Passenger Transport - February 19, 2010
Photo by Steve Barrett
Photo by Gonzalo Reyes Rodriguez
Photo by Christopher Lovdahl, Downtown Exposure
On Feb. 17—the one-year anniversary of enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the recipients of federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grants for 51 transportation projects across the nation.
Public transportation projects receiving TIGER grants include a modern streetcar in Tucson, AZ, receiving $63 million; $50 million for Kansas City transit corridors and a Green Impact Zone project in Missouri and Kansas; $45 million for the New Orleans Streetcar-Union Passenger Terminal/Loyola Loop; and $35 million for the Saint Paul Union Depot Multi-Modal Transit and Transportation Hub in St. Paul, MN. The complete list of projects is online here.
“APTA applauds Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for his announcement today of the TIGER Discretionary Grant Program,” said APTA President William Millar. “These grant awards show a strong commitment to investing in public transportation as a part of a strategy to create jobs, grow the economy, improve our environment, and make our communities more livable. We are very pleased that the administration supports a full range of projects that will help improve mobility and provide the American public with more transportation choices.”
States, tribal governments, cities, counties, and transit agencies will receive the $1.5 billion available under TIGER, included in ARRA to spur a national competition for innovative, multi-modal, and multi-jurisdictional transportation projects that promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region, or the nation. Sixty percent of the funding will go to economically distressed areas, which are home to 39 percent of the U.S. population.
DOT reported receiving more than 1,400 applications from all 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia requesting funding for almost $60 billion worth of projects, or 40 times the amount available through the program.
“TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs,” LaHood said at an event in Kansas City, MO. “This will help us meet the 21st-century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable, and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”
The department selected grant recipients based on their proposal to contribute to the economic competitiveness of the nation, improve safety and the condition of the existing transportation system, enhance quality of life, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and demonstrate strong collaboration among a broad range of participants, including the private sector.
In its first year, ARRA has provided funding for more than 12,500 transportation construction projects, of which more than 8,500 are already underway.
“We have made great strides in the past year by putting hundreds of thousands of Americans to work in transportation-related jobs,” Millar said, “and we need to continue to build on this momentum.”
The thousands of athletes and visitors attending the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, BC, are discovering a special public transportation option that can take them between Granville Island and the Canada Line Olympic Village Station: a modern streetcar line. The city of Vancouver, partnering with Bombardier Transportation, introduced service on the free Olympic Line on Jan. 21; it will operate on a demonstration basis through March 21, running between 6:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. each day.
Although TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, does not operate the Olympic Line, the two services both serve the Olympic Village Station and riders can transfer at that point. The 19-km Canada Line links downtown Vancouver with both Richmond, BC, and Vancouver International Airport.
Bombardier is operating and maintaining two modern, accessible streetcars—on loan from Brussels, Belgium—during the demonstration project. The Olympic Line runs about every 6 to 10 minutes on approximately 1.8 kilometers of dedicated track, which reduces the need for private vehicles and buses to operate during the games. Envitech Energy of Montreal designed, fabricated, and installed electric traction power substations to power the streetcars.
Dale Bracewell, director of Olympic transportation for the city of Vancouver, explained that the Olympic Line runs on a route that previously operated with heritage streetcars, which will return after the end of the pilot project. Rather than pay $2 million (Cdn.) to repair and rehabilitate the existing track, he said, the city decided to invest $8 million to completely upgrade the track so it could also be used for a modern streetcar. The total infrastructure investment—a single track with a passing track in the middle—also included a $500,000 (Cdn.) contribution from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, owner and operator of Granville Island.
“The city invested for the long term,” he explained, “so we could take the opportunity to showcase the modern streetcar, which offers sustainable transportation for the region.”
Bracewell reported that the streetcar provided 6,000 rides on its opening day, Jan. 21, and 9,000 during its first weekend. “We know that Granville Island, the [other] main destination of the line, is getting ready for 40,000 people a day during the Olympics,” he added.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom joined the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and numerous elected and community leaders Feb. 9 to celebrate the beginning of construction on the Central Subway, Phase 2 of the Third Street Light Rail Project.
“It is incredibly gratifying to see construction begin on the Central Subway,” said SFMTA Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. “We appreciate the tremendous amount of support from federal, state, and local officials and the incredible efforts of so many community partners who are helping to make this project a reality.”
When it enters operation in 2018, this 1.7-mile extension of the existing T-Third rail line will connect communities from Visitacion Valley to Chinatown with modern, convenient light rail service. The project is expected to improve transit travel times, relieve congestion, enhance the environment, stimulate economic activity along the corridor, and provide thousands of much-needed jobs along the way.
To date, the Central Subway project has received $72 million in federal New Starts funding. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted environmental clearance to the project in November 2008, while approval to begin final design was granted in January. The total project cost (with contingency) is expected to be $1.57 billion, with the federal government contributing close to $1 billion.
Earlier this month, the project again received a positive review as part of the New Starts program with a medium-high project justification rating and Medium-High overall rating. In addition, for the first time the president’s Fiscal Year 2011 DOT budget includes a specific funding recommendation of $20 million to support ongoing design work for the project. Three final project design contracts have either been awarded or are in the final stages of negotiation.
“The Central Subway represents a dramatic investment in San Francisco’s transportation future,” the mayor said. “Tens of thousands of residents and visitors will use this environmentally friendly subway to get to work, school, and to see their families and friends.”
SFMTA cited recent estimates that show the Central Subway supporting between 37,000 and 43,000 jobs over the life of the project.
Photo courtesy of SFMTA
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has nominated former Federal Transit Administrator (FTA) James S. Simpson to the transportation commissioner post and chairman of the New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) Board of Directors. In addition, James Weinstein, a past state transportation commissioner, was named executive director of NJ Transit.
Weinstein, who comes to NJ Transit after serving as vice president of AECOM, was commissioner of New Jersey DOT and chairman of NJ Transit from 1998 to 2002, during the administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. In 2002, he became senior vice president of Northeast Corridor Amtrak. He also served two years as a commissioner on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Simpson, whose nomination requires approval by the New Jersey State Senate, served as FTA administrator from 2005 to 2008 and is the chairman and co-founder of Spartan Solutions, an infrastructure management company, and chairman of Victory Worldwide Transportation, an international transportation company he joined as a tractor-trailer driver while in college. Simpson earlier served 10 years as commissioner of the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority, appointed by then-New York Gov. George Pataki.
Hampton Roads Transit in Hampton, VA, announced Philip A. Shucet, a former commissioner of Virginia DOT, as its president and chief executive officer. He succeeds Michael Townes, who stepped down from the post.
When Shucet took over Virginia DOT in 2001, one in every five construction projects was behind schedule and more than half were over budget. By the end of his tenure in 2005, he had won widespread praise for imposing stronger business practices that reversed the department’s management deficiencies.
He also worked for the West Virginia Department of Highways, Arizona DOT, and in private industry.
Tectrans, a transportation and technology firm headquartered in Los Angeles, has named 25-year transportation industry veteran Michael D. Griffus its president and chief executive officer.
In this new position, Griffus is also serving as CEO of each of the company’s operating subsidiaries.
Griffus served most recently as president and chief operating officer of Veolia Transportation. He began his transportation career in the 1980s with Leaseway Transportation and later joined the former Laidlaw Transit Inc.
Tectrans operates 1,250 vehicles in California and Florida, providing fixed route transportation; paratransit; taxi services; and technology, business support, and customer service solutions.
The Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) in Lewisville, TX, has selected Jim Cline as its new president, effective March 1. He succeeds Jim Witt, who served the authority in an interim capacity since early 2009 and is relocating to Kansas.
Cline has served as a director for the city of Irving, TX, since 1998, overseeing water utilities, solid waste, transportation, engineering, and streets. As a registered Professional Engineer in Texas, he has been involved in the implementation of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Orange Line and worked with Trinity Railway Express commuter rail and the Federal Railroad Administration on crossing-related issues within the city of Irving. Earlier, Cline worked for eight years with the city of Beaumont, TX, where he was responsible for Beaumont Municipal Transit and traffic operations.
DCTA Board Chairman Charles Emery called Cline “a well-regarded and respected transportation leader in North Texas. His involvement in numerous highway, transit, and public works projects throughout the area illustrates his commitment to improving the quality of life for those he serves.” He added: “His experience and leadership style are a perfect match for our growing agency.”
The Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) has announced the appointment of Marcia Ferranto as its new executive director.
Ferranto brings more than two decades of experience to the position. She has worked in association management for more than 10 years, serving most recently as executive director of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation in Delaware. She also held posts with the Delaware Art Museum including acting director, chief financial officer, and director of finance and human resources, and ran two of her own accounting and payroll firms.
For the latest on what’s happening politically in Washington, DC, as well as an overview of the upcoming midterm elections, APTA members will not want to miss political commentator Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, who will headline the late afternoon “Welcome to Washington” session March 14 during the 2010 APTA Legislative Conference at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo are also speaking at this year’s conference. LaHood will address the March 15 Opening General Session, while Szabo will participate in the “Update from U.S. DOT” session that afternoon.
Rothenberg writes a twice-weekly column in Capitol Hill’s Roll Call and contributes op-ed pieces to such newspapers as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He has been a political analyst for CBS News and CNN and has appeared on television programs including NBC’s Meet the Press and Today, ABC’s This Week and Nightline, and The McLaughlin Group.
Other highlights of the conference include reports from members of Congress—including Reps. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Steven LaTourette (R-OH)—the morning of March 16 and entertainment by the innovative and topically timely Capitol Steps at the March 15 luncheon session.
The conference will begin with committee meetings throughout the weekend and the Welcome Reception Sunday evening. Other activities will include a March 15 breakfast sponsored by APTA’s business members, “The ‘Insider’ Perspective on the Transit Industry”; the keynote address at the Opening General Session, “What’s Ahead for Transit–New Opportunities in 2010”; and panel presentations by key stakeholders in the transportation authorization process, representatives of DOT’s modal administrations, and transit-focused congressional staff. Concurrent sessions will examine issues of such interest as high-speed and commuter rail and climate change, sustainability, livability, and public transportation.
On March 16, the “Get Started with Members of Congress Breakfast” will showcase several Congressional speakers on topics of importance to public transportation professionals. The afternoon schedule is deliberately open so conference participants can visit their representatives and senators on Capitol Hill to make the case for increased investment in public transit, followed by the closing reception co-hosted by APTA and the Amalgamated Transit Union.
The day after the conference concludes, the Federal Transit Administration will hold a workshop on the New and Small Starts program on Wednesday morning, March 17.
Program information is available from Meredith Slesinger at (202) 496-4860. Registration information can be found here.
On Feb. 9, more than three-quarters of voters in Walla Walla, WA, approved a 0.3 percent sales tax increase to support the Walla Walla County Public Transportation Benefit Area. This measure doubles the total transit sales tax rate to 0.6 percent.
The vote will allow the county’s public transit agency, Valley Transit, to continue providing service at current levels. Had it not passed, the agency announced that it would have had to cut its service by 50 percent, including the elimination of at least two bus lines and reduced frequency on others.
Valley Transit has coped with tight funding since 2000, when the repeal of a state motor vehicle tax meant a 53 percent decrease in its revenues. The agency had continued to operate with fare increases and service cuts, but even the recent tripling of fares from 25 cents to 75 cents was not sufficient to stop the projected shortfall.
In public transportation circles, Bombardier is best known for the rail vehicles it produces. But the Montreal-based company also contributed a different type of technology to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games underway in Vancouver, BC—designing and manufacturing the Olympic torch. The company is an official supporter of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The torch traveled more than 45,000 km across Canada—through snow, rain, hail, wind, and temperatures down to 40 degrees below zero Celsius—before arriving in Vancouver on Feb. 11 and being used to light the Olympic Cauldron at the conclusion of the Opening Ceremonies Feb. 12. Bombardier manufactured 12,000 of the torches, one for each torchbearer.
The company said it used the contours of Canada’s winter landscape as its inspiration for the shape of the torch, which symbolizes the tracks created in snow and ice by winter sports. A fuel blend of propane and isobutane allows the torch to burn in temperatures colder than any other torch run in Olympic history.
Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, left, shakes hands with Phillip Washington, general manager of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), as he announces federal funding for public transportation projects at a Feb. 5 event in Denver.
Rogoff formally announced $120 million included in the president’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget for RTD’s FasTracks program—$40 million for the West Corridor, which has an existing Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA), and $40 million each for the East Corridor and the Gold Line projects, on track to receive FFGAs next year—as well as $304 million in federal loans for the Denver Union Station project.
Monique Pegues, 37, director of government relations for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), died unexpectedly on Jan. 22. She oversaw private-sector lobbyists in Washington and Texas and managed The T’s local/regional government and community relations, grants administration and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) efforts.
“We are deeply saddened by Monique’s tragic, untimely death,” said Dick Ruddell, president of The T. “She was an outstanding performer throughout her 11-year career with The T and made such a difference in the lives of those around her, professionally and personally. She had a passion for transit and was well respected by all our government officials.”
Pegues joined The T in 1999 in the employer services department and was promoted to community outreach liaison in the marketing department in 2002, grants and DBE administrator in 2004, and her most recent post in 2008.
She served as president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar in 2008 and 2009 and was one of Mass Transit magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” in 2009.
Bob Ellis, 84, the first board chair of Ben Franklin Transit (BFT) in Richland, WA, died Dec. 10, 2009. He served 12 years on the transit agency’s board, six of them as its chair, and 16 years on the Richland City Council, beginning in 1977.
In 1992, Ellis received the APTA Local Distinguished Service Award. BFT also named its transit center at Knight Street in Richland, WA, in his honor.
Ellis was a CPA and an internal auditor who joined Douglas United Nuclear in Richland in 1965, retiring in 1987.
Ed Frost, retired transit development manager for BFT, said Ellis began talking about public transit in the local community in the 1970s when the concept was not at the forefront of many people’s minds. Ellis and Frost worked on a plan in the late 1970s and early 1980s to develop the transit system, which was formed May 19, 1981, after almost 74 percent of voters approved a 0.3 percent sales tax to support public transit. BFT began operating in 1982 with Ellis as its founding board chair.
Harold Geissenheimer, 81, a public transportation professional in both the public and private sectors for more than 50 years, died Jan. 7.
A native of New York City, Geissenheimer moved to Pittsburgh in 1950 to work for the Port Authority of Allegheny County and predecessor organizations throughout the region. He joined the Chicago Transit Authority in 1976 as general operations manager, and served the San Francisco Municipal Railway as general manager from 1982 to 1985. His last career position was vice president, transit operations and planning, with LS Transit Systems, now part of SYSTRA, from which he retired in 1996.
“With the passing of Harold Geissenheimer, we see the end of an era,” said APTA President William Millar. “His lifelong love of public transportation—including traveling the entire length of the New York subway system by age 13—led him to spearhead notable advances in transit system development in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and other cities. He was the consummate mentor of many transit workers throughout his career, including me. He will be sorely missed.”
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
More than ever before—and no pun intended—technology drives public transportation. What are the key issues to look for in the year ahead? Here are some suggestions from an array of experts.
Voltage sag constitutes a major concern of a public transit agency. When a train accelerates, it requires a certain amount of power—the end result of current and voltage. If the voltage is low—that is, if it drops below a specified minimum value—the current must be higher to meet the acceleration power requirement.
Sensitive electronics have difficulty dealing with that circumstance because motors and drive systems heat up from the higher current. When that happens, these electronics don’t respond well, and train performance suffers.
“It’s one of those conditions that reflects a good news/bad news situation,” said David Turner, president of Turner Engineering Corporation. “We got into this situation because we’ve had increased ridership. It’s good that we have riders, but it’s bad because it has increased demand on our facilities and equipment. When it gets to a limit—trains either slow down or they get into a shut down/start up cycle. Either way, it disrupts providing smooth service to passengers,” he said.
Turner called voltage sag a mark of successful rail transportation systems. It happens when there is too much demand for service on a rail line, so when the operator begins running longer or more frequent trains, that increases the demand on the system.
The traditional fix has been to build more traction power supply—either more or bigger traction power stations—but new techniques now available use energy storage systems to help minimize or solve a variety of problems.
Agencies are also trying to reduce large spikes in their power demands because of the additional utility charges that result. To minimize that problem, the transit operators are testing an energy storage system that smoothes the energy demand profile.
When a train is braking, it takes some of the excess energy and puts it in storage. When it accelerates, it draws from storage when voltage is low. This is a primary application being investigated by Los Angeles Metro, MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority began experimenting with energy storage in 2000, Turner noted, and is continuing with other efforts now. The Sacramento Regional Transit District has a system in service; Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon has also tried this technology; and several other cities are pursuing it “very avidly,” he said. For example, LIRR has a project underway, and Los Angeles Metro received a federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant to install what it calls a “wayside energy storage substation.”
APTA’s Energy Storage Research Consortium also is looking into the potential for saving energy and improving performance.
“So there’s a lot of interest in it, both in the U.S. and around the world,” Turner said.
“In terms of transit,” said Stephen M. Hsu, professor of engineering and applied science at George Washington University, “the key thing you look at is not the fancy stuff, but really the invention and development of what we call nano materials.” The classical definition of this term is to assemble atoms and molecules so they can function in a new and unusual way, but Hsu said such assembly is “actually much further away from the current reality—maybe in 10 or 20 years.”
Another class of material, called nano-inserted, injects a nano particle or structure into an existing ordinary material, which then changes its properties and provides a performance that is otherwise not obtainable. According to Hsu, this is a “very big business right now.” However, because of a public misconception that nano technology is dangerous, Hsu noted that the transportation sector is avoiding using the term “nano” while using nano-inserted materials.
Engineers are currently working with clay particles infiltrated with a polymer nano composite, which strengthens the polymers. For example, Toyota and General Motors are both making their materials for SUV step-assist bumpers and undercarriages.
Material of this type is very inexpensive, very lightweight, and very easy to fabricate, Hsu noted, which means a significant increase in fuel economy. Concerning public transportation, he said: “I’m sure a lot of these materials will be introduced as a substitute for metals. You can lower the weight, save fuel economy, and it’s safe and much cheaper. When the yield is high performance and lower costs—that is the key.”
Crashworthiness is not a new technology in itself, but engineers are applying analysis more efficiently now to design structures that can better withstand impacts. Scientists at the Volpe Center, part of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, are applying modeling analysis to structures.
One of the most important structural features of crash energy management (CEM) design—a method of designing and manufacturing vehicles in which specific structures within the vehicle are tasked with mitigating the destructive forces unleashed in a collision—is a crush zone at the front end of a railcar. This zone means that, up to a certain speed, almost none of the energy of the crash is absorbed within the occupied areas of the railcar, maintaining its structural integrity.
In addition to the development of CEM design, work is underway to optimize railcar leading ends to make them more “friendly”: that is, to reduce the effect of a collision between an automobile and a railcar.
Steven Kirkpatrick, principal engineer at Applied Research Associates Inc. in San Francisco, is participating in a Federal Transit Administration (FTA) study examining different bumper designs.
“We’ve come up with a preliminary design of a bumper system where we’ve done some work to optimize what a geometric profile should look like to be more compatible with cars,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that the industry term “crash compatibility” means that a train is less likely to do injury to the vehicle it strikes—which is usually a car. The focus, therefore, is to lower the potential for injury to the people in the cars. “We’re not as much concerned with damage to the vehicles as we are with making sure that the people in those cars survive,” he said.
The FTA-sponsored work is completed; Applied Research Associates has submitted its report. Said Kirkpatrick: “This definitely looks like a very promising technology.”
Positive Train Control
Whether it’s called positive train control (PTC) (for mainline commuter applications), communications-based train control (CBTC) (for transit applications), or radio-based signaling (as it’s termed worldwide), it is a major technology focus at the moment. CBTC provides the opportunity to reduce reliance on wayside equipment and its costs while also offering the potential for increased rail capacity by allowing closer train separation since it does not rely on traditional signal blocks. PTC also faces significant interoperability issues, as mandated by the 2009 Rail Safety Act.
This technology, according to industry experts, adds new safety protections that conventional systems may not provide, such as predictive enforcement and its speed limits and movement authorities; automated protection of track workers; and speed enforcement in areas that do not currently use any technology. CBTC is generally installed where there’s already some level of speed enforcement and limit of authority enforcement provided by cap signal systems; PTC provides protection against overspeed operation, enforcement of limits of authority, and protection of track workers.
Electronic Payment Systems
To paraphrase a well-known commercial, this is not your father’s fare collection system. Electronic payment covers much more than fares, including parking lots and tolls. For example, students in universities across the country pay a fee, then use their student ID on the local transit system.
Scott Rodda, senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in San Francisco, has worked extensively on this issue. He noted that cities in many countries have implemented electronic fare payment systems: Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority saved more than $10 million the year it introduced the Charlie Card, and in Hong Kong, “you can use your Octopus card to purchase merchandise,” something Rodda said was a possibility here but still “a ways off.”
What else could an improved fare collection system offer? Paying parking meters—and using a cell phone to pay fares. This too, said Rodda, is “still a little ways off, but you’ll eventually be able to have the same utility on your cell phone that you do on your ‘smart’ card.” The major benefit, he said, is that this technology relieves the traveler from the burden of knowing the rules of separate transit systems.
For example, he said, “in the [San Francisco] Bay area, otherwise I’d have to know the exact change to get on and pay—and I might need a paper transfer. It’s a lot of business to know and deal with. But if I had money loaded on my Translink card, I can ride SFMTA [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency], BART [San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District], and Caltrain—and not have to worry about exact fare and transfer rules, because it’s all automatically calculated for you.”
When asked why implementation isn’t moving faster, Rodda cited cost as the main barrier. Second was the complicated, sophisticated technology software required to make this work. Lastly, he said: “If you’re implementing a system with multiple agencies, it’s very difficult to get everybody to agree on all the operating rules.”
What else is in the development pipeline? “We’re trying to migrate to contactless credit cards so an agency doesn’t have to distribute a card, since there’s quite an expense in purchasing the cards and distributing them,” he said. Also, there’s the plan to be able to top up the value of a virtual “card” on your cell phone, with the card effectively embedded in the phone. Said Rodda: “That’s the idea, anyway.”
Further, near field communication has enabled any mobile phone in development now to work in place of transit cards using an agency’s current smart card infrastructure in a truly virtual and dynamic transit pass.
APTA’s Fare Collection Workshop in March will cover this topic as well as such issues as the basics of fare collection system design.
These technologies are just a few of the many innovative projects in the pipeline that will advance the public transportation industry. On the pages that follow, APTA members present some of their latest efforts.
BY LINDA BOHLINGER, Vice President, HNTB, Santa Ana, CA, and APTA Vice Chair-Research and Technology
Transit Technology refers to focusing on ways to apply existing technology in innovative ways, such as real-time data, customer-developed data applications, and augmented reality. I’d like to highlight some of these new technologies and what we can look for in the future.
Most large transit properties now have Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL), fleet management, dispatch, and fare collection systems. Growing numbers of vendors supply products for public transit agencies of all sizes. Now they are focused on sharing this information with their traveling public.
We’re getting better at using the technology and the data in real time. Google Transit is so popular with transit agencies that Google had to shut down the application process and has recently reopened it—with a wait of three to four months for transit agencies to be added to the service.
The public transit industry is also working on mobile device versions, such as iPhone apps, providing static information as well as dynamic real-time information. Multi-modal Portland, OR, not surprisingly, was out in front on this with several transit apps, including PDXBus, which uses live tracking information from the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon to display arrival times; cleverly, it also turns the iPhone into a flashing beacon to signal bus drivers to stop.
Another new trend called “crowd sourcing” means that transit agencies make raw information available, and the public develops applications leveraging it.
We’re also about to enter the “augmented reality” era in transit station mapping. “New York Nearest Subway” will allow users to hold the phone up to a street and have the nearest stations displayed, hovering in the air in the view of the actual streetscape.
Another new application is “Where's My Bus?®” on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit mobile web site. This feature, currently in the testing stage, provides an actual estimated time for the next bus information at a specific stop.
Texting is an increasingly popular means of communication and can be used even on devices that don’t have mobile browsers. The research firm Nielsen reports that more than three-quarters of U.S. wireless subscribers have texting capability and that mobile subscribers send and receive more text messages per month than they do phone calls.
BART is beta testing a new service to provide riders with train arrivals, delay advisories, elevator status, and other information on-demand by SMS (short-message service) text messages.
Social networks have exploded in popularity and their adoption continues to rise. Transit agencies are actively looking into ways to share their information through outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.
“Dynamic ads” are also on the rise. The consumer receives only advertisements that refer to stores or restaurants in close proximity to the location of the train or bus. The technique gives the interested customer the possibility to leave the transit vehicle and visit the advertised establishment at the next stop.
Another Intelligent Transportation Systems user service is electronic payment services. The technology is so good and advanced that it can hardly keep up with the ways to apply it—limited only by your imagination.
Miami-Dade Transit is giving away thousands of its new EASY Cards: reloadable, debit-like cards that public transit riders will be able to use instead of cash when taking Metrorail, Metrobus, or Metromover.
Global Positioning Satellite systems that previously cost $4,000 can now be ported to rugged Blackberries with the same functionality for as little as $400
Transit agencies increasingly turn to video surveillance to fight crime and terrorism and the burden on security personnel is growing. “Monitoring video screens is boring, mesmerizing, and has no intellectually engaging stimuli,” in the words of a report from the University of South Florida Center for Urban Transportation Research that looks at the use of smart video for detecting threats and criminal activity on transit properties.
Another growing trend is “green is good.” In September 2009, 43 Green Transit projects received $100 million in federal TIGGER grants supporting use of cutting-edge environmental technologies.
What else is in the future of public transit technology?
Cloud computing, which allows large companies to host data centers, reduces overhead costs dramatically. It’s a very new technology—untested and still risky—but probably will be adopted generally within the next five years.
Finally, our transit customers are increasingly connected through mobile phones. Our customers will be in charge of how they want to see and use our data.
Welcome to the future.
BY ROBERT G. AYERS, P.E.,President, Ayers Electronic Systems, LLC, Richmond, VA
A small group of transit visionaries originally conceived the Transit Communications Interface Profiles (TCIP) standard during the “Blizzard of ’96” in Washington, DC, at the 1996 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB). This group designed a standard that would allow transit components and business systems from different sources to exchange information seamlessly.
The road has been long from that seminal event to the standard we have today. Hundreds of transit professionals contributed to the standard development, first under the auspices of the National Transportation Communications for ITS Protocol organization, and later under APTA’s standard development process.
In addition to defining information transfers, TCIP contains a Model Architecture and a Concept of Operations that provide context for how the transfers might be used in a typical agency. A transit agency does not need to change its operational concepts or architecture to use this standard; it is designed for “a la carte” use, allowing each agency to select and tailor the information flows that best fit its needs while maintaining standard compliance.
Three pilot programs have been implemented to date, and a number of other pilot projects are in the planning or development stage.
ConSysTec’s Dynamic Timetable Generator project received funding from the TRB Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (Transit IDEA) program. It demonstrated the ability to publish and update timetables on the worldwide web using TCIP.
LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando, recently implemented a TCIP Traveler Information Pilot (TTIP) project that provides bus locations, advertising, and other information at the LYNX Central Station in downtown Orlando. The Transit IDEA program provided partial funding for TTIP, which demonstrates the use of TCIP to transfer schedules, bus work assignments, Automatic Vehicle Location information, passenger information, and real-time device availability information. This project also shows how to convert proprietary data streams to TCIP in real time, and to combine standardized and proprietary commercial data streams as data sources for computer applications.
Clever Devices implemented a short-term pilot demonstration of TCIP-based passenger information signs at APTA’s EXPO 2008 in San Diego. This project used real-time data from the Chicago Transit Authority and Clever’s Bus Time™ product to deliver bus estimated arrival times to a sign in the company’s booth.
APTA has funded development of a series of tools to simplify the process of specifying, implementing, and testing TCIP-based interfaces. The TCIP Implementation Requirements & Capabilities Editor (TIRCE) provides an easy-to-use interface that allows a transit agency, supplier, or consultant to create or modify an interface definition. These definitions can be output as requirements for use in a Request for Proposals (RFP), or as a set of product capabilities to be used in a supplier’s response to the RFP. TIRCE also provides a built-in viewer capability that allows the user to view the TCIP standard as a word document, or to use a graphical representation of the TCIP database.
APTA is also developing tools to verify implemented TCIP interfaces. The first of these tools, “Interrogator,” acts as the subscriber in a TCIP Publish-Subscribe dialogue, and tests or exercises the publisher side of the interface.
The National Standards Institute (NTI) has developed a two-day TCIP training course titled “Integrating Transit Applications: Defining Data Interfaces Using TCIP.” The course covers some basic principles of systems integration and the content and structure of TCIP while also providing some hands-on experience developing TCIP-based interface definitions using TIRCE. NTI has offered the course in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Tampa, and Houston to date, with participants attending from transit agencies around the country.
APTA TCIP Web Site
APTA recently replaced the old TCIP web site with a new site. The new site does not require registration. Visitors to the site can download the standard and the tools at no charge, submit comments, and obtain more detailed information on TCIP and its history.
BY DAVE GORSHKOV, Chief Executive Officer, Digital Grape Business Services Ltd., Lovedean, Hants, U.K., and Chair, APTA Communications Subcommittee
The use of advanced technologies is moving at such a pace these days that “transport proven” credentials are often hard to come by—because, no sooner does a technology becomes transport proven, it is out of date! This dynamic emphasizes the need for the work of the APTA Communications Subcommittee’s Technical Standards Working Group (TSWG1) in reviewing various types of technology for use in all aspects of public transport.
Closed Circuit TeleVision (CCTV) is one such technology, which is becoming increasingly popular for public transit agencies. For example, Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix and Sound Transit in Seattle operate advanced light rail vehicles (LRVs) with multi-camera installations in each car. These cameras cover 360 degrees of the outside of the car—essential these days for use in city streets—as well as all interior areas. Buses are also bristling with cameras these days, as can be demonstrated by any number of times we see transit-related incidents on reality TV!
TSWG1 has spent three years developing a new recommended practice for the use of CCTV and video analytics in transit applications. Why? Because, with all the various facets connected to CCTV, the time to find out you don’t have the right specification camera or recorder setup is not when you have just had a major incident or are faced with an insurance claim you can’t defend!
Why to Install CCTV
Understanding why you are installing CCTV is the step you should take before you issue your requirements document. To take but one example, the system you see working in a local convenience store, designed for commercial use, will most definitely not work for very long in a transit installation.
Typical payback justifications, or returns on investment (ROIs), for CCTV systems include lowered insurance costs through reduced premiums (evidence of slips and falls, vehicle impacts), a safety system to help transit staff in the event of assault (video evidence of any potential assailant), and the deterrent effect for various types of transit crime (vandalism, tagging, farebox protection).
The document pulled together by TSWG1 contains technical information and recommended minimum requirements to help operators identify their needs while they also arm themselves with a baseline specification of a system that can be used either in court or with an insurance company. The committee consists of operators, consultants, and vendors, so a number of interesting discussions around the table have ensued when we examined aspects of reordering durations, camera resolution, frame rates, and compression systems.
“But I run a bus operation—I don’t need CCTV,” I hear you say. Well, the system for bus or paratransit need not be as robust as that fitted to a commuter, heavy, or light rail vehicle, but you will still need to understand what it means to record at certain resolutions and frame rates; why it is important to have a minimum standard for cameras; and how to handle recordings in the event of an incident. Our document also provides information on maintenance routines and acceptance testing methods.
If your CCTV design already meets these requirements, then you are in great shape. If not, you might want to look at the document the next time you plan to procure a system.
What about rail systems? Well, whilst a bus operation can use a system designed for a rail vehicle, rail vehicles must ensure that they use “rail hardened” equipment. And let’s not even discuss floating power supplies that must be fitted to rail systems, as well as extra robust hard drives and high data rate train lines!
Wayside installations, depots, stations, and other transit buildings such as parking garages are also included in the document, with recommendations for the various areas you will have and need to protect. It also covers cash rooms, perimeters, garage areas, bus stops, platforms, and tunnel protection.
So, what else has the committee been up to? As we move into 2010, we are developing additional information for the latest generation of IP-based cameras, video analytics, and the next generation of network recorders and information on wireless links that can and cannot be used with CCTV.
But our effort goes beyond CCTV. We have been working toward a cyber security standard and are now looking at how technology can be used in the area of Intelligent Transportation Systems that is of increasing potential benefit to transit operators, including those with Global Positioning Satellite-based Automatic Vehicle Location systems.
So let me take this opportunity to welcome you to our next TSWG1 or communications subcommittee meeting. We are always looking for input on applications and scenarios we can include in our work!
BY ANNE O’NEIL, P.E., CSEP, Chief Systems Engineer, MTA New York City Transit, New York, NY
Increasing numbers of North American public transit agencies are exploring the application of systems engineering. Systems engineering provides the means to create a successful design and deployment of complex systems. It also offers tools to manage the risks arising from increased use and integration of technologies.
These agencies are joining their international counterparts that report benefits from pursuing this holistic, interdisciplinary approach. What are the reasons for this growing trend?
Current demand for technology solutions. Customers want real-time information to guide their decision making regarding transportation options. Commuters want to know when the next bus or train will arrive, while tourists will inquire about the quickest route to their destination from their current location. This requires access to real-time service information that provides information on both planned service disruptions and unexpected incidents.
Passengers considering routes that require transfer between transportation modes expect their transfer to be operationally coordinated—so minimal transfer time delays their connection, even if crossing between two separate operational providers. Customers also want to stay connected on their computers and phones, so they may opt for transportation modes that accommodate this connectivity, even if the trip is slightly longer or costs slightly more, because they can be more productive during their travel time.
Given the economic climate, transit agencies need to stretch the funding they do receive. Yet with the additional desired and required functionality outlined above, staff must operate more efficiently as transit networks expand and add services. Efficiencies must be found, as staffing levels are not typically increased.
In a post-9/11 environment, the call for increased security and surveillance has affected operational practices and necessitated an increase in electronic surveillance and monitoring systems. Numerous factors have created a set of demands that can only be met with the deployment of technology-based solutions.
Technology is transforming public transit. Public transit agencies historically operate as a collective of “functional silos” or functionally autonomous groups. For example, transit operations staff, including dispatchers and bus/train operators, have access to real-time information regarding service disruptions and incidents, as they perform and directly oversee the operation. Meanwhile, station-based staff, serving as the direct customer interface, may not have access to this information, despite passengers looking to them for precisely this information.
To adequately serve our customers’ expectations, these functional groups must share information among themselves.
For agencies seeking to address operating efficiencies, the ability to remotely monitor equipment performance and obtain diagnostic data allows maintenance staff to effectively troubleshoot and triage issues from the office without having to travel to multiple field locations simply to assess each situation. More often the first field visit can resolve the problem. In addition, accessing this performance data may allow for proactive maintenance before a failure occurs—all helping prevent excessive service delays or disruptions.
Reports of recent airport screening failures demonstrate how the lack of information sharing across functional separate jurisdictions can be exploited to cause significant disruption or worse.
Incorporating technology has the potential to affect public transit in very positive ways, providing operational efficiencies and value to our customers. But it also poses change for us, sometimes altering our operational procedures or requiring modifications to long-standing divisions of work and information ownership.
While technology helps solve challenges, it creates others. Today’s transit system expansions and capital projects consist of much more complexity than tunnel boring machines and soil complications. These projects deploy integrated systems that are software-intensive, highly dependent on communication networks, and full of interfaces. (Interfaces occur where interactions happen between separate elements, e.g., mechanical equipment and communications equipment, or hardware and software, or human operators and equipment.)
In addition, these interfaces typically cross traditional technical discipline boundaries, e.g., electrical, mechanical, and communications engineering, and traditional maintenance and operating group boundaries, e.g., electricians, electronics, and telecommunication maintainers. Suddenly the civil work is no longer the primary challenge.
Questions arise such as: Can our legacy systems interface with the technology currently available? What prerequisite knowledge must our maintenance staff obtain to be eligible for training and performing the maintenance on this new equipment? How do we know all our systems will be successfully integrated at the end of the contract?
These challenges faced by the transit industry are indications of a technology transformation underway.
Systems Engineering Can Help with Challenges
When other industries faced comparable technology transformation, they turned to a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to understand and manage these highly integrated systems across their full life cycle (“cradle to grave”). For example, the aviation industry and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have relied on a systems engineering approach for decades to address the growth of complexity and technology of the integrated systems that make passenger air travel possible.
Given that both FAA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are part of DOT, it should not be surprising that FTA has begun looking at systems engineering as well.
Systems engineering focuses on understanding the complete operational problem to be solved. It identifies the operational needs as early as possible and has a structured set of activities to incrementally ensure these needs are met from development through delivery and operational phases. It also provides interdisciplinary principles and practices that promote successful systems.
The process promotes dialogue and exchange of information between functional groups, between operations and engineering, which has now become essential given the arrival of technology solutions. It is time to tailor this approach and apply systems engineering to public transportation projects.
BY ARJAN VAN ANDEL, Trapeze ITS, Cedar Rapids, IA
Many transit agencies have implemented automatic vehicle location (AVL)/computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems to manage real-time bus operations. Such systems generate large quantities of data, while dispatchers typically do not have sufficient time to digest the data for decision making or recognize patters of operational problems in a normal operating environment.
A solution to this overflow of information is a decision support tool for dispatchers: Transit Operations Decision Support Systems (TODSS). This system supports dispatchers during real-time bus operations management in response to incidents, special events, and other changing conditions to help restore service when disruptions occur.
Trapeze ITS (formerly Continental/Siemens VDO Public Transit Solutions) developed TransitMaster Intelligent Decision Support (IDS) together with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO), Booz Allen Hamilton, and Pace Suburban Bus in Arlington Heights, IL, as the next generation of CAD/AVL systems. The major improvements of IDS in relation to current CAD/AVL implementations are the abilities to:
* Include external sources of information with the CAD/AVL messages to provide a complete “operational picture”;
* Define and set the threshold and priority level for service disruptions;
* Implement various service restoration options and strategies to be associated with each service disruption type; and
* Work with a user interface that automatically provides a prioritized list of identified service disruptions including associated service restoration options.
TransitMaster IDS continuously monitors various sources of information, such as CAD system messages, web, RSS feeds, and e-mail, displaying only those events that require dispatcher attention. When incidents are selected, the system guides the dispatcher through the CAD/AVL system to quickly gain situational awareness. IDS then provides a checklist of action items to perform to resolve the incident.
IDS service restoration options include an easy link to associated dispatch reference documents such as service memorandum, policy and procedure manuals, or related material.
Following the implementation, participants saw significant results. All levels of management personnel and dispatchers have confirmed that the TransitMaster IDS functions have improved service performance, dispatcher response times, the quality of the dispatcher responses, uniformity of action among dispatchers, and real-time operations communications beyond the dispatch center. Some concrete examples:
* The number of data messages displayed to dispatchers decreased by more than 60 percent because only incidents requiring attention were shown;
* Voice communications between drivers and dispatchers declined 30 percent because drivers received better assistance from the dispatchers; and
* Incident reports decreased 36 percent due to automated e-mail notifications to decision makers. Integrated internet and e-mail capabilities provide more immediate internal and external communications, where management becomes more directly informed and involved in day-to-day operations.
TransitMaster IDS is a successful implementation of TODSS, improving service performance and real-time operations management. The next steps will be to integrate real-time data intelligently with executive decision-making tools within other ITS efforts such as Integrated Corridor Management and others.
By JOHN R. BELL, APTA Program Manager-Communications
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
He probably didn’t mean that literally. But a new product being used on public transit buses and paratransit vehicles harnesses a key element of sunlight to keep air-conditioning units cleaner, offering a healthier environment for both passengers and operators and saving transit systems time and money.
The new system uses the C spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) light to kill viruses, bacteria, and mold spores, all of which normally collect on air conditioner condensers, requiring costly, labor-intensive regular cleaning with chemicals—until now.
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) was developed in the 19th century. In 1903, a physician received the Nobel Prize for using the process to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. UV lamps are now used to treat jaundice in newborn infants; the light helps break down the excess bilirubin in the infants’ blood. Many large cities use UV light to kill pathogens in their water supply, and the food industry uses it to eliminate such pathogens as salmonella.
The UV product for public transportation comes from Lee Huston of Florida and his business, JKA Company. Huston began with a grant from the Transportation Research Board’s Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Program; his final report was published by the Transit Cooperative Research Program as Project 53.
The JKA system uses bulbs by California-based Steril Aire, which holds several patents that make it the only producer of such bulbs.
The technology “allows the UV lamps to not only kill all the pathogens that pass over it, but it has a major energy savings,” said Huston. “The UV lamps at the evaporator keep all the biofilm (mold, fungi, etc.) from forming on the evaporator fins.”
Biofilms, he explained, reduce efficiency in heat exchange; thus, keeping the evaporators clean saves up to 20 percent on energy use. “In transit it means less fuel is used, approximately one-half gallon per day (10-hour day) per bus,” he said.
JKA has also developed a new, reusable electrostatic air filter to be used with the UV lamps that changes the way evaporators are cleaned. “The old filters allowed large particles to clog up the evaporators, which just means more cleaning and labor,” he said. “Now the evaporator is vacuumed off in 5 minutes and the filter washed in 5 minutes and replaced in 5 minutes—15 minutes on a job that before took up to one hour.”
Previously, chemicals were used to clean evaporators. However, these can pose safety risks to maintenance staff and to the environment, Huston said, while using only water avoids such risks and actually helps the fungi in the biofilm to grow.
Huston noted that his system can save transit systems money. The new filter costs $92 and lasts for five years, for a cost of $18.40 per year, according to his IDEA Program report. This contrasts with approximately $120 per year per bus for disposable filters.
Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County was the first transit agency to use the JKA system; Florida recently announced that it has made UVGI mandatory in all paratransit buses.
Jon Kavaliunas—maintenance manager for Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, which has installed the JKA units on 30 buses in its fleet—said he has noticed “a big difference in the cleanliness of our a/c coils. A lot of times, you’d see dust and dirt on them between major a/c [preventive maintenance servicings].” With the UVGI bulbs, “the coils are nice and shiny, like they’re brand new.” This is seen as contributing to fuel savings over the long term, given that the clean compressors will not use as much energy.
But the most immediate benefit is in saved labor. Palm Tran conducts a preventive maintenance servicing every 60 days; the process previously involved using chemicals to clean the coils. But since installing UVGI, “We’re cleaning coils twice a year or as needed,” Kavaliunas said. “It’s rare that we have to do anything more than hose them off.”
Using water instead of chemicals is not only safer and greener, it doesn’t pose the possibility of any lingering odors that chemicals can produce, so passengers and operators “don’t really know it’s there,” he said.
The system has been dependable so far, Kavaliunas said, adding: “We haven’t had to replace bulbs or ballasts. It’s been a reliable system.”
Additional information on the system can be found in issue 14 (Fall/Winter 2008) of the TRB publication Ignition. The IDEA 53 final report is available here.
BY BARRY EINSIG, Market Director, Public Safety and Professional Communications, Harris Corporation, Harrisburg, PA
The need—and benefits—for North American public transit authorities to deploy Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are becoming more and more appealing as the technologies mature.
One major hurdle in the construction of these systems is the transfer of large files or streams, such as video, from a bus or train to the operations center. Providing closed-circuit television (CCTV) video to transit or public safety authorities quickly has proven its value: in the event of an emergency situation, first responders will find no better solution than observing CCTV video streamed in real time over a secure communications network.
Achieving this level of broadband reach and connectivity via an ITS system is a challenge that many transportation agencies have tried to achieve through the purchase of disparate ITS technologies over time. This patchwork approach can cause a number of transmission problems with offloading or backhauling of video and traffic control data from bus, trains, and traffic corridors to operations centers over the wireless network.
Assessing Communications Provider Requirements
Public transportation agencies must consider several elements before selecting a broadband solution, including coverage, cost, capacity, and the provider of the wireless network.
Before deploying a ITS system, transit agencies also need to take into account the available spectrum, technology system integration, operations and maintenance costs, the mission critical nature of the network, and the short-term and long-term business model. Knowing the goals an agency hopes to achieve within the parameters of available resources is imperative to the eventual success of a broadband ITS system.
Private vs. Public
Transportation officials have two options when selecting technologies for their ITS deployments: public networks, offered by carriers such as Verizon, or private networks owned and operated by the agency or municipality.
Agencies that require wireless broadband solutions with low up-front capital costs and can handle the higher long-term operating costs should strongly consider a carrier provider for their broadband communication system.
Transit systems that opt to deploy their own private networks may have higher up-front capital costs, but they can be assured that their ITS system will meet many of their near- and long-term needs—ranging from Computer-Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Location (CAD/AVL), traffic signal prioritization, and passenger information systems to the most challenging real-time video applications.
An organization wishing to implement the private network option can lower some of the up-front costs if it chooses to share the network with other local government agencies or municipalities. These ITS agencies and their potential partners must work closely together throughout the process to determine the best spectrum, technology, reliability, control, quality of service, service level agreements, and integration strategy for the partnership system. They must also select the right provider to partner within the planning, design, deployment, and maintenance of the systems. These providers include companies in the Land Mobile Radio field, application providers such as CCTV and ITS manufacturers, or a coalition of both.
Other challenges may follow buying a wireless narrowband or broadband network from a local communications contractor or larger generalist systems integrator. This kind of project is not a core competency of a general contractor or systems integrator, which may not offer the technical or service experience needed to deploy these kinds of wide-area networks. Further, such a firm may make decisions on the network based on variable economic or business elements rather than on what is ultimately best for the authority or partnership.
The ideal solution for deploying a wireless narrowband or broadband network for an ITS application or video solution is for the transit agency to rely on the same wireless network providers that it currently uses for its most mission critical networks. By creating an ITS Strategic Plan and working closely with the right technology and service partner well in advance of the procurement, transportation agencies will be in a position to ensure that the deployed system will met their near- and long-term needs—from CAD/AVL and traffic signal prioritization to real-time streaming video.
BY TAMMI BOLDEN, Manager, System and Equipment, Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, MD
The vision here at the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is to promote safety and security on our multi-modal fleet. We have embarked on a state-of-the-art mobile video monitoring (MVM) program to provide video file downloads and real-time viewing on the fleet.
MTA’s Transit Police Monitoring Facility (PMF) is already the centralized security video monitoring center for cameras at stations, transit depots, and tunnel portals, with the mobile video capability being added incrementally under the MVM program. The distribution of video storage includes servers at stations that record and archive all camera data. Only video of interest—in the form of alarms triggered by intrusion and “left object” analytics—are sent to the PMF servers for attendant disposition. Stations and transit depots typically connect over a fiber-based network.
PMF staff may perform video patrol by direct access to cameras and the stored video files on the remote servers. All administration video is managed by PMF, including any sharing of video with other agencies. This model carries over into the mobile video environment.
MTA has installed cameras in all of its transit revenue modes: four on Baltimore Metro Subway cars, eight on light rail cars, and up to 12 on the newest 60-foot articulated buses.
The cameras connect directly with the vehicle digital video recorder (DVR), which compresses, encodes, and encrypts the camera video into computer files. The DVR also includes ancillary devices such as the driver status display, video tag switch, and external alarm trigger interfaces.
One important feature set of the transit vehicle is the provision of a mobile router along with various wireless modems. The DVR and the mobile router are networked, and the mobile router completely manages the gateway interfaces to multiple wireless networks. We may build our own wireless infrastructures or use carrier service providers. The architecture shows Wi-Fi, mesh, 3G, and 4G networks as possibilities. MTA will initially evaluate MTA-built mesh segments and Wi-Max carrier service in addition to its secure Wi-Fi at transit depots.
As the transit vehicle moves, the various wireless interfaces become successively active or inactive. For example, if the Wi-Fi modem is able to associate with the secured access point (AP) in a depot, the router selects this interface for video transport. When the vehicle travels on revenue routes, the AP is not active, but the MTA mesh segment may be available, so the router would select it. Other interfaces using carrier service providers are likely available when neither the AP nor mesh is active, so the router would choose this active interface for video transport. The mobile router, in conjunction with multiple wireless infrastructure networks, provides a robust and highly available network to support the MVM program objectives.
Our MVM program demonstration includes two primary feature sets:
* Video alarms automatically transmitted from transit vehicles in revenue service over the wireless infrastructure to the PMF for disposition, and
* Video patrol, through which the PMF attendant may select a transit vehicle from the fleet map and have immediate access over the wireless infrastructure for real-time camera viewing. This is strictly an on-demand capability whereas large file downloads would be accomplished in the transit depot mode.
Video distribution technology on the MTA network makes possible real-time viewing of the fleet of equipped transit vehicles at fixed operation control centers and transit police cars anywhere in the wireless infrastructure coverage area.
MTA’s transit depot video file download capability has already shown significant cost savings, reduced labor, and improved response times for requested video supporting criminal investigations and claims mitigation. The agency anticipates that real-time mobile video monitoring will have tremendous benefits for police in terms of incident assessment and operations in terms of service monitoring of vehicles, passengers, and employees.
“Writ large, the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] budget request [for Fiscal Year 2011] is $10.8 billion—a little larger than last year, but it is a tight budget in terms of everything we’d like to do and given the status of [federal transportation] authorization.”
That’s the news FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff gave, via conference call, to public transportation executives participating in the recent APTA Transit CEOs Seminar in Stuart, FL.
Rogoff said FTA restructured its budget request to align with the Obama administration’s priorities and noted the introduction of a new transit safety initiative: a State of Good Repair program. Overall, this initiative will grow about 80 percent with dollars channeled to both rail and bus in a formula that will recognize the level of effort of grantees themselves in tending to their own needs.
The administrator announced publication in the Federal Register of an invitation for membership applications for a new Transit Rail Safety Advisory Committee. “We expect that the advisory committee will be broadly representative of the transit industry and help meet regulatory goals,” he added.
He also discussed authorization of surface transportation legislation, as the current law will expire at the end of February, and FTA’s work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding livable communities and urban circulator services.
Before the conference call, seminar participants met with representatives of federal agencies and transit safety professionals for “Leading with Safety,” a five-hour workshop on organizational culture. Topics included the Federal Railroad Administration’s Passenger Rail System Safety Rule and risk management programs including a pilot project on reporting close calls, with Amtrak, Union Pacific, and other organizations, and APTA’s system safety management program, peer reviews, and safety audits.
Thomas Krause, Ph.D., chairman and co-founder of Behavioral Science Technology, reported on the science behind creating a safety culture. He described the findings of a 10-year study with more than 70 organizations, noting a relationship between leaders’ high assessment scores in overall management and their organizations’ safety records.
The president and CEO of the Eno Transportation Forum, Stephen Van Beek, Ph.D., offered two presentations at the seminar: one for CEOs of smaller bus systems and one for all attendees on transforming the organization’s scope of services to encompass mobility management.
Another highlight was a presentation by Dave Jensen, president of S3 Inc. in Los Angeles and senior lecturer, executive education, with the Emory University School of Business. Focusing on how public transit CEOs can learn “the eXpansive Leadership Method, or XLM,” Jensen said: “If you want your employees to embrace change, give them stability.”
Presenters at the “How to Work with Developers” session, from left: Gary Thomas, president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; Joni Earl, chief executive officer of Sound Transit in Seattle; and Joseph Calabrese, CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
APTA Chair M.P. Carter invited members of the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) to tell their stories and to take advantage of their APTA membership when she addressed the recent BMBG Annual Meeting in Hawaii. She also spoke about governance, workforce development, and the APTA Strategic Plan, which she described as the vehicle that will take the association to the next level.
In his remarks, APTA President William Millar described the BMBG meeting as “different than any other APTA meeting” and told the members that he welcomed the opportunity to hear how the organization could better meet the needs of its private sector members. He reported on the change in the New Starts policy announced by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, noting that it would result in both new projects and new types of projects.
During a phone conversation with meeting participants, Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff discussed the New Starts policy change at length. BMBG Chair Sharon Greene, who led the meeting, then informed Rogoff that the business members are interested in scheduling meetings with him on a regular basis.
Conversing during the BMBG Annual Meeting are, from left, APTA President William Millar; BMBG Chair Sharon Greene; Kirk Caldwell, managing director, City of Honolulu; APTA Chair M.P. Carter; and Wayne Yoshioka, director, City and County of Honolulu DOT.
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) has set June 15 as the deadline for receiving problem statements for the Fiscal Year 2011 program. These submittals identify research needs for TCRP and form the basis for selection of the annual TCRP research program.
The TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee will select the research problem statements for the FY 2011 program in the fall of 2010. For problems selected by the TOPS Committee, requests for proposals will be issued, and contractors will be selected through a competitive proposal process.
TCRP focuses on research that is consistent with, and supportive of, its strategic priorities and the Federal Transit Administration’s strategic research goals, which include increasing community livability and improving the performance of public transit operations and systems through coordination technologies, project planning and development, and transit asset maintenance.
The program also has established five strategic priorities:
* Place the Transit Customer First;
* Enable Transit to Operate in a Technologically Advanced Society;
* Continuously Improve Public Transportation
* Flourish in the Multimodal Environment; and
* Revitalize Transit Organizations.
Problem statements may be submitted electronically, with the document sent as an e-mail attachment in Microsoft Word format. A list of TCRP projects may be found online.
Three New Publications Available
The Transportation Research Board released the following TCRP publications just before the end of 2009:
Report 132, Assessment of Hybrid-Electric Transit Bus Technology, explores decision-making guidelines coupled with a comprehensive life cycle cost (LCC) model designed to assist transit managers in evaluating, selecting, and implementing hybrid-electric technology options for transit buses. The LCC model allows the user to compare total life cycle costs across several cost categories for up to six different purchase scenarios. The LCC model is available on a CD-ROM (CRP-CD-71), with the printed version of the report, and is available online for download as an ISO image or the individual files of the ISO image.
Report 136, Guidebook for Rural Demand-Response Transportation: Measuring, Assessing, and Improving Performance, examines the diversity of demand-response transportation (DRT) services and examines definitions of performance data and performance measures. The report also highlights the typology of rural DRT systems, offering examples of performance data from more than 20 representative rural systems.
R-137, Improving Pedestrian and Motorist Safety Along Light Rail Alignments, considers pedestrian and motorist behaviors that contribute to light rail transit (LRT) safety, along with mitigating measures designed to improve safety along LRT alignments. The report also includes suggestions to facilitate the compilation of accident data in a coordinated and homogeneous manner across LRT systems. Finally, the report provides a catalog of existing and innovative safety devices, safety treatments, and practices along LRT alignments. Appendices B through E of TCRP Report 137 were published as TCRP Web-Only Document 42.
Free copies of these and other TCRP reports are available for download here.
BY JASON SCHIEDEL, Senior Project Manager, AECOM, New York, NY, and Secretary, APTA Human Resources Committee
Last year, the APTA Human Resources (HR) Committee, in collaboration with APTA’s Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel, launched a student outreach initiative—“9000 in ’09”—with a goal of telling 9,000 students about the many job and career opportunities available in the public transportation industry. APTA’s members and partner organizations helped the HR Committee exceed its goal by engaging almost 15,000 students.
During 2009, 25 APTA member organizations shared the results of a total of 90 student-outreach events and programs, including:
* Caltrans, with four events and programs that reached 888 students;
* Chicago Transit Authority, with six programs that reached 300 students;
* Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), with five events and programs that reached 1,392 students;
* Lane Transit District in Eugene, OR, with one event that reached 1,600 students;
* MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit), with numerous programs that reached more than 4,000 students;
* Orange County Transportation Authority in Orange, CA, with five events and programs that reached 2,569 students; and
* Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, with 18 events and programs that reached 1,715 students.
APTA implemented a web-based database to capture and share the details of each event and program, including the valuable lessons learned.
Many of these lessons deal with how to capture the interest of students. When asked what the Port Authority of Allegheny County learned through its student outreach events, Katherine Gillis, training specialist, replied: “We discovered that we were often able to capture their attention with information regarding how public transportation is creating a ‘greener’ world since that is a topic with which they are familiar.”
Communicating a clear message to students is also viewed as imperative. When asked the lessons students learned at her agency’s events, DTC Employee Development Manager Denise Beaston wrote: “We emphasize the scope of opportunities in transit during the events and programs. Each participating student clearly took away the understanding that this is a business made up of all job classifications as most competing industries.”
The transit agencies noted that many of the programs and events they cited are part of greater organizational and personal efforts.
“This project was a major first step in informing our future transit leaders; however, we have to keep finding new ways and means to reach more students, attract them, provide challenging opportunities within our industry, and retain these youth,” wrote Thalia Panton, assistant vice president, NYC Transit, and director of student development for the New York Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.
More information about this effort is available online or from Jason Schiedel.
Dr. Catherine Ross, director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, will address the April 11 General Luncheon during APTA’s 2010 Transportation and University Communities Conference in Athens, GA.
Ross is an internationally recognized expert on transportation and urban planning solutions for megaregions with extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. In July 2009 she was selected to advise the Obama administration on the first-ever White House Office of Urban Affairs, led by Adolfo Carrion. She is the editor of MegaRegions: Planning for Global Competitiveness and the co-author of The Inner City: Urban Poverty and Economic Development in the Next Century.
For 20 years, Ross has conducted research on transportation and urban planning and how to make cities, neighborhoods and regions safer, healthier places for all to live.
More information about this conference is available at the APTA web site.
BY GREG EVANS, M.Ed., Vice President, Lane Transit District Board of Directors, Eugene, OR
Recently, a co-worker approached me with a confession. “I started taking the bus to work and I love it,” he said.
This person once told me, “My feet will never touch public transportation,” and he meant exactly what he said.
This about-face in attitude, choice, and habit is happening with greater frequency across America. As we enter the second decade of this young millennium, more Americans are choosing to take public transit as never before—and with good reason. Americans face rising fuel prices, increases in the expense of operating and maintaining personal vehicles, an expanding carbon footprint, waning economic opportunities, and increases in traffic and related congestion issues.
Public transportation—America’s best-kept secret—is leading the way toward a new and exciting transformation in the ways we live, work, and play.
The transportation challenges Americans face as a nation are numerous and complex. Public transportation provides viable, concrete solutions to our present and future transportation needs as a society.
However, public transportation itself faces a large problem. Few people outside our industry know “our story”: the story of public transportation in America.
* “Our story” has not been widely shared. Few Americans know the rich history of U.S. public transportation, its evolving advancements, and our role in America’s destiny. Public transportation is a critical element in economic development, reduction of fuel consumption, and is necessary for efforts to create a more sustainable, healthy environment for current and future generations.
* “Our story” tells of a $48.4 billion industry that employs more than 380,000 people and impacts job creation and economic development opportunities for millions of Americans.
* “Our story” is the story of buses, trains, streetcars, cable cars, trolleys, tramways, monorails, ferries, and water taxis, along with paratransit services for seniors and persons with disabilities. More than 35 million times each weekday, Americans board some form of public transportation.
* “Our story” is the story of providing access to opportunities: to travel to work, attend school, buy groceries, or go to medical appointments. Public transit provides millions of Americans with personal mobility options and access they otherwise would not realize.
* “Our story” is the story of reducing America’s fuel consumption and a reduction of congestion costs in the billions of dollars. Public transportation saves the U.S. 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually, and households located near public transit drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles than households that have no access to transit.
* “Our story” is the story of preserving our environment through the reduction of our carbon footprint. As people modify their travel habits by using public transit, they realize significant reductions in household carbon emissions.
* “Our story” is also my story. Growing up in my hometown of Cleveland, I was the product of a transit-dependent household. My father passed away when I was 4 years old; my mother never learned to drive and could not afford an automobile on a limited income. Our family depended on the Cleveland Transit System, which later became the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. The system’s buses and trains “took us there”—to work, school, shopping, weddings, funerals, and family holiday functions. Public transit took me to college, ultimately to earning a bachelor’s degree. And today, having worked in the industry as a customer service representative for the Lane Transit District and now serving as a transit board member for that same authority, I continue to use transit in my commute to work each day.
* “Our story” is the story of millions of Americans who have traveled the road to the American dream on a bus, a train, or a ferry. Many Americans share “my story”; now it is time for all of us to join APTA in telling all of “our stories.”
BY NEAL PEIRCE
WASHINGTON—Most everyone agrees that efficient roads, rails and air service are vital for our economy and our quality of life. Most of us see that without them, America will have a hard time competing against rising powers worldwide.
So why is Congress stalling? Representatives and senators know the federal transportation program expired last September. They keep passing temporary extensions without facing up to core issues—for example, the federal gas tax stuck at 18.4 cents a gallon, unchanged for 17 years despite escalating asphalt and concrete prices.
And why do we keep on paving over more and more of our landscape instead of embracing a “fix it first” strategy? Can’t we make our roads and transit investments match our housing choices in a “post-sprawl” era? Why aren’t regions being told that they had better link roads, rail and available air service for a smarter “intermodal” future?
The easy answer is always that Congress is too busy with the health care reform bill and other crowded agendas. Bridges aren’t collapsing very often. Road congestion is bothersome, but we have little faith in expanded roadways either. Plus, people are more excited by the Obama administration’s idea of a national “high-speed” rail system than more miles of asphalt.
So there was scarcely a ripple when Felix Rohatyn, respected financier and veteran civic leader, warned that “America’s roads and bridges ... the country’s entire infrastructure—is rapidly and dangerously deteriorating.”
Steve Heminger, executive director of the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is quoted as bemoaning: “Is anyone listening out there?” Transportation expert Kenneth Orski even warns that the second jobs stimulus measure the administration is likely to recommend could be a “death warrant” for full-scale transportation reform because it will likely include some quick road repair funds.
Most transportation experts think the gas tax is not only on its last legs but should be replaced by some kind of electronically monitored system measuring how many miles a car is actually driven. But the idea likely needs lots of testing, and the White House, in a recession economy, is opposed.
So what do we get? A series of short-term program extensions, forcing Congress to make up for declining gas tax proceeds with general revenue funds—i.e., deficit spending. In the process, most dollars are left flowing through traditional transportation “stovepipes” that are tilted heavily to roads over transit, traffic “throughput” over community livability.
Where we ought to be heading, says John Robert Smith, president and CEO of the reform group Reconnecting America, is an “intermodal” future in which road, rail and air service are all tightly connected rather than disjointed and competing.
And Smith, a Republican who built a high-quality multipurpose transportation facility as mayor of Meridian, MS, then served as chairman of the Amtrak board of directors, has high hopes that transportation reauthorization can avoid the bitter partisanship that now infects Congress:
“For Republicans, this is a national security issue, freedom from foreign oil and more Chinese debt. It’s brick and mortar and steel that will bring a return on investment, promoting business opportunities. On the Democratic side, it’s about equity, connecting people, broadening transportation choices.”
Transportation hasn’t typically been a partisan issue, notes Emil Frankel, former Transportation Department official and currently transportation policy director of the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center. But Frankel cautions that this time, party differences might surface if climate and energy issues start to play a significant role.
“An even bigger obstacle to reform,” he says, “could be opposition of existing stakeholders—from construction firms and unions to transit operators—all trying to protect and expand funding they receive under current programs.”
Add up the potential pitfalls and it’s indeed hard to see Congress acting early, despite a comprehensive reauthorization bill introduced last year by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN). What’s more, members may flinch at daring to pass a multibillion-dollar authorization measure just before the midterm elections.
Alas, Rohatyn and others are right—our infrastructure is crumbling. We do need a system that values performance over special interest protection. We need state transportation departments to place a priority on maintenance and cater to fewer politically motivated bridges—or roads—to nowhere.
And for the future, in this overwhelmingly metropolitan nation, we need explicit, clear transportation choices made in and for our city regions. The existing MPO (metropolitan planning organization) model for transportation choices needs a serious shakeup—starting with fair apportionment and demanding only one MPO in each metro region, not the splintered structures some regions now exhibit.
It’s only at the metro level, notes Smart Growth Leadership Institute President Parris Glendening, that there can be truly effective links of transportation with housing, economic competitiveness, carbon reduction, lowering vehicle miles traveled and promoting national security by reducing energy consumption.
It’s a massive challenge. The consequences if we miss it: a less livable, less prosperous America.
Contact Neal Peirce here.
©2010, The Washington Post Writers Group
POMPANO BEACH, FL—The Broward County Board of County Commissioners has appointed Kristin Jacobs to the Governing Board for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. She succeeds Josephus Eggelletion.
Jacobs was elected to represent the people of District 2 on the county commission in 1998. During her tenure on the commission, she served as Broward County mayor in 2005 and as vice-mayor in 2004.
Tom Wagner, Steve Kratzer
SCHAUMBURG, IL—Motor Coach Industries (MCI) announced the promotion of Tom Wagner to director of business development and the appointment of Steve Kratzer to an open sales position in the southeastern U.S.
Wagner previously managed MCI’s Public Sector specialty markets including universities, inmate security transit, and U.S. and Canadian federal government business. Kratzer has 13 years experience in transportation sales and marketing, most recently with North American Bus Industries.
COLUMBUS, OH—Richard Simonetta has been named vice president and national director of high-speed rail for URS Corporation, based in Columbus.
Simonetta is a transit industry veteran with more than 38 years of experience in all facets of the industry. Most recently he was chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail Inc. in Phoenix. He has spent 28 years as chief executive officer/general manager of five U.S. transit agencies including the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, where he oversaw transportation efforts during the 1996 Olympic Games.
A former APTA chair, Simonetta received the association’s Transit Manager of the Year honor in 1997. He currently serves on the APTA Board of Directors Past Chairs Committee; Legislative Committee; Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee; and Rail Transit Committee.
LOS ANGELES, CA—Myrna Valdez recently joined Gannett Fleming as director of national transit planning, based in the firm’s Los Angeles office.
Valdez has more than 35 years of experience. She will support the firm’s strategic action to grow its transit activities in the western U.S. and offer support on Federal Transit Administration guidance changes.
ATLANTA, GA—Mark Peoples has been named deputy director, finance, for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA). He will lead the authority’s finance and information technology efforts.
Peoples comes to GRTA from Accretive Solutions, where he served as a consultant and field associate. He succeeds Monique Simmons, who joined the Georgia State Accounting Office as director of accounting, client/shared services.
LONDON, U.K.—Nick Flew has been appointed managing director of the U.K. and European operations of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB).
Flew has 28 years of technical and management experience and was previously director of Balfour Beatty Management, the U.K.-based professional services business of Balfour Beatty, which recently acquired PB. He played a key role in the acquisition and, in his new position, will lead the integration of the operations of Balfour Beatty Management and the UK/Europe operation of PB.
ATLANTA, GA—Harry E. Strate, P.E., has joined Stantec as the leader of its transportation practice in the southeastern U.S., based in Atlanta.
Strate comes to Stantec from Wilbur Smith Associates, where he most recently served as firm-wide director of transportation planning services and Southern Group leader.
Matt Wood, Rick Dunning
CINCINNATI, OH—First Transit has announced the promotions of Matt Wood to senior vice president of its eastern region and Rick Dunning to senior vice president of transit management.
Wood has more than 14 years of transportation experience, including 10 with First Transit and First Services. Dunning has worked in public transit management for more than 34 years, 28 of which were spent in a variety of positions within First Transit and First Services.
DENVER, CO—CH2M HILL announced that Kathleen L. Penney is its new northeast geographic manager for its Transportation Business Group, based in Washington, DC.
Penney has 17 years of experience to her new role. Prior to joining the firm, she was chief engineer for the District of Columbia DOT, and earlier spent more than a decade with the Federal Highway Administration.