Passenger Transport - December 20, 2010
FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, second from right, rides a special Green Line train to the Dec. 6 grand opening celebration, joining, foreground from left, DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas; DART Board Chairman William Velasco; and past DART Board Chairman Randall Chrisman.
Opening-day crowds board DART’s Green Line at the North Carrollton/Frankford Station.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced an investment of $15.1 million in federal funds to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments across the U.S. for public transportation improvements on or near reservations.
“DOT is absolutely committed to improving tribal transportation resources,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Building and maintaining good transportation infrastructure on and near tribal lands, and in Alaska Native villages, goes hand-in-hand with meeting the needs of the local workforce while protecting environmentally sensitive lands and important cultural legacies.”
Tribal Transit program funds will provide grants to tribes for 59 separate projects, including transit equipment purchases and facility construction and improvements. Participants under this program include federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native villages.
“More transportation options means greater mobility,” said FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff. “Planning and expanding public transportation on or near Indian reservations will give those who live on tribal lands—sometimes in very remote areas—better access to jobs, health care, and other vital services.”
Funds made available on a competitive basis to tribes through the Tribal Transit program are in addition to formula funds that tribes receive from states through FTA’s program for assistance to rural areas.
A complete list of projects receiving assistance can be found here.
APTA joins all its members—including LYNX in Orlando, FL, where for the 13th year Santa Claus is driving a bus until his “real job” takes him away on Dec. 24—in wishing the readers of Passenger Transport a happy holiday season. As a way of thanking its passengers for their loyal support throughout the year, LYNX invites passengers to ride free if Santa is in the driver’s seat.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston instituted weekday commuter rail service Dec. 6 to Theodore Francis Green (T.F. Green) International Airport in Warwick, RI.
The new T.F. Green Station on MBTA’s Providence/Stoughton Line is part of the $267 million InterLink project for Rhode Island DOT and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation. The complete project also includes a consolidated rental car facility, a bus hub for Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses, and a parking garage with spaces to accommodate 1,800 rental cars and 650 commuter vehicles.
Rhode Island signed an operations agreement with MBTA on Sept. 30 to create the South County Commuter Rail service, which expands commuter rail service in Rhode Island south of Providence. The InterLink facility officially opened Oct. 27.
“[Massachusetts] Gov. Deval Patrick’s mandate to reform our transportation system is working to establish a new era of delivering efficient transportation services throughout New England,” said MBTA General Manager Rich Davey. “With the cooperation and hard work of the Massachusetts Legislature and our neighboring states, we continue to improve the way we deliver transportation services—investing in regional equity and strengthening public transit.”
Inbound trains depart from T.F. Green, in the direction of Providence/South Station, three times during the morning rush hour and three times in the afternoon. Outbound trains serve the station twice in the morning, coming from Providence only, and three times in the evening, arriving from South Station and Providence.
A partnership between RIDOT and MBTA has existed since 1988, when the two agencies signed the “Pilgrim Partnership” initiating Providence-Boston commuter rail service with five round trips per day and approximately 200 riders. Today the rail service makes 15 round trips per weekday, as well as weekend service, and approximately 2,000 riders per day from Providence.
Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri and First Lady Suzanne Carcieri, seated, speak with MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey, standing, on the first MBTA commuter train traveling to the new stop at T.F. Green International Airport.
U.S. public transportation systems provided nearly 2.5 billion trips during the third quarter of 2010, according to APTA statistics. Despite continued high unemployment, public transit use declined by less than 1 percent (.67 percent) compared with the same quarter last year, with heavy rail and bus service in small communities showing ridership increases for the period.
“Since nearly 60 percent of public transit trips are work-related commuter trips, public transit ridership continues to be impacted by the ups and downs of the economy and persistent high unemployment,” said APTA President William Millar. “Additionally, ridership has declined because many transit systems have been forced to raise fares and/or cut service as the result of reduced state and local revenue.”
Nationally, heavy rail ridership increased by 1.7 percent, with 11 out of 15 systems experienced ridership growth. The heavy rail systems with the highest increases in ridership for 2010 were in San Juan, PR (9.9 percent); Baltimore (7.2 percent); and MTA Staten Island Railway in New York City (6.3 percent).
Thirteen of 27 U.S. light rail systems reported an increase, although the sector as a whole saw ridership slip 0.2 percent. Light rail systems in five cities saw double-digit increases: New Orleans (61 percent); Seattle’s Sound Transit (57.2 percent); Seattle’s King County DOT (16.9 percent); Phoenix (14.1 percent); and Portland, OR (12.9 percent). Ridership also increased in Los Angeles (9.1 percent) and Minneapolis (8.8 percent).
Among commuter rail systems, 14 of 27 saw ridership increases, including Portland, OR (21.2 percent); Salt Lake City (15.2 percent); New Haven, CT/ Connecticut DOT (12.6 percent); Alexandria, VA (8.4 percent); and Harrisburg, PA (6.1 percent). Nationally, commuter rail ridership declined by 1.1 percent.
Overall bus ridership decreased nationally by 2.2 percent, although St. Louis and Boston saw quarterly ridership increases of 9.8 percent and 2.2 percent respectively. Small bus systems with populations below 100,000 saw an increase for three consecutive quarters (3.3 percent), led by Flagstaff, AZ (17.5 percent); Ithaca, NY (10.8 percent); and Davis, CA (10.7 percent);
Demand response (paratransit) use increased in the third quarter of 2010 by 1.1 percent.
For more information, click here.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has announced two research grants totaling $766,562 to advance the use of bio-based fuels and lubricants—with the ultimate goals of cleaner air and a decrease in the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
“We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint through the use of alternative sources,” said LaHood. “These innovative projects are just the latest steps in making our transportation systems cleaner all across the country.”
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded $395,189 to North Carolina State University to continue its research into the use of biofuels for passenger rail and freight operations. This research should yield a possible recommendation of a “premium” biofuel blend for locomotive engines. In addition, the National Ag-based Lubricant Center at the University of Northern Iowa received $371,373 to study the feasibility of passenger and freight railroads using readily biodegradable soy-based lubricants.
“FRA has a long history of funding research to make railroads more energy efficient and cleaner,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “One of our most successful initiatives is now on Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer route.”
Based on a $274,000 FRA grant, Amtrak equipped a Heartland Flyer train operating between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, TX, to run on a biodiesel blend known as B20—20 percent pure biofuel and 80 percent diesel.
A report released Dec. 14 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Smart Growth America (SGA) demonstrates a conflict between many states’ transportation policies and the goal of reducing carbon emissions. The report, Getting Back on Track: Climate Change and State Transportation Policy, examines 17 key policy options in all 50 states and reports on methods of improvement.
“Most states’ transportation departments seem to be ignoring their important role in stopping climate change,” said Colin Peppard, deputy director of federal transportation policy at NRDC. “If states considered all their transportation policy options, they could tap into tremendous potential to reduce carbon emissions, even with limited resources.”
California, New Jersey, and Maryland receive recognition for their long-term commitment to getting the most out of every transportation dollar spent, according to NRDC and SGA. These states support policies to reduce carbon emissions and take steps to rebuild their economies through effective transportation decisions.
The report shows how smarter state transportation policies, along with innovations at the federal level, can help the nation make significant progress in curbing carbon pollution. For example, few states adequately assess carbon emissions when deciding whether to allocate more funds to build new highways or maintain existing ones or how much money it should devote to transit, if any at all.
“We know there are innovative approaches to transportation that are good for communities, address pollution, and meet our transportation goals—but we now know states aren’t using them,” said Neha Bhatt, deputy policy director at SGA. “We can get a better transportation system and reduce carbon emissions per dollar invested, but we have to change transportation policies at the state and the federal level to do that.”
The full report is available online from NRDC and SGA.
The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority Board of Directors in Corpus Christi, TX, has unanimously voted to offer the position of chief executive officer to Monty Scott Neeley. He succeeds Ed Carrion, who stepped down in May after serving for two years.
Neeley is a veteran of the public transportation industry, serving recently as a consultant for Dallas Area Rapid Transit and with the Denton County Transportation Authority in Lewisville, TX. He is a member of the APTA Commuter Rail Committee.
The selection process consisted of interviews with the board and a panel of community representatives.
“We are very excited with our choice of Scott Neeley,” said Board Chairman Crystal Lyons. “We feel Mr. Neeley is the right fit for both the organization and the community.”
The Greater Peoria Mass Transit District (CityLink) in Peoria, IL, collected 10,300 pounds of food in a historic GMC bus during its 23rd annual Stuff-A-Bus campaign—30 percent more than the previous year, and leaving barely enough room for the bus operator to sit. Kroger and Peoria Friendship House, which provides services to people in need and facing emergency situations, partnered with CityLink in the effort; when including additional fundraising efforts, the size of the collection rose to 14,300 pounds. Part of the effort was the creation of a structural design made completely from one ton of stacked cans of food, held together by the balancing of the cans with no tape or adhesive.
In 2008, APTA embraced the concept of “mobility management” in its TransitVision 2050 document, noting that, if the industry is to meet critical national and local goals more effectively and better serve the needs of individual travelers, it must evolve to take in this new concept and role.
The idea behind APTA’s mobility management approach is to use the existing full range of mobility services—otherwise known as a “family of services” within a community—assisted by actions that more broadly support sustainability and livability initiatives and goals. Along with the implementation of mobility management strategies comes certification of mobility managers and, in turn, a new community within transit systems that seeks resources and support for their transit model.
Upon recognizing this, APTA formed the Mobility Management Committee and created a web-based Technical Assistance Center for Mobility Managers and others who are interested in learning more about this process. The mission of the committee is “to help APTA members move into a broader transportation service role, coordinate a full range of mobility options, and better meet the mobility needs of their communities.”
The committee, chaired by Ron Barnes, a consultant with Steer Davies Gleave North America, and Angela Iannuzziello, vice president, transit and transportation planning, for GENIVAR, held its first meeting Oct. 5, 2010. It is open to all interested APTA members.
“The committee will assist APTA members by leading the development of this approach providing valuable forums of exchange of best practices and a network for mobility managers designed to encourage community collaboration and coordination,” Barnes explained.
The Technical Assistance Center offers general information about mobility management; provides specific details about mobility management and current events; provides connections to other sources and people; supports the Mobility Management Committee; offers specific assistance for APTA committee members; and creates a record of progress. Its web site is now operational and, when fully developed, the site will present resources including:
* A definition of mobility management and why it is important;
* The economic benefits of mobility management;
* APTA’s Mobility Management brochure and other literature;
* Expectations of the knowledge required of mobility managers and the roles they can fulfill;
* Mobility management peers, including members of APTA’s Mobility Management Committee;
* A calendar of upcoming events featuring mobility management issues and ideas;
* Links to other sources and sites;
* Frequently asked questions;
* Directions on how to ask for advice and assistance on mobility management issues; and
* Hot topics, including an open forum to address immediate issues and concerns.
The link to APTA’s Mobility Management Technical Assistance Center can be found under “Hot Topics” on the main page of APTA’s web site. To access APTA’s Mobility Management web site directly, click here.
For the first time, APTA is making available all of its Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines standards in a single volume, which can be accessed online.
This document represents all bus lengths, from 30-foot to 60-foot articulated models, and the dominant propulsion types. A broad range of people worked together for the past three years to create this document, including representatives from public transit agencies of all sizes, OEMs, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
APTA and FTA announced the final, expanded, and comprehensively updated bus procurement guidelines during the 2010 APTA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX. It is anticipated that the use of these guidelines, first produced in 1997, will not only save money, but will also result in standardized implementation of quality.
During the past few months, the industry reviewed and tested the guidelines for use. Feedback and comments were received and incorporated into the final document.
The document is a radical change from previous “White Books.” Changes in the Commercial Terms and Conditions (T’s and C’s) include opportunities to choose warranty extensions, the addition of excusable delays for manufacturers because of problems with third-party suppliers and contractors, and changes to fleet defect parameters. The Technical Section incorporates the latest available technologies and alternatives for all agency sizes and climates. In addition, the guidelines provide new and detailed definitions for both the T’s and C’s and the Technical section. The goal is to provide a better profile so manufacturers could build a “better” bus while minimizing waste and misunderstandings.
Questions may be addressed to Jeff Hiott.
Check your mailboxes today for your copy of the 2011 APTA Calendar. This year’s calendar, featuring winning photos from the annual APTA Photo Invitational, highlights the benefits public transportation provides to the nation, communities, and individuals.
The 2011 winning photos include images of the following public transit systems:
* Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
* Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority, Nashville, TN
* Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA
* Sound Transit, Seattle, WA
* King County Metro, Seattle, WA
* Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago, IL
* Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority, Washington, DC
* Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT
* San Mateo County Transportation District, San Carlos, CA
* Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Cincinnati, OH
* Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation, Lafayette, IN
* Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York, NY
* Caltrain, San Carlos, CA
* Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
APTA also wishes to thank all who participated in the 2011 Photo Invitational.
APTA recently released a brochure highlighting its current and future workforce development initiatives, Building a Sustainable Workforce for Public Transportation…Now!
The brochure, the final report of APTA’s Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel, offers strategies for attracting, developing, and retaining a diverse workforce for public transportation jobs in keeping with the “quality workforce” goal in APTA’s 2010-2014 Strategic Plan. Specific issues include reaching new generations and talent pools; responding to the evolving needs for public transportation through partnerships and collaborations; and new resources, products, and services created by the panel.
The text of the brochure is available online. For more information, contact Angela Seagraves.
BY MEREDITH SLESINGER, APTA Legislative Analyst
Before we turn the calendar to 2011, it’s time to take a look back at a year that left much unfinished business in Washington for the public transportation agenda. Many of APTA’s legislative priorities remain in a state of flux.
From a legislative perspective, the year began with a great deal of uncertainty. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which authorizes surface transportation programs, expired Sept. 30, 2009, and had been extended on a short-term basis through Feb. 28, 2010. As a result, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was unable to apportion funds for a full year.
In addition, without an infusion of general funds from the Treasury to the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), the Mass Transit Account (MTA) was in danger of becoming insolvent in 2010. The economy remained fragile and Senate Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority after Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown was elected to the seat that had been held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
As we approach the final days of the 111th Congress, the future of funding remains unpredictable. Congress is still working on a path to appropriate funds for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. The House will have a Republican majority in the 112th Congress, dominated by members who campaigned on a platform of reducing government spending.
SAFETEA-LU Extended Through 2010
The year kicked off with the passage of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act after efforts to pass a larger stimulus package including transit funding did not gain traction. The HIRE Act ultimately contained an extension of SAFETEA-LU through Dec. 31, 2010, as well as language providing a transfer of $19.5 billion of general funds to the HTF, including $4.8 billion to the MTA. These funds are based on the restoration of interest payments on balances to the HTF; the transfer of funds is supposed to keep the MTA solvent through Sept. 30, 2011, the end of the fiscal year.
However, before the House and Senate could agree on the HIRE Act, they let authorizing law expire at the end of February, resulting in the shutdown for several days of all programs and offices funded by the HTF.
The HIRE Act had major impacts on the legislative agenda for transit. The extension of SAFETEA-LU resulted in generally no further progress on writing a new long-term bill, but saving the trust fund allowed the program to continue at the already approved FY 2010 appropriations levels.
Despite the best efforts of transportation advocates—including APTA members who identified $15 billion worth of public transportation projects that could immediately put Americans back to work and spur economic growth—the House and Senate failed to pass jobs legislation that would provide investment in infrastructure.
Another significant bill introduced this year was $2 billion for emergency transit operating assistance, proposed by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-CT) at the end of May. Despite overwhelming support from the transit industry, it did not move forward.
Administration Requests $10.8 Billion for Transit and $1 Billion for High-Speed Rail
The administration’s FY 2011 budget proposal, released in early February, sought $10.8 billion for public transportation programs in addition to $1 billion for high-speed rail. In the budget transmittal, the president acknowledged that funding is constrained due to the declining level of MTA funds in the trust fund.
The House ultimately passed a year-long continuing resolution (CR) that freezes spending at FY 2010 levels, does not contain earmarks, and also includes an extension of SAFETEA-LU through Sept. 30, 2011. Notably, the measure cuts funding for the high-speed rail program from $2.5 billion to $1 billion.
As Passenger Transport went to press, the Senate was expected to take up the CR and may substitute it with an omnibus appropriations package, but it is unclear if Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has enough votes for passage.
Tax Extenders Provisions Still Pending
On the tax side, the industry has pursued the extension of two important provisions: the alternative fuels tax credit and the higher commuter transit benefit.
The alternative fuels tax credit, which expired Dec. 31, 2009, allows transit agencies that use natural gas and other similar fuels to receive a 50-cent credit per gallon tax refund. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) increased the monthly transit/vanpool benefit to $230 per month from $120 per month and created parity with the parking benefit. However, that provision ends on Dec. 31, which would result in an effective tax increase on participating transit riders and employees.
On Dec. 15, the Senate approved tax legislation that would extend both credits through 2011. Under this legislation, the alternative fuels tax credit would be extended retroactively to cover fuel used in 2010. At press time, the House was scheduled to take up the measure.
Senate Banking Committee Approves Rail Transit Safety Legislation
The Senate Banking Committee worked closely with APTA staff, member transit systems, and state safety oversight agencies in preparing the Public Transportation Safety Act of 2010 (PTSA), which it marked up in late June. The bill was approved unanimously by the committee, thanks to the bipartisan leadership of Dodd and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL).
The bill, which further develops and modifies a safety and oversight proposal put forth by the administration, grants the DOT secretary authority to establish and implement standards and regulations through the development of a national safety plan, applicable to all public transportation modes. However, the legislation did not move to the floor due to opposition in the House and Senate over costs and expanding the role of the federal government. In addition, House leaders believed that a safety initiative should be part of the larger authorization debate.
The future of the legislation remains in doubt as Rep. John Mica (R-FL), incoming chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has expressed opposition to the notion of granting regulatory and enforcement authority over public transportation safety standards to the federal government.
Climate Change Legislation Stalls in the Senate
A flurry of activity surrounded energy and climate change legislation this year, with Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) forming a triumvirate to bring about a compromise on legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The trio floated a proposal that would limit carbon emissions produced by the transportation sector by including a fee on motor fuels based on the price of carbon dioxide under a cap-and-trade system. Revenues generated by this “linked fee,” effectively acting identically to a gas tax, initially were designated to fund consumer relief for increases in electricity prices, deficit reduction, and clean energy technology.
APTA raised concerns with the proposal to divert revenues generated from motor fuels fees away from the trust fund. Projected to generate tens of billions of dollars, these revenues could fund a new, robust surface transportation authorization. However, if the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman (KGL) bill did not reinvest in transportation, the political feasibility of an official increase in the gas tax to pay for such a bill would become even more unlikely than it is today. In response, APTA organized and led a coalition of 26 other transportation industry and interest groups to advocate that any revenues raised from motor fuels fees or taxes remain dedicated to the trust fund.
In response to the issues APTA raised with the structure of the KGL bill, a revised proposal was put forth that invested in transportation. Under that proposal, $2.5 billion per year would be deposited into the trust fund; $1.875 billion per year would be distributed by the secretary of transportation for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery investments; and $1.875 billion would be distributed by the secretary for state and local investments in greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.
Unable to attract any Republican support for the bill, the legislation stalled. While it is expected that some sort of smaller energy package will be addressed in the next Congress, a comprehensive cap-and-trade bill is tabled for the foreseeable future.
Buy America Waiver; Rail Passenger Liability Cap Legislation
During the summer, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5791, “Buses, Rail Cars, Ferryboats: Making It in America Act of 2010.” This proposal would institute a graduated increase in the percentage of the domestic manufacturing content for transit rolling stock waiver, beginning with 60 percent through the end of FY 2011 and increasing to 100 percent on or after Oct. 1, 2015. APTA does not support these proposed changes to the current requirements.
Although this legislation will not move forward during the 111th Congress, the administration has expressed interest in changing Buy America waivers in a future authorization bill. APTA continues to let Congress and the administration know how changes to the requirements would affect its member companies.
Separately, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to raise the limit on liability for passenger rail accidents for rail operators from $200 million to $500 million. The bill would apply retroactively to cover the 2008 Metrolink accident in Chatsworth, CA. The legislation would also set annual adjustments to the cap based on fluctuations in the Consumer Price Index.
The proposed changes to the liability cap would raise the cost of insurance for passenger rail operators to unsustainable levels. In addition, it is uncertain whether this level of liability insurance would be available for passenger rail operators. The prohibitive price of insurance would make it extremely difficult for new operators to start service, and force existing operators either to reduce service, or divert funds from critical infrastructure maintenance.
APTA has written letters to the bill’s sponsors expressing its opposition to the legislation and will continue its efforts when the bills are reintroduced, as planned, during the next Congress.
Looking Ahead to 2011
Clearly the legislative landscape will be different next year, with a Republican majority in the House and new Democratic members in leadership roles on two key authorizing committees.
Mica is working with House leadership to prioritize the surface transportation authorization bill when the new session of Congress begins. APTA will continue to press for a long-term bill that meets the needs of the industry.
An outcry over earmarks has led to House Republicans issuing a moratorium on the practice among their conference. While a vote against earmarks failed in the Senate and many House Republicans have issued statements that transportation and infrastructure earmarks should not be considered “earmarks” per se, how this will play out in the next Congress in terms of appropriations will require close monitoring.
Concern over the size of the budget deficit will continue to dominate legislative discussion. Although the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the deficit commission created by President Obama, called for an increase in the federal gas tax to fund transportation investment, this proposal, like many others, awaits bipartisan support.
With essentially all ARRA transit funding obligated and budgets heavily constrained, transit systems remain dependent on a long-term authorization bill to best serve their riders.
APTA is committed to working with the new Congress when it convenes on Jan. 3.
BY ART GUZZETTI, APTA Vice President, Policy
In a year heavily influenced by a struggling national economy and financially stressed state and local governments, public transportation once again showed resilience in navigating tough times. In addition, a number of policy initiatives by DOT and APTA show promise for advancing public transportation in the years ahead.
Transit Withstands the Troubled Economy
Although long-term population, economic, energy, environmental, demographic, and public choice trends continue to point to long-term growth, public transportation systems in 2010 faced unprecedented challenges brought on by widespread declining state and local revenues. A March 2010 survey of APTA’s transit system members showed that over the prior year, 84 percent of public transportation systems had raised fares, cut service, or were considering either of those actions. The survey indicated that more than half of all transit agencies have eliminated positions and one in three have been forced to lay off employees. Even with those actions, seven of 10 systems reported facing budget shortfalls in the coming year.
APTA’s Legislative Committee and Executive Committee developed and adopted principles for emergency support for public transportation aimed both at ensuring that millions of Americans have access to their jobs and preserving transit worker jobs. The principles called for a new, free-standing, temporary emergency support program that would provide cash to all systems to be used for the continuation of vital public transportation services and avoidance of employee layoffs. In May, the “Public Transportation Preservation Act of 2010” was introduced in the Senate. The bill would have authorized $2 billion in funds for emergency transit operating assistance. Despite support from the transit industry, the bill did not move forward.
In spite of those service cuts and fare increases, and with nationwide unemployment looming near 10 percent, public transportation ridership nationwide for the first three-quarters of the 2010 was down only one percent from the prior year.
In his Jan. 27 State of the Union address, President Obama recognized that investment in transportation infrastructure is one of the key ways that Americans can get back to work. “We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow,” he said. “From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains, or the new factories that manufacture clean energy products.”
Each administration launches policy initiatives that bring to light the priorities it wishes to advance. The Obama administration has emphasized policies that will influence transportation investments toward outcomes consistent with such national goals as economic competitiveness, energy security, safety, and preservation of existing infrastructure. These sentiments are embodied in the draft DOT Strategic Plan released for comment during 2010.
Key transportation policy initiatives include:
* Performance measurement. While traditional performance measures have evaluated the efficiency and effectiveness of transit services, the discussion has broadened to better connect investment decisions to national goals. In May, APTA’s Legislative Committee adopted Principles for a Performance-Based Transportation Program. In September, APTA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Transportation Research Board collaborated on a national forum on performance-based planning, held in Dallas.
* State of good repair. FTA’s initiative promotes asset management practices, measuring the condition of transit assets, and prioritizing local transit re-investment decisions. In July, FTA released a study that showed $77.7 billion is needed to bring rail and bus transit systems into a “state of good repair,” with $14.4 billion a year needed to maintain the systems. On Nov. 30, FTA announced grant awards for $775 million in discretionary funds for state of good repair bus and bus facilities projects.
* Livable and sustainable communities. This signature effort of DOT, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency includes the core principles of providing more transportation choices; promoting equitable, affordable housing; enhancing economic competitiveness; supporting existing communities; and valuing neighborhoods. During 2010 many discretionary grants were awarded to streetcar and bus livability projects, to regional partnerships seeking to create a more holistic and integrated approach to connecting affordable housing, and for the development of area-wide plans for the reuse of brownfield properties. APTA’s Legislative Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Issues presented a statement to the full Legislative Committee in March explaining the vital, central role that public transportation plays in promoting livable, sustainable communities.
* Environmental sustainability. APTA’s new Sustainability Committee, which made its debut in May, has an ambitious work program in step with the DOT initiative. In addition, APTA’s Greenhouse Gas Working Group has developed methodologies that enable communities to quantify the impact of public transportation on greenhouse-gas reduction.
* Reform of the New Starts Process. In January, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced the rescission of policies issued by the previous administration that directed New Starts funding primarily on the basis of “cost effectiveness,” i.e., how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to cost. DOT now gives consideration to multiple benefits of new transit projects including economic development, environmental impact, and land use improvements. In May it approved a position statement that would discontinue Alternatives Analysis as a separate phase of the Major Capital Investment process. In August, APTA commented on FTA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Major Capital Investment Projects, urging that the process be flexible, predictable, and locally controlled.
High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR)
The Federal Railroad Administration devoted considerable time and effort toward development of a national rail plan to help enable growth of passenger and freight rail. APTA participated extensively in this process.
In October, the APTA Executive Committee approved comprehensive recommendations for an ongoing and comprehensive federal HSIPR program; current federal law lacks an appropriate framework for such an ongoing program. The Executive Committee also approved a task force report providing for the full integration of HSIPR activities into APTA.
Transit Financing Initiatives
While generally not a great year for new revenues, advances in transit financing occurred on a number of fronts. Build-America Bonds, which offer a 35 percent federal subsidy for the cost of borrowing, provided a great boost to transit agencies at a time when the municipal bond market was stagnant.
Various proposals for a federal Infrastructure Bank were floated and have been the subject of much discussion.
In June, a landmark contract awarded for the Denver Eagle public-private partnership (PPP) project provides a new national model, a year following the highly successful Canada Line PPP in Vancouver, BC.
In December, APTA’s Legislative Committee approved principles in support of new financing tools for regions that establish local revenue streams for transit. The premise is that transit systems that obtain local, dedicated taxes should be given maximum ability to leverage those funds.
In 2010, transit projects competed effectively for the multi-modal DOT program known as Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery.
Lastly, transit ballot initiatives around the country had another very strong year, with 44 of 57 ballot measures gaining approval, a success rate of 77 percent.
APTA Reports and Initiatives
A number of APTA policy initiatives helped advance public transportation. In March a report titled “Funding the Public Transportation Needs of an Aging Population” quantified the greatly increased needs for expanded and enhanced public transportation services. A new report projects fuel-efficiency standards for transit vehicles of the future, an important benchmark in comparing transit emissions with automobiles that already are pegged to higher future standards. Another report looks at various MPO models and best practices for integrating transit.
APTA partnered with Duke University, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Apollo Alliance on two reports that highlighted the job-producing potential of the transit supply chain. These reports led to three separate meetings in the White House to discuss how transit fits into the administration’s clean-energy jobs agenda.
Finally, on Columbus Day, Oct. 11, APTA policy research was cited in a White House event. That day, the White House announcement noted the historic high unemployment rate in the construction sector, low financing costs, and low costs of materials and bids as additional reasons to move forward at this time on a surface transportation authorization bill. Since then, APTA has been engaged with DOT in discussing the elements and content of that bill.
BY JAMES LaRUSCH, APTA Chief Counsel and Vice President, Corporate Affairs
As the year began, APTA’s new governance structure was little more than a proposal that members would continue voting on for more than two months. When the vote finally closed in March, the bylaws changes were approved by a margin of almost 99 to 1 and APTA was on its way to a new approach to leading the public transit industry.
Changes have come quickly since then--APTA Chair M.P. Carter announced passage of the new bylaws on March 14. Nominations for officers and directors under the new governance model opened in June; the 2010 nominating committee met in August; and on October 3, less than seven months after the bylaws were approved, APTA members elected their first slate of officers and directors under this model. This Board of Directors held its first substantive meeting just three days later and immediately rolled up its collective sleeves to put the model into practice.
Our new governance model brought opportunities for leadership to APTA members from all parts of the industry. For the first time, 10 of our highest dues paying business members assumed seats on the board as designated business member directors, joining an unprecedented 30 directors-at-large from across our association and 27 chairs from APTA’s core committees.
Individual opportunities became enhanced as well. This model, designed to encourage APTA’s “best and brightest,” created opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders to start today. Included in the freshman class of the APTA board are several Leadership APTA graduates, small business men and women, and technical experts who may not previously have had the chance to step out in front under our prior system.
With this model comes a new emphasis on the primary role of the APTA Board of Directors in guiding the association’s strategic and policy initiatives. The board has already appointed a working group to chart out the board’s role, strategic initiatives, and collaboration techniques; that working group is expected to report its recommendations at the board’s Jan. 7, 2011 virtual meeting. That meeting itself will mark an accomplishment of the new board as it moves from a body with twice-a-year pro forma meetings to one with the agility to identify, explore, and react to issues in weeks rather than months or even years.
The future of APTA’s Board of Directors will be one of sustainable, consistent leadership—a system that takes full advantage of the unique strengths of all of the association’s members, grooms the next generation of our industry’s leaders, and draws upon the experience and wisdom of today’s senior leaders.
Meet Just a Few of the New Board Members
Kristen Joyner is executive director of the South West Transit Association (SWTA), a regional transit association dedicated to promoting and advocating for the public transit providers of Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. As a representative of small, medium, and large transit providers across eight states, she brings a full-spectrum perspective to the public transportation dialogue. She began her career in transportation as the assistant to the executive director for Central Arkansas Transit Authority in Little Rock.
Reginald Mason, a 2010 Leadership APTA graduate, is director of safety and training/chief safety officer for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. He currently chairs the APTA Bus Safety Committee and the Security Standards Emergency Management Working Group. In addition, he is an associate safety professional from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals; a Certified Safety and Security Director-Rail, from the World Safety Organization; and an associate staff instructor with the Transit Safety Institute. He previously worked for Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, the Chicago Transit Authority, Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix, and Ryder/ATE—all in the safety arena.
Evalynn (Eve) Williams is one of Dikita Enterprises’ founding principals. She served as the company’s executive vice president and chief financial officer for 26 years until January 2010, when she was selected as the firm’s new president and chief executive officer. She has more than 23 years of experience in public transit services and has headed the firm’s transit planning and data collection practice. She serves as vice president of the Dallas Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials and is chair-elect and immediate past treasurer of the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce in DeSoto, TX.
Photo by Gary Perkins and Chantel Nasits
Photo by Grant McAvoy
Photo by Tom Kochel
Photo by Gary Perkins and Chantel Nasits
Rebekah Huang, a summer intern in Caltrain's Office of Public Affairs, helped pass out reusable bags at the San Francisco Caltrain Station to call attention to National Dump the Pump Day June 17. The arch of black balloons represents the 27,000 gallons of fuel Caltrain riders save every day.
Photo by Steve Barrett
Photo by Christopher Lovdahl/Downtown Exposure
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.
Photo by Steve Barrett
Photo by Steve Barrett
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood offered remarks at the Mineta Transportation Institute's annual Garrett A. Morgan Symposium on Sustainable Transportation for middle school students.
Photo by Sam Adamo
APTA's online video wall provides a space where people and agencies can share their transit stories.
Photo by Grant McAvoy
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist welcomed evacuees from the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti when they arrived in Orlando, as LYNX provided emergency transportation.
Photo by Gary Perkins and Chantel Nasits
The free Olympic Streetcar Line, operating through a partnership between the city of Vancouver, BC, and Bombardier Transportation, helped move crowds during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
BY JILL HOUGH, Ph.D., Director, Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
Hough is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
Cross-country travel to train public transit professionals and research to improve the mobility of seniors and persons with disabilities were among the past year’s highlights for the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center (SURTC) at North Dakota State University (NDSU).
SURTC took on a number of new projects and training activities during 2010 as part of its continuing mission to serve the public transit industry. Copies of the research reports and information on training are available online at www.surtc.org. The center also invites public transportation professionals to participate in its blog.
Topics addressed in SURTC research projects during 2010 include:
* Transit coordination. North Dakota DOT contracted with SURTC to conduct research related to a legislatively-mandated regional transit coordination project. Principal investigators Jon Mielke and Carol Wright oversaw an extensive information-gathering process that involved public meetings, pilot projects, and on-site interviews. Recommendations were shared with constituent entities and the public prior to presentation to ND DOT in December. ND DOT will use the study as it works with North Dakota’s 2011 state legislature to set a direction for transit coordination.
* Assessing community transportation for persons with disabilities. I joined Jeremy Mattson and Al Abeson in surveying a sample of North Dakota residents with disabilities to learn about existing community transportation services and the needs of the population. Results of the survey—which can be used by other communities and states and over time to assess progress—show that many respondents desire more trips, and that lack of transportation appears to be the main limiting factor. It also revealed dissatisfaction with current transportation options.
* Ride or relocate. Researchers Del Peterson and Marc Scott quantified the cost of living at home and riding transit in North Dakota versus relocating to an assisted living facility. The research will help policy makers assess the costs of providing public transportation for those who may choose to stay in their homes as they age. Homeowners without mortgages had the lowest costs, followed by apartment dwellers and homeowners with mortgages. However, every senior’s situation is unique.
* Impacts of distance and transportation on access to health care. Mattson surveyed a random sample of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming residents age 60 or older to assess the impacts of transportation and travel distance on their use of health care services. They found that those who cannot drive make more trips if someone else in the household can drive, and distance and access to transportation add to the difficulty reported in making trips and the likelihood of missing or delaying a trip. The greatest problems for people using public transportation for health care trips are inconvenient schedules, the need to match their transit and medical schedules, and infrequent service.
* Impact of technology on public transportation planning. Researcher David Ripplinger is evaluating the benefits of employing an integrated system of technologies and practices to improve public participation in the public transportation planning process. The project will investigate the impact of technology—such as social networking, electronic surveys, and other applications—in reducing barriers to individual participation and increasing planning efficiency by reducing costs and increasing responsiveness.
Training and Outreach
Carol Wright, SURTC associate director of outreach and training, presented the center’s “Principles of Transit Management” training course in Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, and Oregon during 2010. SURTC also developed an “Ethics in Transportation” seminar, which it offered to NDSU students and to county engineers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, and Minnesota.
The center also hosted the Federal Transit Administration Safety and Security Orientation Seminar, led by public transit consultant Ream Lazaro, and Ripplinger developed technology training for the National Transit Institute and conducted it at sites around the country.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood visited Bismarck, ND, as part of DOT’s six-city Transportation Reauthorization Outreach Tour. I provided testimony to the secretary, emphasizing the mobility needs of the elderly population in rural areas and the importance of meeting those needs in creating livable rural communities.
I served as chair of the 19th National Conference on Rural Public and Intercity Bus Transportation, Oct. 24-27 in Burlington, VT. During the conference, Mattson presented a paper on the mobility of older adults and persons with disabilities in North Dakota; Peterson moderated a session on commuter programs and presented a paper on transit and residential choice; and Ripplinger presented papers on technology use by rural transit agencies and uses of Rural National Transit Database (Rural NTD) data and moderated the session on Rural NTD.
BY TOM COSTELLO, Assistant Managing Director, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Urbana, IL
Costello is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) continued its steady march toward sustainability throughout 2010. The value of committing to sustainable practices and policies cannot be overstated. The district not only behaves as a good citizen but realizes significant cost savings from instituting these practices.
The MTD put its first hybrid diesel-electric vehicles into service in late 2009. In 2010, MTD received delivery of hybrid multi-passenger vans for use in Americans with Disabilities Act and direct services and ordered 23 40-foot New Flyer hybrid buses. We retrofitted 43 older buses with diesel particulate filters (DPFs) in 2010 and all new hybrid vehicles arrive with DPFs preinstalled. With this project, the MTD fleet is clean-burning—which minimizes the impact of diesel combustion on air quality.
The installation of quick-close doors at MTD’s garage facilities in 2010 significantly reduces the amount of time the doors are open. The new doors take only five seconds to fully open or close, making it much easier to maintain temperatures and prevent freezing of sprinkler equipment. Another economical and environmentally friendly practice in the garage is to use waste oil to fuel the heater for the facility.
The district’s aging Operations and Administration Center needed maintenance performed, and in 2010 efforts were made to make these repairs with sustainable alternatives. The parking lot was in desperate need of rehabilitation, so MTD sought and received funding through federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants to make repairs.
Rather than replace the existing asphalt lot with another asphalt lot, permeable pavers were installed. This aesthetically pleasing brick surface is a tremendous benefit to groundwater replenishment because it reduces runoff and allows water to percolate through the pavers into the ground.
The building’s flat roof was also in very poor condition, with frequent leaks and areas with complete deterioration of the substrate. The district decided to install a “white roof” that will minimize energy use and lower utility bills. Some believe that white roofs can reduce energy consumption by up to 20 percent in very hot weather; the district completed its project in early fall 2010, so we’ll have to get back to you on our actual savings.
The biggest energy-saving project undertaken this year was the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system in MTD’s Operations and Administrative Center. This project involved drilling more than two dozen 300-foot deep wells through which glycol is circulated. The glycol uses the temperature of the earth to moderate the building’s internal temperature to reduce heating and cooling costs.
MTD joined the APTA Sustainability Commitment at the Bronze Level and formed a senior staff Sustainability Committee to identify ways in which the MTD can continue to reduce its carbon footprint. A Sustainability Action Committee of operators and maintenance employees also was created; this group generates ideas among line employees with Green Teams while also identifying ways in which the carbon footprint can be further reduced.
MTD joined the Federal Transit Administration’s Environmental Management Systems training program, which is administered through Virginia Tech. The goal of the program is to qualify for ISO 14001 certifications for the agency’s facilities.
The MTD has quantified all activities’ contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and is taking steps to reduce them. An idling policy and “driver behavior” training are in place to turn off vehicles when not in revenue service. Green-certified cleaning compounds are used to clean all vehicles and facilities. Additional sustainable practices include reducing bus wash water use by more than 200,000 gallons per month; recycling scrap metals, antifreeze, aluminum cans, cardboard, paper, batteries, cell phones, and printer cartridges; using biodiesel and low-sulfur fuel to operate all vehicles; using low-mercury fluorescent light bulbs and a bulb crusher that captures waste mercury; installing motion sensors to turn lights on and off in common areas; replacing furnishings and floor coverings at the MTD’s intermodal center (Illinois Terminal) with sustainable materials; optimizing heating and cooling practices at facilities to minimize energy consumption; and switching from incandescent to LED bulbs for exterior bus lights and in the MTD’s Control Center. The MTD is researching solar and wind generators for the garage and Illinois Terminal, as well as use of solar energy in bus shelters to power lights and information signs.
As Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott stated at an October press conference at MTD: “You know, it’s easy to just go along and do things the way you’ve always done them. So you’ve got to applaud those folks and the leadership…who really work on trying to do things better… It’s that extra mile that we really not only appreciate but celebrate…”.
The MTD embraces this attitude. The addition of more efficient equipment, lower energy consumption for heating and cooling, and a commitment to continuous improvement combine to make the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District a local leader in sustainable practices.
BY FLORA M. CASTILLO, Board Member, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ
Castillo is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
The year 2010 was another busy one for NJ Transit, as the agency worked in the first half of the year to balance its budget and create a sustainable, fiscally responsible plan that preserves New Jersey’s robust, multimodal transit network.
As a statewide public transportation agency, NJ Transit provides service to nearly one million customers each workday, representing a significant responsibility and accomplishment in our nation’s most densely populated, most-congested state.
Moving forward, we are focused on making NJ Transit an even more attractive and convenient travel option, putting technology to work for our customers and introducing new customer amenities across the system. To that end, this year the system launched a number of initiatives to improve our customers’ overall commute, from the way they access travel information to their experience on board trains and at our facilities. For example:
* We made additional improvements in the spring to the redesigned njtransit.com web site, which launched in October 2009 featuring a new, streamlined look, improved functionality, cleaner layout, and better organization.
* NJ Transit expanded its online service DepartureVision™ to New York Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal, making access to real-time train departures available at all rail stations. DepartureVision, which launched last year as part of the new web site, allows customers to view train departure screens—including departure time, train status, and track assignment—on a desktop computer or web-enabled mobile device.
* We also launched the Developer Resources section of njtransit.com to provide third-party developers with direct access to service data for use in creating new trip-planning software applications. This section of the web site is designed to encourage the use of NJ Transit schedule data to improve customer access to information through new and innovative applications, including mobile applications, desktop applications, and widgets.
Better Serving the Customer
As part of our ongoing effort to offer more customer amenities, this fall NJ Transit issued a request for proposals from qualified firms to provide wireless broadband (WiFi) Internet service at rail stations and on board trains. This service would enable customers who wish to remain connected and productive during their commute to do so continuously. NJ Transit anticipates awarding a contract in the near future at no cost to the agency.
NJ Transit recently launched a 90-day Quiet Commute pilot program on its busiest trains—select Northeast Corridor express trains—to test the feasibility of offering the amenity on our system. The Quiet Commute program is an effort to balance the needs of those customers who wish to stay connected while en route with those who want to relax or work in a quiet atmosphere without distractions.
After receiving overwhelmingly positive customer and employee feedback, NJ Transit announced that it will significantly expand the Quiet Commute pilot next year. Beginning Jan. 3, 2011, all peak-period, peak-direction NJ Transit trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station of Newark Penn Station will include Quiet Commute cars, including the Midtown Direct, North Jersey Coast, and Raritan Valley lines, as well as additional Northeast Corridor trains. As in the initial pilot, the agency will designate the first and last cars of each train for Quiet Commute, as they are easily identifiable, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis.
In October, NJ Transit introduced its “My Bus” system, which provides bus customers with unprecedented access to schedule information while on the go. My Bus enables any customer who has the ability to send a text message to get schedule information for the more than 19,000 bus stops all over the state.
Based on a system of bus stop ID numbers—unique five-digit numbers NJ Transit has assigned to each of its bus stops—My Bus lets customers who have cell phones with SMS (text messaging) capabilities receive bus schedule information for a specific stop directly to their phones. Customers may text their five-digit bus stop ID to “MyBus” (69287), and My Bus will respond within seconds via text message with the routes and times for the next scheduled trips that serve that bus stop.
As part of this program, NJ Transit is installing new My Bus signs at bus stops statewide, displaying the bus stop ID and instructions for how to use this system. Sign installation is now underway in Atlantic County and will be implemented across the state by the end of 2011. In the interim, customers may obtain their bus stop ID online at njtransit.com/mybus.
So far, the agency is hearing positive customer comments about My Bus and averaging about 1,000 queries a day—a number that is expected to increase as more signs are installed and awareness of the program grows.
As the year winds down and we move into a new year, NJ Transit and its board of directors will remain focused on providing convenient, reliable service to our customers and looking for ways to improve the overall travel experience by introducing additional amenities and tapping into the latest technology.
BY CLIFF HENKE, Senior Analyst, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Arcadia, CA
Henke is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
For this opportunity, I thought I’d take a page from all those “top stories” lists you read in the news and watch on television at the end of the year. Here is my take on the seven most important stories of our industry this past year, many of which will continue into the new year—in no particular order.
1. Federal State of Good Repair funds. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced a combined $776 million for urban and rural transit providers in 45 states and the District of Columbia to help bring buses, bus facilities, and related equipment into a state of good repair. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded funds from its new State of Good Repair discretionary grant program to 152 projects to start addressing the need cited in DOT’s National State of Good Repair Assessment Study, released last June. It estimated that the cost of bringing the nation’s rail and bus transit systems into a state of good repair is close to $78 billion.
2. Rail safety actions. DOT named 20 officials to the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), an advisory committee that will assist FTA with developing national safety standards for rail transit. In December 2009, the Obama administration sent Congress the President’s Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009, which would authorize DOT to establish federal safety standards for rail transit systems, reversing a prohibition that has been in effect since 1965. TRACS will guide FTA’s safety rulemaking agenda if the final legislation is enacted.
3. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding obligated on time. Providing $8.78 billion for transit improvements, ARRA created thousands of jobs in the U.S.; a $2.2 million Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction grant to Indiana’s Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation was the final grant awarded, in September. In addition, $443 million from the Federal Highway Administration Surface Transportation Program was transferred to transit projects. All told, ARRA money has paid for more than 12,000 buses, vans, and rail vehicles; more than $4.5 billion in transit infrastructure construction or renovation; and more than $730 million in preventive maintenance projects. The money also allowed major projects, such as Dallas’ light rail Green Line, to finish ahead of schedule and under budget.
4. FTA announces intent to emphasize economic development in New Starts/Small Starts rule changes. Following the earlier-announced policy shift to eliminate strict use of cost-effectiveness measures developed by the Bush administration, FTA requested advance public comment on how to change the way major transit project proposals seeking federal funding are rated and evaluated. “We must fairly evaluate all advantages that a transit project may offer, including economic development opportunities and environmental benefits,” said LaHood. The first step in this initiative came in January 2010, when FTA rescinded budget restrictions issued in 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened average commute times in comparison to its cost. FTA’s proposed rulemaking is expected next summer.
5. More transit funded under TIGER II. Following ARRA’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, LaHood announced awards for more than 70 transportation projects under the TIGER II program, created as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 transportation appropriations bill. Forty-two capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states—ranging from highways and bridges to transit, rail, and ports—were awarded. Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money went to road projects, 26 percent for transit, and 20 percent for intercity rail projects. However, these grants were among those that the new Republican House majority is said to be targeting for a rescission bill that will be introduced early in the new Congress.
6. New Republican governors reject federal grants for major rail and transit infrastructure. Several newly elected conservative governors announced their intentions to kill some federally funded intercity and high-speed rail projects, but none of these announcements was more high-profile than one by a governor elected in 2009. FTA has given cash-strapped New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration until Dec. 24 to repay money for work already spent—and on engineering, land acquisition, and other costs—for activities underway on the massive Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) tunneling project. Christie canceled the tunnel after federal estimates showed the state could have to pay for billions more than planned. New Jersey is challenging FTA’s demands to return the federal funding.
7. Voters continue to approve local transit referenda. Despite the worst economy since the 1930s—or perhaps because of it—voters approved 77 percent of transportation ballot measures in 2010. In sum, this is over $1 billion toward transportation investment. In November, 22 out of 30 measures were approved in 13 states. For the entire year, the Center for Transportation Excellence found that voters approved 43 out of 56 measures.
BY CAROLYN YOUNG, Executive Director, Communications & Technology, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, Portland, OR
Young is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
Like many transit agencies across the country, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) continued to face serious budget cuts in 2010. With the regional unemployment rate among the highest in the country, we grappled with declining revenues and a second year of cuts. We again focused first on non-service related budget cuts before looking to service cuts and a fare increase to help close the $27 million budget gap.
While these changes were tough on our riders, we looked to minimize the cuts by extending headways rather than simply cutting the first and last trips of the day.
With the second recession in our region in a decade, TriMet had also delayed investing in new buses and other capital improvements to reduce service cuts. We looked to the ballot box for some new revenues. We proposed a ballot measure that would most benefit our riders who are elderly and have disabilities.
The measure would have secured $125 million to purchase low floor buses and make hundreds of bus stops accessible, and help ease demand on the general fund. Although it failed by a small margin, we took away an important message from the voters: transit is a critical public service.
TriMet’s year was not without its high points, however. Using American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds, we were able to construct a 74-space Bike & Ride facility at one of our busiest transit centers. It is the first of its kind in Oregon and allows commuters another option for connecting with our system. Two other secured bike parking facilities with a total of 130 spaces will open in 2011.
With these facilities and the replacement and refurbishment of 174 bike lockers at various stations, TriMet has added parking for nearly 380 bikes across the system.
ARRA funds also helped us make long-delayed capital improvements throughout our bus and light rail facilities, helping our system become more robust for the future.
In 2010, our riders reaped huge benefits from ongoing technology developments. Our TransitTracker real-time arrival information service, available by phone and computer for about six years, expanded to include text messaging and a new mobile site—m.trimet.org. Together, these tools serve two million requests for arrival times each month. TriMet’s open data philosophy also continued to serve the agency and its riders with an astounding 37 web-enabled applications created by third-party developers.
In October, the Portland metro area became the destination for some 1,300 transit professionals from around the country and world for the 19th annual Rail~Volution conference. This was exciting for the region since Rail~Volution got its start here in 1991 from then-City Commissioner (now Rep.) Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
This year’s conference showcased why the Portland area has become a national model for land use and transportation planning, regional partnerships, transit-oriented development, bike infrastructure, and walkable neighborhoods.
But 2010 will also mark the darkest time in TriMet’s history: a bus struck five people in a crosswalk, killing two. The tragedy prompted the agency to launch its most comprehensive safety review ever, leaving no area of our work untouched.
A national safety expert conducted a top-to-bottom safety review of all of our standard operating procedures and training programs. We also reviewed every bus line and every turn and lane change to ensure we weren’t asking our operators to do something that was not safe or legal.
Most importantly, we convened an expert task force to help every employee embrace safety as a value and ensure that safety is the lens through which everything is measured. While creating a culture of safety is a long-term goal, it will also result in service excellence.
As the year comes to a close, we look ahead with optimism. Our sixth light rail line—the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project—is moving forward with great support from our regional partners. We will soon begin construction on the signature feature of the project, the Willamette River transit bridge. It is unique in the country, with accommodation for light rail, buses, and a future streetcar line, plus a wide pedestrian and bike path on both sides of the bridge. No autos or trucks will use this bridge across the river.
We also see a not-so-distant future where we begin to restore service. As the economy recovers and the current budget crisis subsides, we have a strategy in place to bring service back to a level that our riders need and want.
While we’ve faced daunting challenges and serious budget constraints, we know we’re on the right track to continuing our part in making this region a model of how transit can and does work.
BY CAROLYN FLOWERS, CEO, Charlotte Area Transit System, Charlotte, NC
Flowers is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
Fiscal Year 2010 was an insightful and challenging year, as the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) continued to deal with the national recession, record high unemployment in the region, and sales tax receipts dipping to the 2005 level. We had to manage this flat sales tax revenue and be selective in investments that would best serve the community. Through these challenges, CATS focused on delivering the best core services possible to the community, sustaining jobs, and maintaining the high quality of our service.
CATS enacted a scheduled 16.7 percent fare increase across all services in July 2010, part of its normal policy to adjust fares every two years to keep pace with the cost of providing transit service. Without a fare increase we would not have been able to keep our current level of service for our customers.
Charlotte, which is the second largest financial center in the country and the largest employment generator in the state, saw significant changes in staffing levels over the past two years. The combination of low gas prices and high unemployment due to the economic downturn played a role in our first ridership decline in more than a decade.
CATS carried more than 24 million customers during FY 2010 and weekday ridership averaged just over 79,000 riders. This represented a 6 percent decline in ridership over FY 2009. Since CATS’ FY 2011 began July 1, 2010, we have seen ridership levels on the rise once again.
To advance the system, CATS leveraged investments with grants. CATS benefited by receiving two federal grants aimed at replacing the fleet while improving the environment and retrofitting an existing bus garage delaying the need for a third bus garage in the future. Six new hybrid buses are on order with the assistance of a $3 million Transit Investment for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) Grant. It is estimated the six additional hybrid buses could remove 2,600 tons of carbon dioxide in the air over the 12-year operating life cycle of the buses. In our daily operations, it is important to minimize CATS carbon footprint as we work hard to enhance the quality of life for our citizens. CATS will have a total of 13 hybrid vehicles in its fleet when these buses arrive in 2011.
Construction work began on the North Davidson Bus Facility Renovation and Expansion Project being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Enhancements to the 28-year-old facility will improve operations by updating conditions and providing sufficient space and support for up to 200 transit buses. The changes will also allow CATS Special Transportation Services (STS) to relocate there. Construction on the project is expected to be completed by June 2011.
CATS’ focus on safety and reliability continues to reap dividends. Our preventable accident rate and on-time performance exceed industry standards; bus on-time performance finished at over 88 percent for the year, and rail service was on time more than 99 percent. The LYNX Blue Line finished the year with only 0.12 preventable accidents and bus service had only 0.40 accidents per 100,000 miles.
The LYNX Blue Line also continues to exceed ridership projections and serves as a model for transit systems across the country. This line served as a workhorse assisting with such national conventions as the National Rifle Association’s, which attracted over 70,000 visitors; numerous NCAA conference sporting events; and the opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame that averaged over 90,000 riders in two days.
CATS remains committed to the vision of the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan, and this year we have continued to work together to advance the goals of the system plan.
The FY 2011-2015 Capital Investment Plan will assist us in continuing to advance the LYNX Blue Line Extension (BLE) and the North Corridor Red Line as well as funding bus and vanpool purchases. The BLE completed its 30 percent design and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was submitted to the Federal Transit Administration.
CATS’ funding partners, however, struggle with the same budgetary issues. The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC), governing board of CATS, recently reviewed the 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan, and we will keep moving forward with providing a cost-effective LYNX BLE project and pursue private-public partnerships to build the Red Line.
No matter the successes or the challenges of the year, CATS is committed to delivering a safe, clean, and reliable transit system that attracts customers and provides transportation choices for the region. The focus of what we do every day as a transit team is our customer, the reason we are in this business, and the reason we continue to thrive.
BY KIM GREEN, President, GFI Genfare, Elk Grove Village, IL
Green is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
The next few years will be challenging ones for the public transit industry. With unemployment levels remaining high, many agencies have seen their ridership and revenue levels flatten out or decline. Rising costs combined with falling levels of funding may lead to service cuts and fare increases. Given the recent election results, it’s hard to say what the industry can expect at the federal level. Transit managers are under pressure to cut costs and stretch the limited capital dollars available.
At GFI Genfare, we’ve seen these developments play out in fare collection as transit agencies ask us to explore new approaches to help them control expenses and more effectively serve their ridership. Here are some trends we expect to gain increasing attention in the coming year.
Upgrades. Rather than purchase new fare collection systems, some transit agencies are choosing to upgrade their existing equipment. GFI is now in the final stages of upgrading almost 2,000 15-year-old CENTSaBILL registering fareboxes for Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). We partnered with SEPTA to modernize the farebox electronics and wiring while restoring the equipment to like-new condition. Meanwhile, GFI replaced the back-end data system hardware and upgraded the software.
In addition to cost savings, refurbishment reduces operational disruptions and minimizes the need for retraining operators. The limitation is that, despite some improvement in electronics and data handling, the system remains reliant on older technology. Also, depending on the age and condition of the equipment, the cost advantage of refurbishment over the purchase of new equipment may not be significant enough. Nonetheless, upgrading is an option for cash-strapped agencies hoping to maintain their system in a “state of good repair.”
Comprehensive smart card solutions. Smart cards offer high reliability, low lifetime maintenance and money-handling costs, and fast passenger throughput. Until recently, though, most card systems were in use at larger systems. Since an individual smart card can be used for years, agencies have had to implement extensive infrastructure to track and reload the cards; also, because traditional plastic smart cards are relatively expensive, they are not suitable for short-term use such as transfers.
Now mid-size and smaller public transit agencies are demanding smart card technology better adapted to their needs. For example, GFI is currently providing Tucson with a suite of smart card applications for its Sun Tran bus system, ranging from online card management to retail sales equipment.
In response to these needs, GFI is developing a comprehensive solution to help make smart cards practical for agencies of all sizes. Key elements include:
* Economical online smart card support. Using any computer connected to the Internet, passengers can purchase or upgrade smart cards and, if desired, charge the cost automatically to a credit card. Upgrades are “autoloaded” to the cards the next time they’re presented to an enabled fare device. This convenience builds rider loyalty and extends the transit agencies’ reach to new passenger groups. Although large agencies have offered custom-designed web-based smart card services for years, GFI hopes its standardized solution will put this powerful cost-saving technology within the reach of a much wider range of agencies.
* Limited-use smart cards made of paper rather than plastic, with a life expectancy measured in weeks rather than years; their lower cost makes them well suited to short-term use. Innovative transit agencies are planning to replace transfers with limited use card-based day passes, eliminating transfer-handling costs while providing better value to riders.
* Farebox smart card issuance. GFI expects to make initial shipments of its limited use smart card dispenser in 2011, making it possible to issue these cards automatically at the farebox. Based on GFI’s proven TRiM magnetic stripe ticket reader/issuer machine, the new device will enable agencies to make smart cards their principal non-cash fare medium, leading to significant long-term savings.
* Card distribution. GFI offers several options to enable cost-efficient card distribution to an agency’s customers. Ticket Vending Machines and ticket office sales equipment allow smart card sales and upgrades in a variety of venues.
Open payment systems. A hot topic in fare collection is “open payments,” where riders pay their fares using a smart card-based bank card rather than an agency-issued farecard. While open payment systems are currently under test, widespread implementation remains a future development in the U.S. GFI is preparing for this evolution in fare payment by ensuring that the smart card processors provided with our equipment comply with emerging open payments standards.
CAD/AVL connectivity. Increasingly GFI is being asked by a variety of suppliers to link the farebox to computer-aided dispatch/automatic vehicle location (CAD/AVL) systems. Among other advantages, AVL systems make it possible to “location-stamp” passenger boardings, permitting pinpoint analysis of ridership patterns and optimal deployment of resources.
Many of these developments are evolutionary technical advances, making them cost-effective and timely in today’s economic climate. These relatively inexpensive enhancements are beginning to pay off in better service to passengers and reduced operating costs for transit agencies.
BY CHUCK COHEN, Executive Director, and LILIANE M. AGEE-FINKE, Marketing and Public Information Manager, Palm Tran, West Palm Beach, FL
Cohen is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
Palm Tran, Palm Beach County’s public transportation agency, provides transit services to the largest county in Florida. The agency persists in pursuing better ways of providing public transportation to the people who live and work within the county.
We operate fixed route transportation on 33 routes within the county and two routes connecting Martin County commuters with our routes in Palm Beach County. Our paratransit service, Palm Tran Connection, serves customers who qualify under the Americans with Disability Act, Transportation Disadvantaged requirements, and the Division of Senior Services program for eligible seniors traveling to and from senior centers/meal sites.
Here is a snapshot of the projects Palm Tran has implemented over the last 18 months, as well as projects we expect to complete in 2011.
The agency opened its Intermodal Transit Center in July of 2009. The facility offers convenient transfer access to all fixed route bus service operating in West Palm Beach and to South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail commuter trains that operate between Miami Beach and just north of West Palm Beach.
The new Belle Glade Maintenance and Operations Facility opened this past May. The satellite facility, funded in part through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other federal programs, provides a suitable base for expansion of service in the future.
During 2010, Palm Tran built and opened additional park-and-ride lots in Wellington and on the campus of the West Technical Education Center in Belle Glade. These programs received joint funding from Florida DOT and the Federal Transit Administration.
We used federal funds from both ARRA and the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program to purchase EMP fans for our bus fleet, as well as hybrid buses to reduce emissions and increase the efficiency of our service by improving our average miles per gallon operated. Palm Tran also received a federal earmark of $800,000 for the building of additional park-and-ride lots in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.
Palm Tran will complete the installation of a new Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) system on its fleet of buses in FY 2011. This system will use enhanced Global Positioning Satellite technology to enhance the safety and security of transit personnel and passengers and to improve the productivity and efficiency of our service. The use of the real-time vehicle location technology will improve response time to bus incidents and should assist Palm Tran’s fixed route bus scheduling with reliability and customer information.
Awards and Recognition
Palm Tran continues to make its mission—providing safe, efficient, affordable, and reliable transportation—its primary focus, and it continues to receive recognition for its efforts.
The Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) presented the agency with top honors at its 2010 Annual Conference: the first-place Unit Safety Award for public transit systems operating more than 100 buses. FPTA previously honored Palm Tran six times during the past decade. FPTA also presented the agency with an Award of Honor in the electronic media category for “Transit Works,” a half-hour television show it produces in partnership with Palm Beach County’s Channel 20.
Also, Palm Tran CONNECTION’s Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board received an award for the best Coordinating Board in the state of Florida from the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged.
Overall, 2010 was a very good year for Palm Tran and we are looking forward to more success in 2011. Our fixed route ridership has nearly doubled during the last decade, growing from under six million riders in FY 2001 to record-breaking numbers in excess of 10 million in FY 2010. Average weekday ridership, for example, in FY 2010 increased more than 11 percent.
Public transportation agencies throughout the nation continue to examine how to expand or maintain service levels in the face of budget cuts, fare increases, and funding shortfalls in a problematic economy. Palm Tran is not unique, instituting budget cutbacks in the past three fiscal years. What may be unusual, however, it that the agency sees ongoing ridership growth on its fixed route service.
While the increase in Palm Tran’s fixed route ridership growth is in large part a clear demonstration of the community responding to a transit system that is responsive to its needs, our ability to continue to handle higher ridership on a number of routes poses additional challenges. We continue to look for ways that will allow us to expand service to meet our growing ridership demand without counting on an enhanced level of support from the county’s budget.
For example, Palm Tran CONNECTION has undergone consistent improvements in productivity, which has increased by more than 150 percent during the last decade. These improvements have enabled us to schedule and transport more than 800,000 annual paratransit passenger trips with a relatively stable operating budget, a key factor in meeting today’s service demands.
Our goals for FY 2011 for both fixed route and paratransit include further maximizing of our resources, using such new tools as hybrid bus technology and AVL to achieve additional cost savings and productivity improvements.
BY NICK PROMPONAS, Senior Vice President, First Transit, Tempe, AZ
Promponas is a member of the Passenger Transport Advisory Board.
As 2010 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a challenging—and very exciting—year for us at First Transit. We’ve all seen how municipalities, schools, and transportation providers have been tasked with operating in a more efficient and fiscally conscious manner, which has provided First Transit the opportunity for close planning with clients to maximize service and minimize expense.
We began work with a variety of new clients this year, introducing First Transit’s reliable and safe fixed route, paratransit, and shuttle transportation services to new passengers across North America. In addition, 2010 saw the announcement of a new CEO for our parent company, FirstGroup, bringing fresh and exciting leadership to our organization. Some particulars include:
Fixed Route Outsourcing
In July, First Transit expanded its work with San Diego County’s North County Transit District (NCTD), a robust system that provides transportation to 12 million passengers annually. We initially began working with NCTD in 2007, operating the agency’s LIFT paratransit service. Our new partnership brought all bus transportation under First Transit’s direction, including the operation, management, and maintenance of NCTD’s 165-vehicle BREEZE fixed route fleet.
Bringing all bus service under one operational umbrella helps the customer realize significant cost savings. Over the course of the seven-year contract, First Transit will save NCTD approximately $70 million and will help cut the system’s operating deficit in half. In these challenging economic times, this type of broad-view thinking helps organizations like NCTD provide a greater level of service for passengers, while maintaining area employment levels and leaving the door open for future expansion as the economy improves.
Focus on Paratransit Service
First Transit has enjoyed a successful working relationship with Reno’s Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) since 1978, providing safe, efficient, and sustainable fixed route services for the community. This summer, we expanded our partnership to include all paratransit services, through the commission’s ACCESS system.
Paratransit operations are of key importance to a community’s vitality, and we have seen an increased need for providers that can manage not only the service delivery, but also the call center and dispatching responsibilities. Providing easy mobility for all residents opens up opportunities for area commerce, resident interaction, and improved quality of life.
First Transit currently provides paratransit services for more than 16 million passengers and call center support for more than 7.5 million trips annually. (These numbers are for paratransit-only contracts and do not include fixed route/paratransit joint contracts.)
In 2011, we anticipate continued growth and expansion in this area as communities seek to increase services while addressing fiscal challenges.
It’s difficult to open a newspaper these days and not read about educational funding challenges. Universities are certainly not exempt, as costs for providing basic services continue to rise.
Outsourcing a school’s university shuttle service enables educators to focus their energies on the core functions of education, eliminating the headaches often associated with shuttle and other transportation services.
First Transit provides campus shuttle service to more than 20 universities and colleges in the United States, including Rutgers University in New Jersey. The university’s Campus Bus Service is the second largest operating bus system in the state, transporting more than six million passengers annually and providing more than 70,000 passenger trips each day.
In an effort to reduce emissions and petroleum consumption, First Transit will replace Rutgers’ 50 transit buses over the life of the contract. The new buses use bio-diesel fuel and specific technologies that monitor fuel consumption, idling, and driver habits. This information helps us tailor our training programs to ensure that buses are being utilized as safely and efficiently as possible. In turn, we help the university save money on fuel and other vehicle costs.
As we move into 2011, we do so under the leadership of a new parent company CEO, Tim O’Toole. With his guidance, we will be even more focused on our front line delivery, ensuring maximum efficiency for our customers. Tim is a veteran of the transportation business, having gained significant experience working with the London Underground and CSX. We look forward to introducing Tim to our customers, as well as capitalizing on his wealth of knowledge and experience to add value to each of our operations.
The new year will undoubtedly bring its own set of challenges and opportunities, but each community’s need to provide residents with safe, reliable, and efficient transportation services will remain constant. The decision to outsource operations, management, and maintenance is one that must be carefully considered to ensure maximum return on a community’s investment. We look forward to working with our customers—both current and new—to create transportation plans and models that will help them achieve their goals.
As 2010 comes to a close, the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) looks back on a very active year, publishing a total of 26 reports: seven research reports, five legal research digests, three research results digests, six syntheses, one CD, and four web-only documents.
The reports covered a wide range of subjects including transit call centers, hybrid-electric bus technology, pedestrian safety, advertising, performance measurements, ridership, greenhouse gas emissions, planning, and various guidebooks.
In October, TCRP approved 10 new research projects for 2011 in areas including paratransit, signal and traction power systems safety, best practices for improving bus operator health, policing and security, using Intelligent Transportation Systems data, retrofitting, and greenhouse gas emissions. The program is currently seeking individuals to serve on panels that will oversee the research process of these projects.
An important component of TCRP is its Dissemination Program, as managed by APTA. This program focuses on a variety of distribution venues to promote and deliver TCRP reports and products to the industry: communiqué and web site dissemination, major industry events, state-sponsored workshops and seminars, and transit-related events.
The TCRP Ambassador Program, managed by the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), uses a cadre of volunteer public transit professionals to represent the program at more than 40 industry events and venues throughout the year and to help maintain a high level of awareness for TCRP. In 2011, the program will campaign for new ambassadors to serve a two-year term as program representatives.
In addition, TCRP is seeking nominations by Jan. 19, 2011, for its next study mission, April 1-16 in India and China, focusing on “Sustainable Public Transportation—Environmentally Friendly Mobility.” More information about the International Transit Studies Program is available here. here or by contacting Kathryn Harrington-Hughes.
For more information, visit the TCRP web site.
Over the past year, the public transportation industry said goodbye to transit agency chief executives and board members, the first administrator of the former Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), and a member of the APTA Hall of Fame. In chronological order of their deaths, here’s how they were remembered in the pages of Passenger Transport.
Stephen T. Parry, 59, died Nov. 29, 2009. His transit career began at Occidental College, where he created a two-line bus system that remains in operation today. Parry served the former Southern California Rapid Transit District, now part of Los Angeles Metro, for 23 years and also worked for AC Transit in Oakland, CA, and CHK America.
Bob Ellis, 84, the first board chair of Ben Franklin Transit in Richland, WA, died Dec. 10, 2009. He served 12 years on the board beginning with its founding in 1982, six of them as its chair, and received the APTA Local Distinguished Service Award in 1992.
Carlos C. Villarreal, 85, died Dec. 14, 2009. Appointed by President Richard Nixon, Villarreal headed UMTA (now the Federal Transit Administration) from 1969 until 1973.
Harold Geissenheimer, 81, a public transportation professional for more than 50 years, died Jan. 7. He served transit agencies in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and San Francisco, and worked in the private sector with LS Transit Systems, now part of SYSTRA, retiring in 1996.
Monique Pegues, 37, director of government relations for the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), died unexpectedly on Jan. 22. She worked for The T since 1999 and was promoted to her most recent post in 2008, overseeing private-sector lobbyists in Washington, DC, and Texas and managing the agency’s local/regional government and community relations, grants administration, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise efforts.
Thomas R. Kuesel, 83, an authority on tunnel and bridge engineering and former partner at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB), died Feb. 17. He served PB for 43 years, from 1947 until his retirement in 1990, and worked on major projects including the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s Transbay Tube.
Bruce P. DeVito, 61, vice president, rail and transit systems, with Gannett Fleming in New York, died March 2. He came to Gannett Fleming after a long career as chief engineer with MTA Long Island Rail Road.
Jim Gleich, 66, deputy general manager with AC Transit in Oakland, CA, died March 7. Gleich joined AC Transit in 1994 and was promoted to his most recent post in 1999. At the time of his death, he was a member of the APTA Board of Directors and several APTA committees.
Jeanne E. Neese, 60, an attorney and director of government affairs for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia for more than three decades, died April 28. Earlier, she had worked for UMTA. She was a member of the APTA Legislative and State Affairs committees.
Philip Pagano, 60, executive director of Chicago’s Metra commuter rail service since 1990, died May 7. A past APTA vice chair-commuter and intercity rail, Pagano had worked for the Regional Transportation Authority in Chicago before joining Metra in 1984.
Lawrence Kester, 47, a 15-year bus operator with Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, was stabbed to death May 7 as he drove a route in Rialto, CA—the first on-the-job death of an employee in the agency’s 34-year history. Kester was a member of the transit system’s “Million Mile Club,” which recognizes drivers who have safely driven more than one million passenger miles without a preventable accident.
Robert Pattison, 88, a former vice president of Parsons Brinckerhoff and president and general manager of MTA Long Island Rail Road from 1976 to 1978, died May 12. He also was a founding member of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, playing a leading role in the early studies for high-speed rail in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Warren H. Frank, 85, APTA chair in 1985-86 and retired executive director of the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (CNYRTA) in Syracuse, NY, died May 31. Frank, who retired as CNYRTA executive director in 1993 and served on the board until 1995, received APTA’s Jesse L. Haugh Award, predecessor to the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager, in 1983 and was inducted into the APTA Hall of Fame in 1998.
Gregory J. Cooper, ARM, AAI, 48, risk manager for Pace Suburban Bus in Arlington Heights, IL, from 2005 to 2010, died of a heart attack July 3. At the time of his death, Cooper was the incoming secretary of the APTA Risk Management Committee.
Cleatus E. Barnett, 83, a 32-year member of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors who served five terms as its chairman, died Aug. 11. He represented Montgomery County, MD, on the board from 1971 through 2003.
Robert Amson Olmsted, P.E., F. ASCE, 85, former planning director for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and one of the leading transportation planners in New York City, died Aug. 16.
Melba Bayne, 79, senior mechanical engineer for WMATA from 1981 until her retirement in 1998, died Oct. 4. Before joining WMATA, she was a junior mechanical engineer with Smith, Hichman, and Grylls, and later was a senior mechanical engineer with Bernard Johnson Associates.
Clarence Giuliani, 85, a public transportation official with more than 60 years of experience, died Oct. 13. He served most recently as chief maintenance operator for the Miami Valley Regional Transit Authority (now Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority) in Dayton, OH, where he worked from 1991 until his retirement in 1993.
Robert L. (Bob) Stewart, 79, a founder of the firm now known as ElDorado National Co., died Oct. 23. The small transit bus firm started out in 1960 as Honorbuilt Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of recreational vehicles.
Philip H. Braum, 62, an urban planner with 36 years of experience, 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, working most recently for Kimley-Horn.
Steven H. (Steve) Brown, 54, a 2008 graduate of Leadership APTA with more than 28 years of experience in public transit and transportation engineering, died Nov. 10. He had joined Jacobs Engineering in October 2010 after four years with Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam.
BY WILLIAM MILLAR, APTA President
Over the past year, we at APTA have concentrated our efforts to communicate the many and varied benefits of public transportation—and to stress the urgent need for more federal investment—to the public, members of Congress, state and local elected officials, key partners in government and affiliated organizations, and our riders.
How did we do this? Through meetings, outreach, events, and targeted advocacy. And through Immediate Past Chair M.P. Carter’s signature Telling Our Story initiative, with activities ranging from “Telling Our Story to Congress District Days” in January to Earth Day in April to National Dump the Pump Day in June. I’m proud to say that APTA gained two new supporters of this important event this year—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
We created a National Public Transit Petition, urging people to use it to express their support of more federal investment. So far, thousands of people across America have signed it!
Of course, the highlight of Telling Our Story arrived Sept. 22 with a Washington, DC, rally—featuring people from across the country who served as the voices of the millions of people who use public transit every day. These individuals explained why this kind of transportation is so important to their lives. Other speakers included Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), representatives from four bus manufacturers, and a whole lot more.
This was also a year of change: internally, with new bylaws and a new chair—and externally, with the November 2010 election. Here’s a quick look at both.
It was during this year that APTA members voted to change our bylaws—an overwhelmingly positive decision that should provide dividends for decades to come. Why make this change? Not because our structure was broken, but because we believed it could work even better representing the breadth of APTA membership. By expanding the voting membership of the APTA Board of Directors, we are ensuring the inclusiveness of our association and demonstrating the value of our diversity.
So now, our Executive Committee and Board of Directors are invigorated with new voices. Both are gaining in agility, with the ability to target their efforts on the most pressing issues of the day. Engaging more than two dozen committee chairs as members of the APTA Board of Directors is also bringing to the table ideas and voices that may not have been heard before. Since much of the work of APTA gets done in the committees—these individuals will bring the heart of our work closer to the governing decisions the board makes.
A Change of Chair
As is our custom (not to mention our bylaws!), we changed chairs in October. We said goodbye and thank you to M.P. Carter, and hello and welcome to Michael Scanlon.
Mike is focused on gaining new partners, bringing more stakeholders to the table, and including any and all of those who work in or are affected by public transportation which, as he has pointed out, is nearly everyone! His word for this effort? Inclusion. Remember that word—you’ll be hearing it a lot in the months to come! And while practicing this inclusion, Mike will also, at all times, keep a sharp focus on advancing public transit’s legislative agenda.
Strategic Plan/Business Plan
This was indeed a busy year, for it included implementing the first year of our new Strategic Plan, which set our priority goals for the next five years. These include economic and environmental sustainability, safe and reliable mobility systems, a quality workforce, and ensuring that public transportation continues to be an essential value to everyone. We also developed a business plan built from the Strategic Plan—and all these things bode well for the future of APTA and our industry.
Congressional Election Results
The November elections brought many new faces to Congress, and with the Republicans’ House majority, changes in leadership and presumably direction.
Some of the leaders we have relied on for many, many years either did not seek re-election—or were not returned by the voters. Foremost among these are Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT).
I first met Jim in the late 1970s. Since then, he has continued to amaze me with his breadth of knowledge, his leadership on important matters of the day, and his unyielding commitment to improving America’s transportation infrastructure. From his early days as a member of the T&I Committee to his tenure as chairman, he has been a tremendous champion for public transit, and his support has been critical to U.S. systems as they grew over the past 30 years. While it’s tempting to highlight the many transportation bills he championed, I believe his legacy is not just policies or projects, it’s his unwavering commitment to and passion for making our nation’s transportation system benefit all Americans.
The next T&I chairman is Rep. John Mica (R-FL), a longtime supporter of public transportation and a champion of bringing rail transit to Florida. He is also a proponent of more private sector involvement in transportation development and in bringing true high-speed passenger rail to America. He has also been a vocal advocate of expediting and simplifying project delivery. We have worked closely with Mica for many years, and look forward to continuing to do so in the 112th Congress.
Dodd has been a member of the Senate Banking Committee for many years and the chairman since 2006. He has consistently worked to move public transportation issues forward in a bipartisan fashion, advocating for legislation to improve public transportation safety and livable communities. We have enjoyed working with him over the years and wish him well as he moves to the next phase of his life.
Dodd will be replaced by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). He is an active and engaged member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and we look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.
This has been a difficult year, no question—and the economy made it more so for our transit system and business members. But there are signs of hopefulness. The steep decline of ridership in 2009 moderated significantly in 2010, with many systems showing increased ridership numbers.
And for APTA, the year ends with growing membership, which positions our association strongly to advance our legislative agenda.
So as we continue our advocacy efforts with Congress for long-term surface transportation authorization, we will also continue to reach out to you for your valued input, move toward achieving the goals of our Strategic Plan, and work hard and daily to ensure that Public Transportation Takes Us There.
Happy holidays—to one and all!
WATERTOWN, MA—Ken Schwartz, AICP, the corporate planning practice leader for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB), has relocated from the firm’s Watertown, MA, headquarters to its newest office in White Plains, NY.
Schwartz, an award-winning NCI Charrette Planner®, brings 25 years of experience to the White Plains team, which recently joined VHB as a result of the acquisition of the planning and development firm Saccardi & Schiff in October 2010.
Prior to joining VHB 10 years ago, Schwartz served as director of environmental planning and permitting for the Massachusetts Port Authority.
William G. Murphy
HARTFORD, CT—Urban Engineers has hired William G. Murphy, P.E., as manager of the firm’s New England regional office in Hartford.
Murphy has 30 years of experience. Prior to joining Urban, he was director of engineering for a multi-discipline civil and transportation engineering firm, and previously the vice president/regional manager for two major New England consulting firms.
Barry J. Schulz
TAMPA, FL—PBS&J, an Atkins company, has announced the appointment of Barry J. Schulz, P.E.. AICP, as the company’s Transportation Group president.
Schulz is a longtime employee of PBS&J, starting in 1998 as the company’s first transportation employee in Denver. He succeeds Max D. Crumit.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Habib Shamskhou has joined Stantec as its global Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) discipline leader in the company’s transportation practice, based in the San Francisco office.
Shamskhou has more than 30 years experience in the transportation field. Most recently he was vice president for a national planning, transportation, and engineering firm, where he directed the national ITS practice and was responsible for program management, business development, and overall operation of the company.
Nancy Olewiler, Barry Forbes, Don Rose
BURNABY, BC—The Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation has reappointed Nancy Olewiler to a second three-year term and named two new directors, Barry Forbes and Don Rose, to the TransLink board, effective Jan. 1, 2011. The new directors succeed Dale Parker, the outgoing chair, and David Unruh.
Forbes is president and chief executive officer of Westminster Savings and Credit Union. Rose has 25 years experience in commercial and corporate law and more than 12 years in senior governance roles.
Also, the TransLink board elected Olewiler, a professor in the Department of Economics and director of the Graduate Public Policy Program at Simon Fraser University, as its chair in 2011.
LONDON, UK—Parsons Brinckerhoff has named Steve Reffitt its U.K. operations director.
Reffitt has almost 30 years of engineering and construction industry experience, the majority in the U.K. consultant market working for WSP and Atkins. At WSP, he was responsible for new business growth for a group comprising 2,500 engineers and specialists engaged in transportation, energy, industrial, infrastructure, and public and private building consulting. For Atkins, he was an operational leader with responsibility for a range of businesses, including serving as head of structural engineering.
Thomas Davis Jr.
MECHANICSBURG, PA—Urban Engineers has promoted Thomas Davis Jr. to practice leader of inspection services in the Mechanicsburg office.
Davis, who has more than 25 years of construction services experience, joined Urban in 1997 and has served as an inspector and supervisor for numerous projects throughout Pennsylvania.
LOS ANGELES, CA—Drew Jones has joined Tectrans in the new role of senior vice president for safety and risk management, based in the firm’s Los Angeles headquarters.
Jones has 25 years of experience in safety, security and risk management, including 18 years as a paramedic. For the past decade, he has provided leadership for major passenger transportation companies, both nationally and internationally, and has served on the board of delegates for the National Safety Council.
CALGARY, AB—HDR announced the appointment of Nathan Higgins as an associate vice president responsible for managing the company’s rail and transit engineering practice across Canada. He will be based in the firm’s Calgary office.
Prior to joining HDR, Higgins was a vice president with Hatch Mott MacDonald. He has more than 22 years of experience planning, designing, and constructing freight, commuter, and light rail systems, including high-speed rail. He has led major transit programs and administered numerous multidiscipline design and construction projects.
ALBANY, NY—Carm Basile, chief executive officer of the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), has been elected to a three-year term as president of the New York Public Transportation Association.
Basile, a 28-year employee of CDTA, was named to the top position in 2009. He served earlier as deputy executive director of business development, chief of staff, director of marketing, and transportation planner.
For APTA, he is a member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee; Legislative Committee; Marketing-Economic Vitality Subcommittee; and Marketing and Communications Committee.