “It’s not just about the auto but creating a system that addresses all the needs out there. We’re hoping to promote the integration of various modes of transportation.”

Mendez closed by saying: “This is a great time in history to be engaged in transportation … a time for all of us to make a difference.”