Passenger Transport - October 25, 2010
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HUD, DOT, EPA Release $409.5 Million in Sustainability Grants

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities—consisting of DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency—announced  the release of grant funds totaling $409.5 million to support more livable and sustainable communities across the nation on Oct. 21.

“These investments represent an unprecedented new way of working together. And they set a powerful example for how we can reward true excellence, effective partnerships, and the good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Americans can rebuild their communities—not just in spite of enormous economic challenges, but as the means for overcoming them.”

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said: “These grants will help boost economic development with the goal that all Americans can afford to live in communities with access to employment, schools and transportation options. Communities across the country offered bold, unique proposals to plan and build sustainably based on their own local resources, landscape, culture, and ingenuity. With this partnership, we can lay the foundation for sustainable economic prosperity for generations to come by helping communities that share problems start sharing solutions.”

A fact sheet about the partnership can be found here.

Livable Communities Boost Economic Development

BY KJ FIELDS, Special to Passenger Transport

The goals behind the creation of Rail~Volution—to espouse sustainable residential and transportation planning ideas, strengthen communities, improve quality of life, and showcase light rail as a system that can help define a community’s future growth—largely have been accomplished and now have become the critical, urgent public policies of our time.

That was the opinion of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder of the livable communities conference, when he addressed the Oct. 19 Opening Plenary Session of the 16th annual Rail~Volution at home in his congressional district of Portland, OR. Approximately 1,200 participants attended the Oct. 18-21 event.

“We have seen how sustainable, well-planned communities with balanced transportation choices can avoid being hollowed-out shells in the aftermath of real estate bubbles,” Blumenauer said, noting that these communities are “resistant to disaster, both natural and human-caused.”

The congressman pointed to such features as streetcar lines, safe bicycling routes, and farmers’ markets as the basics of livable communities and elements of a new sustainable economy that connect people, coax increased value, and spur investment. “It’s the quality of the urban experience that brings people together,” he said. “Every community is starting to recognize those streetcar neighborhoods, that mixed-use development, that historic district that they’re proud of—coming back in terms of revitalization and green building.”

Passage of a federal surface transportation authorization bill is necessary, Blumenauer said, but so is a comprehensive approach to what he called “greenfrastructure,” which includes sewer, water, energy, and broadband.

He cited policy changes at the federal level, such as the partnership among DOT, the Department of Housing and Urban development, and the Environmental Protection Agency to consider livable community initiatives, as well as the investment in high-speed rail spearheaded by $8 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But Blumenauer also challenged the federal government—the largest landowner, landlord, and employer in the nation—to lead by example.

Despite the current negative political climate and hyper-partisanship, Blumenauer called for all communities to pursue a better federal partnership, build regional consensus, and heal the political process. “We need new partnerships to create, capture, and use the value that comes from doing this right. Do not fall victim to the notion that we can’t afford to do it right,” he urged.

In closing, he emphasized the power of bringing people together, stating: “Perhaps the greatest contribution is to being able to get back to the grassroots, to build the citizen infrastructure that spawned Rail~Volution.”

Porcari and Other Speakers
Deputy Secretary of Transportation John D. Porcari agreed with Blumenauer's comments on the important role of transportation in economic development when he addressed a subsequent plenary session on Oct. 21. He noted that the U.S. population is estimated to increase by 70 million in the next 25 years, mostly in urban areas--meaning that public transit planners will have "a great opportunity to address a modality imbalance" between bus and rail. "The leadership of this process is at the local level," Porcari emphasized, "and much of that is in this room today."

Joining Blumenauer at the opening plenary were Carlotta Collette, acting council president for Metro, the Portland regional planning organization, and its councilor for Portland, Rex Burkholder; City of Portland Mayor Sam Adams; Ron Stewart, principal at Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects and chair of the Rail~Volution Portland Host Committee; and Gordon Price, program director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC.

Stewart welcomed the audience “home” to Rail~Volution, citing the high attendance as a banner year for the conference. “This is a reunion of 1,200 of your closest friends...and you are now part of the Rail~Volution family,” he said.

Adams talked about the higher purpose of transportation, asserting that transportation planning must be part of a holistic approach that renews entire neighborhoods and corridors. “Yes, it is about getting people from point A to point B, but it’s also about the trip not taken,” he said. “It’s about making the kinds of investments and implementing the kinds of strategies that allow for growth and change, but in a way that also protect the existing single-family neighborhoods.”

Price examined the impact of Portland as a place that provides a living experience for light rail, streetcar, trams, and development density in his presentation “Why the World Needs a Portland.” He explained: “In politics, we are always dealing with reports, analysis, delegations, people talking to us. [Portland] provides a place to come and make a judgment about it. Once they experience it, once they integrate it into the life of the city, into their mental maps, that’s where change comes from.”

Among the other topics presented at this year’s Rail~Volution were “Fresh Starts for New Starts,” “The Last Mile: Can You Get There From Here?,” “Building Community Support for Transit-Oriented Development,” “Introduction to Design Guidelines for Livable Communities,” and “Transit and Community Planning: Who Are the Right Voices?”

Photos by Thomas Ngo, TriMet

LaHood Announces 75 TIGER II Grants

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Oct. 20 announced $585 million in grants awarded to transportation projects around the nation under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II program. The grants will fund 42 capital projects and 33 planning projects across the country, LaHood noted in a conference call with reporters.

“The 75 winning projects are indispensable—which is why they were selected from more than 1,000 applications,” he said. “Each TIGER II Grant rewards true excellence.”

Overall, approximately 29 percent of the TIGER II grants were awarded to road projects, 26 percent to public transportation, 20 percent to commuter and freight rail projects, 16 percent for ports, 4 percent for bicycle and pedestrian projects, and 5 percent for planning projects.

LaHood cited the ability of public transportation projects to reduce congestion—pointing to the project awarded the largest grant, the Atlanta streetcar project, at nearly $48 million—as well as a rail line in Maine and rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge linking Maine and New Hampshire. “Just about every one of these projects has a lot more to do with relieving congestion than anything else,” LaHood said.

The second largest grant, $34 million, will be used to make improvements to the Tower 55 freight-rail junction in Fort Worth, TX.

LaHood also heralded the high-speed rail projects made possible by the first TIGER program, noting that 80 percent of Americans will be connected with high-speed rail in the next quarter century.

“We’re pleased that the TIGER program allows for creative, innovative opportunities that don’t fall under traditional formulas,” the secretary added. “We’re pleased and grateful that Congress understands this is an important program.”

The original TIGER program in 2009 received almost 1,500 applications, requesting a total of $60 billion. Ultimately, DOT was able to award $1.5 billion to 51 recipients.

A complete list of capital grant recipients is available here, and a complete of planning grant recipients is here.

LaHood, Bennett, Millar, Others Discuss Plans for High-Speed Rail in Western U.S.

The first-ever conference to promote high-speed intercity passenger rail in the western U.S. brought together Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), and other leaders Oct. 13-15 in Las Vegas. The Western Alliance for High-Speed Rail’s inaugural conference, “The Rail Ahead,” focused on steps for achieving a high-speed rail link between the major cities of the American West, to include Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles—and eventually Reno, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

“I believe that, 25 years from now, under our plan, 80 percent of America will be connected by high-speed intercity rail,” LaHood told the conference, attended by more than 170 industry executives, consultants, and other experts. “It will cost $500 billion; it’s a huge investment, but we’re off to a great start. We really are.”

APTA President William Millar echoed LaHood’s enthusiasm for the potential of rail in the region. “Imagine getting on a train in Denver and riding it all the way to Phoenix—in less than four hours, instead of 14 hours by car,” he said, “with no stopping for gas and no chance of a speeding ticket.”

Millar also cited the economic benefits of the proposed system. “High-speed rail in the West and across the nation will mean tens of thousands of new, long-term, sustainable American jobs and even more jobs that are sustained by the boost to the economy,” he stressed. “Not just building, operating, and maintaining the rail system, but also jobs brought by increased tourism, new businesses, and new residents. Those jobs will have a ripple effect—benefiting Americans from coast to coast.”

The issue of funding remains as the surface transportation authorization bill continues to be postponed in Congress. As yet, the only federal funding for high-speed rail is the $8 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Everybody says they wish it were more, but it’s $8 billion,” LaHood said. However, “it’s eight billion times more than we have ever had for high-speed rail,” he noted.

More than 40 leaders in high-speed rail from around the world gave remarks and led sessions, including Tom Skancke, president and chief executive officer of The Skancke Company, as the opening keynote speaker and remarks from WHRSA Chairman Jacob Snow. Session topics included international case studies, public-private partnerships, sustainability, regional partnerships, and creating a regional vision.

Photo by Cheryl Snow

Eight Areas Selected to Receive EPA Aid

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has chosen eight communities to receive technical assistance on sustainable growth and development issues through the Smart Growth Assistance Program. The pilot projects will help local governments address infrastructure constraints, protect water quality, set development standards, and create options for housing and transportation.

The projects will be based in Washington, DC; Saginaw, MI; Wheat Ridge, CO; Chicago; Salt Lake City; Concord, NH; Cumberland and Cobb counties, Georgia; and statewide in Rhode Island.

EPA will work in collaboration with its partners at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and DOT.  The effort is part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which brings together the three agencies to coordinate federal actions on housing, transportation, and environmental protection and achieve efficient federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services that meet multiple economic, environmental, and community objectives.

“EPA is building partnerships with communities from across the country—in rural, suburban, and urban areas—to help them develop in ways that are environmentally sustainable and economically resilient,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “This assistance will help local residents protect their health and the environment, all while strengthening their ability to attract new businesses and new jobs.”

The smart growth assistance projects will focus on key topics central to the partnership’s work, such as cross-departmental coordination of sustainability policies; cities undergoing economic transition; infrastructure financing; historic preservation as part of downtown revitalization; and incorporating climate change adaptation as part of long-term plans.

More information on the Smart Growth Assistance Program is available online.

First-of-Its-Kind National TOD Database Launched

The Center for Transit-Oriented Development (CTOD)—a partnership among Reconnecting America, the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), and Strategic Economics, and funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)—launched a first-of-its-kind TOD database Oct. 18 at Rail~Volution in Portland, OR, to provide access to comprehensive information about more than 4,000 transit zones across the U.S. By using this resource, developers, investors, and city officials will be able to take advantage of development opportunities around transit nodes.

The database provides information on density, demographics, occupation, and transportation habits of households near 4,160 existing and proposed fixed guideway transit stations—from Honolulu to Portland, ME—and includes commuter rail, streetcars, light rail, bus rapid transit, and ferries. It synthesizes 40,000 data fields at half-mile and quarter-mile buffers around fixed rail stations to create maps of various transit regions and data reports for stations of interest. Users can also query data by geography or demographics.

FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan said her agency’s goal in supporting the database “is to partner with communities that want to develop smart transportation solutions that will inspire new economic development, reduce congestion and our dependence on oil, and help connect people with work, school, or the doctor’s office. Having the best data available at your fingertips will help cities, neighborhoods, and developers, achieve the goal of a more livable, walkable community that benefits all of their residents.”

“We created the TOD Database as a one-stop shop for information on TOD to encourage more transit-focused communities in the marketplace,” added CNT President Scott Bernstein. “We’ve provided research … for smart development decisions that are good for people’s pocketbooks and the economy.”

New Report: Make it in America--The Apollo Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan

The Apollo Alliance recently released a report that calls for a new approach to transportation that will create thousands of new jobs. “To be competitive in the global economy of the future,” the report states, “we must commit to a new, comprehensive transportation strategy that meets our future transportation needs, reduces carbon emissions, and spurs the creation of a strong domestic transportation manufacturing sector.”

This past March, the Apollo Alliance brought together a task force comprising policy experts in transportation, energy, and economic development, as well as leading manufacturers and representatives from labor unions, which became the Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan Task Force. This group examined the options for expanding the domestic production of advanced transit systems, vehicles, clean trucks, and their component parts.

“We are proud to propose a set of practical policies that will rebuild our roads and bridges, double public transit ridership, save $5 billion in oil imports each year, and create 3.7 million jobs in the process—600,000 alone in the manufacturing sector,” said Alliance Executive Director Cathy Calfo. “We began this project nearly one year ago with the convening of an all-star task force and are thrilled to see recent momentum calling for just the set of ideas we, with input from our task force, have developed.”

The report calls for a comprehensive strategy to boost domestic transit and freight manufacturing, starting with an increase in current annual federal investment levels to $30 billion for public transportation and $10 billion for intercity and high-speed rail. Part of this strategy includes combining large-scale investment and focused public policies to augment the nation’s public transportation system with environmentally cleaner methods.

“The time is now to employ a forward thinking national strategy to fix our infrastructure and create millions of jobs,” the report says. “Today we are on the cusp of an emerging low-carbon economy, and we must again use forward-thinking transportation policy to drive national prosperity. The Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan is a national strategy to do just that.”

The text of the report is available here.

LYNX Selects Lewis as Next Chief Executive Officer

The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (LYNX) Board of Directors in Orlando has chosen John M. Lewis Jr., chief executive officer of the GRTC Transit System in Richmond, VA, to be its new chief executive officer. Contract negotiations are underway.

Edward L. Johnson is serving in the post on an interim basis. The previous chief executive officer, Linda S. Watson, left LYNX in July to head the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX.

Lewis has more than 15 years experience in the transportation industry. Before joining GRTC, he spent four years as director of rail operations and director of bus operations at the Maryland Transit Administration for Maryland DOT.

For APTA, he is vice chair of the Leadership APTA Committee and a member of the Legislative Committee, Bus Operations Committee, and Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee.

Giuliani Dies; Transit Leader for 60 Years

Clarence Giuliani, 85, of Dayton, OH, a public transportation official with more than 60 years of experience, died Oct. 13. He worked in transit maintenance, operations, bus manufacturing, and a wide variety of transit consulting activities.

Giuliani served most recently as chief maintenance operator for the Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority (now Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority) in Dayton, where he worked from 1991 until his retirement in 1993. He continued to advise the system in revitalizing and modernizing its trolleybus operation.

He was maintenance manager in Milwaukee from 1948 to 1973; maintenance director in Baltimore from 1973 to 1978; and became director of physical resources for ATE Management Services (now First Transit) in Cincinnati in 1978. In the 1980s, he was director of operations in Houston; vice president of the bus manufacturer Neoplan; and in 1985 worked in Swaziland for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Giuliani was widely known in the transit industry, serving on several APTA committees including, at the time of his death, the Clean Propulsion and Support Technology Committee and the Bus Technical Maintenance Committee. He also was involved with the Transportation Research Board, publishing several papers.

Bayne Dies; Former Senior Engineer for WMATA

Melba Bayne, 79, of Culpeper, VA, senior mechanical engineer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) from 1981 until her retirement in 1998, died Oct. 4.

Early in her career, Bayne was a junior mechanical engineer with Smith, Hichman, and Grylls.

She became a stay-at-home mother, in time working from home, and then she joined Bernard Johnson Associates in Washington, DC, as a senior mechanical engineer.

Bayne was a former member of the National Fire Protection Association panel working on NFPA 130, the standard for fixed guideway and passenger rail systems, and a past member and chair of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Technical Committee 5.9, Enclosed Vehicular Facilities.

Two Studies Highlight the Benefits of Transit Use

An overwhelming number of Americans with access to public transportation—87 percent—take advantage of it and 69 percent consider public transit a better option than driving at times, according to the latest America THINKS survey released by HNTB Corporation.

The random nationwide survey of 1,000 Americans showed that higher gas prices and convenience are the primary motivators for riding public transportation, with both cited by 29 percent of respondents. When asked to select the most valuable feature of public transportation, 28 percent cited its role in reducing traffic congestion; 24 percent noted how it saves users money; and 13 percent listed its environmental benefit.

“Whether it’s buses, commuter trains, light rail, or streetcars, public transportation is an essential element for our communities,” said Elizabeth Rao, chair, public transit services, for HNTB. “People like transit, and successful cities deliver it.”

Despite budget and service cutbacks related to the current economic climate, more than two-thirds of the survey respondents said the overall quality of public transportation in their area has either stayed the same or improved during the last five years.

Among respondents with public transportation in their area, 58 percent say the level of service has stayed about the same, while 25 percent think it has improved.

The survey also examined attitudes toward public financing of public transit. Forty-six percent of respondents said they believe local, state, and federal governments do not spend enough money on public transportation in their area.

Possible funding sources include an increased share of gas tax, supported by 28 percent; private investment, 21 percent; or local sales taxes, 20 percent. In contrast, only 10 percent supported property taxes for transit funding.

A summary of the survey can be found here.

Environment Illinois
Meanwhile, a report just released by the group Environment Illinois shows how commuters using Metra commuter rail in the Chicago area saved 34.8 million gallons of gasoline—the amount of fuel consumed by more than 61,000 cars per year—in 2008. According to On the Right Track: Chicago’s Metra Saves Energy and Protects the Environment, transportation is responsible for more than two-thirds of the nation’s dependence on oil and about one-third of carbon dioxide pollution.

“Each time someone rides Metra, they are voting with their feet to make Chicago more energy-independent,” said Sophie Huckabay, a campaign associate with Environment Illinois. “The best way to protect our environment in the long term is to continue on the path to using less oil.”

Metra also contributes significantly to relieving highway congestion, the report said. Riders took 77 million trips on Metra in 2008, and ridership has been steadily growing by an average of 1 percent annually since 2000.

The report found that transit users in the Chicago region can save as much as $11,611 per year by avoiding the cost of vehicle ownership, parking, and fuel.

It also cited other benefits of transit ridership: fewer hours stuck in traffic and reductions in smog and carbon pollution. Each year, Metra service reduces global warming pollution by 256,000 tons.

The text of the report is available here.

MMVTA’s Murtha Center Reclaims Brownfield Site in Donora, PA

On Oct. 26, 1948, the western Pennsylvania town of Donora became notorious for a thick, acrid smog that blanketed the area, causing 20 deaths and lingering health problems for many residents. The “Donora Death Fog” resulted from a stationary inversion of air that kept smokestack emissions from the city’s steel and zinc plants from dissipating; it ultimately served as a catalyst for the passage of federal clean air legislation.

Clean air awareness has taken many major steps in Donora in the more than 60 years since then. Last month, the Mid Mon Valley Transit Authority (MMVTA) held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the John P. Murtha Transportation Center—located on a brownfield site where the American Wire Works Zinc Plant, likely a contributor to the event locals now refer to as the Donora Smog, once stood.

“No other place is more fitting for a public transit agency to be erecting such a facility. We will perform maintenance on our vehicles here, park-and-ride facilities are already being used by passengers, and we have revitalized a once brownfield location,” said MMVTA Chairman of the Board Dr. Harry Miale. “Our buses offer an immediate alternative for reducing energy use and carbon footprints. Plus, no other facility in the world can claim to have such history.”

MMVTA named the facility in memory of Murtha, the region’s longtime member of Congress and a champion of the community. Murtha’s successor, Rep. Mark S. Critz (D-PA), participated in the dedication ceremony.

The $4.7 million transportation center received more than $1.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, along with $1.68 million in Pennsylvania DOT discretionary funds. It provides 13,000 square feet dedicated strictly for the maintenance of the MMVTA bus fleet, including vehicle lifts, an automated bus wash, computerized fueling station, HVAC for exhaust, and preliminary park-and-ride facilities for passengers.

The opening of the facility center completes the first phase of a two-part project. The unfunded, shovel-ready second phase will include the refurbishment of an existing 42,000-square-foot building, original to the site, to better accommodate bus storage and office space, along with improved passenger amenities such as bike racks, bus shelters, and passenger waiting areas.

 

 

Donora, PA, in the days when air pollution was a threat to public health, left, and today, right, when the former American Wire Works Zinc Plant site has been reclaimed as the John P. Murtha Transportation Center.

 

TCRP Releases Publications

The Transportation Research Board recently released the following Transit Cooperative Research Program publications:

Report 139: Guidebook for Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Transit Managers for Fixed-Route Bus and Paratransit Systems. This report explores resources for fixed route bus, general public demand-response, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit systems resources to assist in the recruitment, development, and retention of managers. The guidebook is accompanied by CRP-CD-77, which provides model job descriptions for 32 broad job titles that indicate the structure and content for job descriptions for manager jobs.

Report 142: Vehicle Operator Recruitment, Retention, and Performance in ADA Complementary Paratransit Operations. This report provides guidance for understanding the relationships that influence and enhance operator recruitment, retention, and performance in ADA complementary paratransit services.

Appendixes to TCRP Report 142 previously were published electronically as TCRP Web-Only Document 50: Survey Instrument, Productivity Charts, and Interview Protocol for Case Studies for TCRP Report 142.

Research Results Digest 96: Managing Increasing Ridership Demand. This digest documents a 2009 study mission to Guayaquil, Ecuador; Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Porto Alegre, Brazil, that investigated how transit operators and agencies in these cities accommodated sudden and significant growth in the number of riders and increasing demand for service.

Legal Research Digest 33: Developing and Implementing a Transit Advertising Policy. This digest provides information pertaining to a transit system’s use of various strategies to implement advertising content policies that further the system’s reasonable interests and protect free speech rights.

Synthesis 86: Relationships Between Streetcars and the Built Environment. This report examines selected, built streetcar and trolley systems to trace their evolution, define significant factors, and identify commonalities among levels of success in impacting the built environment.

Copies of these reports are available online.

Draggoo Named to Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame

The Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame inducted Sandy Draggoo, chief executive officer/executive director of the Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) in Lansing, MI, since 1985, as a member in ceremonies Oct. 19 in East Lansing. She was one of a class of 10 Michigan women who received the honor for being first, founders, or experts in their fields.

Draggoo joined CATA in 1974 as the executive secretary serving the executive director and rose through the ranks to the top position. She is active in APTA, serving on the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, Small Operations Committee, and Legislative Committee, and is a former APTA vice chair-marketing and communications.

Since its establishment by the Michigan Women’s Studies Association in 1983, the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame has recognized more than 250 high-achieving women from the state.

 

Photo by Laura Flugga
Sandy Draggoo, center, is one of 10 Michigan women admitted to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. Her daughter, Kristi Draggoo Lewis, is at left, and Lansing, MI, news anchor Sheri Jones of WLNS-TV is at right.

 

Connecting the Dots: Energy, Environment, Transportation, Housing, Sustainability; An Integrated Approach Holds the Key to Achieving Mobility Goals

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

“We’re not just in the business of building rail systems.” With that, moderator Richard J. Simonetta, vice president and national director of high speed rail & special projects, URS Corporation, Columbus, OH, began an Annual Meeting session before a very full house.

The concept of how an increasingly integrated approach to planning will affect mobility goals in urban, suburban, and rural communities across America and shape upcoming legislation is, as Simonetta said, “a subject matter that embraces aspects of our transit industry that we don’t think of every day, but is so important.”

Emil Frankel, director of transportation policy for the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, asked: “How can the power of the purse at the federal level be used to achieve this kind of comprehensive and integrated planning at the state and local levels?” He continued: “Transportation policy must go beyond capacity and mobility; societal goals must now become central to transportation issues, e.g., economic growth and climate change.”

Policy must be more performance-driven, he said, linked to clearly articulated goals, and more accountable for results. He urged that the “what” be articulated at the national level, leaving the “how” for state and local officials to determine. Frankel also said the emphasis should be on programs, not individual projects, with experts examining “how the various programs work together, along with the livability objectives of economic growth and safety.”

This approach requires “good planning—across modes, agencies, and jurisdictions,” Frankel said. “Do we, as a general matter, have this in this country? I would argue that, with the exception of some areas, we do not.”

After briefly discussing an array of federal partnerships (“We’re invigorating the ‘UD’ of HUD”), Kate Mattice, director of policy review and development for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), noted that “the administration is really committed to breaking down silos. Our theme is: when you build it right, you build it right the first time.”

She said, “We recognize that smart investments are the way to leverage local dollars.” She tied federal partnerships in with breaking down policy and statutory barriers: “It’s about coordinating program delivery—and sharing best practices.”

At the federal level, FTA specifically looks at targeted programs for livable communities, she noted, while at the local level, “we’re trying to make it easy for communities to leverage each other’s programs. Are there ways we can make communities think ‘neighborhood to neighborhood’ rather than a housing project here and a transportation project there?”

“We are trying,” Mattice said, “to help communities realize their vision.”

Mitch Warren, senior policy advisor to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, spoke about industry trends and issues, such as how members of the Millennial generation have fundamentally shifted where they live (to cities), and how traffic congestion will only get worse.

Echoing Mattice in terms of breaking down silos that prevent any connecting of the dots, he said: “It’s obvious that increased investment in transportation and transit-oriented development are essential to helping us meet these challenges in the future.”

Warren added: “We can ignore [these challenges] and stick our heads in the sand—or we can ensure that the next Congress is looking at energy, transportation, and housing issues. For our nation’s future, integrating these policies is what we need to do.”

Amy Scarton, counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, presented a series of rapid-fire questions: “What is livability? How can we define it in a way that allows transit providers and planners to better connect with Congress on this concept? If we are seeking to achieve it, what goals do we benchmark on ourselves to see that we reach it? If we put a definition to livability, does that allow us to be flexible?”

Scarton talked about draft authorization legislation from T&I Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN), including how the bill would more than double transit investment. “He wants to make it easier to get more money out the door so you can decide your livability agenda,” she said.

She also focused on whether the concept of livability has overcome partisanship. “Has the livability agenda accomplished a post-partisan stance?” she asked. If that stance has not yet been achieved, she said, there must be some “institutional, lasting reforms put in place now when we have an administration and Congress in favor of livability.”

James Corless, director of Transportation for America, Washington, DC, began with a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Livable Communities 101,” and he proceeded to present some basic elements of such communities. They should, he said, be “walkable, convenient, providing more choices, bottom up rather than top down, come in all shapes and sizes, involve the community and local businesses, and be inviting to a diverse demographic.”

Corless advised using 21st-century technology to illustrate plans. “Don’t do two-dimensional zoning maps,” he said. “If people can see it and how it shapes their future, this process can do so much to help shape their community.”

He quoted a survey from Building America’s Future showing that, “by a significant margin (56 percent), Americans say safer streets should be the primary objective of increased infrastructure investment. And 31 percent wanted more transportation options, with 16 percent of those responders making this a first choice.”

But more needs to be done. “Until we energize people much like Eisenhower did in the 1950s, we’re really going to have a hard time growing our federal transportation investment,” he said.

HDR Engineering Inc. sponsored this session.

 

Participants in the “Connecting the Dots” session include, from left, Emil Frankel, Kate Mattice, Mitch Warren, Amy Scarton, and James Corless.
Annual Meeting photos by Gary Perkins and Chantel Nasits

  
Ride for Life: Transit is Essential to Livability and Sustainability
Editor’s note:  In May 2010, APTA’s Legislative Committee adopted principles developed by the Intergovernmental Issues Subcommittee relating to livability and sustainability.  What follows are excerpts from those principles.

Public transportation provides mobility alternatives so that all members of a community may share access to key destinations and enjoy quality of life benefits. In 2009, people took more than 10.2 billion trips on public transportation, about 34 million trips each weekday.

Access and mobility—this is how transit connects the dots. It creates jobs and gets us to work every day. It contributes to the growth of a strong economy, as every $1 billion investment in public transportation supports 36,000 jobs and generates $4 billion in business activity. It carries us back and forth to school, shopping, community services and leisure activities. It connects key destinations and brings them into the larger community. In so doing, transit makes that larger community more livable and environmentally sustainable.

Therefore, our nation must:
* Place greater emphasis on transit in federal place-based policies and funding, especially as it concerns land-use decision-making that should aim to capitalize on existing transit systems;
* Allow existing transit services to be a priority for state of good repair funding; and
* Conserve and enhance existing transit infrastructure and invest, as appropriate, in expanding transit to improve connectivity and mobility among and between diverse communities.

The complete text of the livability and sustainability document is available online.

In Ottawa and Chicago, Transit Partners with Suppliers

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Ottawa, ON, and Chicago are just two of the North American metropolitan areas whose public transit agencies are discovering that partnerships with their suppliers “have helped us break through” to better, more cost-efficient service—in the words of Alain Mercier, general manager-transit services for OC Transpo/City of Ottawa. Representatives of participating transit agencies and businesses relayed their experiences during a session at the APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX.

Mercier described how his system worked together with New Flyer and Clever Devices to replace one of the oldest bus fleets in Canada with new, reliable vehicles from New Flyer, equipped with software from Clever Devices.

“The cost of business had been increasing while customer value was falling,” he explained. “We were seeing growth in passenger demand, but it had prevented the agency from meeting the city’s greenhouse gas mitigation goals …. We needed a bus partner that was a technology solution provider, not just a bus manufacturer.”

After discussions with New Flyer about “concepts to integrate maintenance, fleet options, and technology,” Mercier said, OC Transpo opened a new facility and took receipt of the first buses in a 306-vehicle order in September.

Paul Smith, executive vice president, sales and marketing, for New Flyer, noted his surprise at being a full partner in the process rather than just helping the agency explore its options. He listed the various savings from the process: reduced fuel costs; lower engine overhaul costs; reduced future midlife overhaul costs; limited future maintenance costs because of the newer fleet; lower inventory costs; savings associated with improved bus availability and improved vandalism protection; and a better environmental footprint.

John P. Walsh, chief research and strategy officer for Clever Devices, said the concept of “multiple partners, both public and private, working together for a single goal” was unprecedented.

“Usually, each participant in the process is an island of information, providing technology solutions for its own purposes without providing maximum benefit to the transit agency,” Walsh explained. “These missed opportunities limit the opportunities to improve system reliability and provide validated performance metrics. Leveraging technology solutions to benefit both the transit agency and their vehicle providers through a collaborative process can deliver these outcomes for both parties.”

As a result, all partners have access to “true business intelligence and decision support systems that have not been available before,” he said, while the transit agency achieves “measurable, real reductions in operating costs … [and] migration from a reactive, non-predictable, inefficient maintenance model to more efficient, less costly condition-based maintenance.”

Speakers from Chicago provided a different perspective, referring specifically to the replacement of antiquated technology in Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) stations and vehicles and how the authority benefits from the expertise of the manufacturers. Peter Ousley, CTA chief of staff, explained the situation briefly: “As much as we pride ourselves on being able to maintain our buses, we wouldn’t try to build our own buses.”

He listed some of CTA’s innovations, such as allowing the use of contactless credit or debit cards to pay fares rather than relying on dedicated fare media; public-private partnerships to upgrade facilities, such as the $4 million in upgrades needed at the North/Clybourn Station; corporate sponsorships of agency assets through a 502(c)3 corporation; and establishment of the Adopt-A-Station program to promote community support of its local station,

Elizabeth Gallagher, program director with Chicago Transit Partners, reported on the partnership over the past two decades between CTA and her organization, which comprises AECOM and Kenny Construction. “We work as an integrated team,” she said. “CTA has budget constraints and doesn’t want to pay for a management team, so we work with our core team.”

Among other efforts, Chicago Transit Partners lowered the amount of slow zones in the CTA rail system from 23 percent in 2007 to 10 percent in 2010, and oversaw the $529 million capacity expansion on the Brown Line. Its future plans include state of good repair upgrades throughout the system and modernization of 100-year-old structures.

“We want to profit from these efforts, but responsibly,” added CTA’s Ousley. “We want a win-win situation. We’re also interested in the impact on communities. We don’t accept the argument that because we’re in financial crisis we shouldn’t look ahead. These relationships keep us whole and poised to ride the crest of the recovery.”

The Principle Partnering Group LLC sponsored the session.

 

Speakers at the session on transit agency-business partnerships include, from left, Elizabeth Gallagher, Peter Ousley, John P. Walsh, Paul Smith, and Alain Mercier; moderator Paul P. Skoutelas; and Lolalisa King, representing The Principle Partnering Group.

 

Working to Implement a State of Good Repair

BY LYNNE T. DEAN, Special to Passenger Transport

Public transportation systems addressing their state of good repair (SGR) needs and matching these policy decisions with a financial commitment can reap important benefits, speakers from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), AECOM, and Halcrow told attendees at a session of the APTA Annual Meeting.

Panelists presented strategies, priorities, and alternative approaches to attain and then maintain SGR. Onala (Tony) M. Atala, associate vice president, system safety and security, for AECOM in Newark, NJ, moderated the session.

Atala said only 30 percent of U.S. public transit systems have reached a state of good repair or better, citing a July 2009 FTA roundtable discussion on the topic. That, he explained, represents the initial challenge: “We have an infrastructure problem in the U.S. that requires $80 billion to catch up, and an estimated $16 billion will be needed annually for the next 20 years [2008 dollars] to achieve and maintain SGR.”

Sean G. Libberton, associate administrator of FTA’s Office of Program Management, listed key issues under review and study through the State of Good Repair Initiative as the form and function of asset management systems; a definition of SGR; financial assistance; and technical assistance. FTA recently funded 152 projects totaling $776 million through its SGR Bus Discretionary Program Awards, he noted, and is working on a Senate-funded report on national and international Transit Asset Management (TAM) best practices slated for presentation to Congress by June 16, 2011.

The current FTA Working Group definition of SGR states: “A transit asset is in a State of Good Repair if its weighted rating score based on four attributes is greater than or equal to 2.5, where the lowest score equals 1 and the highest equals 5.” Attributes include age of the asset relative to its design/useful life, asset condition as determined through field inspections or otherwise (e.g., visible defects, component deterioration), asset performance (e.g., service reliability, customer comforts, safety, meets current industry standards), and backlog of maintenance/deferred maintenance.

Atala stressed that transit agencies must have effective TAM systems in place. Such systems address quality asset data on conditions, needs, progress, and risks; required service and performance levels; critical assets to sustained performance; and decision support tools such as “what if?” analysis. These systems, he explained, also monitor and forecast backlog; provide the best long-term investment mix for customers; and offer an optimal mix of preservation, expansion, and safety investment strategies through cost-benefit analysis.

Yoav Arkin, senior program director, system safety and assurance, with AECOM in Baltimore, noted the integration of Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS) as one approach to enhancing SGR.

The benefits of reliability, according to Arkin, include longer equipment operating (“up”) time between failures; improved on-time performance, system availability, and dependability; reduced corrective (unscheduled) maintenance; reduced preventive (scheduled) maintenance; and reduced life cycle operation and maintenance costs.

Using formulas and algorithms, he outlined the impact of availability, maintainability, and safety factors on SGR and concluded by recommending that RAMS requirements be prioritized in contract specifications related to assets.

William Mooney, vice president, high-speed rail, for Halcrow, based in Chicago, reported on training available from the National Transit Institute (NTI). The objectives of NTI’s transit asset management course include defining transit asset management and presenting basic principles; identifying the benefits of transit asset management; and describing FTA policies for asset protection. The course also outlines a process for establishing key performance indicators and introduces strategies to proactively develop and implement an asset management program.



State DOTs Work to Build the New ‘Transconomy’

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Jolene Molitoris, director of Ohio DOT, coined the word “transconomy” to describe how transportation and the economy can only benefit as an inseparable unit when she addressed the General Forum, “Transit and the State DOT Commissioner: The Future is Multimodal,” at the APTA Annual Meeting.

“Transportation contributes to the economy in a way that nothing else does,” she said.  “A thriving economy needs good transportation. Transportation and economic competitiveness are intertwined. Our chance for change is here—and we need all of our multimodal partners to seize it.”

Molitoris noted that doing things in new ways can be difficult. “Members of a large organization know what they do well, they have culture and tradition, so for them to evolve is not easy,” she said. “As leaders of the industry, it is our challenge, our opportunity—and, for me, a thrill—to work with the department’s employees and all our partners—planning agencies, local transit agencies, railroads, ports, airports—as partners to create the transportation system that will make this nation second to none.”

She described how Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland convened the 60-member 21st Century Transportation Task Force to help the state determine the future of its transportation operations. “Within a month, the task force members realized something revolutionary: their job isn’t about transportation but about what transportation can produce: revitalization, population growth, development.”

The next step, she said, was to put the task force’s efforts into effect by creating the Ohio Transportation Futures Plan, a statewide, multimodal investment strategy to attract and retain business and grow Ohio’s population.  “Every transportation investment we make,” she said, “must show a positive return on investment. Economic and job development are at the top of the list.”

Martin Tuttle, deputy director-planning and modal programs for Caltrans, echoed Molitoris’ emphasis on integrating all modes of transportation across a state. “The future is multimodal; it’s the law in California,” he said. “People realize that, in California, transit is the big game in town.”

Tuttle referred to a state law, which became effective Jan. 1, that requires Caltrans to identify the components of a statewide integrated multimodal transportation system as part of an effort to achieve the maximum feasible greenhouse gas reductions. Transportation professionals across the state, he said, are building on their existing regional transportation and land use plans to create the California Interregional Blueprint, the first statewide effort to integrate modal plans into a single document.

“It’s an exciting time for all of us in the transportation business,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re really working well together. The idea of being multimodal has been talked about way too long; it’s up to the state DOTs to take it forward.”

Michael A. Sanders, transit administrator, transit and ridesharing, for Connecticut DOT, reported on his state’s role in transportation issues. The state operates Connecticut Transit branded services and oversees bus rapid transit between New Britain and Hartford; commuter rail and higher-speed rail serving New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield; and possible infrastructure upgrades for high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. It has a role in project-specific initiatives.

“Connecticut’s transit districts receive most of their money from us, but we don’t have direct control over policy decisions. We can set general statewide policies and metrics for the local agencies to meet,” he explained. “It dates back to the time when private transit providers were going bankrupt and local governments took over. If local governments didn’t do it, the states did.”

In answer to a question about commuters shifting away from private automobiles and toward public transit, Sanders said: “It may take time for the institutional culture to change, but we can work at the edges to affect the outcome.”

 

Participants in the session on transit and state DOTs were, from left, Jolene Molitoris, Michael Sanders, and Martin Tuttle.

 

Challenging Times for Public Transportation

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

These are tumultuous times for public transportation and the road ahead is uncertain. Representatives from public transit agencies, Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Congress, as well as vendors, provided varying outlooks on the future during a session titled “State of the Industry—Where Do We Go from Here?” at APTA’s Annual Meeting.

Paul Smith, executive vice president, sales and marketing, for New Flyer, noted that the number of bus bids—and the number of vehicles produced—reached a peak in 2008. “We’re in for tougher times ahead,” he said, adding that the slow economy has meant reduced operating budgets for many public transit systems, which responded by cutting service.

Stanley J. Rosenblum, division vice president for Jacobs, laid out what he considers positive and negative trends affecting public transit. The good news includes market stability resulting from pre-2009 contracts and orders; the availability of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to “keep the pipeline flowing”; and federal policies and programs, such as positive train control and sustainability initiatives, that help drive opportunities in the private sector.

However, Rosenblum continued, there’s a bad side to many of these good efforts. ARRA grants support construction, not planning or design; constrained public budgets may mean delays in contract awards; and resources are becoming scarcer, meaning that less will be left after existing large commitments.

He noted that the industry must become more “agile,” consolidating or realigning its assets as needed to stay active. “We will be stronger and smarter when the upturn comes,” he said.

Phillip A. Washington, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), gave a brief overview of the agency’s comprehensive FasTracks program. This “very aggressive” multimodal effort, funded through a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2004, includes light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, park-and-rides, and renovations to Denver Union Station.

“The problem we’re seeing is a decline in the sales tax in the economic downturn,” Washington said, adding that RTD had hoped to complete FasTracks by 2017. “Right now, there’s a $2 million deficit if we are to complete the program. Our questions are: should we build to the level our revenues can support, or ask for additional money?”

He also noted that RTD is one of three U.S. public transit systems participating in the federal Public-Private Partnership Pilot Program through one component of FasTracks: the commuter rail Eagle P3 project.

“The private sector provides up-front cash and gets paid back later. We could not do this project without the help of the private sector,” Washington said.

Matthew Welbes, FTA executive director, reviewed recent federal efforts including $776 million in State of Good Repair discretionary grants; $50 billion in front-loaded infrastructure funding proposed by President Obama; and the possible establishment of transportation finance pools to offer funding for large projects ($50 million and up), such as Denver Union Station and the San Francisco Transbay Terminal.

An ongoing concern Welbes cited was the proliferation of funding programs: FTA had nine of these programs in 1982 and 33 in 2005. He said FTA is looking for ways to streamline and simplify the grant process.

Joyce Rose, Republican staff director to the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, stressed that this is a “particularly difficult period” for Congress to craft a six-year transportation authorization bill. “The usual payment source is the gas tax,” she explained, “but people are driving less, so we’re taking in less—receipts are going down.” She said she would like to see a more innovative funding structure, noting that private-sector support can provide substantial power behind public funds.

Rose emphasized that T&I Ranking Member John Mica (R-FL) “believes in investing in transit” and is committed to working with Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) to craft, then pass, the authorization bill.

Sharon Greene, president/CEO of Sharon Greene and Associates, Laguna Beach, CA, moderated the session.

 

Panelists, from left, include Paul Smith, Stanley J. Rosenblum, Phillip A. Washington, Matthew Welbes, and Joyce Rose.

 

Forging Partnerships for Livable and Sustainable Communities: Challenges, Strategies, and Needs

BY LYNNE T. DEAN, Special to Passenger Transport

Cooperation, collaboration, and public involvement top the list of recommended strategies for public transit agencies and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) when both seek to improve livability and sustainability in their regions, according to panelists representing five diverse U.S. regions at a session during the APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX.

More than 100 people participated in the round-table discussion, led by panelists representing public transportation systems and MPOs from San Antonio, Salt Lake City, Houston, Seattle, and Albany, NY. Four presenters from a variety of backgrounds also contributed to the peer-to-peer exchange.

Working with the development community emerged as a key topic of discussion. In addition to emphasizing the importance of the relationship between the agency-MPO partnerships and developers, panelists acknowledged that one challenge in implementing regional long-range plans is the lack of control over land use and development. The process itself was also mentioned as a significant challenge.

“Getting developers to understand that there is a process that must be followed when you use federal dollars—and that it takes a little longer—is important,” said Kimberly Slaughter, associate vice president, planning, with Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

In the host region of San Antonio, the most productive strategies for addressing the challenges of a growing region—increasing ridership and funding—align with those of other panelists and focus primarily on emphasizing public involvement and attracting stakeholder participation. The city also benefits greatly by having a mayor who firmly supports livability and sustainability issues, said Christine Vina, project manager-urban design for VIA Metropolitan Transit.

In Albany, a developer forum is under consideration to bring developers together to talk about issues and ways they can collaborate, according to Sandy Misiewicz, AICP, senior transportation planner with the Capital District Transportation Authority.

And the Seattle region is encouraging developers to have transportation management plans as part of its development planning, said Charlie Howard, transportation planning director of the Puget Sound Regional Council.

In Utah, projects happen because of institutional relationships, according to Andrew S. Gruber, executive director, Wasatch Front Regional Council, Salt Lake City. Transit oriented development is part of the implementation of the regional long-range plan, Envision Utah, and public transit systems have participated in Salt Lake City’s master plan as well as state planning initiatives. “At the end of the day, it’s about partnerships and people,” he explained.

Over the past 10 years, Gruber said, partnerships in Utah have reaped benefits such as seeing ridership reach record levels and continue to grow. He added that partners are also jointly exploring high-speed rail.

Kevin Desmond, general manager of King County Metro Transit Division/DOT in Seattle, noted that successful partnerships include leading and following components. He suggested that MPOs and transit agencies work together to develop guidelines and standards that provide opportunities for investments that lead development and follow ridership growth.

Participants in the session generally concurred that change is the one consistent element in the future of livable and sustainable communities and that regions with energetic, thoughtful people participating in the process will most readily and successfully adapt to that change.

 

Andrew D. Gruber, center, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council in Salt Lake City, UT, and Michael A. Allegra, general manager of the Utah Transit Authority, speak at the session on transit agency-MPO partnerships. At left is Diana C. Mendes, session moderator and senior vice president with AECOM.




 

Agencies Discuss Responsible Use of Social Media

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—are becoming facts of life that public transportation agencies must now harness, or they run the risk of being left behind. Agency representatives reported on how they use these technologies for outreach and communication purposes as part of a session during the APTA Annual Meeting.

Paulette Tonilas, FasTracks public information manager for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver, described how she brought together traditional media and new media for the purpose of adding value. FasTracks is the comprehensive RTD program that ultimately will provide 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 31 new park-and-rides, enhanced bus network and transit hubs, and renovations to Denver Union Station.

Because FasTracks is such a vast and many-sided program, Tonilas said, RTD needs to keep the public informed through numerous media. Beginning in 2007, the agency began posting videos about the project on YouTube; created a Facebook page in early 2009; and followed that up with the launch of Facebook and Twitter accounts this year.

“We had to ask ourselves a lot of questions before going live,” she said. “Was our purpose to provide information or encourage interactive communication? What was appropriate for a public agency to post? How should we create guidelines for deleting posted comments or content? What staff resources would be required and what level of commitment? How can we archive posted information?”

RTD established a few basic rules for its social media accounts before going live internally on Feb. 1 and to the general public on March 1. The agency posts something fresh on the Facebook site each day and includes a policy disclaimer regarding the removal of inaccurate or inappropriate information. At the same time, Tonilas acknowledged the support of more than 1,100 Facebook fans—many of whom post “some really amazing shots” of RTD stations—and about 550 Twitter followers.

She laid out the following guidelines:
* Set goals early in the process. Know what you’re doing and why.
* Manage resources effectively. RTD devotes eight hours per week to social media and coordinates efforts every two weeks.
* Reassess activities monthly.
* Learn from those who have come before you .
* Know how to measure your success—for example, count the number of Facebook fans or retweets by Twitter followers.

Chad Saley, public relations specialist with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in Salt Lake City, noted that the agency had to overcome its fears before entering the world of social media.  He asked: “Are people going to use these tools against us? What’s worth spending our time on?” UTA began feeling more comfortable when it launched a Flickr account to post photos and discovered “a huge society of transit fans already posting UTA photos.”

After UTA introduced its Twitter feed, Saley said, “we were lurkers on the site, watching what people were saying about us.” After receiving a post with questions challenging UTA, “we decided to start responding. Soon we were having conversations about UTA salaries, service, what people saw as the general inconvenience of transit.”

The result? Surprisingly positive, according to Saley. “People started out just angry and mad at us, but we saw a change in their tone. Instead of just criticizing UTA, they began conceding points,” he noted. “A lot of them—who had been regular detractors of us—just stopped posting once they realized there’s a human face behind the agency. One actually said: ‘Thank you UTA for posting back to us.’”

Ultimately, he said, UTA realized that social media—now including Facebook and three blogs—provide many benefits for a transit agency. It’s an opportunity to monitor the conversation, gain customer feedback and opinion, address critics and respond to negative press, disseminate information to the public and traditional media, and provide emergency updates.

Carolyn Young, executive director, communications and technology, for Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), reported on an incident related to a post by a TriMet bus operator on his blog, “TriMet Confidential.” The poster referenced in graphic terms a bicyclist he said had acted unsafely around his bus.

Other blogs immediately picked up the driver’s post, Young said, and within two hours the operator had been removed from his bus and placed on administrative leave.

The driver subsequently posted an apology, saying: “Let me tell you what I would do if I met this guy right now …. I would tell him… ‘I would never willingly harm you but brother it’s so unfair for you to use me to harm you. If I had been one moment slower on the breaks [sic], I would have never been able to drive a bus again.’” He shut down the blog and did return to work at TriMet, which disciplined him for the incident.

Young stated that “TriMet believes in employees’ right to freedom of expression, online and elsewhere.  At the same time, employees should exercise that freedom in a manner consistent with TriMet’s philosophy of transparency, integrity, and mutual respect.”

“You’re on the forefront of a new world,” said Richard L. Ruddell, president/executive director of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority in Fort Worth, TX, who moderated the session. “We all need to learn more about these media.”

Opinions from Public Transportation Experts

Editor's Note: The National Journal's "Expert Blog on Transportation" recently solicited responses from experts heavily involved in public transportation on such issues as funding new passenger rail systems and ensuring that the competing needs of passenger and freight rail are both balanced and met. What follows are excerpts of some of the views presented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

People on the Move

Dan Blocher
PORTLAND, OR—The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) has promoted Dan Blocher to executive director of capital projects. He will direct and manage all aspects of planning, development, design, and construction of TriMet’s capital projects.

Blocher has been with TriMet for 13 years over two periods of employment and takes over this position from Neil McFarlane, who was promoted to general manager of TriMet.

He joined TriMet in 1995, leading the project control, cost analysis, and contract management functions of capital projects; he became senior director of capital projects in 2002. He left the agency for two years in 2000 to be the program change control manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff in London.


John Murphy, Neil Lucey, Eugene J. Kim, Will Willson

NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) announced the following hirings:

John Murphy, the new chief financial officer, comes to PB after serving as vice president of Irving Transportation Services in Canada.

Murphy has more than 25 years of financial and senior management experience, including 14 years working with major engineering contractors and their domestic and international operations.

Neil Lucey has been named a senior vice president in the firm’s New York City office. He will serve as area manager for that office, responsible for client management and project performance of all New York operations.

Lucey has nearly 40 years of experience in planning, design and construction for infrastructure projects and programs. Prior to joining PB, he served as a senior vice president for a consulting engineering company.

Eugene J. Kim has been named vice president in the Los Angeles office of PB, managing the company’s Los Angeles transportation planning practice. Kim has more than 15 years of experience in strategic planning, program implementation, and transportation system design.

Will Willson has been named a risk manager with PB’s Geotechnical and Tunneling Technical Excellence Center in Princeton, NJ.

He is an industry leader in risk assessment, risk analysis, and risk management, serving recently as an associate principal with Davis Langdon and a senior vice president with Faithful & Gould.