Passenger Transport - May 24, 2010
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Transit Officials Voice Concern on Climate Change Bill

BY JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications

The presidents of four of the largest national transportation-related organizations discussed their concerns about the Kerry-Lieberman climate change bill with reporters on May 19 in a conference call and vowed to keep advocating that 100 percent of transportation revenues be invested back into the transportation system, as has been the practice for the last 50 years.

APTA President William Millar said the American Power Act is a missed opportunity to fund the “green” benefits public transit brings. “We’ve shown conclusively that public transportation is part of the solution to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing emissions,” he said. “But this proposed climate and energy bill misses the opportunity to invest significantly in public transportation, which can be one of the most effective means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil.... Specifically, this climate change bill diverts 77 percent of revenues away from surface transportation during its first year.”

“Traffic congestion needlessly wastes 2.8 billion gallons of fuel per year, increasing emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America.

This bill “actually makes the problem worse” because it would renege on “the decades-long promise that transportation user fees will be dedicated to making needed highway and transit improvements,” Sandherr said. “The last thing we can afford is to take the ‘trust’ out of the Highway Trust Fund.”

Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, said that the bill, as written, would undermine public trust in the funding of surface transportation. “This is nothing but a user fee paid by transportation system users, and as such it should be dedicated entirely to the maintenance of the transportation system—namely, the Highway Trust Fund,” he said. “This approach will make it much tougher to get the long-term authorization.”

John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, agreed. “The proposal they’ve made would preclude action to move forward vital highway and transit authorization legislation,” said Horsley.

Millar was optimistic about persuading the senators to recraft the bill. “We don’t intend to let up! America’s roads, bridges, and transit systems are falling apart in many cases.” These problems will only worsen in the near future.

Ruane supported that sentiment: “I kind of like the odds. ... Quite frankly, [the authors of the bill] need our support to get this done.”

Rogoff Addresses Funding Backlog at Boston Summit

Public transportation agencies throughout the nation are facing a $78 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects, the administrator of the Federal Transit Administration announced at a May 18 event in Boston.

In his keynote speech at “Next Stop: A Summit on the Future of Transit,” Federal Transit Administrator Peter M. Rogoff explained that the figure is part of a new report to be released in the near future, which covers 690 U.S. rail and bus systems. This report follows a 2009 study of the seven largest U.S. rail operators, which showed a $50 billion figure for bringing the systems into a state of good repair—not, he emphasized, restoring them to pristine new condition.

“Our transit systems must be safe, reliable, and efficient,” Rogoff said. “I know transit riders will not put up with dirty stations, unreliable service, slowed train speeds, inoperable escalators—especially those who have other options. We need to attract and maintain riders, not push them back onto the highway.”

He emphasized the Obama administration’s support for keeping the nation’s public transportation systems efficient and maintained, and asked for a similar commitment from participants in the summit. “Clearly, unless we can bring the nation’s transit systems into a state of good repair, we won’t get the riders we need to cut oil consumption and greenhouse gases; the sustainability of our transit systems will be in jeopardy; and the economic vitality of our cities will be undermined,” he added.

“If you can’t afford to operate the system you have, why does it make sense for us to partner in your expansion?” Rogoff said. “Might it make more sense for us to roll up our sleeves and target our resources on repairing the system we have?”

The summit sponsors were the MBTA Advisory Board, MassInc.,  Harvard’s Rappaport Institute, and the 128 Business Council.

FRA Proposes Ban on Distracting Devices

On May 17, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed a rule that would restrict, with certain exceptions, the use of mobile phones and other potentially distracting devices by on-duty railroad employees.

The proposed rule would codify Emergency Order No. 26, issued last year, which bans the use of any electronic device if it interferes with an employee’s or another employee’s performance of safety-related duties.

Under the proposed rule, cellphone use would be allowed in special instances by railroad operating employees. It also specifically permits the use of watches, calculators, medical devices, railroad radios, cameras used to document bona fide safety hazards or violations of rail safety laws and various emergency situations. Employees who are “deadheading” in any car other than the lead car (the operator’s cab) would be allowed to use electronic devices.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood expressed his support for the proposed FRA rule. “Operating a passenger or freight train demands the full and undivided attention of crew members at all times. Lives depend on it,” said LaHood. “We want to make sure that railroad employees know not to use hand-held devices on the job because doing so jeopardizes safety.”

The proposed rule would also authorize the FRA to review a railroad’s training program regarding the use of electronic devices and would require that records be kept showing that employees continue to receive periodic training on the topic.

“There should be no confusion about when and where cell phones, video games, or PDAs may be used by train crews,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae.

Late last year, the APTA Standards Development Program issued a Recommended Practice, Reducing Driver-Controlled Distractions While Operating a Vehicle on Agency Time. It states: “Personal electronic devices … should be turned off, stowed off of the driver’s person and out of sight. These devices should never be used while the vehicle is in motion. Use of these devices should be restricted to times when the vehicle is in parked condition.”

Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking must be submitted by June 17 (Docket No. FRA-2009-0118).

Comprehensive Bus Guidelines Now Available

For the first time, all of APTA’s Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines (SBPG) standards—technical specifications as well as commercial terms—are available in a single volume, released by the APTA Standards Development Program during the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference. The original version of the document contained only the commercial terms, known as the terms and conditions; the technical specifications were viewed as a later phase of the effort that has now been completed.

The updated SBPG represents all bus lengths, from 30-foot to 60-foot articulated models, and the dominant propulsion types. The entire text has undergone a comprehensive update since the last edition was released about 10 years ago.

The commercial terms section of the new document has been updated to reflect current practices in the transit industry. The old SBPG did not reflect current FTA requirements and changes in the way the industry looks at various issues.

These changes mean that the SPBG is finally a complete document that transit agencies can use to procure a bus—including both technical specifications and commercial terms—and the document reflects current best practice in the industry.

“Transit agencies large and small will find the new standard bus procurement guidelines to be an invaluable resource,” said APTA President William Millar. “They now include technical specifications as well as updated commercial terms and conditions. The new document is the work of more than 100 transit industry members, from both the public and private sectors, who came together to develop a document that reflects today’s best practices. And it is a document that will continue to be updated as industry practices evolve and as technology changes.”

The document contains the following sections:
* “Notice of Request for Proposals (RFP)” contains general information to prospective proposers regarding the RFP package and can also be used as notification of the RFP to the public or an advertisement of the procurement opportunity.
* “Instructions to Proposers” provides detailed requirements that proposers must follow in submitting their proposal. This section also includes evaluation criteria and information of interest to the proposer regarding agency contract award procedures.
* “General Conditions,” once customized by each agency, should contain the standard terms and conditions and should be modified only by language added in the Special Provisions section.
* “Special Provisions” should be customized to meet the agency’s specific requirements for each individual project or contract, as well as local and state requirements. The Special Provisions are intended to amend and supplement the General Conditions to meet the individual requirements of each project.
* “Federal Requirements” are detailed and should be removed when the project is not funded with federal funds.
* “Technical Specifications” are included and can be detached as a stand-alone document.
* “Warranty Requirements” include requirements to warrant the operation of the bus.
* “Quality Assurance” covers manufacturing, inspection, and acceptance procedures
* “Forms and Certifications” are submitted with the proposal or the proposal may be considered nonresponsive.
* The “Contract” will incorporate the surviving terms of the RFP, as well as the contractor’s proposal in a binding document to be executed by the agency and successful proposer within a designated time period following award.
* Appendices.

The updated version of the SBPG is available online. APTA is seeking transit agencies interested in beta-testing the document for feedback. The final version representing all comments and feedback from the testing phase will be available at APTA’s 2010 Annual Meeting and concurrent Bus Technical, Maintenance and Procurement Workshop in October. Please contact Jeff Hiott with any questions.

Pistole TSA Nominee

President Barack Obama nominated John S. Pistole, current deputy director of the FBI, to serve the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as assistant secretary for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The Senate must approve the nomination.

Pistole joined the FBI as a special agent in 1983; prior to becoming deputy director in 2004, he served in the Counterterrorism Division, beginning in 2002 as deputy assistant director for operations, then as assistant director for counterterrorism, and later as executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence.

In his new post, he will oversee ongoing DHS efforts to secure the nation’s aviation networks, railroads, ports, and public transportation systems, security operations for 450 federalized airports throughout the nation, and the Federal Air Marshal Service.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said of Pistole: “John’s national security and counterterrorism expertise will be a great asset to the department in our efforts to enhance the security of our vital transportation systems. Strong and effective transportation security requires proactive measures and a strong understanding of the evolving threat picture. John’s significant experience and expertise in this field—which I have seen firsthand over the last 16 months—will serve both TSA and the traveling public well.”

Van Ark to Head California High-Speed Rail Authority

Roelof van Ark, who will become the new chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority on June 1, brings extensive experience with two rail manufacturing firms to his new position in Sacramento. He is only the second CEO in the authority’s 14-year history, succeeding Mehdi Morshed, who recently retired.

“Building the first high-speed rail system in the nation is no ordinary job. It is the biggest public works project in the country—and the largest environmental review in history,” said authority Chairman Curt Pringle. “Roelof van Ark is the world-class manager and engineer we need to take the reins of this project and turn the promise of high-speed rail into a reality for the people of California.”

Van Ark comes to the authority from Alstom Transportation Inc., where he has served as president since 2005. The company is the North American subsidiary of France’s Alstom SA, makers of the Train à Grande Vitesse high-speed train that operates in France.

He also spent more than 20 years as an executive, managing director, general manager, senior technical manager, and senior project engineer for Siemens, manufacturers of the popular Inter-City Express high speed trains, working in Germany, South Africa, and most recently in Sacramento, where he served as president and CEO of Siemens Transportation Systems from 1999 to 2002. In addition, Van Ark’s more than 30 years in the transportation field include serving as president of aviation security for Invision Technologies Inc., which was purchased in 2004 by General Electric.

“California is leading the nation in high-speed rail,” van Ark said. “I have seen how high-speed rail projects transform the places where they’re built—creating incredible new opportunities by connecting the world’s great cities. As someone who has devoted his career to this industry, there’s no doubt in my mind that California is the place to be, and I’m honored to be given the opportunity to work with all partners to move California’s high-speed train project forward.”

Jeanne Neese Dies; Longtime SEPTA Employee

Jeanne E. Neese, 60, of Rosemont, PA, an attorney and director of government affairs for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia for more than three decades, died April 28.

“Jeanne was instrumental in the drafting and enactment of legislation that has provided funding not only for SEPTA, but also for every public transit system in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Richard Maloney, SEPTA director-public affairs. “But writing legislation is only the end product of a political and legislative process involving countless political constituencies, agendas, and egos….Jeanne was a consensus builder. She brought people together for the common good.”

Maloney cited Neese’s support of asset management—funds to support proper maintenance of transit vehicles and facilities, saving millions of taxpayer dollars. She also played a critical role in the passage of Pennsylvania’s landmark Act 44 legislation, which for the first time provided for a predictable source for state transit operations funding.

Before coming to SEPTA, Neese began her public transportation career with the former Urban Mass Transit Administration. For APTA, she was a member of the Legislative and State Affairs committees.

Omnitrans Driver Dies; Memorial Fund Established

Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, announced the first death of an agency employee on the job in its 34-year history.

Bus operator Lawrence Kester, 47, was stabbed to death May 7 as he drove a route in Rialto, CA. A suspect is in custody.

Kester was a 15-year Omnitrans operator who recently had been named to the “Million Mile Club,” which recognizes drivers who have safely driven more than one million passenger miles without a preventable accident. He earned more than a dozen commendations for safety and customer service during the course of his career with the system.

According to Omnitrans, a few passengers were on board the 40-foot coach when the incident occurred near an intersection. None of them were injured, though the bus veered off the road and hit a tree.

Kester and his wife Misty celebrated their wedding anniversary four days before the incident. They have eight children.

The transit agency has established a memorial fund for the family. Donations marked “Kester Family Memorial Fund” may be sent to Omnitrans headquarters, 1700 W. Fifth St., San Bernardino, CA 92411.

“We are devastated by this horrible and senseless attack. We will remember Larry as a man who was deeply dedicated to his family, friends and customers,” said Omnitrans Chief Executive Officer/General Manager Milo Victoria. “Our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his family and loved ones.”

Public Transit Reaches Out to Older Americans

To highlight the growth in the aging population, the U.S. Conference on Aging declared May to be Older Americans Month. APTA, through its Telling Our Story initiative, developed Older Americans Outreach, May 8-11, with public transit systems nationwide showcasing specific services targeted to older Americans.

This effort was very successful; stories and videos continue to come in and are posted on APTA’s web site. Details on these efforts—highlighting what many of the transit agencies have done—will be published in the Rail Conference issue.


Seniors get in the groove at the 16th annual Older Americans Information and Health Fair co-hosted by Dallas Area Rapid Transit. More than 1,000 area seniors participated in the event.




The Search for a National Solution to Our Transit Woes


This article originally appeared May 14, 2010, in The Boston Globe. Reprinted by permission of the authors and the newspaper.

Red Sox and Yankees fans can agree on one thing—how to get to the game. In New York, about 45 percent of ticketholders take public transportation. In Boston, more than 50 percent of ticketholders take the T—a percentage higher than any other professional sports franchise in any city in the country. Yet, even as hundreds of thousands pour into rail cars each season, most are unaware that the trains are running on empty.

From sports and entertainment to banking, health care, and higher education, industry sectors in cities throughout the country are dependent on mass transit. In Boston, nearly 60 percent of all workers in the financial district take the T to work. Yet when it comes to valuing these systems, we are a nation in denial, passive about their economic contribution; lacking the collective will to finance them properly; and oblivious to the certainty of their deterioration if their issues are not addressed.

The MBTA faces a $230 million structural deficit and $543 million in unfunded safety-critical projects, according to a recent report by former John Hancock chief executive David D’Alessandro. By deferring maintenance and taking on debt we cross our fingers on another year of business as usual (with no hope of expansion), after which we may go the way of transit systems around the country that are also retrenching.

According to a 2010 survey by the American Public Transportation Association, 84 percent of all transit agencies have cut service or raised fares in the last year, or plan to do so in the near future. New York City faces a $800 million shortfall, and has implemented a plan to delay maintenance, and cut entire subway lines and bus routes; Chicago, facing a $300 million shortfall, has significantly reduced service on dozens of bus routes and rail lines; Philadelphia has announced a 6 percent fare increase to help close a $110 million operating deficit; and Washington has a $189 million operating deficit for next year, with plans to balance it by using capital funds to pay for operating costs (thus deferring maintenance), as well as reducing some bus and rail service.

These “legacy’’ transit systems are starved by budgets in which escalating and intractable fixed costs outpace combined fare revenues and government subsidies. They are pressured by safety and reliability concerns resulting from deferred maintenance, and they face continuing calls for expansion without regard for how to pay to build, operate, or maintain the extensions, let alone the existing system.

Each of these systems has unique funding demands, management challenges, and politics that have led to their financial woes. Yet, their parallel problems indicate a national crisis. A national transit summit next week in Boston will examine these issues as systemic problems, demanding national strategies and broadly applied solutions. It will also offer a front row seat to the elephant in the room: paying for what we have with what little we’ve got.

Before we can answer the call for expansion, we need to fix what’s falling down. This point of contention among well-intentioned transit supporters must be resolved by prioritizing and sequencing our efforts. To do so, we must make a national shift toward support for repair work. A country brought up on expansion must embrace maintenance as the new manifest destiny.

The federal government must respond in a significant way to the most publicly beneficial example yet of “too big to fail.’’ Radical new funding formulas that will help save these systems must be considered. The reauthorization of the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) this fall may be the tipping point on a new era of economic renewal and energy efficiency through well-supported mass transit.

The private sector must step up with financial and political support that goes beyond the self-interest of construction request for proposals. And both the public and private sectors must come together around creative financing strategies that can provide a dedicated, reliable, and growing stream of funding for transit.

Dan Grabauskas, former general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), is senior fellow for public policy at MassInc. Paul Regan is executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board.

Water Wonderland in R.I.

This editorial originally appeared April 17, 2010, in the Providence Journal, Providence, RI. Reprinted by permission.

The ferry between Providence and Newport had been a delight for those who took it, but in recent years its future hung by an annual thread, only to be saved by a last-minute reprieve. The service seemed to have only nine lives, for it ended after its ninth season in 2008. The Rhode Island Transit Authority says it will not return this year.

Not that RIPTA didn’t try to revive it. RIPTA asked ferry-service operators to put in bids for the right to run the ferry. The deal would not include operating subsidies, but it did offer the dock, ticketing office, trolley connections and help with marketing. Sadly, there were no takers.

From 2000 to 2008, the ferry service enjoyed funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was a demonstration project designed to test and measure demand for ferry transportation. RIPTA said it proved popular with residents and tourists, and ridership generally increased, hitting a high of 48,000 in one season.

We’ve always believed that to thrive, the ferry service has to be year-round, with a schedule that makes it a dependable form of transportation for commuters. That way it doesn’t become hostage to the vagaries of weather or the tourist economy.

Indeed, there could be ferry stops all along Narragansett Bay, in such places as Bristol, Barrington, Riverside, Jamestown, Wickford and Warwick. Combining some of the reliability of the Staten Island Ferry and the amenities of the [MTA] Metro-North [Railroad] bar car could turn the ferry into a pleasant commuter habit.

Given its geography, Rhode Island is one of the best states, perhaps the best, for a ferry system. That could help lighten highway car traffic even as using more barges in “short-sea shipping” up and down the East Coast could take more trucks off the roads. We assume that the economy will someday improve and that there will be more opportunity to build up our watery region’s water transportation.

But as for those lovely voyages between Newport and Providence, alas, perhaps next year.

Attend the Rail Conference

What’s not to be missed at the 2010 APTA Rail Conference, June 6-9 in Vancouver, BC?

Sustainability is front and center at the June 7 luncheon, where Gordon Price, who oversees the urban design, sustainability, and community development programs at Simon Fraser University, will serve as keynote speaker—and use stunning photographs to illustrate his talk. To learn more about this recipient of the Plan Canada Award from the Canadian Institute of Planners and The Smarty Award from Smart Growth BC, go to his web site.

Also, make sure you attend the June 9 closing session on safety, where the keynoter will be Dr. Rick Hartley, a principal engineer in the Emergency, Safety, and Health Division for B&W Pantex in Amarillo, TX, whose specialty is safety in the nuclear industry. Plus there are technical tours, our host TransLink’s session on its Canada Line, and two sessions on positive train control.

So, if you haven’t signed up already, do it now! Click here or contact Heather Rachels for registration information.

Thanks to Bus Conference Sponsors

APTA and the International Bus Roadeo Committee wish to thank the sponsors of the 2010 Bus & Paratransit Conference and International Bus Roadeo in Cleveland:

Motor Coach Industries Inc.
Allison Transmission
APTA Business Members
AST Corporation
BAE Systems Platform Solutions
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems
Cummins Inc.
Daimler Buses North America
ISE Corporation
MV Transportation
New Flyer
Nova Bus
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Safety Vision, L.P.
Thermo King Corporation
Truck Trailer Transit
Vapor Bus International
Vigil Systems Inc.
Voith Turbo Inc.