Passenger Transport - June 21, 2010
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Rogoff: FTA Stands Prepared to Take on Future Challenges; FRA’s Rae Stresses Rail and Sustainability

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

“We’ve got a lot to be proud of, but we’re not sitting idly by. FTA is mindful of the struggles we’re going to have to face.”

With those words, Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), emphasized in his keynote address before about 1,200 attendees at the June 7 Opening General Session of the APTA Rail Conference in Vancouver, BC, that FTA will continue in the effort to secure a transportation authorization bill and build on its concerns including safety issues and State of Good Repair.

Rogoff called public transit workers “unsung heroes” for their efforts “balancing rider needs, maintenance, work requirements, and political responsibilities—all in an uncertain economy.” Specifically, he said, “The sky is not falling. Rail transit is still the safest mode of surface transportation…and riders are safer on transit than on the highway.”

He noted that the legislation that would give FTA jurisdiction over rail transit safety is “not designed to impose the FRA regulations on all systems in a one-size-fits-all manner. We want to develop a better emergency management system” in the wake of rail transit accidents.

Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), also a keynote speaker, compared the way transit rail agencies have faced the challenges of the past year as “like driving while building the car and paving the road.” She linked future high-speed rail development with sustainable urban development, calling the $8 billion for high-speed rail in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “a down payment on a network that will link livable communities.”

Rae continued: “We have to create a balance through our actions at FRA. We have to look at the whole picture, not just the individual components.”

APTA President William Millar announced that the Senate Banking Committee is considering the Public Transportation Preservation Act, which provides $2 billion in emergency funds for transit operating assistance, in his welcoming speech. His remarks also touched on federal climate change legislation, transportation appropriations, and a new transportation authorization bill.

In addition, Millar stated that U.S. public transit ridership in 2009 remained above the 10 billion mark for the fourth consecutive year. However, despite that “historically high” level of success, he noted, overall U.S. ridership in the first quarter of 2010 was down 2.7 percent compared with the same quarter last year—a slower rate of decline than the 3.8 percent reported in the fourth quarter of 2009. (See related story.)

U.S. light rail ridership actually improved by 1.5 percent for the quarter, he said, mainly due to system expansions. Heavy rail declined 1.45 percent and commuter rail ridership was down 3 percent in the same period.

The ridership decreases are “sobering news, but not a surprise,” Millar continued, with unemployment levels around 10 percent nationally.

“About 60 percent of all rides on public transportation are for going back and forth to work,” he explained. “When fewer people are working, we’ll see less transit use—but our members are seeing the situation start to turn around.”

APTA Chair M.P. Carter reported on the initiatives she has championed during her tenure, pointing to the approval this spring of both a new APTA five-year strategic plan and bylaw changes enabling a reorganization of the governance and committee structure. She also joined Millar in emphasizing the necessity of passing a surface transportation authorization bill the provides funding at the level transit agencies need.

In promoting her signature initiative, “Telling Our Story,” she said: “What’s the best way to convince those who hold the purse strings that we need so much more than we’ve gotten before? It’s by telling your story. And by telling your story, you join us in the industry in telling our story …. With all this outreach and more, what kind of ‘returns’ can we expect? With legislators, more revenue! With stakeholders, more partnerships! With the public, more riders!”

Also offering greetings during the session were Ian Jarvis, chief executive officer of the host system, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink); Michael Roschlau, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association; and APTA Vice Chairs Joseph J. Giulietti, commuter and intercity rail, and Gary C. Thomas, rail transit.

Michael Melaniphy, chair of the APTA International Public Transportation EXPO Advisory Committee, invited conference participants to make plans for EXPO 2011 in New Orleans.

The session was sponsored by Bombardier.


Speakers at the Opening General Session include, from left: APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit Gary C. Thomas; FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae; CUTA President and CEO Michael Roschlau; TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; APTA Chair M.P. Carter; Michael Melaniphy, chair of the EXPO 2011 advisory committee; Joseph J. Giulietti, vice chair-commuter and intercity rail; and APTA President William Millar. 



U.S. Mayors’ Report on High-Speed Rail

The introduction of U.S. high-speed rail will serve as a catalyst for economic growth at the city and regional levels, incorporating the creation of new jobs, improved market access, greater connectivity, and savings in commute times.

That is the message of The Economic Impacts of High-Speed Rail on Cities and their Metropolitan Areas, a report released June 14 by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), focusing on four representative metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, and Albany, NY.

“In all four cities, the introduction of high-speed rail services will significantly increase jobs, wages, business sales, and value-added Gross Regional Product,” the report states. “The potential long-term economic impact of proposed high-speed rail service will grow over time as service is fully implemented and savings in travel time, expenses, and congestion reduction are realized.”

The report lists five major benefits common to all four metropolitan areas. High-speed rail service can:
* Help drive higher-density, mixed-use development at train stations;
* Increase business productivity through travel-efficiency gains;
* Contribute to expanding visitor markets and generating additional spending;
* Broaden the regional labor market by transporting skilled workers longer distances in a shorter time; and
* Support the growth of technology clusters.

If cities are to achieve these benefits, however, they must ensure that high-speed rail makes the most of local and regional connections. Cities planning completely new lines, such as Los Angeles and Orlando, can work from the beginning to integrate stations into travel centers such as airports, convention centers, and tourism sites. In Chicago and Albany, where introduction of the service will begin with speed and schedule improvements, the planning process will be more incremental to fit into the built environment.

The process of designing and implementing high-speed rail also must take into account a broad, long-term economic perspective, the report stresses. For example, telecommuting and Internet conferencing will affect commute patterns, while changes in trade regulations may lead to new domestic and global markets and supply chains.

According to Tom Cochran, USCM chief executive officer and executive director, the nation cannot remain globally competitive without adequate investment in domestic transportation infrastructure, and existing modes of transportation are both major consumers of oil responsible for nearly a third of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. “As a result, we need to make tomorrow’s transportation more energy efficient, more environmentally sustainable, and less reliant on foreign oil,” he emphasized.

Copies of the report are available online.

NRDC, Sierra Club Help APTA ‘Dump the Pump’

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club are partnering with APTA for the fifth annual observance of National Dump the Pump Day on June 17. The day’s activities provide public awareness of the benefits of public transportation, which include saving money and promoting energy independence.

Deron Lovaas, federal transportation policy director for NRDC, linked this year’s event to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “Preventing future national tragedies like the Gulf spill requires moving America beyond oil, and Dump the Pump Day reminds us that public transportation options such as trains and buses are important tools for driving down our dangerous dependence,” he said.

Ann Mesnikoff, green transportation campaign director for the Sierra Club, added: “Taking transit this Thursday and every day after is something we all can do in response to the BP oil disaster. Public transportation is key to ending our dependence on oil and reducing our global warming pollution.”

More than 100 public transportation systems are participating in National Dump the Pump Day activities this year, such as offering free or reduced rides; holding contests with giveaways such as free transit passes; and spreading the word through social media. Proclamations have been issued, including one from Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson.

The next issue of Passenger Transport will include a roundup of Dump the Pump events. 

Pedestrian Bridge to Link Modes in Riverside, CA

The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside, CA, marked a milestone in the construction of its Corona Transit Center with the June 14 installation of a 56,000-pound pedestrian bridge that will join the future transit center with a nearby Metrolink commuter rail station.

Work crews suspended the pre-built, 80-foot bridge from a crane, hoisted it over the rail tracks, and fastened it to 75 different points of contact on existing structures.

When it opens later this year, the $6.5 million transit center will offer eight bus bays, a covered pedestrian plaza and parking lot, as well as a stairway and elevator to the bridge providing access to the Metrolink station.

RTA Board Chairman Jeff Comerchero called the bridge installation “a major turning point in the construction of the Corona Transit Center” that “reflects the fact that travel between buses and trains will be easier than ever before.”

‘Action Plan’ Promotes U.S. Transit Manufacturing

Members of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) learned at the BMBG meeting during the APTA Rail Conference about a forthcoming study that will examine the connection between growing the U.S. industrial economy and support of transit-related manufacturing projects. The Apollo Institute’s Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan (T-MAP) incorporates research, contact with stakeholders, and recommendations for the industry.

APTA is among the organizations advising the Apollo Institute on this study, along with businesses, labor unions, and energy/economic policy experts.

Based on the study, the Apollo Institute has developed a policy platform with two major elements: expand the market for transit vehicles, clean trucks, and their component parts, and support domestic manufacturers and American workers in making the vehicles required for a cleaner, more efficient public transit and freight movement system. Market expansion would include increasing federal investment in public transit, upgraded passenger rail, and high-speed rail and providing targeted support to transit agencies to help them reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding domestic production, T-MAP seeks to support American manufacturers in retooling and making new investments in their facilities; strengthen domestic content provisions by improving transparency and accountability; encourage efficiency and cost savings through product standardization and improved procurement practices; and invest in research and development programs that create and commercialize new technologies.

“The upcoming reauthorization of the federal transportation bill presents a unique opportunity to rethink U.S. transportation policy with an eye toward the twin goals of cleaner transportation and good jobs,” said Sam Haswell, communications director for the Apollo Institute. “For that reason, the Apollo Alliance convened a task force of leading manufacturers, labor unions, transportation, energy and economic development experts to help develop a national strategy to leverage federal investments in building a modern, efficient transportation system to create quality, high-paying manufacturing jobs. Done right, a new transportation policy that builds a more sustainable transportation system through investments in public transit and a more energy-efficient transportation infrastructure will create millions of jobs throughout the economy while reducing air pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.”

More information on the plan is available online.

APTA Announces Webinar on Crashworthiness

APTA will host a two-hour webinar titled “Crashworthiness: A Comprehensive Look at Crashworthy Vehicle Design and Procurement” June 30 beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time.

This interactive technical presentation is based on “Crashworthiness—Innovations in Vehicle Design,” a session presented at the 2010 APTA Rail Conference in Vancouver, BC.

Participants in the webinar will gain a thorough understanding of design and specification requirements for vehicles that meet crashworthiness requirements and the physics behind crashworthiness simulation and testing. They also will have an opportunity to submit questions to the panel of presenters in real time and get immediate answers. Registration also includes a link to the recorded webinar, which will be available for unlimited use for six months from broadcast date.

More information is available at the APTA web site by selecting Webinars under Meetings and Conferences.


Sustainability in the Spotlight at Conference

“Creating a Culture of Sustainability” is the theme of APTA’s Sixth Annual Sustainability & Public Transportation Workshop, July 25-27 at the Westin Hotel in New York, NY. This event will emphasize the creation of partnerships with and within public transportation, business practices and innovations in sustainability within the transit industry, and the role of transit in creating livable communities.

On the schedule are a luncheon speech by Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan; a roundtable discussion on the sustainability efforts of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its constituent organizations; federal partners for livability efforts; and educational sessions on topics including green design, materials, and infrastructure; sustainable planning, policy, and community development; and tools and products for measuring and managing sustainability.

More information on the conference is available online.





Rate of Ridership Decline Slows in First Quarter of 2010

Public transportation riders across the U.S. took nearly 2.5 billion trips during the first quarter of 2010, according to a recently released APTA report. Even taking into account continued high unemployment, a severe economic downturn, lower state and local revenue for public transportation, and historic snowfalls in the mid-Atlantic region and Texas, transit use in the quarter declined less than 3 percent.

“Despite negative economic national trends, public transportation ridership has declined by only 2.7 percent,” said APTA President William Millar. “High unemployment impacts public transit use since nearly 60 percent of trips are work-related commuter trips. Additionally, public transportation service is funded by state and local revenue, both of which have declined due to the economic recession. But we are encouraged that light rail service as well as bus systems serving smaller communities increased overall.”

The only U.S. transit modes that showed ridership increases in the first quarter were bus systems serving populations of less than 100,000, up 5.7 percent; light rail, up 1.5 percent; and trolleybus, up 0.2 percent. However, the 12 Canadian systems surveyed reported a total 6.5 percent increase compared with the first quarter of 2009.

The U.S. statistics show quarterly increases in 10 out of 29 light rail systems, three of 15 heavy rail systems, and seven of 27 commuter rail systems. The complete report is available here.

Denver RTD Takes Top Honors at Rail Rodeo

The Regional Transportation District in Denver earned the top honor, the Team Achievement Award, at the 18th Annual APTA International Rail Rodeo, held June 5 at TransLink’s VCC/Clark Station in Vancouver, BC. The team – comprising first-place rail operator Robert Dennis and second-place rail maintainers Randall Lovegrove and George Sweeney – and the other winners received their awards June 6 at the Rail Rodeo Banquet held in conjunction with the APTA Rail Conference.

The Team Achievement Award goes to the competing public transportation system with the highest combined score in the operators’ and maintainers’ competitions.  The maintenance team from Los Angeles Metro – Glen Abraham, Ronnie Burt, and Eric Czintos – placed first in its competition. Representing the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia, the team of Ed Carruthers, Mike O’Grady, and Jason Rickert took the third-place honor.

In the operators’ contest, SEPTA’s Adrian Mapp and Michael Shepard took second place, while Lee-Ann Knight and Ven Rao of BC Rapid Transit (SkyTrain) in Burnaby, BC, were in third place.

Competitors represented nine North American public transit agencies in the rail rodeo.

APTA Vice Chair-Rail Transit Gary Thomas also announced the names of the rodeo winners during the conference’s Opening General Session June 7.


APTA Chair M.P. Carter, left, and APTA President William Millar, second from right, join Gary Thomas, right, APTA vice chair-rail transit, in presenting the Team Achievement Award to Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD). Representing RTD are, from second from left: Phil Eberl, manager of vehicle maintenance; maintainers George Sweeney and Randall Lovegrove; and operator Robert Dennis.



RTD’s Dennis, center, joined by Eberl, second from left, accepts the first-place award for rail operators from Carter, left; Millar, second from right; and Thomas, right.

The members of the Los Angeles Metro rail maintenance team that took first place in the maintainers’ competition are Glen Abraham, fifth from right; Ronnie Burt, fourth from right; and Eric Czintos, third from right. Carter is fourth from left; Millar, second from right; and Thomas, far right.


Price: North American Cities Use Old Streetcar Grids for Newfound Livability

BY JOHN R. BELL, Program Manager-Communications

Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC, told a rapt audience June 7 at the APTA Rail Conference about how cities have gone from pursuing “Motordom” to expanding public transportation—and increasing their livability and vitality in the process.

Price, a six-term Vancouver city councilor, spoke as part of a luncheon webcast seminar sponsored by APTA business member HNTB.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, he said, the streets of almost all large North American cities were a controlled chaos in which streetcars wove among pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers of early automobiles—“a kind of ballet of the street,” Price said. “I think what would have amazed us most is what we would consider a kind of anarchy” in the way people used the street.

Although many cities abandoned the walkable, streetcar-oriented infrastructure in the 1950s, many cities retain the streetcar-based grid and neighborhood design—enough to make the creation of modern transit-oriented development eminently workable, Price said.

But between those early streetcar years and now, cities went full tilt toward one goal: making automobile traffic flow as fast as possible, no matter the cost to walkability, street life, or neighborhood charm—toward “Motordom.” While Peter Norton used this term most recently in Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City, it dates back to 1920s newspaper articles about automobile clubs.

“What Motordom achieved was the social reconsideration of the street,” Price explained. This way of thinking began with an appeal to public safety—to prevent the deaths of children run over while playing in the street. By the end of the 1920s, streets had become dominated by cars.

Price cited 1942—when the Institute of Transportation Engineers released its first-ever Transportation Planning Handbook—as the dawn of the Age of Motordom. “These are very, very powerful books. They represent the standards that will be used to design the postwar world,” he explained. The handbook held “the efficient, free, and rapid flow of traffic” as the ultimate aim of transportation planning.

The blind pursuit of Motordom was based on a collection of principles that were little questioned at the time, according to Price, such as believing gasoline to be an infinite resource and placing the end to congestion at some point always in the future.

Chief among these principles was to make parking an integral, paramount concern in urban planning, leading to the demolition of historic buildings and streetscapes in many downtown areas in the U.S. and Canada to make way for surface parking lots. “Form follows parking,” Price said. “The rest is detail—and not all that significant detail.”

Vancouver ultimately defeated Motordom, Price said, by “failing” to build what many residents and civic leaders supported in the 1950s and 1960s: highways leading into downtown. Because those freeways never came, the city remains a network of streetcar villages, he explained.

Public transportation continues to thrive in Vancouver and its neighborhoods, he said: almost all residents have access to transit and transfers among the many modes are seamless. This development has enabled has allowed Vancouver to double its downtown population in 10 years while seeing its traffic congestion decline and number of walking trips increase in the same period.

Price noted that other cities in the U.S. and Canada can boast similar achievements—thanks to the streetcar planners of today and yesterday.

Yet oddly, Motordom played a role in the public’s demand for public transportation. “Congestion is our friend,” Price said. And in some localities “it’s the only form of road pricing that is politically possible.”

High Reliability Organizations: When Failure Is Not an Option

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Rick Hartley, a safety expert from the nuclear industry, presented the essentials of building and maintaining a “High Reliability Organization (HRO)” during the June 9 Closing General Session in Vancouver.

Hartley—principal engineer with B&W Pantex, which assembles and disassembles nuclear weapons—defined an HRO as “an organization that repeatedly accomplishes its mission while avoiding catastrophic events, despite significant hazards, dynamic tasks, time constraints, and complex technologies.” He noted that his company “has no choice except to be a High Reliability Organization! If we have a bad day, you’ll hear about it. We’re motivated to maintain safety.”

He continued: “Why is this so important? Some types of system failures are so punishing that they must be avoided at almost any cost. These classes of events are seen as so harmful that they disable the organization, radically limiting its capacity to pursue its goal, and could lead to its own destruction.” He cited as examples the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and the 2003 explosion of the space shuttle Columbia.

He warned that organizations cannot rest on their laurels: NASA had the best Total Recordable Injury Case rate in its history at the time of the Columbia disaster, which caused the death of seven astronauts.

“Many organizations have demonstrated that great safety statistics don’t equal real, tangible organizational safety,” he said. “People confronted with positive stats will become comfortable with good news and insensitive to the possibility of failure, so they will come to believe their own press. In this case, the good is the enemy of the great.” This belief results in what Hartley called a “normal accident organization” as opposed to an HRO.

He quoted John Gardner: “Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems, but because they cannot see their problems.”

However, Hartley emphasized, creation of an HRO must be a concrete, practical process based on logic and grounded in science. As participants in this effort develop their plans and set their priorities, they must remember the words of Stephen Covey: “The most important thing is, to keep the most important thing, the most important thing.”

Hartley demonstrated the science-based approach required for the creation of an HRO. The procedure comprises four interlocking steps:
* Knowledge of systems: to take the systems approach, understand what a system does for you internally and externally;
* Knowledge of variation: the statistical process;
* Knowledge of psychology: organizational cultures; and
* Knowledge of knowledge: theory, prediction, and feedback as the basis of learning.

Another issue he cited is to “explicitly account for people” while implementing changes, he said. “People are not the problem, but the solution; they are not robots and pounding them won’t improve their performance. People provide safety, quality, security, and science. You must account for the organizational culture if you want long-term, sustained improvement.”

But establishing an HRO is only the first step, Hartley stressed, adding: “It’s harder to sustain a safety culture than it is to get there in the first place.” An organization begins to develop its culture, he said, with values and assumptions imposed by leaders on the group. However, for that culture to endure, the leaders must also look outside and work to integrate external influences.

“Think of the assessment in terms of the problem you want to correct—start with the end in mind,” he said. “Use the tools to get the information required to fix the problem, but not necessarily to fix the culture. If you fix the problem, the culture will follow.”

APTA Secretary/Treasurer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. presided at the session, which concluded with an invitation by John C. Lewis, chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, to the 2011 APTA Rail Conference, June 12-15 in Boston.

More Scenes from the Rail Conference

Here are more scenes from the APTA 2010 Rail Conference in Vancouver, BC. All conference photos by Grant McAvoy.


Participants attending the conference gather to hear luncheon speaker Gordon Price, director of the city program at Simon Fraser University, on June 7. 



Fifty-eight exhibitors welcomed attendees at 67 booths during the June 8 Products & Services Showcase. While this was not the largest showcase of any Rail Conference, the available space was such that there was no room for additional exhibitors. 

'Livability’: Wimpy Term but Means Big Stakes for Us All


WASHINGTON—Is the Obama administration’s “livability” initiative just a way for intrusive federal bureaucrats to choke off Americans’ prized “automobility”—four wheels to commute from ever-distant suburbs or just to pick up a quart of milk?

This is the way some commentators would have it. Disregarding the administration’s clear language about respecting local character and values, they pounced on words of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—that livability is “being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car.”

LaHood, a former Republican member of Congress known for his moderate views, got labeled the "secretary of behavior modification” by columnist George F. Will. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., worried publicly about “federal decision-makers in Washington ... (telling) communities how they should grow.”

And transportation analyst Ken Orski recently concluded that “the administration’s desire to impose its own vision of how Americans should live and travel represents a misguided and in the end futile gesture.”


There’s no question the word “livability” is wimpish and terribly imprecise (if anyone has a better synonym, please speak up). Yet the intent is as American as apple pie.

“Livability is a shorthand way of saying we’re going to spend $1 to solve $4 worth of challenges," says District of Columbia planning director Harriet Tregoning. "It’s about getting multiple outcomes that communities want with a single investment. It’s an approach any conservative should love.”

Examples: As combined housing and transportation costs begin to eat up as much as 60 percent of working families’ incomes, livability means encouraging energy-efficient housing at locations close to work sites with public transit options, enhancing Americans’ real incomes.

As the nation’s prospective future oil supplies dwindle in the face of BP-Gulf-type disasters, plus price escalation and/or cutoffs by hostile foreign regimes, livability means tilting government’s regulatory and incentive tools toward more compact, close-in, less petroleum-demanding communities—undergirding national security in the process.

As health costs from escalating obesity threaten a tsunami of diabetes, heart, and cancer conditions undermining Americans’ life expectancy, reducing personal incomes, and ravaging government budgets, a planning “tilt” encouraging less sedentary time in cars and more exercise and walking makes huge sense. That’s “livability” too.

As America’s existing infrastructure of roads, waterworks and sewage facilities crumbles, running up a cumulative bill in the trillions, the idea of “fix it first” of existing systems, of restoring older communities, should easily trump public funds going to finance infrastructure for disconnected enclaves of new family homes, apartments, and strip malls.

But what about those Americans who prefer living in suburban communities they consider safe, with the privacy of their own backyards and, in Orski's words, “the freedom, comfort, convenience and flexibility of personal transportation”? Isn’t this what most Americans would consider livability?

The answer is surely “yes” for millions. And it’s likely the suburbia they know and love (pending a cataclysmic energy crisis) will endure for decades to come.

But past needn’t be prelude. The “American century” of cheap energy and road-heavy development costs is over. And we can see the first wave of change in high numbers of today’s most creative American professionals (and youth) opting for the excitement of city life or seeking out more walkable suburban town centers.

As 100 million more Americans join us by 2040 (according to Census projections), we need far more creative, money-saving, energy-conscious, walkable, multiservice communities.

Can—or should—the federal government mandate that all local governments make those choices? No. But it can encourage them, rejigger funding and planning incentives for saner choices, publicize new models, and hold competitions for best new practices.

In fact, a clear-headed national government owes us no less. Because its job is to protect the national security, set strict environmental safety rules, and encourage our competitiveness on the world economic stage.

If you like weak and ineffectual governance from Washington, just apply the operating rules of the Minerals Management Service that failed to avert the truly appalling Gulf of Mexico crisis, or the financial regulators who failed to protect us against the excesses that triggered the Great Recession.

A federal finger on the scale in favor of compact, economical, resource-conserving development doesn’t need to be as heavy as safety regulation. Key words in the administration’s initiative are affordability, access, choices, connection, character of place, collaboration—hardly some kind of ruthless dictation. But we do need federal leadership—no apologies—in the tradition of the bold nation-building initiatives of our history, from the canals and first railways to today’s interstate system. 

And if this means a reprise of the more compact “know your neighbor” town and city patterns that served America so well up to World War II, we’ll be well served.
Contact Neal Peirce here.
© 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group

People on the Move

Sue Quick, Gregg Thompson, Jared Choc

SALEM, OR—Salem-Keizer Transit (Cherriots) has announced the hiring of three new managers.  

Sue Quick, operations manager, previously was transit services manager with the Lane Transit District in Eugene, OR. She received the American Public Transportation Foundation’s Dan Reichard Scholarship and serves APTA as a member of the Bus Safety and Bus Operator Distraction Working Group.

Gregg Thompson, maintenance manager, has a transit industry career of more than 15 years, most recently working for MV Transportation in Lawrence, KS. He began his career as a utility helper at Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon.

Jared Choc, manager of the newly created Strategic Planning and Technology Services department, comes to Cherriots from Helena, MT, where he was manager of servicing support for the Student Assistance Foundation. He also is a former systems administrator with the state of Montana and Adams County, WA.

Gilbert Garcia, Dwight Jefferson, Carrin Patman, Allen Dale Watson, Christof Spieler

HOUSTON, TX—Five new members representing the city of Houston recently joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors.

The city’s representatives are board Chairman Gilbert Garcia, managing partner at Davis Hamilton Jackson & Associates; Dwight Jefferson, attorney at law; Carrin Patman, attorney at Bracewell & Giuliani; Allen Dale Watson, professional engineer at CobbFendley; and Christof Spieler, professional engineer at Morris Architects.

Watson will serve as vice chairman of the board, and Harris County representative Jackie Freeman will continue to serve as board secretary.