Passenger Transport - March 15, 2010
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Capitol Hill Legislative Update: Jobs, Taxes, and Climate All Under Review

BY BRIAN TYNAN, APTA Senior Legislative Representative

As Passenger Transport went to press, two bills were pending before the U.S. Senate that contained provisions of importance to the public transportation industry.

The bill with the greatest interest for transit agencies and businesses was the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, a jobs bill that originated in the House but more recently had passed between the House and Senate for multiple amendments. The legislation includes language extending federal surface transportation programs through Dec. 31, 2010, and also would provide a transfer of $19.5 billion of general funds to the Highway Trust Fund, including $4.8 billion to the Mass Transit Account. This transfer is expected to ensure the solvency of the Mass Transit Account through the end of Fiscal Year 2011. The Senate Finance Committee based the transfer on restoring interest payments to the Highway Trust Fund.

Other provisions of the HIRE Act would expand the Build America Bonds program, allowing states and local governments to borrow at lower costs to finance more infrastructure projects and put additional people to work.

Those provisions, while not fulfilling the ultimate goal of passage of a long-term transportation authorization bill, would provide authority for continued operation of the programs beyond the current fiscal year, as well as a level of confidence that the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account will have the resources available to support spending under the programs. At press time, senators were working toward an agreement to vote on the HIRE Act the week of March 15, which would in turn send the bill to the president for his signature.

Also just prior to press time, the Senate voted to approve a package of “tax extenders”—legislation extending provisions of the tax code that had expired at the end of 2009. Although support for these provisions is largely bipartisan, the Senate was unable to reach agreement on passage of these provisions prior to their expiration last year.

Important to transit agencies is the inclusion of provisions extending the federal excise tax credit for alternative fuels. Transit operators who use alternative fuels including compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas are eligible for a 50-cent-per-gallon equivalent tax credit.

This tax credit is an important source of revenue for many public transportation agencies that use natural gas for a portion or all of their fleet fueling needs. It provides significant offsetting revenues to agencies’ fuel budgets at a very difficult time of declining state and local support for operations.

The bill was amended during Senate consideration, and as such will require either House approval or conference committee action before it can be signed by the president.

Finally, opposition to a cap-and-trade system appears strong in the Senate, and progress has stalled on a climate bill. In recent weeks, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) have worked to develop a compromise bill. Their proposal is considered likely to eliminate a transportation emissions cap and instead create a carbon tax or fee on motor fuels—a change that could generate significantly more revenue for transportation investment than previous climate bills.

The Boxer-Kerry bill approved last fall by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee provided 2.5 percent of allowances for transit and transportation investment, about $2 billion annually.

A carbon tax or fee could generate $20 billion or more annually, and a large share of new revenue could support transportation investment under the proposal.

Harding Nominated to Head TSA

On March 8, President Barack Obama nominated retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert A. Harding to lead the Transportation Security Administration as assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The nomination now goes to the Senate for confirmation.

Responsibilities of this position include oversight of America’s public transit systems, railroads, ports, and aviation network, as well as security operations for 450 federalized airports throughout the nation and the Federal Air Marshal Service.

Harding has more than 35 years of intelligence experience, working in both the military and private sectors. Following his retirement from the Army in 2001 after a 33-year career, he served as chief executive officer of Harding Security Associates, a company he founded in 2003 and sold in 2009. His last Army post was deputy chief of staff for intelligence; from 1996 to 2000, he was the director for operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency, serving as the Department of Defense’s senior human intelligence officer.

“Effective transportation security involves protecting our citizens from constantly evolving threats while facilitating legal travel and trade around the country and throughout the world,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. “Bob’s national security expertise and extensive experience in the Intelligence Community and U.S. Army will be a great asset to the department in our efforts to ensure the safety of the nation's transportation systems.”

U.S. Transit Ridership Tops 10 Billion in 2009; Slight Decrease from 52-Year Historic High in Previous Year

Americans took 10.2 billion trips on public transportation in 2009—the fourth year in a row the figure topped 10 million—according to APTA’s most recent statistics.

The ridership level was just 3.8 percent below the 52-year record set the previous year, despite high unemployment, a severe economic recession, lower gas prices, and bus and rail service cutbacks resulting from lower state and local funding.

“Given last year’s economic hardship, this small decrease in ridership from a record number of ridership trips in 2008 indicates that support for public transit remains strong,” said APTA President William Millar. “Considering that nearly 60 percent of riders take public transportation to commute to and from work, it is not surprising that ridership declined in light of the many Americans who lost their jobs last year.”

APTA noted that, despite this recent decrease in transit ridership, public transportation use is up 31 percent since 1995, a figure that is more than double the growth rate of the U.S. population (15 percent) and up substantially over the growth rate for the vehicle miles traveled on the nation’s highways (21 percent) for that same period.

Millar emphasized that public transit means good “green” jobs in addition to mobility benefits. For every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital and operations, 36,000 jobs are supported and created.

Ridership by Modes
While ridership on light rail overall—modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys—decreased 0.4 percent in 2009, two new light rail systems that started service in 2009—Phoenix and Seattle—saw increases. Other light rail systems that showed ridership growth in 2009 are in Baltimore (11.5 percent); Oceanside, CA (10.7 percent); Memphis (9.3 percent); Seattle (9.2 percent); Philadelphia (9.1 percent); Tampa (2.2 percent); San Francisco (1.2 percent); Portland, OR (0.6 percent); and New Orleans (0.1 percent).

Heavy rail, including subways and elevated trains, saw ridership fall 2.6 percent across the country during 2009, but several cities reported ridership increases for the year: Los Angeles (3.9 percent); Chicago (2.2 percent); Philadelphia (1.5 percent); and Washington, DC (0.1 percent).

Nationally, while commuter rail ridership declined by 5.0 percent in 2009, New Mexico Rail Runner Express in Albuquerque, NM—with a new rail line extension in December 2008—saw an increase of 99.5 percent. The two remaining commuter rail systems with annual increases in 2009 were located in Washington, DC (1.9 percent), and Baltimore (0.1 percent).

Large bus systems reported a decrease of 5.2 percent nationally; San Francisco’s bus system showed an increase of 1.2 percent for the year.

Demand-response (paratransit) ridership increased in 2009 by 2.7 percent and trolleybus ridership increased by 0.02 percent.
 The complete APTA ridership report is available online.

Talgo to Open U.S. Rail Plant in Milwaukee

Talgo, a manufacturer of railcars based in Spain, has announced that it will locate its first U.S. assembly plant at the former Tower Automotive site in Milwaukee. The facility will work with train car shells imported from Spain, but Talgo is expected to create 125 direct jobs in Wisconsin and about 450 indirect jobs through vendors throughout the Midwest.

Talgo Chief Executive Officer and President Antonio Perez said the company considered numerous factors before selecting the Milwaukee location, such as economic conditions, logistics, technical/operational conditions, cost of living, training facilities in the vicinity, and availability of a skilled workforce. The company noted that the former automobile plant is large enough to accommodate 14-railcar train sets and will allow for expansion.

The company had said it would locate its U.S. assembly plant in the first state to place an order for its trains. Wisconsin entered into an agreement with Talgo in 2009 to purchase two train sets—to be manufactured at the new plant—for Amtrak’s Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha service, at a cost of $47 million; the contract also includes an option for two additional trains that would serve a proposed route from Milwaukee to Madison, WI. Talgo plans to begin work on the trains by November.

More recently, Oregon DOT negotiated the purchase of two new 13-car trains from the plant for operation on Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene, OR, and Vancouver, BC.

The new trains will seat 420 people each, compared with the current capacity of 350. At first they will operate at speeds no higher than 79 mph, the current limit for most Amtrak trains, but they could run as fast as 110 mph once safety upgrades are made along the lines.

LaHood to Address WTS Annual Conference

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will lead the speakers at the 2010 Annual Conference of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, May 19-21 in Washington, DC. “The Right Place @ The Right Time” is the theme of the conference.

The event will include updates on the status of the federal surface transportation authorization bill and other key transportation-related legislation, and a presentation on U.S. high-speed and intercity rail from Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Stephen J. Gardner, vice president, policy and development, for Amtrak.

Other sessions will cover such topics as transportation and climate change; leadership and changes in the industry; transportation safety; sustainable transportation solutions; and transportation funding and identifying new sources of revenue.

More information is available online or from Margaret Mullins at (202) 955-5085 x102.

 

WMATA Appoints Sarles Interim General Manager

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has named Richard Sarles its interim general manager; he will begin his duties March 29. He succeeds John B. Catoe Jr., who is leaving the post April 2.

Earlier this year, Sarles retired from New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit), where he served most recently as executive director. He joined NJ Transit in 2002 as assistant executive director for capital programs and planning and became executive director in 2007.

Sarles is a professional engineer with more than 20 years in construction, project management, and project planning roles with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He also was a vice president of Amtrak from 1996 until 2002, leading the Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail program and subsequently heading capital program management for capital projects across the nation.

“The selection of Mr. Sarles is an important step in the board’s efforts to address safety and other important Metro issues,” said WMATA Board Chair Peter Benjamin. “We have searched for and found an experienced transit professional who will hit the ground running while we continue looking for the best permanent general manager.” He continued: “We are fortunate to have a man of Mr. Sarles’ ability who understands the many challenges we face and can immediately begin to address the safety and financial issues that so deeply concern our riders and employees.”

Wharton Named President of IMPulse NC

Jeffrey Wharton, executive vice president and general manager of IMPulse NC LLC in Mount Olive, NC, a Marmon Group/Berkshire Hathaway Company, has been promoted to president of the firm. He joined IMPulse in 1999 as head of a new division, traction power electrification, and also served as vice president, business development.

Wharton began his career in 1980 as an estimator with Kingston Contracting Inc., a nationwide electrical contractor in Burlingame, CA. During his 19 years with the company, he ran several regional offices and moved through the ranks from project manager to vice president.

He is a business member director on the APTA Board of Directors and chairs the Business Member Business Development Committee and Business Member International Business Development Subcommittee.

White House Convenes Clean Energy Forum

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) joined representatives from government at all levels, businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations, on March 3 for a White House Clean Energy Economy Forum to discuss the relationship between livable, sustainable communities and increased development and creation of jobs.

The forum, “Livability and Sustainable Communities—Taking Action for a Clean Energy Future,” was an outgrowth of the Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities established by DOT, HUD, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group discussed the need for comprehensive energy and climate legislation and opportunities to create jobs, expand business opportunities, and drive innovation and economic development by building more efficient, more livable communities.

LaHood emphasized the importance to DOT of “moving toward a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable America.” He said the partnership “will help us refocus our priorities on smart growth strategies that will help Americans lower their household transportation costs, improve air quality by lowering emissions, and reduce our dependence on oil. And we’ll spur the kind of economic activity that flows into communities when they focus on transit riders, pedestrians, and cyclists alongside cars and trucks.”

Donovan added: “Clean energy is the key to unlocking the potential of America’s economy and our ability to create jobs and build the kind of strong, sustainable, inclusive communities our country needs to compete and prosper in the 21st century.”

AC Transit Deputy GM Jim Gleich Dies

Jim Gleich, 66, deputy general manager with AC Transit in Oakland, CA, died March 7.

Gleich came to AC Transit in 1994 as an employment/accessibility specialist. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming an assistant general manager in 1997 before being named to his most recent post in 1999.

As deputy general manager, Gleich was involved with all aspects of the system’s day-to-day operations. But he primarily worked to establish and maintain liaisons and/or partnerships with customers, business leaders and community advocates as well as local, regional, state and federal officials, both elected and appointed.

Earlier, he worked for more than 30 years as an executive with state and federal government agencies. He served as chief executive officer of public agencies in both Massachusetts and South Dakota and an executive staff member for the U.S. Senate.

“It’s like losing a big brother for me and the entire AC Transit family,’’ said AC Transit Interim General Manager Mary King. “Jim cared about the people we serve, particularly those who are most dependent upon our service. I think he spent his entire career learning the ins and outs of government and public transit in order to make sure those on the outside could get in. I will miss him.”

At the time of his death, Gleich was a designated director on the APTA Board of Directors and a member of the State Affairs Committee, Policy and Planning Committee, Legislative Committee, Environmental Justice/Title VI Subcommittee, and Access Committee.

RITA’s Appel Stresses Importance of Transportation Research

“Transit is at the heart of so much of what makes communities great,” Peter Appel, administrator of DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), told the audience at the March 2 Transportation Tuesday program at the APTA offices in Washington, DC. “There is no better path to livability.”

Appel explained that RITA is “helping to shape the future of public transportation through research and analysis” by such agencies as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS); Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS); Research, Development and Technology (RD&T); University Transportation Centers (UTCs); and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. A major responsibility of his agency is to break down the information “silos” that may exist in the various modal administrations and share the research each one conducts.

For example, he noted, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration both conducted early studies on distracted driving, but work on the issue—a priority of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—could only move forward once the modes began learning from each other.

LaHood’s Distracted Driving Summit in 2009 recognized that the situation does not only affect individual drivers, according to Appel: it brought those drivers together with law enforcement officials, legislators, safety advocates, and teens, who may be avid users of text messaging. He noted: “We can’t solve the problem with one tool. We need all the tools in the toolkit … The tools are there; we just have to bring them together through common standards.”

He also described how the transportation workforce will have to adapt to ongoing changes in the industry. DOT is just one of the players in this process, he said, calling for partnerships involving universities and state governments.

Other research efforts Appel cited included the ITS Integrated Corridor Management Initiative, which examines how to make the most effective use of each mode of transportation; the national fuel cell bus program conducted by RD&T; and UTC projects that consider the installation of seatbelts on board school buses or the coordination of transit signal priority.

He also emphasized the importance of workforce development in a changing transportation landscape. “It’s going to be different in the future, so we’ll need to prepare,” Appel said. “DOT is just one of many players; we’re going to need partnerships with universities, state governments, and industry.”

Above all, Appel pointed to the “unprecedented levels of safety” offered by public transit, and noted that transit agencies understand that safety is everyone’s job.

National Rail Plan: A Top 10 Item for Authorization

BY AL ENGEL, P.E., Vice President and National Director, High-Speed Rail, AECOM, Philadelphia, PA, and Business Member Director, APTA Board of Directors

Imagine adding 100 million or more people to the U.S. population and having them compete for access to our already congested highway, rail, and aviation systems. You thought you already had a tough commute! And what about their consumption of non-renewable resources and the associated impacts on the environment?

Demographers predict that the U.S. population will expand beyond 400 million between now and 2050. In his recently published book, The Next Hundred Million, Joel Kotkin—a distinguished presidential fellow at Chapman University in Orange, CA—made a compelling argument on how the younger U.S. population, our higher birth rates, and immigration trends compared to Europe, Japan, and Russia support such projections. He went on to make the case that this expansion will lead to a bountiful economic resurgence.

Analogously, in his recent essay in the The Wall Street Journal, Kotkin observed: “Of course, this optimistic scenario depends on intelligent and energetic actions by central and local governments.…” While he doesn’t mention it, I would assume he included adequate investment in our transportation infrastructure to provide the required mobility for these additional folks.

The Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (mandated by SAFETEA-LU) issued Jan. 15, 2008, makes an unequivocal recommendation: “The U.S. now has incredible economic potential and significant transportation needs. We need to invest at least $225 billion annually from all sources for the next 50 years....” The report goes on to indicate that the U.S. is spending only about 40 percent of this amount and proposes 10 federal surface transportation programs, with intercity passenger rail included among them.

The commission envisioned “an intercity passenger rail network that provides competitive, reliable, and frequent passenger service, comparable to world-class systems in other countries.”

Making a Commitment
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 took a policy step forward in establishing a new capital grants program to begin to address the commission’s recommendation. More recently, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provided $8 billion to jump start the high-speed and intercity passenger rail program. On Jan. 28 of this year, President Barack Obama announced the ARRA high-speed rail project selections to launch the U.S. High Speed Rail program—a truly historic moment for this country.

But, as the president himself has noted on numerous occasions, this is only a down payment. So what are we to read into that comment or commitment?

From the 21st-century definition of down payment, this comment could suggest a federal program of virtually any scale between now and 2050. The commission report recommended a total capital program between now and 2050 of $357 billion, or about $9 billion per year. This may sound good; yet, were the U.S. to invest at the same rate as the rest of the world as percent of GDP, the annual investment would work out to about $60 billion, or less than a third of the total annual transportation investment recommended by the commission.

Whatever capital cost is agreed upon in the end, we’re talking a major investment of the people’s tax dollar. The people surely would insist that such a program is economically vibrant, well considered, and visionary.

To embark on such a major program, a fairly detailed plan with a proposed dedicated source of funding is critical. The Congress foresaw such a need and called for a national rail plan to be delivered by DOT this September. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is charged with this task and has been very actively working to produce a draft by the end of June. FRA has encouraged a collaborative process among public- and private-sector stakeholders.

Building on the Past
With high-speed rail already well established in parts of Europe and Asia, we are fortunate to be able to build upon the lessons learned and to work with the experienced individuals who made these networks a reality to arrive at an optimal plan. APTA’s highly successful high-speed rail practicums in early February, produced in collaboration with the International Union of Railways (UIC), is just one example of doing that. Ignacio Barron de Angoiti, director of the passenger department at UIC, served as the leader of the practicum; prior to joining the organization, he was part of the team that created Spain’s highly successful Spanish high-speed rail network, branded as the AVE system.

The Spanish system is an example that can provide many useful lessons for the way we proceed with high-speed rail in America—a fact that can be recognized by the fact that DOT and FRA officials have given it close scrutiny.

A country once considered somewhat culturally disengaged, Spain is now much more interconnected with Europe after the launch of its high-speed rail program in 1986. “The country is becoming far more intertwined,” said José María Ureña, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of Castilla-La Mancha. “In a country that tends to separate out somewhat, that can only be a good thing.”

Spanish cities and towns that were once overlooked are now becoming destinations and vibrant places to live. New economic markets are being established and linked within and across regions. A new breed of daily commuters began evolving in areas once forgotten. One could justifiably assume that similar growth could ideally take place in the many disconnected regions across America with a vibrant intercity passenger rail network incorporating high-speed rail in high-density corridors.

To facilitate industry feedback on the National Rail Plan, FRA has and will conduct further listening or feedback sessions to get the best ideas from the diversity of stakeholders.

The APTA Business Member Board of Governors created a special feedback workshop at its annual retreat in January. Representing the FRA were Deputy Administrator Karen Rae (via phone) and Ron Hynes, director of the Office of Policy. Also on the panel were Michael J. Scanlon, APTA first vice chair and general manager of the San Mateo County Transit District and Caltrain commuter rail, both in San Carlos, CA, and Steven Gardner, vice president, policy and development for Amtrak.

It was a very animated session and, through group discussion and breakout sessions, the group reached consensus that a clear statement of need and a near-term showcase project are needed. The group identified the three top issues to be addressed in the plan as:
* System definition of the national routes, service levels, operating strategy, standards, phasing of construction, capital cost estimate, operating expense, cashflow, and project delivery;
* Finance planning including projected federal source(s) of funding, local contribution, public-private partnership expectations, needed legislation, and regulation; and
* Streamlining of the environmental and regulatory process and removal of legal barriers to implementation.

At the end of the session, the panelists received a table of contents of what the participants thought should be included in the National Rail Plan. APTA staff will furnish this document to any member who requests it.

A Sustainable Challenge
High-speed rail represents a sustainable approach for meeting and dramatically addressing America’s mobility challenges, both by adding new transportation capacity and through substantial reductions in intercity travel times. The larger capacity will so desperately be needed to achieve our full economic potential with a nation of 400 million people by 2050.

We have a chance to bring about a new, fourth generation of positive public transportation development. Through collaboration and cooperation among all the transit modal interests and other stakeholders, we have a chance to build on the preceding heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail programs and work toward a balanced and fully integrated national transportation system that includes high-speed rail.

Through the guidance and vision bestowed by a comprehensive National Rail Plan, the U.S. can begin to realize the high-speed rail vision President Obama has so eloquently laid out for us. We must do our part in communicating our expectations of this unprecedented opportunity.

The Legislative Process for Public Transit: A Whirlwind of Activity on Numerous Fronts

BY J. BARRY BARKER, Executive Director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY, and APTA Vice Chair-Government Affairs

With the APTA Legislative Conference convening this weekend, I wanted to take a look back at where we’ve been, where we are, and—most importantly—where we’re going.

The past year has been an incredibly complicated one, a whirlwind of legislative activity kicked off by debate on the economic stimulus bill that ultimately provided $8.4 billion for public transportation and $8 billion for high-speed rail.

Nearly simultaneously, Congress was finalizing its omnibus Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Appropriations bill that provided $10.2 billion for public transit and $90 million for intercity passenger rail, a modest increase over the FY 2008 enacted levels.
 The appropriations bill for FY 2010, which was finalized late in 2009, again came in the form of a larger combined bill that provided nearly flat funding of $10.7 billion for public transit with an additional $2.5 billion for high-speed rail. Unfortunately, despite being appropriated by Congress, the FY 2010 funding cannot be fully accessed because of the lack of authorizing legislation.

Most notably, 2009 also saw the expiration of SAFETEA-LU. At midnight on Oct, 1, 2009, the bill that authorized transit and highway programs lapsed. Since its expiration, Congress has enacted four short-term extensions, resulting in uncertainty for recipients of federal transit funds.

Prior to the expiration, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) released the Surface Transportation Act of 2009, a comprehensive legislative proposal that would provide $450 billion for transit and highways and $50 billion for high-speed rail; however, no compromise could be reached on how to fund the program.

Moving forward, our number one priority is completing a long-term authorization bill. This legislation will provide the predictable funding source needed by our members to ensure continued operations. In the absence of an agreement on how to pay for a six-year bill, we support a year-long authorization extension that will allow for apportionments to be made on a regular basis.

Authorization aside, the president has released his FY 2011 budget proposal, requesting near-flat funding for transit at $10.8 billion, an additional $1 billion for high-speed rail, and $300 million for public transportation and railroad security grants. Noticeably absent from the Administration’s request was funding to implement positive train control (PTC) technologies.

Two issues that dominated Congressional discussions in 2009 were climate change and job creation legislation. The Senate climate change proposal would have benefited transit by directing a modest percentage of funds received from the auctioning of cap-and-trade emission allowances toward public transportation investments, while the House proposal sought to direct funding toward public transit investment—though at a considerably lower percentage. Despite lengthy debate and intense negotiations, the highly differing bills did not generate consensus and, unfortunately, have not yet advanced beyond consideration in their respective chambers.

As we get word that the Senate is looking to create a new plan with bipartisan input, this year we expect Congress to take a fresh look at climate change and energy legislation, seeking new strategies to finance transit projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We also anticipate the livable communities initiative will remain in the forefront as Congress, DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency work to promote innovative ideas to develop sustainable communities.

Jobs creation legislation was another hotly debated topic, with Congress seeking ways to create and sustain jobs to stimulate the economy.

In 2009, this came from the House in the form of the Jobs for Main Street Act, a bill that not only would provide an additional $8.4 billion for transit, but also included an extension of SAFETEA-LU through the end of FY 2010, as well as an infusion of cash to ensure solvency of the transit and highway accounts of the Highway Trust Fund. The House and Senate have not yet been able to reach a compromise on this particular bill.

In 2010, we expect to see quick movement on several jobs bills. Earlier this year, the Senate introduced the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act that will provide an extension of SAFETEA-LU through Dec. 31, 2010, as well as a transfer of funds to the Highway Trust Fund to ensure solvency through the end of FY 2011 (but does not include additional funding for transit as does the House bill). We also anticipate a second jobs bill to be introduced in the Senate, benefiting our transit providers by extending through December 2010 volumetric excise tax credits that provide much-needed tax breaks to our members who use compressed natural gas to fuel their vehicles. While it is unclear at this point whether the Senate intends to take up a third jobs bill that will provide new funding for transportation, APTA is actively supporting such a measure.

And finally, 2009 also brought a shift in APTA legislative policy with the adoption of new policies and an amendment to APTA’s Surface Transportation Authorization Recommendations. In addition to funding traditional transit priorities, the recommendations now include a policy supporting temporary operating subsidies from non-Highway Trust Fund monies, a result of the worsening economic situation and its impact on state and local transit aid.

Requesting that Congress provide temporary operating funding is critical to APTA members. Not only will these funds preserve existing jobs and create new ones, they will also allow transit providers to avoid reductions in service to their riders.

APTA adopted another new policy following the passage of the Rail Safety Act in 2008, mandating that all publicly operated passenger railroads implement PTC technologies by 2015 and authorizing $50 million in annual appropriations over five years to facilitate this rollout. A survey of APTA members, however, found the financial need to be significantly higher, totaling upwards of $2 billion for commuter railroads to meet the requirement by the federally imposed deadline. APTA has approved policy language requesting that Congress provide additional funds to achieve these safety requirements. Building off the significant federal investment, APTA also approved language that calls for $50 billion in non-Highway Trust Fund monies to be used toward the creation of a next-generation domestic high-speed rail network in the next transportation authorization bill.

One thing is for certain: with the 2010 Congressional midterm elections looming on the horizon, it is imperative that Congress act before the session is over to provide a long-term funding solution for our transportation needs, as well as to lay the groundwork for innovative new programs that can provide public transit with alternative sources of funding.

Conference Goers Convene in Washington to Examine Legislative Issues

With transportation authorization still on the table before Congress and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act providing thousands of transit-related jobs in its first year, participants in the 35th Annual APTA Legislative Conference have a lot to consider as they meet in Washington, DC, March 14-16.

Speakers on the conference schedule include Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff; and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

Conference activities kicked off during the weekend with numerous committee meetings, the “Welcome to Washington” session featuring published author and commentator Stuart Rothenberg, and the Welcoming Reception.

Before LaHood addresses the Opening General Session on March 15, APTA’s business members will host a breakfast speaker that morning. This will be followed by a session on “Expanding the Transit Coalition: Partners in Transportation Authorization,” scheduled to include representatives of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and Reconnecting America.

Following a lunchtime performance by the satirical group The Capitol Steps, the Monday afternoon schedule features Rogoff, Szabo, and other speakers from DOT’s modal administrations; the “View from the Hill” session, where key congressional staff will report on legislative issues facing the transit industry such as authorization, jobs, transit rail safety, and climate change. There will also be concurrent sessions focusing on high-speed and commuter rail, as well as on climate change, sustainability, livability, and public transportation.

Tuesday's Schedule
Members of Congress—including Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee; John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the full T&I committee; Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Steven LaTourette (R-OH); and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee—will speak at the March 16 Morning General Session, which opens with a full breakfast. The rest of the day’s schedule is open to allow conference participants to visit Capitol Hill and meet with their elected representatives and their staff members to discuss a range of issues, including the economic, environmental, and energy conservation benefits of public transportation.

From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., APTA is partnering with the Amalgamated Transit Union to host its annual Capitol Hill reception for lawmakers and staffers in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Following the conference on Wednesday, March 17, APTA will host a half-day workshop on changes in the Federal Transit Administration’s New and Small Starts programs. Participants are asked to register in advance at the APTA registration desk.

Finding a Path Through the Capitol Hill Maze: Tracking the Legislative Process

By SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Too often, people unfamiliar with the federal legislative process may feel as if they’re walking into uncharted territory when they want to express an opinion on an issue. The fact is that the legislative process—from introduction of a bill to enactment—is an orderly progression of steps, if not always in the same direction. Here’s a path to help visitors make their way forward.

The trip begins when a member of Congress writes a bill and submits it to the body in which he or she serves. Leadership of the full chamber refers the legislation to the appropriate committee for consideration.

Determining which committee will receive the legislation, though, may be a less straightforward process. For example, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers transportation authorization bills, including public transit, but transit financing issues (including the Highway Trust Fund) go to the Ways and Means Committee, while the House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over the apportionment of funds. The DOT appropriations bill also covers the Department of Housing and Urban Development, while the Department of Homeland Security has its own appropriations bill, which includes transit security.

The situation among the different modes of transportation is even more dispersed in the Senate: the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversees public transit; the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee does the same for highways; and the Commerce Committee has responsibility for passenger and freight rail, including intercity rail. The Senate Appropriations Committee takes care of transportation appropriations, but the Highway Trust Fund is the purview of the Senate Finance Committee.

As public transit is seeking to participate in climate change legislation, that process involves participating with even more committees, primarily the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate EPW.

The administration launches the legislative process for such major bills such as budgets and the pending transportation authorization bill by submitting its version of the legislation to Congress. Congress rarely enacts the administration’s bill without making changes.

Members of Congress introduce a large number of bills, many of which never progress beyond consideration by a committee or subcommittee. Legislators need a reason to move a specific bill, such as funding specific needs or dealing with a particular problem.

Steps in the Process
After the member of Congress submits his or her bill and the leadership sends it to the committee of jurisdiction, the legislation is taken up first in a subcommittee, then in the full committee. Senior committee staff plan hearings on topics related to the issues covered in the bill; they receive input from members of the committee, consult with interested organizations, and ultimately invite witnesses to testify.

The subcommittees prepare draft legislation for the full committee, incorporating information obtained during the hearings into the original bill. Separate bills on similar topics may make their way through the House and Senate at the same time, each with its own schedule for hearings, committee meetings, and procedural votes.

Subcommittee members “mark up” (amend) the draft bill until the majority agrees to submit the revised bill to the parent full committee, which then holds its own mark-up session. The full committee may insert entire new sections to the bill, even to the point of preparing a completely different version. If components of the legislation fall under the jurisdiction of another committee, it goes there after passing the primary committee by majority vote.

After the committees finish their oversight, the bill is then “reported out” to the full chamber of its respective body of Congress.

The full House and Senate debate, amend, and vote on their respective bills, after which a conference committee is formed to reconcile differences between the two and arrive at a mutually acceptable compromise.

Once the conference committee agrees on a final version of the bill, it is returned to each body of Congress for final passage. The full House and Senate must vote on conference bills in their entirety, exactly as presented by the conferees. When the conference bill has passed both houses, it goes to the president for signature or veto.

Participating in a Hearing
An important part of any hearing before a House or Senate committee is the participation of expert witnesses who can share their experience with the panel. In the case of public transportation, these could be professionals from either the public or private sector or from academia.

“We get witnesses from a variety of places,” said Jim Berard, director of communications for the House T&I Committee. “Many are recommended to us by experts in the field; some are people we’ve already dealt with in the past; and some we’ve stumbled across because they’ve published on the topic of the hearing or are in the forefront of an issue that is of interest to the committee.”

According to Berard, committee members and professional organizations may recommend people who are knowledgeable on a specific issue being covered by a hearing. “Very often, the idea to hold a hearing itself might come from a suggestion by an association or an industry, which would then lend itself to bringing [someone from] that organization forward as a witness.” Berard added that organizations with knowledgeable employees should reach out to Congressional committees for possible participation in a hearing.

Justin Harclerode, communications director for the committee’s Republican staff and members, described the procedure through which a Congressional panel selects witnesses for a hearing. “Generally, the majority party finds most of the witnesses, though the minority has some input into the selection as well,” he explained. “A lot of times, the witnesses will come from industry groups in Washington, but members of the committee will certainly have good ideas about who might serve as a good witness on a topic, based on their affiliations in their home states and local communities.”

The witnesses submit their written testimony in advance of the hearing, so all committee members can receive copies. The text of the written testimony appears on the committee’s web site following the hearing.

The entire process can take some detours: many bills never emerge from committee, while others become part of larger pieces of legislation, or re-emerge in a slightly different form. But all these steps ultimately lead to enactment of a federal law.

 

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Legislative History
Major Actions:
1/26/2009 – Introduced in House
1/28/2009 – Passed/agreed to in House: Passed: 244 (Yeas) – 188 (Nays).
2/10/2009 – Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment by vote of 61 (Yeas) – 37 (Nays).
2/12/2009 – Conference report H. Rept. 111-16 filed.
2/13/2009 – Conference report agreed to in House: On agreeing to the conference report, 246 (Yeas) – 183 (Nays), 1 Present.
2/13/2009 – Conference report agreed to in Senate: Senate agreed to conference report by vote of 60 (Yeas) – 38 (Nays).
2/13/2009 – Cleared for White House.
2/16/2009 – Presented to President.
2/17/2009 – Signed by President.
2/17/2009 – Became Public Law No. 111-005.

Making the Most of Your Capitol Hill Visits: Easy to Follow Tips and Techniques

Question: How can APTA members participating in the 2010 Legislative Conference make the most of their time in Washington?

Answer: They can state their case for increased federal investment in public transportation by visiting their members of Congress or their staff.

To help them achieve maximum efficiency in these meetings, here are some tips and techniques culled from people who have significant longtime experience “in the trenches.”

* Concentrate on members of Congress from your home state. Legislative advocacy is most effective when done by constituents. Start with these representatives—regardless of their committee assignments—then, if you have time, meet with other decision-making members who do not depend on your vote.

* Present concrete examples. Local stories and statistics are of paramount importance when speaking to a legislator. Real-life stories of how public transit benefits people in your community and state will help members of Congress and their staffs understand your perspective. For example, you can describe how service improvements will allow a faster commute for constituents, or how additional station accessibility will make transit more available to more residents. Business members can stress the number of jobs this project will create in the district and state. Just remember to tell your story.

* Talk to the right person. Identify the staff member responsible for transportation issues before the visit—and make your appointment in advance. By looking forward, you won’t waste your time, hoping the staffer makes time for you. Also, it is to your advantage to speak with the person most likely to have a background in your specific issue or project.

* Be honest. This is the highest priority—you can’t be effective if people don’t trust you. Competent Congressional staffers will frequently ask an array of questions—all reasonable but some, at times, touchy. Just be prepared to answer honestly and fairly.

* Be specific. Don’t just say: “Our transit agency needs more money.” Instead, provide details of specific projects. Tell them what you need, then listen to what they say they can provide. To make such a conversation work, you must know and understand what they’re talking about, which leads to . . .

* Do your homework. Before going to Capitol Hill, become familiar with the issues. You’ll reach maximum effectiveness if you are fluent not only with your agency’s situation, but also with what Congress can do to help find a solution. In other words, the more you know, the better off you’ll be.

* Understand the legislator’s position. A member of Congress has to deal with many competing interests and requests for funding and assistance. Even the best legislator has to balance these requests and determine which ones take precedence. Recognize these political realities when making a request.

* Be on time. Arrive promptly for your appointment, adding in time to clear security.

* Keep the visit brief and focused. Your visit to a Congressional office will be most effective if you speak simply yet specifically, saying: “This is who I am, this is what my organization needs, and these are the facts.” Most veteran advocates recommend staying no more than five minutes. At the start of the meeting, thank the legislator (or staffer) for his or her previous support. Bring concise, to-the-point materials to distribute in the office before you leave—nothing voluminous or hard to read. Think user-friendly, with limited text, charts, and graphs.

* Anticipate questions—and prepare answers. Before you set foot in a Congressional office, take the time back home to prepare for the visit by thinking through your questions and answers, even rehearsing your approach with a colleague. Develop your message (talking points). Research the legislator’s past votes or statements on the issue, the position of the legislator’s party, and his or her committee assignments.

* Be aware of counter-arguments; be ready for what you don’t know. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it and promise to find out the answer and provide it quickly.

* Remember that the process is a dialogue. Don’t do all the talking. Ask directly and politely for the policymaker’s views and position on the issue and what he or she plans to do. Do not let the policymaker or staffer distract you with other topics; gently steer the conversation back to your issue. Avoid responding to subjects raised that veer from your key points.

* Don’t mistakenly become too comfortable. You are a constituent, so your member of Congress and his or her staff will treat you with courtesy and respect—even if they disagree with your position. Don't mistake this respect for agreement; make sure you know where the legislator stands on the issue.

* Be patient. Realize that building a relationship takes time.

* Stay focused. Remain on point when making your presentation. Have a message and stick to it—and be as polite as possible.

* Follow up. Take the time to send a thank-you note after your visit; courtesy can make a difference. Don’t be in touch only when you want something from your representatives, and remember to thank them additionally when they take a position you agree with.

* Keep the lines of communication open.  Even if the representative does not agree with your cause, offer that individual the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with you and hear your perspective.  Your contact with the legislator or staffer should go beyond the actual visit: calling, writing letters, and e-mailing should also be part of the process.

40th Earth Day Anniversary: APTA ‘Tells Its Story’

As part of its “Telling Our Story” initiative, APTA has partnered with the organizers of the annual Earth Day movement, which marks its 40th anniversary on April 22 of this year, to develop outreach tools and creative advertising.

Specifically, APTA is working with the organizers to develop an Earth Day Toolkit that will include template press releases, sample proclamations, outreach ideas, and creative advertising that highlights the use of public transportation—among other activities—to help save the environment.

Public transportation is a green industry, and transit agencies are working to make it greener.

The advertising campaign will feature a few celebrities and everyday people, including public transit riders flashing the “I am E” sign noting their commitment to the environment.

APTA Chair M.P. Carter has made “Telling Our Story” her signature initiative, encouraging APTA and all its members to tell the story of public transportation’s many benefits in new ways, to even wider audiences.

Public transportation agencies will join in the celebration of Earth Day with a variety of green initiatives and activities aimed at raising awareness and improving the environment.

The broad audience Earth Day reaches is a perfect venue for the public transit industry to promote the environmental benefits of public transportation.

This story is one of critical importance for lawmakers and the general public. Whether it’s a stronger economy, better environmental sustainability, or greater energy independence, public transportation takes us there.

These efforts will be guided by the Telling Our Story Task Force, led by co-chairs Tom Costello, assistant managing director of the Champaign-Urbana (IL) Mass Transit District, and Alice Wiggins-Tolbert, director of project development for Parsons Brinckerhoff in Atlanta.

APTA invites all members to tell their stories and help spread the message of the importance of public transportation for a stronger, healthier, more prosperous America.

In preparation for this effort, APTA will hold a webinar to assist local transit agencies with Earth Day event planning at 2 p.m. Eastern time on March 18. To participate in the webinar, call (800) 377-8846. For information, contact Mantill Williams or Mark Neuville.

Sharing Transit Stories in Florida

In Florida, the spotlight is about to shine on public transportation riders!

The Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) invites members of the public to participate in APTA’s nationwide “Telling Our Story” effort by sharing their true stories about the benefits they have received by using any of the state’s 28 public transportation systems.

Entrants are urged to be creative and tell what they are doing with the time and money they save by taking public transit—through a brief essay, video, or photo and caption. The judges are looking especially for stories, photos, and videos that can be used in a statewide campaign to educate the public on the benefits of transit and to show how individual Floridians are enjoying their rides. 

The association must receive all submissions by May 31. The first-place winner will receive a 42-inch flat screen high-definition television set, while second and third places will each receive a third-generation iPod Touch.

ABC Companies Help Raise Funds, Provide Transport for Haiti Relief

ABC Companies joined with its employees and business partners to raise $10,730 for earthquake relief in Haiti through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which gives 100 percent of donations to charities on the ground in Haiti—and partnered with a private bus operator and a charity organization to transport medical professionals and supplies to the island nation.

Michele Boston, executive director of No Time for Poverty, a foundation based in St. Paul, MN, explained that a chance meeting with Tom DeMatteo, ABC senior vice president and general counsel, literally put the wheels in motion to help mobilize her team after a connecting flight was canceled in Florida.

No Time for Poverty had organized a team of 25 surgeons, doctors, nurses, anesthetists, and emergency medical technicians to fly from Fort Pierce, FL, to Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. The medical team and more than 2,000 pounds of medical supplies were stranded in Miami, however, when their flight to Fort Pierce was canceled at the last minute.

DeMatteo worked with Jim Morrison, vice president of sales for ABC Companies, to arrange transportation to Fort Pierce with Endeavor Bus Company, a motorcoach tour and sightseeing operator in Miami. Endeavor donated the use of a bus and a driver.

 

Representatives of No Time for Poverty and its medical team pose in front of the bus, provided by ABC Companies and a tour operator, that transported them to the Fort Pierce, FL, airport en route to Haiti.

 

SunLine Rolls Out Newest Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus

The SunLine Transit Agency in Thousand Palms, CA, continued to demonstrate its ongoing support of alternative vehicles when it unveiled its newest one—a sixth-generation hydrogen fuel cell bus—Feb. 19 at the agency’s third annual “State of Public Transit” luncheon.

Guests toured the new 40-foot Advanced Technology bus—a low floor vehicle from New Flyer—with features including a smaller, lighter fuel cell power plant; lighter hydrogen storage tanks; a smaller fuel cell thermal management system; new and improved high-voltage battery technology; and the latest in diagnostic tools and data collection. The exterior images depict a child blowing bubbles that symbolize a future of clean, renewable energy.

SunLine began operating its first fuel cell bus in 2005, but its commitment to alternative fuels dates back to 1994 when the agency converted its entire fleet to compressed natural gas.

Vincent Valdes, associate administrator for research, demonstration, and innovation for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), reported on current FTA research and development programs at a presentation following the bus dedication ceremony. His office provides research leadership to the public transit industry and facilitates the development of transit technologies and techniques that support national transportation goals.

“This was more than simply learning about what’s on the drawing boards for tomorrow,” said SunLine General Manager C. Mikel Oglesby. “It was an opportunity to see how agencies such as SunLine are embracing and utilizing these new technologies today.”

 

Vincent Valdes of FTA, left, joins SunLine Transit Agency General Manager C. Mikel Oglesby at the unveiling of the agency's new sixth-generation hydrogen fuel cell bus.

Ride Healthier in Snohomish County

Community Transit (CT) in Snohomish County, WA, has entered into a partnership with county government to promote healthier commuting options along three high-congestion roads in the agency’s service area. “Curb the Congestion” invites residents and commuters along these routes to get out of their cars, offering information and personalized assistance to plan a bus trip, find a biking or walking route, or join a carpool or vanpool.

In addition to working with a travel specialist, Curb the Congestion participants have web tools and resources available. They can use an easy online calendar to log their trips and track eligibility for prize drawings. The calendar can also track the impact of an individual’s new travel alternative, such as air pollution prevented and money saved. Program participants who log their alternative trips at least 12 days a month are eligible to win incentive prizes of $250 per month or $1,000 per quarter.

CT operates the program that is funded by the county through development mitigation fees and federal grants.

Dramatic Rescue in Phoenix

Two Phoenix Police employees, part of the Transit Bureau under the Homeland Security Division—Matt Brandt and Terrell Grandberry—were on duty the night of March 2, waiting for a southbound train at a Valley Metro Rail light rail station in Phoenix, when an inebriated man stood up from his bench, lost his balance, and tumbled onto the tracks—with a train no more than 100 feet away. The surveillance video is stunning: suddenly the two civilian police assistants are seen running into the video frame toward the victim and pulling him off the tracks as the train continued its approach.

As the transit report noted, the train operator did see the victim fall and stopped the train just short of the platform using the emergency brake—effectively buying time for Brandt and Grandberry to lift the man back onto the platform.

Neither man lost time in running to rescue the victim, saying it was adrenaline that propelled them onto the track. “We really didn’t have time to think about it,” said Grandberry. “We just did what we had to do.” Added Brandt: “I just wanted to help [the victim], save his life.”

Nonetheless, both men are being considered for awards for their heroic act.

INIT Helps TransLink Get the Gold

When the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) carried record numbers of riders during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, BC, INIT, Innovations in Transportation Inc., helped the effort with its fleet management software.

TransLink confirmed providing 1.5 million rides each day—60 percent more than normal—during the games on its rapid transit lines, bus routes, trains, and SeaBuses. INIT has provided advanced fleet management software to TransLink since 2006, along with onboard computers on more than 1,500 of the agency’s vehicles in preparation for the event.

Free St. Patrick’s Day Rides in Twin Cities

For the 12th consecutive year, Metro Transit in Minneapolis/St. Paul is partnering with MillerCoors to provide free rides home on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, as a safe transportation alternative to driving. While Metro Transit is spearheading the program, the partnership includes the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority in Burnsville, MN, and Plymouth Metrolink in Plymouth, MN.

From 6 p.m. until the end of service March 17, the three transit agencies will provide free rides on all buses and Hiawatha Line light rail to and from such holiday destinations as restaurants, family gatherings, events, and other venues.

Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb called the partnership “a great way to introduce people to the convenience of riding the bus and train, especially on popular holidays when many people are out celebrating. We encourage everyone to make public transportation part of their St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Using free train and bus service helps ensure people get home safely.”

Register Early for Bus Conference

Spring is just around the corner and so is the 2010 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference & International Bus Roadeo, May 2-5 in Cleveland, OH. Early bird registration ends March 19, so make plans now to participate in a program featuring numerous speakers and events geared towards those in the bus and paratransit industry.

In keeping with APTA’s theme of “Telling Our Story,” the keynote speaker, Marc Buoniconti, will share his story during the conference. Buoniconti was a 19-year-old football player at the Citadel when he received a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down; since then he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Miami and has raised more than $200 million for spinal research through the Miami Fund.

The schedule also recognizes the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), with sessions including “Celebrating and Looking Beyond the 20th Anniversary of the ADA” and the National Transit Institute/Federal Transit Administration International Forum on Innovative Practices on Global Accessibility; sessions on pandemic risk management and driver distraction; technical tours; and other educational opportunities.

This year also features the opportunity to take advantage of two notable sessions—“Emergency Preparedness & Management...An ‘All Hazards’ Approach” and “ITS and Information Technology Merging”—via webcast. This will allow viewers to see and hear the panelists, observe their presentations, and even submit questions live and in real time. More information is available here.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, host system for the conference, will highlight its highly successful “TransitStat” program at the host forum. Based on the PerformanceStat strategy, GCRTA has taken this concept and applied it to become a popular and revolutionary new way of managing a transit agency management team. The authority also will offer a discussion of “Branded Transportation Services” and how branding an agency’s services can drive up ridership levels and civic and customer appeal.

The annual Bus Roadeo brings together bus operators and mechanics from across North America for competition in several areas, followed by the Customer Service Challenge for operators. Roadeo winners will be recognized at the annual roadeo awards banquet with live music, great food, and the presentation of awards.

Manufacturers’ representatives participate in the annual Bus Display and the Bus Products & Services Showcase, providing information and answers to bus-related questions. Lunch will be provided to all Bus & Paratransit Conference recipients at both events.

For more information about the conference, visit the APTA web site.

 

MARTA Takes Top Prize at Call Center Challenge

Iris Bernard-Glover of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority took top honors in APTA’s 2010 Call Center Challenge, held Feb. 23 during the APTA Marketing and Communications Workshop in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

APTA sponsors the challenge to spotlight the importance of customer service within public transportation call centers and to recognize individuals who excel in this area.

The judging process began with a preliminary round in January, from which seven finalists were selected to compete in front of a live audience at the workshop. The other finalists were Veronica Salas, Chicago Transit Authority; Michael Moran, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District; Natarshal Miles, Capital District Transportation Authority, Albany, NY; Sarah Farahani, Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink), Los Angeles; Judy Mosley, Central Ohio Transit Authority, Columbus; and Sandy Evans, Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink), Peoria, IL

The annual competition tests call center personnel on their customer service skills in three random scenarios. Judges grade the contestants on their ability to resolve each inquiry, with the top prize going to the one with the highest overall score.

Here are a few examples of the questions that challenged the entrants:

Trip planning. “I got called for jury duty and I have to get to the county courthouse next Thursday morning. I never drive downtown and want to take transit. Can you help me?”

General. “I bought a monthly pass and am going out of the country for the next six weeks. Can I get a refund for the remaining days of the month since I won’t be able to use my pass?” and “I have a one-month-old and have never been on the bus. Do I need to provide a car seat for my baby? Is the bus safe?”

Irate. “I have to wait for at least three trains every morning at rush hour. Can’t you run any more so they aren’t so crowded?” and “When I was boarding the bus this morning, your driver said, ‘Hop on board, sexy.’ I found this very offensive.”

In addition to the Call Center Challenge, APTA’s Marketing and Communications and International Bus Roadeo committees will host a Customer Service Challenge for bus operators in conjunction with the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference and International Bus Roadeo in Cleveland in May. More information is available from Jack Gonzalez.

 

Contestants in the 2010 Call Center Challenge include, from left, Judy Mosley, Natarshal Miles, Sandy Evans, winner Iris Bernard-Glover, Sarah Farahani, Veronica Salas, and Michael Moran.

 

What’s Happening at TCRP

The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) reminds public transportation researchers of the following events and deadlines.

TCRP is accepting potential study topics for Fiscal Year 2010 through March 31. This program reports on industry best practices, producing a compendium of the best knowledge available that has been successful in resolving specific public transportation issues and/or alleviating transit-related problems.

TCRP Research Problem Statements for FY 2011 are due June 15. The TCRP program is currently soliciting statements identifying research needs topical to the public transportation industry, emphasizing research solutions to a variety of transit problems and in support of the FTA’s strategic research goals.

Automatic e-mail alerts about newly received TCRP reports are available by visiting the web site and registering by clicking on the “Receive the Latest TCRP Reports” icon.

The National Transit Institute is joining with TCRP to present free webinars this spring on the latest TCRP reports. More information will appear at the TCRP web site and here.

Questions about TCRP may be sent here.

BMBG Announces Call for Business Member Nominations

The APTA Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) Nominating Committee is accepting nominations until 5 p.m. Eastern time March 26 from individuals interested in representing APTA’s private sector members in leadership positions. The nomination form and information can be found online; no late submissions will be accepted.

The committee will select APTA business members to fill the following positions this year:
* Twelve members to serve two-year terms on BMBG;
* The BMBG chair, first vice chair, and second vice chair; and
* Other positions on the BMBG that might become vacant during 2010.

All these positions will become effective at the end of the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX, in October. The BMBG will hold the election on the slate of nominees Monday, June 7, during the APTA Rail Conference in Vancouver, BC.

The BMBG sets the course and direction for APTA business member activities and normally meets four times per year, usually in conjunction with major APTA meetings.

In previous years, the BMBG also sought nominations for the business member positions on the APTA Board of Directors at this time. This year, the BMBG anticipates that these nominations will be submitted directly to the APTA Nominating Committee in June 2010, reflecting changes in the APTA bylaws.

The committee will take into account BMBG and APTA participation.

Delon Hampton, immediate past chair of the BMBG, chairs the committee. Its members include Pat Biedar, Jeff Boothe, Raul Bravo, and Pat Scully.

Information regarding the nomination process is available from Fran Hooper, APTA’s BMBG staff advisor.

APTA Now Accepting Award Nominations

The APTA Awards Committee has announced that it will accept nominations through April 19 for the 2010 APTA Awards program.

Called the “best of the best” of the public transportation industry, the recipients of the APTA Awards are outstanding role models of excellence, leadership, and innovation whose accomplishments have greatly advanced public transportation.

Award categories for 2010 are: Outstanding Public Transportation Manager; Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member; Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member; Outstanding Business Executive of the Year; Local Distinguished Service; Hall of Fame; Innovation; and Outstanding Public Transportation System.

The awards will be presented at ceremonies during the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in October in San Antonio, TX.

APTA invites members to participate in the awards program by nominating top individuals and organizations who deserve to be recognized for their significant contributions.

More information about the awards program, including nomination criteria, is available online or from Erin Cartwright.

Seeking Abstracts on Planning Issues

APTA is accepting abstracts through March 25 to be considered for presentation at the 2010 Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop, July 26-28 in New York City.

This workshop offers information on best practices and successful projects to promote and advance the work of public transportation planners and schedulers, both established professionals and individuals who are new to the field.

Presentations should offer the latest information relating to all areas of transit planning and scheduling. A list of suggested topics and a downloadable abstract form are available on the official Call for Presentations letter on the online workshop page; however, topic ideas outside these areas will also be considered. APTA will acknowledge all abstract submittals upon receipt.

To submit abstracts or get more information about the workshop, contact Kevin Dow.

People on the Move

James Fang, Bob Franklin
OAKLAND, CA –James Fang, the longest-serving member of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District Board of Directors, has been elected to his third non-consecutive term as the board’s president. He succeeds Thomas Blalock.

Fang joined the board in 1990, representing portions of San Francisco. He previously served as president of the BART board in 1998 and 2004, and as vice president in 1997, 2003, and 2008.

The board elected Bob Franklin to his first term as vice president. He has served as a board member since 2004, representing Kensington, Piedmont, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, and portions of Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, and Castro Valley.


Bob Oswald
ELYRIA, OH—Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC announced the retirement of company Chairman Bob Oswald. He was appointed chairman of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems in October 2003 after serving as chairman and chief executive officer since March 2002.

Prior to joining Bendix, Oswald was chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Robert Bosch Corporation, the North American subsidiary of the Stuttgart, Germany-based Robert Bosch GmbH. He also was a member of the Bosch Board of Management. Oswald joined the Bosch organization in 1989, and held his board and North American management positions from July 1996 until his retirement in December 2000.


Jeff Comerchero, Bob Buster, Doug McAllister
RIVERSIDE, CA—The Riverside Transit Agency’s Board of Directors unanimously elected Temecula Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Comerchero, a board member since 2000, to take leadership of the 20-member governing board. He succeeds Corona Mayor Karen Speigel.

Board members also unanimously elected Riverside County District 1 Supervisor Bob Buster as vice chair and Murrieta City Councilman Doug McAllister as second vice chair.

John Zaragoza, Maricela Morales
OXNARD, CA—Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza was elected chair of the Board of Directors of Gold Coast Transit (GCT). He succeeds Dr. Thomas Holden of Oxnard, who will remain on the board and on the Oxnard City Council as the city’s elected mayor.

Zaragoza has served on the GCT Board for one year, having been elected to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 2008. Earlier he served 12 years on the Oxnard City Council. He was a city employee for more than 30 years, spending the last 15 years as head of the Solid Waste Division. Early in his career, Zaragoza was a bus driver for Oxnard City Lines, a predecessor agency to GCT.

Councilmember Maricela Morales of Port Hueneme, associate executive director of the local non-profit organization CAUSE, will serve as vice chair for the coming year. She joined the board about a year ago, replacing the late Toni Young.

Dave Gossett, Joe Marine, Mike Todd
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA—The Community Transit Board of Directors selected Snohomish County Council Chair Dave Gossett to serve as its chair for 2010.

Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine is vice chair of the board and Mill Creek Mayor Mike Todd is its secretary.

William R. (Bill) Mooney
NEW YORK, NY—Halcrow announced the hiring of William R. (Bill) Mooney as a senior manager of the firm’s U.S. rail practice, based in Chicago. As vice president, rail, he will work to expand the company’s rail capabilities, with particular emphasis on expansion into the high-speed rail market.
 Mooney joins Halcrow after more than 33 years with the Chicago Transit Authority, beginning in 1977 as a transit professional trainee and ultimately serving as chief operations officer.



Jeffrey Ritter
FORT WORTH, TX—Jeffrey Ritter has been appointed to the board of directors of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority by the Tarrant County Commissioners Court. He succeeds Jeane Grisham, who represented the county on the board since November 2006.

Ritter is professor of computer/technology at Brookhaven College, a licensed realtor, and a professional musician.





Art Hadnett
LOS ANGELES, CA—Stantec announced the promotion of Art Hadnett to vice president. He has served as the company’s California transportation practice leader and senior principal since 2008 and has a total of more than 28 years of engineering consulting experience.








Peter Gertler, Hugh Fuller
KANSAS CITY, MO—HNTB Corporation and HNTB Holdings Ltd. have named Peter Gertler a senior vice president. Gertler, who leads the firm’s high-speed rail services group, is based in the firm’s Oakland, CA,. office.

Gertler has 23 years of experience in public transportation and program management. Since joining HNTB in 2004, he has worked as a project manager and technical lead on numerous high-profile projects and initiatives and led the firm’s rail and transit practice before becoming HNTB’s high-speed rail services chair.

He is an executive board member and president emeritus and board member of the California High Speed Rail Association. For APTA, he chairs the High-Speed and Intercity Rail Program Subcommittee and is a member of the full High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee; Public-Private Partnerships Committee; and Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee.

Also, Hugh Fuller joined the Seattle office of HNTB Corporation as northwest railway practice manager, with responsibility for rail projects in Seattle; Portland, OR; and western Canada. During his more than 30 years of experience in transportation and railway engineering, he has managed or designed more than a dozen light rail, streetcar, and commuter rail projects.  Fuller comes to HNTB from CH2M HILL, where he was a chief engineer in the transportation business group. He is a member of the APTA Track and Noise/Vibration Technical Forum.

Philip L. Meaders
DALLAS, TX—Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN) announced the promotion of Philip L. Meaders, P.E., to vice president.

Since joining LAN in 1985, Meaders has served in a broad variety of engineering projects. He has been responsible for construction management, construction phase engineering, civil design, structural design, quality assurance programs, and construction inspection within the firm’s Infrastructure, Transit and Education Business Groups.



Billy Hamilton
AUSTIN, TX—Billy Hamilton, former deputy comptroller of public accounts for the state of Texas, has joined the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a financial consultant focusing on financial planning, financial performance measurements, budget processes, and communication to various stakeholder groups.

During his more than 20 years of executive-level financial experience, Hamilton also served on special assignment to the state of California to conduct a performance review and has advised the World Bank on issues of public debt management, performance management, and tax policy.


John J. Haley
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—John J. Haley has joined the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) as director of transit. He is responsible for the overall direction, management, and operations of San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) service.

Haley is a national leader in the transportation industry with more than 30 years of public and private sector experience. He comes to Muni from Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, where he was vice president of infrastructure and service development.

Earlier, Haley served as a deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, deputy general manager of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, and a strategic advisor to major transportation agencies nationwide.

Haley takes over from David Hill, interim director of transit, who has resumed his role as deputy director of bus operations.

Bryan P. Mulqueen, Michael T. McNamara, Eric Stassevitch
HARRISBURG, PA—Gannett Fleming (GF) announced the appointments of Bryan P. Mulqueen, P.E., as a vice president and manager of transit and rail for the firm’s Delmarva and Southeast regions, based in Raleigh, NC; Michael T. McNamara, P.E., a senior associate and executive vice president and chief operating officer of Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems, based in Valley Forge, PA; and Eric Stassevitch, P.E., a senior project manager in the company’s project management oversight practice, based in San Francisco.

Mulqueen has more than 20 years of experience managing major transportation infrastructure programs and large multidisciplinary regional teams. McNamara specializes in train control, traction power, and communications systems for rail transportation, with more than 35 years experience. Stassevitch comes to GF with more than 30 years of experience, including serving as a senior manager on major, multi-billion-dollar capital improvement programs.












Ken Westbrook

CHICAGO, IL—Veolia Transportation Inc. announced the promotion of Ken Westbrook to chief operating officer of its transit division. Previously he was senior vice president, eastern U.S., for the same division.

Earlier in his public transit career, Westbrook was general manager for Jackson, MS, and Pensacola, FL, transit operations, then regional vice president of the south/central region, for ATC, which was acquired by Veolia Transportation in 2005.



Michael A. Cairl
CANANDAIGUA, NY—Michael A. Cairl has joined the board of advisors for Eta Phi Systems Inc.

Cairl’s 30-year career has included defense contracting and transit project contracts and management, both in the U.S. and overseas. He has worked for ProjectSpan Services, Granite Halmar Construction Company, and ALSTOM Signaling Inc. on projects including New Jersey Transit Corporation’s Newark light rail extension and MTA New York City Transit’s 239th Street Interlocking.

Chris Boult
CINCINNATI, OH— Chris Boult has been appointed chief information officer for FirstGroup America, with responsibility for overseeing and directing all information technology (IT).

Boult most previously served as senior vice president of information technology for FirstGroup America’s Greyhound Lines Inc. division, based in Dallas. He has worked in the IT field for more than 24 years, 20 of them in the transportation industry.






Jeffrey S. Yeager, Carol C. Martsolf
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Urban Engineers announced the hiring of Jeffrey S. Yeager, P.E., as a senior structural engineer in the firm’s Facilities Design Structural Practice. He will be based in Erie, PA.

Yeager has nearly 20 years of professional experience with expertise in project management and structural engineering services for facilities and building systems.

Also, Carol C. Martsolf, P.E., LEED® AP, manager of professional career development with Urban Engineers, has been nominated for inclusion in Temple University’s Gallery of Success, which honors outstanding alumni from each of the university’s schools and colleges. Martsolf received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Temple in 1992.

At Urban Engineers, she manages the process of developing Training Institute courses, from needs analysis to developing courses, learning outcomes and assessments, and final evaluation. She also has served as project manager for various civil engineering projects.