Passenger Transport - December 6, 2010
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Congress Passes CR, Sends to President

The House and Senate approved a two-week extension of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR), which originally would have expired at midnight Dec. 3, and sent it to the president for his signature. The House passed the measure Dec. 1 by 239-178 and the Senate accepted it by unanimous consent on Dec. 2.

The measure, H.J. Res. 101, simply changes the expiration date of the current CR from Dec. 3, 2010, to Dec. 18, 2010. It will allow additional time for Congress to complete the FY 2011 appropriations process.


Deficit Commission Report: Raise Gas Tax for Trust Fund

A dedicated fuel tax increase—rising to 15 cents per gallon from 2013 to 2015—to fund the federal Transportation Trust Fund is among the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in The Moment of Truth, the report it released Dec. 1.

“In order to bring down the deficit, Washington will have to rein in discretionary spending,” the report states. “Every aspect of the discretionary budget must be scrutinized, no agency can be off limits, and no program that spends too much or achieves too little can be spared.”

The report describes the current “hybrid budget treatment” of the Transportation Trust Fund: contract authority is mandatory but outlays are discretionary. According to the report: “This hybrid treatment results in less accountability and discipline for transportation spending and allows for budget gimmicks to circumvent budget limits to increase spending.”

The plan reclassifies spending from the Transportation Trust Fund to make both contract authority and outlays mandatory, and then limits spending to actual revenues collected by the trust fund in the prior year once the gas tax is fully phased in. Shortfalls up until that point would be financed by the general fund.

In addition to the gradual 15-cent increase in the per-gallon gas tax, the report calls for Congress to “limit spending from trust funds to the level of dedicated revenues from the previous year. Before asking taxpayers to pay more for roads, rail, bridges, and infrastructure, we must ensure existing funds are not wasted.” Another recommendation in the report is that “Congress should limit trust fund spending to the most pressing infrastructure needs rather than forcing states to fund low-priority projects.”

The overall goal of the plan is to provide for nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020 and reduce the deficit to 2.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product while also ensuring that the Social Security System remains solvent. This recommendation is found under Discretionary Spending Cuts, the first of the report’s six major components.

APTA President William Millar said in a statement: "APTA strongly supports the proposal to phase in a 15-cent federal motor fuels tax increase. Adequate investment in the nation's integrated transportation system at the state, local, and federal levels is the underpinning for the nation's future economic growth." He added that the proposed increase in the federal motor fuels tax "should have another immediate and tangible result by allowing the Congress to move forward with a long-term authorization of the surface transportation program that provides the resources and policy reforms necessary."

APTA and its coalition partners joined with Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) to strongly support the co-chairs of the national commission.

“The United States needs to transform some of the important economic infrastructure of our country—our roads, bridges, and public transportation systems—from a system designed for the 20th century to one that will support a 21st-century economy and the quality of life of its citizens,” ATM said, adding: “By increasing user fees and indexing them to inflation to maintain their purchasing power, as part of the broader set of recommendations in the commission’s report to address the deficit and debt, highway and transit programs would be on a sustainable path…”

The text of the report is available online.

Obama Marks 55th Anniversary of Rosa Parks

President Barack Obama released a statement Dec. 1 commemorating the 55th anniversary of the day in 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, AL, leading to a bus boycott that lasted for more than a year and, eventually, promoting the cause of federal civil rights legislation.

“Fifty-five years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus—an act that challenged the moral conscience of an entire nation,” the president said. “The Montgomery Bus Boycott marked a turning point in American history–the moment where we began the march toward the Civil Rights Movement and the eventual outlawing of racial segregation and discrimination.  Rosa Parks and the many other leaders and foot soldiers in that struggle for justice championed our founding principles of freedom and equality for all, and today, as we commemorate the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I encourage all Americans to honor their legacy–the legacy of Americans who marched bravely, worked tirelessly, and devoted their lives to the never-ending task of making our country a more perfect union.”

FTA Awards a Total of $164.7 Million for Green Transit Projects

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded $164.7 million for 63 environmentally sustainable public transportation projects which, according to Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, “will reduce our nation’s dependence on oil and create many good-paying green jobs for American workers.”

FTA is providing the funds through its Fiscal Year 2010 Discretionary Sustainability Funding Opportunity, which comprises two programs: $89.7 million from the Clean Fuels Grant Program, including partial funding from the Bus and Bus Facility discretionary program, and $75 million from the Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Program. This second round of TIGGER grants is not funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Thirty-six of the winning projects received Clean Fuels funding, while the other 27 will be funded through TIGGER. FTA selected the grant recipients from more than 274 applications seeking a total of $1.4 billion.

“When it comes to traveling through our communities, taking transit already is the greener choice,” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “But these funds will go a long way to transforming these transit providers into even greater environmental stewards with more energy-efficient operations and fewer emissions.”

The largest single grant—$10.1 million under TIGGER—goes to Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, for the purchase of its fast charge battery electric “Ecoliner” buses and related equipment. The winning projects involve an array of such environmental innovations as installing energy-efficient technologies at transit facilities; replacing traditional diesel-powered buses with low- or zero-emission vehicles; and building compressed natural gas fueling stations.

The full list of grant recipients is available here.

DOT Releases Positive Train Control Grants of $50 Million

DOT has announced the release of $50 million under the new Railroad Safety Technology Grant fund program to seven projects—all related to Positive Train Control (PTC) collision avoidance systems and other advanced technologies. PTC systems use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to monitor and control a train’s movements, enforce speed limits, prevent train collisions, and help keep rail workers safe.

Meterocomm Communications Corporation in Renton, WA, received the largest single grant—$21 million—to construct the required radio platform for an interoperable communications network across multiple railroads deploying the Vital Train Management System (VTMS) technology using a 220MHz radio frequency.

A $6.6 million grant went to MTA Long Island Rail Road and MTA Metro-North Railroad for an Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES). The commuter railroads will develop and test the interface specifications (i.e., Interface Control Document) for the major subsystems of the Amtrak Northeast Corridor ACSES PTC System.

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority in Los Angeles, operator of Metrolink commuter rail, received $6.6 million to develop and test the communications best practices guide for all railroads that must implement a standard VTMS, which requires an interoperable communication architecture that will allow trains to operate safely across railroad networks. The test will use the Los Angeles basin as the prototype.

Amtrak will receive $12.8 million for ACSES-VTMS interoperability, focusing on the PTC system used on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and the VTMS being adopted by freight railroads.

An $857,106 grant will allow Howard University to develop performance models for cryptographic key management required to ensure safe and secure interoperable PTC system communication.

The Railroad Research Foundation received $1.5 million for ongoing implementation of the Washington, DC, Rail Corridor Risk Management System.

Westinghouse Airbrake Corporation was awarded a $500,000 grant for a project proving the ability to use ordinary video currently collected in a locomotive run through a subdivision to validate PTC Survey location points.

The Federal Railroad Administration received 41 grant applications requesting more than $228 million. It based its decisions on the competitively awarded grants on technical merit, including the extent to which a project helps achieve interoperability between technologies, and the recipient’s project management capabilities and financial commitment to share costs.

GAO: Improve Delivery and Focus Federal Funds

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week found that, since 1998, the U.S. has gone through two economic recessions that caused cities and counties to dramatically decrease their budgets, which has meant a marked reduction in available funding for public transportation infrastructure repairs and expansions.

GAO, a nonpartisan auditing agency, noted that the current recession—the longest and deepest since the Great Depression—began at the end of 2007, resulting in funding for public transit being “strained since 2008, as state and local funding has decreased with the economic downturn.”

The report discussed the likely increasing demand for public transit, citing such a factor as population growth, “but cost increases and fiscal uncertainties could limit transit agencies’ ability to meet this demand.”

Suggestions in the report included focusing on ensuring a state of good repair for trains and buses as well as improving the delivery of federal grants, making it faster and more direct.

Report: ARRA Contributes 2.7 Percent to Nation’s GDP

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) added 2.7 percent to the third-quarter Gross Domestic Product level and by some measures has exceeded the original goal of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010, according to a report released last month by the federal Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

According to CEA, the act has raised employment by 2.7 to 3.7 million jobs as of the third quarter, with eight states—California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas—reporting more than 100,000 Recovery Act jobs each.

The fifth quarterly CEA report on ARRA’s impact shows that public investment spending—which includes transportation, clean energy, and other infrastructure projects—was responsible for more than one million jobs nationwide through the third quarter of 2010. The quarter also was the biggest yet for public investment spending, accounting for outlays of more than $33 billion.

The complete text of the report is available online.

APTA Executive Committee Gives Back (Energy and Time) in New Orleans

At the conclusion of APTA’s Executive Committee retreat, members of that committee and guests spent an afternoon rebuilding houses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. This activity, which sent several teams to different houses, was organized by APTA Chair Michael Scanlon.



One team comprising Executive Committee members, APTA staff, and members of the St. Bernard Project outside a home where they were working. 

J. Barry Barker paints a ceiling.
Photo by Samuel Kerns



Another APTA team takes a break from working on the home of jazz musician Sullivan Dabney (wearing a hat). 

Team members work on drywall.
Photo by Bridget Nolan, St. Bernard Project


Promotion at Kawasaki Rail Car

Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. in Yonkers, NY, has named longtime employee Hiroji Iwasaki as its chief executive officer.

Iwasaki has worked for Kawasaki for more than 30 years. He began his career at Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. in Japan and soon joined the firm’s U.S. railcar business operations. Bringing comprehensive knowledge and experience—both technical and commercial—he has overseen significant growth over the past two decades, including relationships with major public transit authorities and U.S. and international suppliers.

For APTA, Iwasaki serves on the High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, Legislative Committee, and Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee.


Odimgbe New RIPTA CEO

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) in Providence has named Charles Odimgbe to the newly created position of chief executive officer, effective Dec. 6.

Odimgbe comes to RIPTA from the Chatham Area Transit Authority in Savannah, GA, where he served as general manager for Veolia Transportation. A native of Nigeria, he began his public transit career in 1985 as a bus driver in Portland, OR, and is a former executive director of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority in Canton, OH.

RIPTA Board Chairman John Rupp explained that the agency created the new position to help with strategic and orderly planning.

Odimgbe is a member of the APTA Legislative Committee and Small Operations Steering Committee.

Transit Agencies Reach Out Across the Nation

With the approach of the holiday season, public transportation agencies across the U.S. are hosting food and clothing drives, collecting toys, and providing youth outreach activities. Here are a few examples.


Students from the Thomas Edison Charter School in Wilmington, DE, helped DART First State “Stuff the Bus” with nonperishable food items and household products for Thanksgiving during its 13th annual statewide charity food drive. The public contributed to the effort at five sites throughout Delaware, where transit employees also provided information about public transit and food bank services.


The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside, CA, transported food, cleaning supplies, and personal items collected by Riverside County sheriff’s personnel in the second annual drive to benefit Operation Safehouse, a shelter that aids troubled youths and their families. RTA also participated with city firefighters and a local television station in the annual “Spark of Love” Toy Drive, packing a bus with donated toys and sports equipment for underserved children. Last year’s drive brought in more than half a million toys.


In conjunction with a toy and food drive on the University of South Florida (USF) campus, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL, brought dozens of children from Javamo’s Art for Autism to the university to attend a USF Bulls football game—a first for many of the participants.


Metro in St. Louis partnered with MERS/Goodwill in a “Donate & Ride” campaign to collect coats for the community. Metro President and Chief Executive Officer John Nations, right, watches as Dr. Lewis Chartock, president and chief executive officer of MERS/Goodwill, adds a coat to a donation bin. Metro helped the effort by placing bins at four park-and-ride locations near MetroLink stations.


Milwaukee Invites Public to Help Decorate Its Anniversary Bus

As part of its year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of public transportation in Milwaukee, the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) invited the public to help decorate its newest fully wrapped bus with their signatures—and received about 4,000 of them.

The “We Heart the Bus” wrap, recognizing the community of public transit riders in Milwaukee, was sponsored by Clear Channel Outdoor, Northwestern Mutual, Miller Lite, and Milwaukee Career College. The decorated bus will remain in operation for about a year, both running on regular MCTS bus routes and as an ambassador for the transit agency at events throughout the county.

“We have talked to many people who really like the bus, so in celebrating ‘150 Years of Public Transportation’ we wanted a way to show this,” said Jacqueline Janz, MCTS marketing director. “To have the community be actively involved in this project means a lot to MCTS. Watching it take shape this summer as we went to numerous community events was a thrill.”

In return for the community’s support of the bus project, MCTS packed the bus with food donations and delivered them Nov. 24 as part of a local radio station’s Stuff the Bus effort to benefit Feeding America.

“During the last century and a half in Milwaukee public transportation has been there—through the Civil War and world wars—and been here as Milwaukee increased not only in population, but in growth of industry, schools and universities, highways, utilities, and improved quality of life,” MCTS Managing Director Anita Gulotta-Connelly said earlier in the year. “It was vital from the start and it is vital still today.”

Red Rose Transit Rededicates Operations Center in Lancaster, PA

In ceremonies Nov. 15, the Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) in Lancaster, PA, marked the completion of renovations to its 30-year-old operations center. RRTA board members, transit staff, and local officials gathered to rededicate the building, which now showcases many “green” energy savings features.

The building uses a geothermal system for heating, solar panels, and a green roof. RRTA also added two waste oil burners to recycle discarded engine oil and heat and cool the bus storage building. To save on lighting costs, the agency installed skylights and energy-efficient lighting in the administrative offices.

“We wanted to use many different types of green features for the entire facility to generate the most energy savings,” said RRTA Executive Director David Kilmer. The agency estimated that the combined energy savings features will allow a reduction in energy usage of 70 percent.

The renovation project also included enhanced security features; growth and reorganization of the administrative offices; addition of a larger upper-level mezzanine in the maintenance area; and expansion of the bus storage building. “Prior to the renovations,” Kilmer explained, “we couldn’t park all the buses in the bus storage building. Now with the expansion to the building, we can place the entire fleet [45 buses] inside at the end of service each day.”

RRTA used $4.7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and a $2.45 million grant under the Transit Investment Greenhouse Gas & Energy Reduction program toward the $7.5 million project. Other federal, state, and local funds covered the remainder of the cost.


RRTA Executive Director Dave Kilmer, RRTA board members, and transit and local officials dedicate the Operations Center with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.


SARTA Considers Creating CNG Through ‘Anaerobic Digestion’

Who would think that the backyard compost pile could ultimately lead to a way to fuel buses?

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) in Canton, OH, has entered into a contract with a Cleveland-based company to examine the possibility of using “anaerobic digestion” to create a gas that could be converted into compressed natural gas (CNG).

SARTA is preparing to replace about one quarter of its bus fleet next year, said Executive Director Kirt Conrad. The system already operates hybrid-electric and biodiesel-fueled vehicles.

The company, quasar energy group, has already placed biodigesters at other sites around Ohio, including the city of Akron and Ohio State University’s Wooster campus. The 30-foot or 60-foot tank—which Conrad called “a compost pile times 10 billion”—contains organic biomass such as food manufacturing waste or farm manure. In the oxygen-free environment, bacteria would convert the waste into a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide over a 28-day cycle. This gas can then be captured and either refined into CNG or used to generate electricity.

“If we enter into a long-term contract with quasar, we could purchase a diesel-gallon-equivalent of this fuel at below-market rates,” Conrad explained. He noted that the project would be eligible for a federal tax credit through the end of the year.

“I’m fascinated by the possibility of turning trash into fuel,” he added, noting that—unlike food crops such as soybeans and corn that are used for biodiesel production—this process would help the environment by reducing the amount of organic waste.

German Students Help Conduct Customer Service Study in Ontario

York Region Transit (YRT) in Richmond Hill, ON, operator of the VIVA bus rapid transit system and a large fixed route bus fleet, recently partnered with INIT to fly students from the Heisenberg Gymnasium [high school] in Ettlingen, Germany, to conduct a customer satisfaction survey on how well passenger information displays tell the story of where and when the buses operate.

INIT’s partnership with the Heisenberg Gymnasium began last year when students performed a similar survey with two German transit agencies. “In the past, we have worked on other projects with university students in Canada and the U.S.,” said INIT spokesperson Ann Derby. “The project presented a win-win situation for the students, YRT, and INIT.”

The students completed their report and gave their final presentation on the YRT survey in July, showing overwhelmingly positive results: 93 percent of those surveyed said they use the real-time displays, and 79 percent use them on all their trips. About 81 percent said they consider the displays necessary.

The objectives of the process were to help the students experience real-life business practices through the proposal and bid process with INIT, and for them to gather first-hand information from YRT riders about the usefulness of the passenger information displays.

The students began by distributing written questionnaires and then, over a four-day period, conducted 802 interviews of randomly selected transit users at the two largest, busiest bus terminals in Richmond Hill: the Finch GO Bus Terminal and Richmond Hill Center.

About seven out of eight survey respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the information provided by the electronic displays. Almost all agreed that the system is easily understandable, and nearly 92 percent noted the ease of display. More than four fifths praised the accuracy and reliability of the posted information.

Ann Arbor Promotes Employee Wellness

BY LOIS CRAWFORD, Community Relations, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority/TheRide, Ann Arbor, MI

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) revved up the concept of employee health awareness with its recent “Keep Your Motor Running Health Fair.” The event gave participants the opportunity to enjoy a variety of hands-on activities, and not just from the chair and table massage therapists!

“What sets this health fair apart from typical employer-sponsored health fairs is that it’s interactive. There are things for the employees to do, not just information being handed out. I work with a lot of groups, and TheRide has taken it to the next level,” said Sara Szul, health management coordinator for the Kapnick Insurance Group, who assisted TheRide’s Wellness Committee in organizing the fair.

On the Dot
Szul distributed “stress dots,” which reveal an individual’s level of stress (similar to the classic mood ring) when placed on the person’s hand, during the event. She also promoted participation in the Great American Smoke-Out and other smoking cessation approaches, stress management, and general health guidelines.

The health fair featured 15 stations in only its second year, with outside vendors, visiting nurses providing flu shots and prostate screenings, a selection of healthy snacks and lunch items, and a prize wheel.

“At TheRide, we have worked hard to develop an active and effective wellness program for our employees, and are continuing that effort into the coming year. I applaud our Wellness Committee and volunteers for their efforts in putting on another successful event,” said AATA Chief Executive Officer Michael Ford.

Best Feet Forward
Encouraging employees to put their best feet forward was Victor Sellinger of Running Fit. His booth offered TheRide employees the chance to examine high-quality athletic shoes, orthotic inserts, and flip-flops, as well as support devices for feet and legs.

Across the room, Faye Conner, community outreach coordinator for First Choice Chiropractic, spoke about spinal health.
To help TheRide employees who see their health care costs rising, the One-on-One Athletic Club station emphasized that exercise is the best medicine. Fair participants met with Meghann Swiderek, wellness coordinator for the club, who said: “Exercise doesn’t have to be about running on a treadmill or lifting weights; you can play basketball or racquetball, for instance. It’s more about moving than just taking a run.”

The club, now entering its 20th year, is just around the block from TheRide and offers member and non-member options with flexible pricing, Swiderek said.

Blood Pressure
Blue Care Network of Michigan, which manages employee insurance at TheRide, offered blood pressure readings and information on managing stress and weight. Also talking with attendees was a representative of Concentra, which serves the agency’s employees with urgent care in the case of accident or illness and conducts random drug testing at its Ann Arbor clinic, one of more than 325 nationwide.

Weight loss has been a key focus at TheRide during the past year, highlighted by a 10-week “Biggest Losers” competition among 40 of the system’s 190 employees. TheRide also began a running club whose members trained to participate in the recent University of Michigan Big House Big Heart charity fund-raising run. These activities are just two examples of programs that TheRide’s Wellness Committee has introduced as part of its ongoing “TheRide for Life” wellness campaign.

A Weight Watchers station at the health fair provided an opportunity for employees to sign up for a series of Weight Watchers at Work sessions, along with free health bars and literature.

The event also addressed employees’ mental health concerns. TheRide invited its employee assistance program, TEAM, to present information and a guide to its services. Dr. Carol A. Syperski was on hand to chat with employees about TEAM’s many counseling and referral services.

“TEAM provides access to licensed mental health therapists for counseling and coaching, and offers referrals for not only employees, but also their spouses, live-in partners, and children,” Syperski said. “We also help participating companies with management services, consultation and referrals, and supervisor training.”

Health Library
Providing a wealth of referral information on the best sources for health information was Judy Smith of the University of Michigan’s Taubman Health Sciences Library.

“We wanted to participate in the health fair because the library has a strong outreach component as part of the national network of libraries of medicine,” Smith said. “We support not only the university, but also the public—with printed materials that direct people to reliable, quality online resources such as, a great resource for extensive consumer health information.”

Josh Davidson of Aflac spoke about this insurance plan, designed to supplement health care costs for everyday living expenses during a period of sickness or injury that are not covered by health insurance, such as groceries, child care, rent, etc. “Aflac also has a wellness benefit that can pay you when you are healthy, such as for annual checkups,” he added.



AATA CEO Michael Ford samples some of the healthy foods prepared for health fair attendees by Transportation Administrative Assistant Kathy Forts.

Motor coach operator Wilma Wilson spins TheRide’s Prize Wheel for a chance at health-related gifts, while Information Specialist Vivian Connor awaits the outcome.


The Art of Internal Oversight: Why Do We Need It? How Do We Do It?

BY KAM SHADAN, M.S., P.E., Vice President, Gannett Fleming, Inc.

Project management oversight (PMO) is a tool used for the oversight of major capital projects. PMO verifies that the program management team responsible for the project has the adequate capacity and capability to manage risks and deliver the project within the scope, budgets, and schedule in a safe and reliable manner.

Today, the need for oversight is felt by all, including investors, funding agencies, and taxpayers who invest in major capital programs. Per the May 2009 issue of wiredFINANCE, Fortune 500 companies paid an annual estimated average of $500 million in legal costs. In addition, according to the Transit Cooperative Research Program’s Web-Only Document 31: Managing Capital Costs of Major Federally Funded Public Transportation Projects: Contractor's Final Report, cost studies for major transportation capital projects above $100 million have shown that average project costs typically grew up to 45 percent of the original estimates during the life of the project as a result of underestimation and risk management issues. One way to reduce legal costs while controlling project costs is to proactively and continually oversee major projects and mitigate risks.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) administers its own PMO program. In a report to the House of Representatives in 2002, the inspector general noted that the PMO practice, while needing some improvements in the area of cost estimate reviews, is a sound approach to oversight of capital programs and can be emulated by other government agencies.

While many transit agencies involved in the New Starts major capital projects follow the FTA’s PMO requirements, this article suggests that all transit agencies and private sector investors in capital projects consider self-imposing an internal PMO program.

Proven Approach
Balancing oversight with technical assistance is the most effective approach; it will also differentiate the overseer from being perceived as an auditor. The chief executive officer (CEO) or the board of directors decides when to introduce oversight for a project.

The major components of any oversight program include:
* Selection of an oversight team;
* Oversight plan;
* Capacity and capability assessment;
* Readiness reviews and risk assessment;
* Continuous monitoring and risk management; and
* Lessons learned.

Selection of an oversight team. In selecting an oversight team, the CEO should keep in mind that oversight, while a simple tool, must still be applied by highly experienced professionals. The internal overseer will report either to the CEO or the board as the senior advisor and the sounding board. This gives the CEO and the board additional leverage in management and the evaluation of the project management team.

Members of the oversight team should be professionals who have “been there, done that,” yet are able to learn and try to gain the trust and respect of the project management team for which they have oversight responsibility. Oversight is as much an art as it is a science; therefore, the overseer needs skill in dealing with people and complex technical and management issues and processes, as well as experience in applying oversight tools.

“It benefits the project when a PMO brings real world relevant experience in the spirit of cooperation rather than focus purely on critical oversight and reporting,” said Steve Witter, transit manager for the Columbia River Crossing project, a multi-billion-dollar I-5 bridge replacement effort in Washington State and Oregon that includes light rail, highway, and bicycle elements.

At the end of the assignment, the overseer must be able to pass on the credit to the project management team for its hands-on work on the front lines of the project.

Oversight plan. Following the selection of an oversight team, that group must perform a preliminary assessment of the project’s size, complexity, status, risks, project management team, management plans and tools, scope, budget, schedule, safety, security, and quality requirements to build the project-specific oversight team.

Key members of a typical project team may include the project manager; project and document controls specialist; cost estimators; schedulers; risk assessment specialists; architects; engineers; environmental and planning specialists; procurement and project delivery specialists; construction management specialist; operations and maintenance specialist; real estate specialist; and quality, safety, and security subject matter experts.

The oversight plan must include activity levels for the phases of the project and must be tailored to fit the project’s size and complexity. When it is properly sized, depending on the duration of the project, the oversight costs could account for less than 1 percent of the budget for very large projects of more than $1 billion in budget, ranging to approximately 3 percent or less of budget for smaller projects of more than $10 million in budget, assuming an oversight duration of three to five years.

Capacity and capability assessment. This task is the most important building block of an oversight program because, so often, lack of capacity and capability lead to underestimation of scope, budget, and schedule requirements and future issues. The assessment, therefore, must determine whether adequate organization, tools, number of qualified personnel, and necessary tools are available to complete the current project phase successfully. The aim is not to start a project short in resources, making its staffing “on the run.”

This process must include review of the plan’s organizational chart, showing all positions for the current phase of the project with personnel affiliations (consultants or employees) and how they will be used. The key positions include the project manager, assurance manager reporting one level above the project manager, and the team that controls cost estimating, reporting, scheduling, and document and change control. Vacant key positions should, at a minimum, be filled on an acting basis with qualified personnel.

“At least in two agencies I worked at, the PMO helped guide the agency management in providing adequate Quality Assurance at the right level,” said Eric Oparko, quality assurance manager for the Sacramento Regional Transit District. “Later, through joint surveillances with the PMO, the team was able to detect quality issues due to antiquated processes, which resulted in retooling, personnel, and process changes that raised the bar for manufacturing of the subject product nationwide,” he added.

Readiness reviews and risk assessment. Following completion of the capacity and capability reviews, and after the project team determines it is ready to take on the project, it will establish key review points to assess the readiness of the project. This review will include a capacity and capability assessments to ensure that the project management plan addresses any new positions required.

"PMO reviews provide the necessary independent checks on the consistency of assumption among project elements in the project development phase,” said Carolyn Gonot, project director for the $6 billion Silicon Valley Rail Transit project, which will take San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District rail service to the heart of San Jose, CA.

One important part of the review is an update of risks that may be on the horizon for the upcoming project phase. Risk assessment can be a complicated topic and is subject to much debate as to how extensive it must be to pay back with results. One generally accepted principle among all professionals is that the project must have a register that lists the project risks for each project phase with the probability of event and severity of impact, as well as a risk management plan to address these risks.

Continuous monitoring and risk management. In between readiness review points, the oversight team monitors the project’s management process to make sure it is in compliance with the approved project management plans, best practices, and established risk management benchmarks. Monitoring activities include joint quality surveillances and review of key project documents and activities that may impact the project.

“The PMO helps us have another set of eyes to look at critical project issues. It provides us with the checks and balances on the project and is an integral part of the project management process,” said Dennis Mori, AIA, executive officer, project management, for Los Angeles Metro.

Lessons learned. The project team and the overseer will meet at the end of the project to document a list of lessons learned and will memorialize them in a final report for future use. This document can be an effective training tool.

Oversight as a self-imposed, internal tool will provide the necessary leverage to the CEO and board to direct and evaluate the project management team. The oversight team supports the CEO and board on the project so they can focus on strategic issues. It offers those who provide financial or political support to a project with a level of assurance and accountability that the project management team is complying with the best industry practices. Where internal oversight exists, management can address the requirements of any external oversight in a more cost-effective and expeditious manner.

In sum, the risk of not having oversight far outweighs its cost.

Kam Shadan, an APTA business member, serves on the Bus Technical Maintenance Committee, Clean Propulsion and Support Technology Committee, and Rolling Stock Equipment Technical Forum. He is also a member of the Gannett Fleming National Program Management Practice as well as an elected member of the Executive Committee of the California Transit Association.



A rail car for the Santa Clara Valley Rapid Transit project to extend San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District service to San Jose, CA. At top of facing page: Gannett Fleming is overseeing the Columbia River Crossing project in Washington State and Oregon for the Federal Transit Administration. This artist’s rendering shows the replacement bridge with light rail inside the southbound bridge and a multi-use path inside the northbound bridge.

The oversight process for a typical project.


Retaining the Current Commuter Transit Benefit Level

The federal commuter transit benefit will drop from the current $230 per month to $120 per month if Congress does not act. Below are excerpts from recent commentaries across the nation addressing the urgency of this issue.






People on the Move

John B. Catoe Jr.
FAIRFIELD, CA—MV Transportation Inc. has named John B. Catoe Jr., principal of The Catoe Group in Santa Monica, CA, as a strategic advisor to the Company’s Executive Leadership Team, effective Nov. 1.

Catoe has 30 years of transit industry experience, most recently as general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and deputy chief executive officer of Los Angeles County Metro. He oversaw WMATA’s performance for the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, when the system provided a record 1.5 million rides in a single day. He received APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Manager honor in 2009.

Jason Konesco
INDIANAPOLIS, IN—Jason Konesco, president of Harrison College, has been named to the IndyGo Board of Directors by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

Konesco has been with Harrison College, formerly Indiana Business College, since 1999. He was named its president in February 2010, succeeding his father, Ken Konesco, who had served as the institution’s president and chief executive officer since 1986.

Roger Miramontes

LOS ANGELES, CA—Stantec announced the hiring of Roger Miramontes to serve in its Los Angeles office as a senior project manager for the company’s transportation practice.

Miramontes has more than 14 years of experience in the field and will support Stantec’s increasing project scope for Los Angeles County Metro. Prior to joining the company, he worked in design, design management, and construction management with city and State of California sector work.

David A. Boaté
NEW YORK, NY—David A. Boaté, P.E., has joined the New York City office of Gannett Fleming as vice president and director of transit and rail for the Northeast Region.

Boaté joins Gannett Fleming from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., where he was director of major capital transit projects. He has more than 25 years of engineering and leadership experience, which also includes serving AECOM as a vice president.

He is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2009.

Anthony DeJohn, Thomas Anella, Jean Claude Aurel Jr., Steve Noonan
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) announced these appointments:

Anthony DeJohn has been named area manager for the firm’s office in Princeton, NJ, responsible for managing PB’s operations throughout central and southern New Jersey. A vice president, DeJohn has been with PB for 18 years, most recently serving as manager of environmental and planning for the northeast region.

Also in the Princeton office, Thomas Anella has been named project operations manager for PB’s eastern region. A 27-year employee, Anella will oversee technical and financial aspects of projects in the eastern U.S.

Jean Claude Aurel Jr. has been named a senior principal technical specialist in the Transit & Rail Systems unit of PB, based in Houston. He will serve as project safety manager on the Denver Regional Transportation District’s Eagle project, where PB is part of a team building three commuter rail lines.

Steve Noonan has been named an assistant vice president in the Newark, NJ, office of PB, managing the Northeast Rail Vehicle Group. He has more than 30 years of experience in rail vehicle and rail systems-based engineering, maintenance management, and operating system oversight, most recently with Interfleet Technology and Lea + Elliott Inc.

Lawrence A. (Larry) Hagemann
DURHAM, NC—DRI Corporation has named Lawrence A. (Larry) Hagemann chief operating officer, North Carolina Operations, a position he held from August 2002 to December 2005. He also continues as the company’s vice president and chief technology officer, positions he has held since December 2005.

In his new post, Hagemann succeeds Rob R. Taylor, who has stepped down from DRI to pursue other career opportunities.

John Condon
BUFFALO GROVE, IL—John Condon has been promoted to vice president-sales, North America, for Vapor Bus International-A Wabtec Company, as well as Ricon Corporation.

Condon most recently served Vapor Bus as national sales director-transit. In this new position, he will be responsible for integrating and leading the Vapor Bus and Ricon sales groups and will assume responsibility for the Ricon customer service department.

Vasti (Mugica) Amaro

LOS ANGELES, CA--Nineteen-year transit industry veteran Vasti (Mugica) Amaro has joined Tectrans Inc. as senior vice president for East operations, with oversight and management responsibility for all transportation operations and related functions in the firm’s East Region. She will be based in south Florida.

Amaro has worked in both the public and private sectors, managing fixed route, paratransit, light rail connectors, rental car shuttles and employee/public parking shuttles at airports in cities including Dallas, Phoenix, and Tampa.

Wayne Kent Reed
PHOENIX, AZ—Vertical Transportation Excellence, which operates as a division of Gannett Fleming Inc., has named Wayne Kent Reed a project manager in its Phoenix office.

Reed has 25 years of field and inspection, design, and project management experience and is a registered certified elevator inspector (C.E.I.).

Katrina Heineking
TUCSON, AZ—Katrina Heineking, general manager of Sun Tran and Sun Van, recently was one of 10 women honored with the 2010 Woman of Influence Award from the publication Inside Tucson Business. She moved to Tucson more than six years ago and has served as general manager of both systems since March 2006.

During her tenure at Sun Tran and Sun Van, Heineking has also been recognized as General Manager of the Year by Professional Transit Management and Outstanding Person of the Year by the Tucson Chapter of WTS.

Jose Manuel Albaladejo Canedo-Arguelles, Gary H. Baker, Michael L. Reign
MARLTON, NJ—Hill International has announced the appointment of three vice presidents with the Project Management Group.

Jose Manuel Albaladejo Canedo-Arguelles, a Hill employee since 2002, was promoted from a regional manager position; he will continue to lead the firm's operations in Latin America. He has more than 11 years of professional experience in project and construction management.

Gary H. Baker, P.E., has more than 25 years of experience and joins Hill’s Irvine, CA, office after serving as director of construction for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s New School Construction Program. He will support the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension project for Los Angeles Metro.

Michael L. Reign has rejoined Hill’s Washington, DC, office where he will direct business development efforts. He has more than 28 years of experience in engineering and construction.

Michael Ongkiko
CINCINNATI, OH—Cincinnati Metro has appointed Michael Ongkiko as human resources director.

Ongkiko has extensive experience in training and development, employee benefits, labor relations, and safety. He joins Metro after holding positions at QuadGraphics in Lebanon, OH, Takumi Stamping Inc., and Contech Construction Products Inc.