Passenger Transport - November 8, 2010
(Print All Articles)

Public Transportation Initiatives Win Across Country; Success Rate Reaches 73 Percent

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

On Nov. 2, voters across the country—from Rhode Island and Ohio to Florida, Texas, Oregon, and California—had more than people to vote for; they had a host of public transportation-related ballot initiatives. Voters considered whether to approve new and increased sales taxes, property taxes, or car registration fees to support transportation; bond issues that would help to finance public transit; possible service changes and establishment of new transit authorities; and even state constitutional amendments.

As of press time, voters approved 22 of 30 transportation ballot measures, for a success rate of 73 percent, authorizing nearly $500 million over the next five years. When added to the initiatives passed earlier in the year, the Center for Transportation Excellence is reporting 43 out of 56 approvals, marking a 77 percent success rate.

“People understand the importance of having a good public transportation system in their communities,” said APTA President William Millar. “That’s why, despite the impact of the Great Recession, Americans overwhelmingly voted to improve or initiate public transportation, even though it means additional local or state taxes.”

The next issue of Passenger Transport will feature an analysis of the Nov. 2 election results, focusing on the potential impact to the public transit industry.

What follows is an overview of many of transportation-related ballot issues.

Statewide Measures
Sixty-four percent of California’s voters approved Proposition 22, a statewide initiative constitutional amendment to keep the state from borrowing or taking funds for transportation, redevelopment, or local government projects and services delaying distribution of tax revenues for these purposes. The measure protects more than $1.8 billion in state and local transit funding.

Joshua Shaw, executive director of the California Transit Association, said: “With this victory, we have succeeded in constitutionally protecting more than $1.8 billion a year in state and local funding for transit, and prevented these funds from being raided, diverted, or outright stolen as part of the state budget process. With nearly $3.5 billion having been raided over the past three years alone—and with state funding for transit operations at one point having been eliminated completely—this victory will allow us to begin the process of recovery from the epidemic of fare hikes, service cuts, and job layoffs recently inflicted on transit providers and those they serve.”

“The passage of Proposition 22 in yesterday’s election sends a strong voter mandate to Sacramento that borrowing or taking vital transportation funds to balance the state’s deficit will no longer be acceptable,” said Los Angeles County Metro Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy. “The action taken by the voters will now prohibit the state from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for transportation purposes and is welcome news to L.A. County and Metro as we strive to ensure that scarce transportation dollars go towards much-needed transportation improvement projects.”

Carl Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer of Monterey-Salinas Transit in Monterey, CA, explained the meaning of the measure. “Proposition 22 closes the loopholes that the state legislature has used to redirect billions of transit-related tax dollars to other state general fund programs,” he said. “Californians can be assured that the tax dollars they have approved at the ballot box for specific transit-related purposes will be used for transit and not siphoned away to support the pet programs and projects of the governor and legislature.”

“Proposition 22’s success is not surprising,” said Mike Wiley, general manager/chief executive officer of the Sacramento Regional Transit District, “as voters have overwhelmingly favored past ballot initiatives to dedicate funding to advance public transit and transportation options in California. Prop. 22 is assurance that the Sacramento Regional Transit District and California’s public transit operators will have secure funding to provide reliable transit system operations and potentially restore vital services that were recently eliminated because of budget cuts.”

Another statewide measure, in Rhode Island, passed by an overwhelming margin of 73 percent. The ballot initiative includes $4.7 million in bonds to purchase and rehabilitate buses for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, along with $80 million in general obligation bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes to match federal funds and provide direct funding for improvements to the state’s highways, roads, and bridges.

Restoring, Improving Service
Seventy percent of voters in Clayton County, GA—which currently has no public transportation service—approved an advisory measure stating its interest in becoming part of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority area and support for a one-cent sales tax to pay for the new service.

In Oahu, HI, 63 percent of voters approved a city charter amendment establishing an independent transit authority for the city to govern over rail and bus services. The authority will have six members, three elected by the mayor and three by the city council.

Sixty-two percent of voters in Richland Hills, TX, approved remaining part of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority service area.

In Horry County, SC, voters approved by 63 percent an advisory measure to increase property taxes to support regional public transportation services.

Taxes and Other Revenue Measures
The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) in Toledo, OH, is the last public transportation authority in the state to use property tax instead of sales tax as its local funding mechanism, and voters approved a renewal of the existing one-mill levy for the next 10 years. TARTA receives approximately $7 million a year through this measure, and Steve Atkinson, director of marketing, noted that the millage “is obviously critical to our keeping the service out there.”

Five of seven California counties with measures proposing $10 increases in car registration fees to fund transportation measures voted in favor of them:
* Alameda County, Measure F, approved by 63 percent. Twenty-five percent of revenues will go toward congestion relief efforts such as express buses and transit passes; 10 percent for transportation technology improvements.
* Marin County, Measure B, approved 60-39 percent. Thirty-five percent for transit improvements for seniors and persons with disabilities.
* San Mateo County, Measure M, 53 percent in favor. Fifty percent for transportation programs.
* Santa Clara County, Measure B, winning with 52 percent. Fifteen percent for regional Intelligent Transportation System.
* San Francisco County, Proposition AA, passed with 51 percent. Twenty-five percent for transit reliability and mobility.

Bellingham, WA, voters approved a 0.002 percent sales tax increase for transportation projects, which will include the purchase of some transit service from the Whatcom Transportation Authority.

Three Michigan municipalities approved millages to support public transportation. In Bennington Township, 66 percent of voters supported a four-year, 0.15-mill levy to provide transit service in the township from the Shiawassee Area Transportation Agency at a reduced cost. Voters in Almer Charter and Indianfields townships and the city of Caro voted by 62 percent for a one-mill, three-year measure for the Caro Transit Authority to operate Thumbody Express. Eighty percent of voters in the Village of Spring Lake approved a two-year renewal of 0.9898 mills to pay for participation in the Harbor Transit system.

Electoral Defeats
A new one-cent sales tax for transportation, with 75 percent of revenues earmarked for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), lost in Tampa, FL, by a vote of 42 percent in favor and 58 percent opposed. As the results came in, voters expressed sadness at the defeat and vowed to try again.

"It's not unusual for a ballot to come up short the first time," said Millar. "In many cities, including Phoenix, Seattle, and Salt Lake City, it took a few times before the voters' awareness level reached the point where they could realize the value of these measures--and pass them."

“The transportation needs of this community are significant,” HART Chief Executive Officer David Armijo said following the election. “The countywide transportation referendum did not succeed, but Hillsborough County’s population growth, increasing traffic congestion, and environmental concerns will not recede. HART will continue to provide excellent service to the best of our ability within our fiscal constraints while aggressively and creatively pursuing more efficiencies and funding opportunities. In addition, HART will leverage bus services to better serve those who depend on it.”

He continued: “So what happens next? HART is funded to continue with the Alternatives Analysis through the short-term, but additional funding will be needed to complete it. Many residents are excited about the opening of the TECO Line Streetcar extension this year. In 2012, HART plans to roll out its first MetroRapid service along Fletcher and Nebraska avenues to provide residents with a rapid connection between North and Downtown Tampa.

“With the support of this community, HART has had the privilege to serve residents for 31 years. The past few years have been very transformative for HART, and this team will continue to strive to exceed expectations,” Armijo concluded.
 Also in Florida, only 38 percent of Polk County voters supported a half-cent levy that would have brought together three public transit agencies in the county—Citrus Connection in Lakeland, Polk County Transit Services in Bartow, and Winter Haven Area Transit in Winter Haven—to be operated under a single, county-wide authority.

Voters in the three Oregon counties served by the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet)—Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas—defeated a bond measure that would have renewed the agency’s $125 million bond, originally placed on the ballot in 1990, with 54 percent opposed and 46 percent in favor. Had the measure passed, it would have dedicated revenue for faster bus replacements, fleet upgrades, and 300 bus stop improvements, and indirectly free up about $50 million for TriMet’s general fund over 20 years.

Richland County, SC, narrowly defeated a one-cent sales tax, one third of which would have supported the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority. The margin was 49 percent in favor and 51 percent opposed.

The two California counties that voted down $10 car registration fee increases are Contra Costa County, where Measure O was defeated by 46 to 54 percent, and Sonoma County’s Measure W—with the largest amount of revenues (60 percent) supporting public transportation—which received only 42 percent of the vote.

Eaton County, MI, is facing additional service cuts with the defeat of a property tax increase, to 0.75 mill from 0.2469 mill, for the Eaton County Public Transportation Authority. An advocacy group, Friends of EATRAN, warned that the defeat would mean the authority would cease to exist after 2011 with the discontinuation of the rest of the current millage.

 

Supporters of California’s Proposition 22 gather Nov. 2 to celebrate passage of the initiative. From left are California Transit Association legislative advocates Gus Khouri and Andrew Antwih and the association’s executive director, Joshua Shaw.

 

Giants Take World Series; BART Wins Bragging Rights

There were undoubtedly all kinds of bets placed on the outcome of the 2010 World Series, but likely only one concerning public transit. Now that the San Francisco Giants bested the Texas Rangers in the fifth game, the team’s first title since 1954, the executive director of the public transportation system of the team’s home communities that lost—Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)—is preparing to make good on the bet he had with the executive director of the winning team’s public transit system—the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

What was the outcome of the bet? Specifically, DART Executive Director Gary Thomas is scheduled to fly to the San Francisco Bay area (courtesy of Southwest Airlines), where he will dress in Giants gear and sing to BART riders during the morning rush hour on Nov. 8—while passing out San Francisco treats to commuters.

A BART spokesperson emphasized that the underlying purpose of this first-of-its-kind World Series bet between two major transit systems is to promote transit use. The system ran longer-than-usual trains on all lines before and after the first two games in the series, Oct. 27 and 28.

“Given the interest and energy surrounding the Giants going to the World Series, I can’t think of a more fun way to promote taking BART to the ballpark,” said BART Board President James Fang. “We hope to use this landmark event to remind fans that they can beat the backup by taking BART … Fans taking BART to the ballpark will save on time, gas, bridge tolls, and the heartburn of missing the first pitch because they’re either stuck in rush hour traffic or searching for those limited but expensive parking spots near AT&T Park.” The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also provided service to the ballpark.

 

Photo by Margot Duane
A sea of San Francisco Giants fans took BART en route to the Nov. 3 World Series parade in San Francisco.

 

Arlington County, VA, Breaks Ground for Rosslyn Station Project

Officials of Arlington County, VA, joined by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), Rep. James Moran (D-VA), and other community leaders, broke ground Oct. 27 for the Rosslyn Station Project, a $32.6 million expansion of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) station in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington.

“We’re seeing a more dynamic, exciting Rosslyn take shape, and an improved Rosslyn Station is part of that rebirth,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. “Arlington is investing in much-needed safety and accessibility improvements to the station to better meet the growing demand for transit in our region.”

The project will provide a second entrance to the Rosslyn Metrorail Station, which is expected to permit about 2,000 additional passengers per hour to enter or exit the station. When complete, the entrance will offer three new high-speed, high-capacity elevators, an emergency exit stairwell, and a connecting passageway to the station. A kiosk, fare collection equipment, and fare vending machines will be added to the station.

Funding for the three-year construction project comes from a range of federal, state, and local sources, including developer contributions and the county’s commercial real estate tax, created two years ago to help fund transportation projects.

Partners on the project include DOT, WMATA, the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, JBG Companies, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Clark Construction Group LLC, and Arlington’s construction manager, STV.

 

Photo by Karen Bate, KB Concepts PR
Breaking ground for the Rosslyn Station Project in Arlington, VA, are, from left, Cecilia Cassidy, executive director, Rosslyn Business Improvement District and Rosslyn Renaissance; Barbara Favola, Arlington County Board member; Kathleen Webb, executive development officer, The JBG Companies; WMATA Interim General Manager Richard Sarles; Chris Zimmerman, Arlington County Board vice chairman; Jay Fisette, Arlington County Board chairman; Sen. Jim Webb; and Dennis Leach, Arlington transportation director.

 

Steinway: More Than Pianos--Subways

Pianos—rather than the New York City subway system—are usually what come to mind when one hears the name Steinway. On Dec. 17, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History will help expand the public’s association with that storied name when it unveils its online edition of The William Steinway Diary, 1861–1896.

The diary—written over 36 years, nine volumes, and 2,500 pages—records William Steinway’s emergence, not only as a piano innovator, but also as a key figure in the structural development of New York City during one of the most dynamic periods in American history. The web release will coincide with a related exhibition, A Gateway to the 19th Century: The William Steinway Diary, 1861-1896, which will showcase Steinway’s chairmanship of the New York Rapid Transit Commission, among other topics.

It was Steinway’s development of the company town of Steinway, in modern-day Astoria, Queens, which first involved him in the world of 19th-century transportation. The need for access to greatly expanded Steinway & Sons facilities—and a reliable means for workers to travel to and from their homes in Steinway and points beyond—led to the creation of a network of horse-car railroads, streetcars, trolleys, and ferries.

This background made him a natural choice for New York City’s Rapid Transit Commission, charged with exploring a subterranean transit system to replace horse cars and elevated rail lines. As commission chairman, Steinway worked closely with Chief Engineer William Barclay Parsons, founder of Parsons Brinckerhoff, to develop elaborate plans for a system powered by electricity—a radical idea for the time.

Although entrenched interests thwarted progress during Steinway’s lifetime, the two men laid the blueprint for what would become the New York City subway system. Today, MTA New York City Transit’s 7 subway line travels through the Steinway Tunnel under the East River to Queens.

Steinway’s role in the development of rapid transit is just one of the hundreds of topics that can be explored through this voluminous diary.  With the launching of the William Steinway Diary web site, scholars and the public will be able to read and search a complete transcription of the diary alongside high-resolution scans of each hand-written page. Pending further funding, later installments will include more than 30,000 interlinked annotations—one for every three words in the diary—prepared by museum curators and editors with more than 100 volunteer researchers, including the diary’s donor, the (now) late Henry Ziegler Steinway. This effort is one of the longest-running and most extensive volunteer projects at the Smithsonian.

The diary will be on view in the museum’s Albert H. Small Documents Gallery from Dec. 17, 2010, through April 8, 2011.  When it becomes available to view on Dec. 17, it can be accessed here. For more about the project, contact Anna Karvellas.

Kelsey Is New Head of Coast Mountain Bus Company

As part of a corporate reorganization of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (TransLink) in Vancouver, BC, Doug Kelsey has been named president/general manager of Coast Mountain Bus Company, on an interim basis, and chief operating officer of TransLink.

He succeeds Denis Clements, a 17-year TransLink employee who previously served as president and chief executive officer of Coast Mountain Bus Company, the operating subsidiary of TransLink responsible for most conventional bus service and SeaBus in Metro Vancouver.  During his tenure with TransLink and its predecessor, BC Transit Vancouver, Clements oversaw some of the most rapid and far-reaching expansion of bus transportation services in the history of metropolitan Vancouver.

Kelsey formerly was TransLink executive vice president and president of BC Rapid Transit Company, the operating company responsible for the SkyTrain Expo and Millennium lines, West Coast Express commuter rail, overseeing the contract with the private partner operator of the Canada SkyTrain Line.

Succeeding Kelsey in his previous post is Fred Cummings, TransLink vice president, engineering and implementation.

MBCR Names Kiley as Its General Manager

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR), which operates commuter rail service under contract to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, has named Hugh J. Kiley Jr. its new general manager. He succeeds Donald L. Saunders, who had served in an acting capacity since March.

“Hugh brings 40 years of railroad experience to MBCR and has coordinated service delivery at all levels of the industry, including commuter and intercity passenger service,” said James F. O’Leary, chairman of the MBCR Board of Directors. “Hugh will continue to build upon the company’s record of providing safe, reliable service and delivering superior customer service in Massachusetts.”

Prior to joining MBCR, Kiley was assistant vice president-operations with Norfolk Southern Corporation, the holding company of a 21,000-mile railroad system. He also served for nine years as co-chair of the group that developed the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program, a $3.2 billion public-private transportation partnership designed to provide comprehensive improvements to commuter rail, Amtrak, and freight rail operations in the congested Chicago region.

Kiley began his career at Boston’s South Station in 1970 as a brakeman.

IndyGo Internship Helps Drive Student’s Career Path

Antez Burgess started his freshman year at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, IN, heading down a road of vocational uncertainty. But thanks to the school’s Career Technology Magnet program, he found himself driven by the idea of becoming a truck and diesel technician—a career path further solidified by an internship at IndyGo.

Tim Anderson, the truck and diesel technology instructor at Arsenal Technical High School, described the Career Technology Magnet as a three-year program that starts during a student’s sophomore year. “It’s a great vocational program for kids who may not be interested in, or can’t afford, going to a four-year college. It teaches them hands-on skills that springboard them into the world of work,” he said.

As part of the school program, students are encouraged to get involved in summer internships and co-op programs. Burgess was able to secure his eight-week summer internship at IndyGo thanks to the support of agency staff, Navistar International’s Truck and Diesel Engine Program, and a monthly stipend from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

While at IndyGo, Burgess worked alongside seasoned mechanics, learning about engine repair, transmissions, shocks, brakes, and welding. “He was a good kid who was eager to learn. I miss having him around now that he is back in school,” said Will Smith, an engine repair mechanic and 31-year IndyGo employee. “Anytime you can help kids, it’s cool.”

Burgess—who takes an IndyGo bus to school each day—called his internship at the system a valuable learning experience. “It was an opportunity that made me stronger and more confident in my abilities,” he said. “I now know for sure that I want to be a diesel technician in the future. I believe this internship gave me the tools that will greatly increase my chances of gaining full-time employment after graduation.”

The IndyGo staff was so impressed with Burgess’s work ethic and job performance that they have invited him back for a co-op opportunity during his school’s second semester.

Two Students to Attend UIC Beijing Congress

APTA has announced that two students it selected to advance to the international College and University High Speed Rail Competition—Kari Hernandez, a graduate student in transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Theodore Lim, an undergraduate at Stanford University majoring in civil engineering and urban planning—have won spots at the International Union of Railways’ (UIC) 2010 High Speed Rail World Congress in December, including expense-paid trips to Beijing.

As the North American partner of UIC, APTA disseminated the call for the competition to its university partners. Sixteen graduate and undergraduate students at U.S. and Canadian schools submitted applications for the program and an APTA review panel selected eight finalists (two as a team), who will be invited to participate in APTA programs in the year ahead. The judging process centered on original essays or artwork examining worldwide and national trends that will most impact the development of high-speed rail.

A total of 38 finalists from around the world applied for the nine student positions at the congress. Joining Hernandez and Lim in Beijing will be students representing Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Norway, and China.

The other North American finalists were Boshu Cui, Columbia University, undergraduate, urban planning; Josef Filipowitz, Ryerson University (Toronto), undergraduate, urban and regional planning; Paul Lewis, MIT, graduate student, transportation; Xiang Liu and Bryan Schlake, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, graduate students, civil engineering; and Jeffrey Pratte, University of Manitoba, graduate student, city planning.

BMBG Sets Annual Meeting for January 2011 in Florida

All APTA business members are invited to register by Dec. 10 to participate in the Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) Annual Meeting/Retreat, Jan. 12-14, 2011, in Naples, FL.

This meeting focuses on doing business in the public transportation industry and business member support for APTA’s transit advocacy efforts and other programs. It offers an opportunity for business members to network regarding upcoming projects and partnership opportunities.

The agenda will also include discussions of the impact of the 2010 midterm elections on the federal transportation authorization bill and other transit issues in Washington, as well as how business members can help advance the transit agenda on the national and local levels. Chuck Wochele of ALSTOM Transportation, the new BMBG chair and a member-at-large of the APTA Executive Committee, will lead the meeting.

More information, including the meeting schedule, is available online or from Fran Hooper.

College ‘Report Card’ Rates Transit Option Highly

The Sustainable Endowment Institute has announced that more than half of the 322 schools evaluated in its recently released “College Sustainability Report Card 2011”—179, or 56 percent—achieved an overall grade of B or better. The report rates the U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities with the 300 largest endowments, as well as 22 additional schools that applied for inclusion.

The College Sustainability Report Card is an independent evaluation of campus and endowment sustainability activities at North American colleges and universities. Rather than an academic focus on sustainability in research and teaching, this document examines colleges and universities, as institutions, through the lens of sustainability in nine main categories:
* administration;
* climate change and energy;
* food and recycling;
* green building;
* student involvement;
* transportation;
* endowment transparency;
* investment priorities; and
* shareholder engagement.

This year’s study recognizes 52 schools as Overall College Sustainability Leaders for reaching an overall grade of A minus or better in all their campus operations and endowment practices. The number of Campus Sustainability Leaders—achieving an average grade of A minor across the six campus categories—totaled 120, while 23 schools qualify as Endowment Sustainability Leaders for achieving an average grade of A minus or better across all three endowment categories.

Here are a few representative examples of forward thinking on transportation issues among universities and their communities:

* Arizona State University-Tempe operates vehicles powered by electricity, ethanol, compressed natural gas, and hybrid engines in the campus motor fleet. Half of all students commute to campus via alternative transportation methods, and the university provides discounts on public transit and operates a bike-sharing program and repair service.

* Northeastern University in Boston offers faculty and staff the opportunity to purchase monthly transit passes with pretax dollars; students are eligible for semester transit pass discounts along with discounts on regional trains. Ride-matching, car sharing, and alternative fuel vehicles are also available on campus.

* Pomona College in Claremont, CA, coordinates carpools through a campus web site and offers cash incentives to encourage faculty and staff to use environmentally preferable modes of travel for their commute. More than half the vehicles in its fleet are 100 percent electric.

* At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, last year 88 percent of students and 50 percent of employees commuted to campus via environmentally preferable means. Students and employees have free access to local transit and an on-campus shuttle. Carpoolers have access to a ride-sharing website and preferential parking, and the university partners with a car-sharing program.

* Full-time students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond get free access to public transit; employees who carpool receive preferential parking; and the university sponsors a car-sharing program. More than half of students commute to campus via environmentally preferable means.

The text of the report is available online.

Philip H. Braum Dies; Longtime Transportation Planner

Philip H. Braum, 62, of Washington, DC, an urban planner with 36 years of experience in both the public and private sectors, died Oct. 31.

Braum was a senior manager in a regional transit agency and an APTA employee before beginning his 25-year career as a consultant. He joined Kimley-Horn in September 2010 after earlier working for Parsons Brinckerhoff and Barton-Aschman Associates, where he was a leader of the office’s transit planning practice. While his primary field was public transit, he also managed traffic engineering, freight rail, environmental, and multimodal facility design studies.

At the time of his death, Braum was a member of the APTA Policy and Planning Committee, Capital Investment Planning Subcommittee, and Systems Management and Operations Planning Subcommittee.

He earned his master of city planning and master of civil engineering degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

The family suggests contributions be made to the American Public Transportation Foundation Scholarship Fund by clicking here.

 

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center Opens in Cleveland

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) opened its newest facility, the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center, on the Cleveland State University (CSU) campus, in ceremonies Oct. 19 attended by dignitaries including Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

GCRTA collaborated with CSU and the city of Cleveland to develop the facility, its first downtown bus hub. Funding came from federal earmarks and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Originally designated the East Side Transit Center, the transit center bears the name of the late Congresswoman who supported public transit investment in the area.

Joining the governor and Therese McMillan, deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, at the event were Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), who succeeded Tubbs Jones in Congress; CSU President Ron Berkman, and former Rep. Louis Stokes (D-OH).

“We are honored to open this center with an indoor waiting area, 12 bus bays, state-of-the-art electronic customer information system, along with a customer service center, a transit police mini-station, and food vending to serve our customers,” said Joe Calabrese, GCRTA chief executive officer and general manager. “From the groundbreaking on Sept. 10 of last year, which would have been Stephanie’s 60th birthday, to today, crews have worked feverishly to bring this transit center from design to reality.”

GCRTA noted that it expects to serve thousands of daily customers at the center with hundreds of buses. It was designed as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold project, a sustainability measurement by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The event also included the unveiling of a unique sculpture by artist Michael Murphy, which depicts Tubbs Jones differently from various angles. This artwork is part of GCRTA’s Arts in Transit Program. An additional art piece created by local husband and wife artist team Rickey and Garner Lewis, titled “The Spirit That Soars,” is located inside the center. The entire transit center was designed to incorporate key elements of Tubbs Jones’ sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of social and political issues.

 

Former Rep. Louis Stokes hugs Barbara Walker in front of a sculpture of Walker’s sister, the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. CSU President Dr. Ronald Berkman is at right.

 

SFMTA Unveils ARRA-Funded LRV

On Oct. 14, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) unveiled the first refurbished, “like new” light rail vehicle (LRV) in a $56 million order of 143 vehicles. The contract is part of the LRV Doors and Steps Reconditioning Project, which allocates $9 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds to directly improve vehicle availability, service reliability, and performance by rehabilitating nearly all of Muni’s LRVs.

The manufacturer, AnsaldoBreda, is rehabilitating several key systems on the vehicles to their original operating specifications. The LRVs entered service between 1997 and 2003.

The scope of the project includes rebuilding the doors and steps system, the automatic couplers, the air supply units, and the traction motors, as well as replacing the articulation pins in the center of the vehicles and the articulation wire harnesses. This effort will maintain component life and improve vehicle reliability.

HART Receives Recognition from Tampa Latin Chamber

The Tampa Latin Chamber in Tampa, FL, honored the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) as the 2010 Hispanic Large Business of the Year at an Oct. 26 awards luncheon.

The award recognizes the efforts of HART Chief Executive Officer David Armijo to encourage and promote diversity at the agency. Currently, two-thirds of HART employees are members of minority groups.

In addition, Armijo has led HART’s expanded outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking residents, such as presentations to Hispanic groups regarding the HART Rapid Transit Investment Plan; public service announcements broadcast in Spanish; and support for major Hispanic events, such as Feria de la Familia in downtown Tampa and Festival del Sabor in Ybor City.

In 2011, HART will expand its Business Diversity Program to include a Small Business Enterprise Program, with potential growth for a Woman/Minority Business Enterprise Program in 2012. The purpose of these programs is to provide additional opportunities for local small businesses in both federally and locally funded procurements.

VTA Introduces ‘Commuter Express’ Light Rail Service to San Jose, CA

At a time when many transit agencies are being forced to cut service to balance their budgets, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, CA, is introducing new service and amenities to attract new riders and grow revenue.

VTA introduced the first major change in light rail service since its inception, nearly 23 years ago, with the Oct. 4 launch of VTA Commuter Express. This new operation adds six non-stop, peak-hour commute trips—featuring free WiFi—in the system’s most heavily traveled corridor, from the Almaden Valley in south San Jose, through downtown, to North San Jose.

“Rather than wait for an economic recovery to stimulate ridership, VTA looked at ways we could improve the efficiency of our system now, to get a better return on the investment that has been made in our light rail service,” said General Manager Michael T. Burns. “Some improvements, like the Commuter Express, were identified that could be implemented in the short-term at a relatively low cost to the organization.”

Commuter Express is part of an initial phase in delivering operational improvements identified in the Light Rail System Analysis adopted by the VTA Board of Directors in May 2010. The two-year study provided the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the system’s effectiveness in meeting present and future market needs. The final product of the analysis is an investment program that will serve as a guide for VTA to make operational and capital improvements to the system over the next 20 years.

“When we ask the public what they want, they consistently tell us they want faster travel time and more frequent service,” said VTA Board Chair and San Jose City Council member Sam Liccardo. “VTA remains committed to improving service to our customers, and the faster Commuter Express—combined with new on-board WiFi access—offers an exceptional upgrade to our passengers, all at the same fare as the regular service. We expect this will attract new riders and improve customer satisfaction.”

SEPTA Receives State Grant for Energy Recycling Project

The Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority has awarded a $900,000 grant to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) in Philadelphia and its partner, Viridity Energy, for a pilot project designed to recycle energy created through the regenerative braking of its trains and trolleys.

Under this project, SEPTA and Viridity will install a large-scale battery to capture the energy from regenerative braking of trains along a portion of the Market-Frankford Line, the highest ridership line in SEPTA’s system. The line already has regenerative braking installed into the system, but this new technology would capture energy that otherwise would dissipate into wasted heat or be lost if not used immediately.

By interconnecting a storage device to the overhead line, SEPTA can store the usable power and control the battery’s output to optimize the need for improved voltage and output to the grid for frequency control. This translates into less wasted power, better voltage stability, more grid stability, and a new line of revenue for a public transit agency.

As part of the pilot project, SEPTA expects to generate approximately $500,000 in economic value for the agency. A successful pilot could lead to potential deployment at all 38 SEPTA substations, which could translate into significant savings from SEPTA’s current electricity spend.

New Grant Series: The ‘Feds’ Actually Listening to Cities, Regions

BY NEAL PEIRCE

WASHINGTON—For years, I’ve been among those bemoaning the “silo” effect of federal departments that rarely discuss or line up their field operations. The result is a significant waste of money plus lost opportunities to make the national government’s programs—for roads and housing and environmental protection, for example—work in tandem and produce better results.

But a new leaf has been turned by the Obama administration—a legacy one hopes will outlast the president’s current tough political roller-coaster ride.

The new leaf is the presidentially blessed efforts of the agencies in charge of urban development, transportation and environmental protection—with agriculture and energy watching with interest—to assemble members of their separate staffs around the same table. Their assignment: to select winners in a series of highly competitive grant programs, cumulatively titled the Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

In October, $409.5 million was awarded to several dozen entries—out of 1,000-plus applications—for programs the president says are “designed to get the biggest bang for our tax dollar buck.”

The dynamics differ radically from standard federal grant-in-aid programs—administered by formula or, if competitive at all, by officials focused exclusively on their own subject area and often oblivious to potentially negative side effects.

The new approach, says Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, is “bottom-up,” tapping insight and innovation from the field, rather than “the old Washington playbook of dictating how communities can invest their grants.”

And the federal officials even invited representatives of 14 foundations, with decades of experience in local community building, to sit at the judging table with them.

One winner was Northeast Ohio, where the Cleveland-Akron region has been literally at the economic precipice, triggered by industrial shrinkage, exacerbated by decades of suburbs pulling population out of the central cities. The area’s Regional Prosperity Initiative, joined by virtually all the major city and county governments, housing authorities and key transportation agencies, won a joint housing-transportation grant of $4.2 million.

The Northeast Ohio coalition set goals and strategies to re-energize struggling communities, provide mobility counseling for poor families, train a 21st-century workforce, adopt a “fix-it-first” housing strategy, and coordinate land-use planning with a goal of an environment—and tax base—that’s sustainable.

Will the grant reverse Northeast Ohio’s negative course? There’s no telling now. But the fact that the local agencies could and did work together in the competition, engaging Cleveland State University in their effort, raising $2.4 million matching funds on their own, suggests a heartening breakthrough toward regional cohesion and strategic thinking.

One of the most imaginative planning grants went to the Grand Boulevard Initiative, an effort to convert the San Francisco Bay area’s El Camino Real, a 43-mile state highway marked by low-grade strip commercial development with few efficient concentrations of housing and jobs, into a boulevard-like “complete street.” Five local towns will work together to revise their land-use plans and focus future development near transit stops.

Many of the grants were also for construction, some under the Transportation Department’s TIGER grant program. Atlanta, for example, received $47 million to create a streetcar line between the Centennial Olympic Park downtown and the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district. Long a foot-dragger on public transit, Atlanta was “a fabulous example,” Transportation Department official Beth Osborne explains, by coming back with a strong ($20 million) local pledge after failing with a smaller local commitment in an earlier round.

A major share of the applications were for small towns and rural areas—for example, $1.3 million for a Colorado Sustainable Main Streets Initiative to help three small communities plan redevelopment of their struggling downtowns, focusing on pedestrian-friendly transit, historical preservation, affordable housing and arts and culture.

Will Washington check on the results of all these grants? Yes, says Shelley Poticha, a key Housing and Urban Development Department official coordinating the awards. “We’re ramping up to ask our awardees to set up benchmarks, establish goals, model the results. This needs to be a new age of data and information.”

The big hope, Poticha adds, is “to help cities and regions be strategic—helping them come out of the recession with resilient game plans.” And to “allow local officials,” says Donald Borut, executive director of the National League of Cities, “to help define federal policy in a way we rarely see.”

But are these awards game-changers for the federal bureaucracy itself? The process wasn’t easy. Officials had to learn other departments’ lingo, acronyms, processes. And for career bureaucrats, there are still no personnel performance points for working cooperatively with other departments.

And then there’s Congress, with its constant political tug to fund earmarked, unvetted projects.

Still, a window to a more responsive, pro-town, pro-city, pro-region federal government has been opened. Let’s hope neither old-fashioned pork barrel practices nor the bitterly negative politics of these times slam it shut.

E-mail Neal Peirce here.
©2010, The Washington Post Writers Group
 

People on the Move

Robert (Bob) Campbell
OCEANSIDE, CA—Robert (Bob) Campbell, chairman of the North County Transit District (NCTD) Executive Board, has announced his retirement after more than 20 years of public service. He was elected to the Vista City Council in 2002 and joined the board the following year.

During his tenure as board chairman, Campbell introduced major business improvements such as developing customer-focused business and mobility plans, a Marketing and Strategic Communications Plan, and reinventing the district’s customer service model. When NCTD faced a significant budget shortfall, his leadership enabled the district ultimately to close a $15.5 million deficit and balance the operating and capital budgets while maintaining service levels and fares and preserving jobs.



Sallye Perrin, George A. Hodges, Mel Sears, Timothy Reynolds, Efren Alcala, Matthew Bieschke, Alastair Sawers
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has announced the following appointments.

Sallye Perrin has been named a vice president based in PB’s Baltimore office, serving as strategic pursuit manager for the development of public-private partnerships throughout the U.S. and Canada, with a focus on transportation. Perrin has 32 years of planning and engineering experience as a senior technical advisor, project director, and environmental and planning manager for transportation projects throughout the U.S. and Canada, and previously worked for PB from 1986 to 1994.

George A. Hodges has been named a senior engineering manager in the firm’s Los Angeles office, serving as a systems engineering lead for rail transit design/build projects.

Hodges has more than 42 years of diversified transit/railroad experience in the U.S. and abroad. He previously worked for PB from 2002 to 2007 as a manager on transit projects in New York City and St. Louis. More recently, he was civil/systems integration manager and University Link engineering manager at Sound Transit in Seattle.

Mel Sears has been named area manager for PB’s office in Portland, OR, overseeing operations in Oregon and southwestern Washington State. He comes to the company with 25 years of experience, including service to the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon in Portland. Sears was a member of the Oregon Transportation Vision Committee for the 2009 legislative session that helped shape the passage of the state’s Jobs and Transportation Act.

Timothy Reynolds, a 30-year transportation professional, joined PB as a senior principal technical specialist in the Cincinnati office. He worked for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati for 15 years, most recently as chief policy architect of transit and multimodal transportation planning and development, and earlier was a senior consultant with ATE Management and Service Company (now First Transit).

Efren Alcala was named a supervising engineer in PB’s New York City office, working on the MTA Long Island Rail Road East Side Access project. He has 35 years of experience in the design of plumbing and fire protection systems for commercial, institutional, health care, and industrial buildings.

Matthew Bieschke joined the Washington, DC, office of PB as a principal consultant leading the Investor Advisory Services practice for infrastructure investors, lenders, and developers across all industry sectors. He has served as a senior advisor to international infrastructure investors and developers on landmark transactions across North America and in Europe.

Alistair Sawers has been named a principal consultant in the PB’s Finance & Investment group, based in San Francisco. He has 16 years of experience in project and infrastructure finance for public-private partnership projects and acquisitions, and formerly was head of Western U.S. for RBC Infrastructure and Project Finance and head of U.S. transportation public-private partnership advisory for Ernst & Young.






 


Mary McCahon
CLEVELAND, OH—Mary McCahon has joined the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority as media relations manager. Her 15 years of corporate communications, marketing, and media experience include seven years as a television reporter and anchor for three stations in Texas, including being part of the start-up team for KFOX news in El Paso, Texas. She also worked for Delphi Corporation in Mexico and, later, in Detroit, then with two public relations agencies in Cleveland.






 
Min Wei
SAN DIEGO, CA—Cubic Transportation Systems Inc. announced the promotion of Min Wei to vice president of financial operations worldwide. He had served in this post in an acting capacity following the promotion of Matt Cole to managing director of Australasia operations.

Wei was vice president of finance for ERG Transit Systems from 2003 to 2009 and earlier held executive finance management positions in other high-tech and telecommunications businesses. He joined Cubic as vice president of commercial activities in 2009 when Cubic acquired selected Vix ERG assets in North America.

 

Doran Barnes
LOS ANGELES, CA—The Access Services Board of Directors elected Doran Barnes as its chairman for the next fiscal year. Barnes, who is also the executive director of Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, has served on the Access Services board since 2005; this is the second time he has served as its chair.

Jano Baghdanian, transportation administrator for the city of Glendale, will serve as vice chair; Joseph Stitcher, assistant director of transit operations for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, as treasurer; and Theresa DeVera, appointed to the board by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as secretary.




Nigel Astell
VIENNA, VA—Delcan Corporation announced the appointment of Nigel Astell as a senior principal within the company’s Transit Division.

Astell is an international transportation professional with more than 24 years of experience in project planning, project delivery, business planning, performance improvement, transportation planning, and urban transit operations. Prior to joining Delcan, he worked with Steer Davies Gleave, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the London Underground.




 

William (Bill) Velasco, Faye Moses-Wilkins, Scott Carlson, Loretta Ellerbe
DALLAS, TX—Dallas businessman William (Bill) Velasco has been re-elected chairman of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors. A board member since 2001, Velasco was first named chair in 2009.

Faye Moses-Wilkins, representing Cockrell Hill, Dallas, Glenn Heights, and Plano since 1999, was elected vice chair. Dallas member Scott Carlson, a board member since 2003, was elected secretary and Plano member Loretta Ellerbe, appointed in 2008, assistant secretary. Officers serve one-year terms.

 

Michael Reynolds, Victoria Learn
INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Michael Reynolds has joined IndyGo as director of procurement. He worked at the transit agency five years ago as a maintenance supervisor before being called to active duty with the U.S. Army Reserve, and recently retired from the military after 28 years.

While on active duty with the military, Reynolds served as a lieutenant colonel responsible for developing and communicating organizational change management and military operations plans. He was a key planner in the Base Realignment and Closure initiatives for U.S. Army units and installations in Europe.

IndyGo also named Victoria Learn its new director of maintenance, the first woman to serve in this post. She joined the agency in November 2009 as manager of warehouse distribution and, in her new job, will be responsible for planning and directing vehicle and facility maintenance operations and programs.

 

Sean Rugless, Melody Sawyer Richardson
CINCINNATI, OH—Sean Rugless, a member of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board of Trustees for more than two years, has been elected board chair. He succeeds Melody Sawyer Richardson, SORTA chair since 2007, who left the board after being elected chair of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra board.

Rugless is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce; an alumnus of Leadership Cincinnati and Cincinnati Business Courier Forty under 40; and a member of the Urban League’s African-American Leadership Development Program.

 

Martin Elton
NEW YORK, NY—AECOM announced the hiring of Martin Elton as projects director for the firm’s U.S. high-speed rail practice.

During his 30-year career, Elton has worked on a wide range of rail infrastructure projects, including high-speed and heavy rail. He also has specialized in light rail and metro projects, such as the Channel Tunnel High-Speed Railway and Docklands Light Railway in London and the Copenhagen Metro in Denmark.

 

Barbara Moulton, Carla Howze
BOSTON, MA—The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has named Barbara Moulton assistant general manager for customer communications and marketing. She heads the new Customer Support Services Department, created through a merger of the Marketing Communications Department with Customer Communications, formerly known as the Customer Support Services Department.

Moulton has 20 years of experience at the MBTA. She is a member of the APTA Marketing and Communications Steering Committee; chairs the Marketing-Ad Revenue Task Force; and is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2001.

Carla Howze, who has led Customer Communications for the past six years, will continue in this role and will work directly for Moulton.

 

Don Sherman
OMAHA, NE—Don Sherman, P.E., has rejoined HDR as director of strategic pursuits for transportation. He will oversee the business group’s global strategic pursuits program.

Sherman has more than 35 years of industry experience, previously serving HDR from 1998 to 2008. More recently, he was a chief marketing and sales officer with MWH Global Inc.

 

Gary Stobb
HOUSTON, TX—Gary Stobb, P.E., director of engineering infrastructure at Brooks and Sparks Inc., recently joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors as a representative of Harris County. He succeeds Jackie Freeman.

Stobb has worked as an engineer for the past 40 years, including 20 years for Harris County in the Public Infrastructure Department.

 

Nikki Frenney, Erica Noble, Doug Gies, Brad Cornelsen, Wayne Fritz, Don Johnson
FAIRFIELD, CA—MV Transportation Inc. has announced the promotions of several company managers.

Nikki Frenney, vice president of public affairs, has been promoted to senior vice president. She has been with the firm since 2004.

Erica Noble, a 10-year employee who served most recently as director of tax, has been promoted to vice president of tax.

Doug Gies has been promoted to east group president after serving as regional vice president of MV’s Mountain Area for the past three years. He will oversee the company’s team of regionally based vice presidents and support personnel.

Brad Cornelsen, interim chief financial officer since June 2010, has been named to the position on a permanent basis. He previously was MV’s director of finance and group controller-east.

Wayne Fritz has been promoted to MV’s Southwest Area regional vice president from regional vice president/general manager of the Foothill, CA, Division. His new position will give him responsibilities in California, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah.

Don Johnson, regional vice president for Canadian operation, will now oversee an extended service area across the northwest.

 

Paul Menaker
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Paul Menaker, Ph.D., has joined Stantec as senior principal in the company’s transportation practice, based in San Francisco. He has more than 30 years of transportation industry experience in both the public agency and land development arenas.

Prior to joining Stantec, Menaker served as principal for a national planning, transportation, and engineering firm where he was responsible for project management and business development for the company’s western region. He also served as project manager for several transportation operations studies.



 

Len Carey, Joe Edd, Don Klaver, Amanda Shapiro, Kelley Yates
ROCHESTER, NY—Stantec has added five new specialists to its rail signals group in Rochester. This division designs and manages the implementation of signal systems for all types of rail operations throughout the country, including transit and light rail systems in Philadelphia, Houston, Cleveland, Dallas, and Miami.

Len Carey has joined the firm as a senior signal specialist. Carey has more than 35 years of experience in the rail signal industry, most recently working for Alstom Signaling.

Joe Edd, an application specialist, was a process control engineer at Kodak for nearly 25 years.

Don Klaver has joined the firm as a signals specialist. He has 16 years of experience in railway signal engineering and most recently worked for Safe Tran.

Amanda Shapiro is an application technician. She holds a degree in graphic design from Lindenwood University in St. Louis.

Kelley Yates, a former intern with the company, has been hired as an application technician. She holds a degree in interior design from Georgia Southern University.

 

Michael S. Townes
COLUMBIA, SC—Michael S. Townes, APTA chair in 2007-2008, has joined Wilbur Smith Associates as national transit services leader.

Townes was the first chief executive officer and president of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads in Hampton, VA; he began as head of the former Peninsula Transportation District Commission in 1988, then also became interim executive director of the Tidewater Transportation District Commission from 1998 until agencies merged in 1999.  For APTA, he is a member of the American Public Transportation Foundation and the High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and an honorary member of the Board of Directors.

 

Stephen D. Van Beek
BURLINGAME, CA—Stephen D. Van Beek, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of the Eno Transportation Foundation, will join LeighFisher in the newly created position of chief of policy and strategy, effective Dec. 1, based in the Reston, VA, office.

Van Beek has worked in a variety of private, nonprofit, and governmental positions in transportation.

In addition to his tenure with Eno, he was director of the Jacobs Consultancy (now LeighFisher) Federal Practices Group and and was a DOT associate deputy secretary and director of the Office of Intermodalism.