Passenger Transport - January 17, 2011
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Sun Tran Provided Free Service to Arizona Memorial Event

Sun Tran in Tucson, AZ, and its bus operators—members of Teamsters Union Local 104—provided more than 3,000 free passenger trips to the Jan. 12 memorial event on the University of Arizona campus honoring the victims of the Jan. 8 mass shooting in the city. Passengers were able to park free at two locations and take the shuttles to and from McKale Center on campus.

“It’s gratifying to be able to help,” said Katrina Heineking, general manager of Sun Tran and Sun Van paratransit. She said Sun Tran began receiving calls about service to the memorial event, attended by President Barack Obama, as soon as it was announced.

“Because we’re dealing with a budget crisis, we called the Teamsters leadership—just to throw out the idea, which has never happened before, if they would be interested in volunteering their time to run shuttles if they would be needed. The leadership immediately said they would like to help; they are part of the community,” she continued.

According to Heineking, Sun Tran employees worked through the night to secure park-and-ride locations and connect with transportation agencies at the city and the university, as well as the U.S. Secret Service.

In addition, in a show of support to the victims and their families, Sun Tran picked up the theme of the event, “Together We Thrive,” and added it to the header signs of all its vehicles—Sun Tran, Sun Van, and Sun Shuttle—the day of the ceremonies.

Andy Marshall, Teamsters Local 104 principal executive officer, added: “We realize Tucsonans need to heal from this tragic event, and we’re humbled by the opportunity to volunteer for our neighbors during this difficult time.”

Heineking also noted that the tragedy has personally affected one Sun Tran employee. Coach operator Rod Wilson is the son-in-law of Dorwan and Mavanell (Mavy) Stoddard, who were shot during the “Congress on Your Corner” event. Dorwan Stoddard died of his injuries, while Mavy has been released from the hospital.

Random Bag Searches: Security Tool, Psychological Deterrent

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

Security changes anywhere do not come easily. When Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) wanted to search bags during the 2004 presidential conventions, it took two separate court rulings to make this happen. Both agencies have since institutionalized this practice, searching bags on a random basis since 2005 (New York) and 2006 (Boston).

“We believe it’s not intrusive at all,” said MBTA Transit Chief Paul MacMillan. “It’s basically well received.”

The process is simple. MBTA personnel swab the outside of a carry-on with a gauze pad and send it through a trace detection machine, which is read within 10-20 seconds. If there’s no indication of explosive, that person is free to go. If there is an indication that further investigation is needed, the officer may ask the person to open the bag. Some officers have dogs that are trained to detect explosives.

From time to time there are positive indications on the machine, but those could be the result of people using such common products as fertilizer. “So through a series of investigation questions, we can rule something out. They are explained away by the passengers based on our questioning of them,” MacMillan noted.

Some people, MacMillan acknowledged, do take exception to this practice—and they write to complain. Those e-mails, he noted, are always answered.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) handles bag searching for the New York MTA. The genesis for this program was shortly after the July 2005 bombings in London’s subways; its legality is founded in making station selection random, but permitting bag inspection at non-arbitrary frequencies, decided by the sergeant on duty.

Simply put, the sergeant running the operation on a given day may select the 25th or the 50th person in a line, depending on the volume of traffic at the station. That person would be called over to a table and a NYPD officer would conduct a minimally invasive visual inspection of a bag’s contents.

These days, uniformed Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspectors work side by side with uniformed NYPD officers. The former use the latest technology in portable explosive trace detection, while the latter speak with the people, make the selections, and solve or mitigate any issues that arise.

“It’s certainly a highly visual and effective way of adding to the layer of security,” said NYPD Assistant Chief Owen Monaghan, who is also executive officer of the NYPD Transit Bureau. “It throws in an element of uncertainty and unpredictability in the minds of a potential terrorist. We adhere to no certain schedule—every one of our 468 [subway] stations has been subject to these inspections.”

But swabbing bags isn’t the only action transit systems take; it’s just one part of a layered approach to an agency’s security initiative. As MacMillan pointed out, in addition: “We have CCTV [closed-circuit television], plainclothes officers, and high visibility patrols.” Said Monaghan: “We have all proactive enforcement operations because one component won’t be satisfactory. Here in New York, we really adhere to that layered approach concept.”

Creating Randomness
How do the officers make the random selections? MBTA takes randomness very seriously: it uses a computer system to generate random numbers. So one day, for example, it could be riders number 4, 5, 6, and then 20.

This practice has an underpinning in security theory. “We do this with the understanding that our systems are open,” said New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) Police Chief Christopher Trucillo, “but we don’t do it in a set way at a set location at a set time. We do it in a random pattern, so if someone is surveilling us, they don’t know where it’s going to be.”

Objections Raised
Whether in Boston or New York or Washington, DC (where the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority just instituted this practice), those who object generally fall into two categories: they either call it illegal or they term it “security theater,” meaning it’s just for show and doesn’t really accomplish anything.

At a recent community meeting in the Washington area, for instance, WMATA Deputy Police Chief Ron Pavlik observed that people came with preconceived ideas about these checks, and these assumptions drive the tone of their whole conversation. “We weren’t going to change the minds of the majority of the people there. But a lot of them quieted down once they learned we weren’t physically going into their bags,” he said.

“Initially there was some uncertainty amongst the public,” said Monaghan, “but the inspection itself is so minimally intrusive and so quickly done that most people just shrug their shoulders—and many are happy to have some type of proactive involvement.”

The Deterrent Element
“We want to do everything in our power to ensure that riders have security,” said WMATA Police Chief Michael A. Taborn. “Every security initiative we deploy is with that in mind—that we’ll deter some criminal activity. It’s based upon the probability that—if there’s any possibility of criminal activity being planned—with these inspections, they won’t know where we’ll show up—and they may be seen.” At the same time, Taborn stressed: “We do not want to limit the freedom and access of people moving throughout the system.”

Taborn added the officers count bags, not people, using their random numbering system, so “If you’re walking and you don’t have any carry-on items, you’re not counted.” Thus far, he reports, not only have no riders refused to have their bags swabbed, many were also offering their bags to be inspected!

NYPD’s Monaghan commented that the bag inspection program is “a lot of work, but it creates a visual deterrent and a proactive stance at a very open and porous system. We can’t throw up a moat and have the access control like at the airports.”

WMATA spokesperson Cathy Asato echoed Monaghan: “We see this as another deterrent to somebody who might try to cause harm. Riders come up to the officer saying ‘I wish you’d implemented this sooner, keep up the good work.’”

NJ Transit has also been swabbing bags since the London bombings. This practice, said Director of Media Relations Dan Stessel, has been very well received by its customers.

“I remember the first several weeks when we started the program, we actually had people coming up to us and offering to open their bags for inspections. People really warmly welcomed it in the New York area—it’s another tool in our toolbox to add layers of security to an otherwise open transit system,” he said.

Stessel called the process “seamless” and noted that the NJ Transit police have mastered the art of adding security without interrupting transit operations. “And so the inspections themselves are done very quickly; there are very few reports of passengers missing trains as a result of having to go through the inspection,” he said.

“There is no tolerance for profiling,” he added. “We adhere to the guidelines to ensure that it’s truly random. It’s a tactic employed throughout the year, regardless of security threat levels—but it’s something we do step up whenever there’s an elevated level related to world events.”

“Post 9/11,” said NJ Transit’s Trucillo, “we’re concerned with the introduction of improvised explosive devices on our transportation systems—be it bus or rail. And one of the things we utilize amongst the many different things . . . are visible deterrents to those looking to do us harm—to disrupt that pre-operational or operational activity.”

NJ Transit does not target individuals; it picks a number—e.g., every seventh person with a bag. “We have found very little resistance,” said Trucillo. “In fact, it’s been my experience where I’ve observed baggage inspections—we have to tell people: ‘No, we don’t have to see your bag.’ They are happy to see us and they thank us for being there, because they understand the vulnerability in the situation—and the job that law enforcement has in keeping them safe.”  “While there is no specific threat to mass transit in the United States, TSA and local law enforcement continuously work together to strengthen our overall security efforts and keep the American people safe,” said TSA spokesperson J. Kawika Riley. “TSA partners with local authorities to support mass transit security through transit security grants; comprehensive security inspections; deployment of explosives detection canine teams; and unpredictable deployment of Visible Intermodal Prevention & Response teams to mitigate evolving threats.”

“This process is designed to prevent and to deter. So to that extent, we feel it’s a valuable initiative to have,” said MBTA’s MacMillan.

 

WMATA transit police randomly examine bags at the College Park Metrorail Station in Maryland.

 

 

What’s Next for the Industry? Transportation Professionals Weigh In

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor, and SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

What are some of the critical issues public transportation will face in 2011? Passenger Transport interviewed members and received responses reflecting both local and national viewpoints, but all listed funding—first.

“I think that the industry wants to stand tall and seize the opportunity to continue the positive momentum of citizens embracing public transportation—and I sense optimism, but it’s constrained by the uncertainty of our funding situation,” said Michael P. Melaniphy, vice president, public sector, for Motor Coach Industries.

Also citing funding—and optimism!—was Gary C. Thomas, president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and APTA vice chair. “We must make sure we stay focused on the funding challenges, which come in several forms and fashions. The obvious is getting Congress to pass a new authorization bill—one that actually moves transit and transportation to the next step. Maybe that’s optimistic but I think we’ve got to be optimistic,” he said, adding: “I think that even with the political shifts in Congress, transportation is one of those things that continues to span both sides of the aisle—and speaks to quality of life regardless of whether you’re a Democrat or Republican.”

Sandy Draggoo, chief executive officer/executive director of the Capital Area Transportation Authority in Lansing, MI, said: “The first thing that comes to mind, one of the biggest ones, is continued funding. It’s hard to really look at anything else when that seems to be the elephant in the room.”

Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, stressed the importance of investing in public transportation as part of his 2011 State of American Business address on Jan. 11. “We must have a strong, consistent, and reliable federal commitment to infrastructure,” he said at the event held in Washington, DC. “Our core surface transportation, aviation, and water resources programs are all operating under a series of short-term funding arrangements; neither states nor private investors can get projects off the drawing board with this kind of uncertainty.”

Closer to Home
Several transit professionals reflected not only on country-wide concerns, but also on their specific regions. Chuck Cohen, executive director of Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, said he is eagerly awaiting the census information, noting: “This will truly show that there has been a shift in people living in south Florida.” Noting that his system saw its ridership increase by 5.5 percent last year, he added: “I’m hopeful that depending on what happens with transit funding, Florida might get some additional money because of the increased population growth.”

Elsewhere in Florida, David Armijo, chief executive officer of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, spoke about what his system will focus on: “In 2011, HART will once again seek to revitalize, restructure, and reposition its operations and service to balance any shortfall in funds. It’s important to preserve our service and ridership to preserve our patronage now and in the future.”

HART Board Chair Alison Hewitt said she has issued what she termed a “Chairman’s Challenge” to her board members. “One of our main priorities is to really connect with customers and potential customers, to really bring an educational component that explains the benefits of public transportation—to all parts of the community,” she said. “We want to educate the public about HART’s diversity in the types of public transportation out there. We’re really going to listen and bring back some thoughtful answers. Especially with the price of gas going up again, it’s our responsibility as transit leaders to reach out to the community, make sure they know this is an opportunity to improve their quality of life.”

Cohen reiterated the importance of conveying the benefits of public transportation, saying: “We need the public on our side to tell people how much they need transit, and for people to know we’re doing all we can to keep our costs low.”

“Overall,” said Sharon McBride, a board member for CityLink in Peoria, IL, “our issues are funding, keeping our older vehicles in good condition, being able to replace broken parts, and keeping vehicles maintained. Also, we need to hire good new employees because our workforce is aging; we need to get people interested in working in the transit sector.”

McBride delineated a typical specific challenge a system faces. “Many of our buses are nearing the end of their useful life; we’ve ordered some replacements, but it takes such a long time to get them—that’s one of the issues. We bought some used buses from Duluth so they will be filling in, but funding is a huge issue for us.”

APTA in 2011
Concerning a particular event taking place this year, Thomas said: “From an industry perspective, one of things I’m very focused on right now—as hard as it is to say out loud—is how are we going to find a replacement for [retiring APTA President] Bill Millar? He’s been such a huge advocate for public transportation throughout the country and especially in DC, keeping people focused on the needs for traveling Americans … We do need to be sure we can find the right person who can continue to lead our industry and be the voice for public transportation in Washington, DC.”

Some Final Thoughts About the Future
As Melaniphy noted, “the future is a little hazy right now.” In addition to the key issue of authorization, he wondered: “What other changes might be contemplated for the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] under the current administration?”

John Inglish, chief executive officer of the Utah Transit Authority in Salt Lake City, suggested another way to look at the issue of funding. “The critical thing for transit is to define its value in terms of dollars and cents,” he explained. “We’re good with the environment—save carbon, save travel time—but we never really put it in financial terms such as value and return on investment. Those are the things I think we’ll need to learn in the years to come,” he said, adding: “It’s time to reassert ourselves as a first-class, legitimate mode of travel and act that way.”

What else does the future hold for public transportation? Inglish said: “I think it’s time the transit industry saw in itself a new destiny. I think there’s slowly getting to be a realization that we’re going to be a critical mode of transportation in the future. We need to recognize that there are other ways to grow and expand, not just through public referendum.” He cited in particular opportunities for relationships with the private sector, which “we have not tapped into as much as we should, and other models not in play in the U.S.”

 

Thomas J. Donohue presents the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 State of American Business address, which references the importance of public transportation infrastructure.

 

Presidential Selection Task Force Announced

The APTA Board of Directors agreed on the process to select the next APTA president in a meeting held Jan. 7. APTA Chair Michael J. Scanlon announced the 12 members of the task force assigned to oversee the process (see below).

With APTA President William Millar announcing his retirement, effective Oct. 31, 2011, the APTA Executive Committee set about establishing an effective and transparent process to select his replacement. Scanlon reported the draft process to the board in November and asked for comments prior to the meeting.

The process will include selecting an executive search firm to assist the task force, defining the qualities most desired in the next APTA president, identifying and reviewing the qualifications of candidates, conducting interviews, and ultimately recommending a candidate for the board’s consideration. Consistent with APTA’s new governance model, the board of directors will receive regular updates on the process and will be called upon to approve significant decisions along the way.

The meeting itself marked a watershed moment in APTA governance. It was the first time the board has met virtually, with the directors able to participate from their homes or offices. Members used the collaboration page format—now accessed by many of APTA’s committees— to share their thoughts on the process not only with the chair, but with each other in the run-up to the meeting.

After the meeting, Scanlon said: “I believe we accomplished a great deal and firmly established that this board is fully capable of using technology to extend and make the best of the limited time we have to meet face-to-face over the course of a year.”
 

Members of the Task Force
* Chair: Gary C. Thomas, president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX, and APTA vice chair
* David Armijo, chief executive officer, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Tampa, FL
* M.P. Carter, commissioner, Memphis Area Transit Authority, Memphis, TN
* Flora Castillo, board member, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ
* Greg Evans, vice president, Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR
* Sharon Greene, principal, Sharon Greene & Associates, Laguna Beach, CA
* Angela Iannuzziello, vice president, Genivar, Markham, ON, Canada
* Art Leahy, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro, Los Angeles, CA
* Jerry Premo, executive vice president, AECOM, Orange, CA
* Diana Jones Ritter, managing director, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York. NY
* Peter Varga, chief executive officer, Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid), Grand Rapids, MI
* Phillip A. Washington, general manager, Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO

FTA Seeks Workforce Development Proposals

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is soliciting proposals by March 15, 2011, which demonstrate innovative workforce development practices and programs in public transportation.

Selected proposals will support products and approaches that improve the state of the practice in workforce development. Funding can be used to support new innovative programs or to innovatively augment existing workforce development efforts.

FTA has budgeted up to $1 million to support these efforts. Proposals must have a minimum threshold of $50,000 and a maximum of $500,000. FTA will accept applications targeting one or more of the four activity areas: tracked pre-employment training/preparation; recruitment and hiring; incumbent worker training and retention; and succession planning/phased retirement.

The Current Notice of Funding Availability is available here. Synopses and full announcement are posted online as opportunity FTA-2011-009-TRI.

Information about this project is available from Jarrett Stoltzfus, FTA Office of Technology.

Proterra’s All-Electric Bus

Proterra Inc. recently completed construction of its first all-electric bus—EcoRide BE35™—assembled entirely at its Phase 1 manufacturing facility in Greenville, SC. This battery-powered electric vehicle can charge in less than 10 minutes and provides fuel efficiency of between 17 and 29 miles per gallon (diesel equivalent).

This bus will be sent to the Altoona Bus Research and Testing Center for safety testing required by the Federal Transit Administration—the first all-electric bus to undergo testing at the center. Proterra will begin mass producing and selling the bus on a commercial scale after it completes Altoona testing.

“All of Greenville congratulates Proterra on achieving this milestone,” said Greenville Mayor Knox White. “We look forward to working with Proterra on the completion of additional buses from this facility and helping the company open the doors of its Phase 2 facilities in 2012.”

“With the support of the Greenville community, Proterra is excited to see the first EcoRide BE35™ bus rolling off our new assembly line,” said Jeff Granato, chief executive officer of Proterra. “The Phase 1 and Phase 2 Greenville facilities will help us keep up with the international demand for Proterra’s all-electric, zero-emission bus and 10-minute FastFill™ charging stations.”

Proterra is preparing to break ground later this year on its larger, state-of-the-art Phase 2 plant, located on the campus of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research.

Last year, Proterra joined Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, to roll out three EcoRide BE35™ transit buses. Also, five U.S. public transit agencies have received FTA grants through the Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction program to purchase 20 fast-charge battery electric transit buses and four charging stations—and Proterra is the only vendor whose equipment meets the specifications.

 

Employees at Proterra’s Greenville, SC, plant pose in front of the first all-electric bus assembled entirely at their facility.

 


 

NFTA Promotes Minkel to Executive Director

The Board of Commissioners of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo, NY, announced the promotion of Kimberley A. Minkel to the agency’s top position, executive director.

Minkel joined NFTA in October 2002 as its director of health, safety, and environmental quality, with responsibility for the safety and protection of its workers, riders, the public, and the environment. For example, an environmental project she oversaw—using wetland treatment technology to reclaim spent deicing fluid in stormwater runoff at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport—received the Diamond Award in the Environmental Category by the New York branch of the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) and the national ACEC’s Honor Award.

She has more than 20 years of experience in the environmental and safety regulations business. Minkel has a bachelor’s degree from Niagara University and a master of business administration degree with a concentration in management from Canisius College.

“I am looking forward to working closely with our 1,500 dedicated employees to ensure that NFTA is doing all we can to provide the highest quality and safest transportation services possible,” Minkel said.

McNamara Heads Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail

Gannett Fleming Transit & Rail Systems has named Michael T. McNamara, P.E., its president. The firm is a division of Gannett Fleming specializing in transit and railroad track, signal, communication, and electric traction design.

McNamara is a senior associate based in the Valley Forge, PA, office who previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the division. He succeeds Raymond L. Hofsass, P.E., who retired in December 2010.

McNamara has more than 35 years of experience in the design, construction, and maintenance of railroads and transit systems, specializing in train control, traction power, and communications systems for rail transportation. He serves on the APTA Power, Signals, and Communications Technical Forum.

Kansas City Launches Second ‘MAX’ BRT Line

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) celebrated the beginning of 2011 by introducing service on its second MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, the Troost MAX Green Line, on New Year’s Day. The new line joins Main Street MAX, also known as the Orange Line, which entered operation five years ago and has seen its ridership double during that time.

The new BRT line will serve the highest ridership corridor in Kansas City, MO, operating every 10 minutes on weekdays and providing fast service to downtown, entertainment districts, job centers, and residential areas.

KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer said the new line is off to a great start, pointing to its use of green technologies including the city’s first park-and-ride lot with pervious concrete paving. “With new elements such as hybrid-electric buses, rain gardens, and public art, Troost MAX will become a national showcase on how to make substantial transit improvements in a cost-effective manner,” he said. “It is also a great example of the type of creativity and innovation this organization embraces.”

Troost MAX features real-time information about the next arrivals and traffic signal priority that keeps buses on schedule by holding a green light or shortening a red light. MAX uses easy-to-identify vehicles and well-lit stops marked with highly visible 18-foot iconic information markers.

For the first time, KCATA has commissioned original public art at three prominent locations along the new BRT line. Artists drew upon community input and local history to create their works: “Catalyst,” a large-scale kinetic sculpture designed to move in relationship to arriving and departing buses; “Unite,” which draws on the image of hands coming together, evoking a joining together or a way to cross a divide; and “Every Day I Have the Blues,” a sculpture in the form of an oversized piano with LED lighting, designed as a tribute to Kansas City’s rich jazz history.

Even though Troost MAX did not carry its first passengers until the beginning of the month, it has already received awards. The Mid-America Regional Council and the Academy for Sustainable Communities honored the line with the 2010 Sustainable Success Stories Award. The pervious concrete park-and-ride received an “Excellence in Concrete Award,” along with 19 other projects in the metropolitan area. Finally, GOOD Magazine named the line “Best Bus Route in America,” based on a nomination from a passenger.

 

The 75th Street Station on the Troost MAX line features a sculpture designed to resemble an illuminated grand piano

 

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Charitable Acts in Canada, Wisconsin, Benefit Many

GO Transit in Toronto and its parent agency, Metrolinx, have announced that their employees and customers raised $200,000 (Cdn.) for various charities during 2010. The funds benefited Canadian charitable and nonprofit organizations, supporting national and international relief initiatives.

“First and foremost, we want to thank our customers and employees for their unwavering support this past year,” said Metrolinx Chief Executive Officer Bruce McCuaig. “We know it’s not always easy to find that little bit extra to donate, but it’s made an enormous impact on the charities we work with. I want to extend my sincere thanks to all of you who donated in 2010.”

For example, as participants in United Way, Metrolinx and GO Transit employees raised funds through payroll deductions from senior leaders, the annual GO Golf Tournament, and Golf for Habitat for Humanity. Employees collected monetary and clothing donations for charities supporting families in need throughout Ontario.

On the international level, the agencies accepted donations from both employees and customers in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake and flooding in Pakistan.

Reaching Out in Wisconsin
The Salvation Army in Green Bay, WI, also joined with public transportation recently as part of its Random Acts of Kindness program, serving hot chocolate and coffee to more than 200 Green Bay Metro passengers as they waited for buses within the Passenger Center in Green Bay, WI.

The bus hub was one of several locations where Salvation Army volunteers provided riders with hot drinks on a cold day.

 

NTI Announces Trainers’ Workshop in April

The National Transit Institute at Rutgers University will hold its 2011 Transit Trainers’ Workshop April 10-12 in Tampa, FL, in partnership with the Professional Development Workshop conducted by Florida DOT, the Florida Public Transportation Association, and the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida.

The workshop will offer more than 40 sessions in areas such as employee and organizational development, operations and maintenance, safety and security, and training management and administration. Other highlights will include professional peer training, developed for transit training processionals by transit professionals; networking opportunities; and tours of the host property, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

The workshop brochure is available here. More information is available from Coleen Meyer or, for Florida transit systems, Amber Reep.

Parsons Dies; Past APTA, GO Transit Chair

Lou Parsons, 76, APTA chair in 1991-92 and a two-term chair of GO Transit in Toronto, died Dec. 29, 2010.

Parsons chaired the GO Transit Board of Directors from 1980 until 1993, appointed by the Ontario provincial government. He oversaw the expansion of the GO rail system beyond the Lakeshore Line to the region-wide system in place today. He later served as president of Orion Bus Industries.

GO Transit employees recalled Parsons’ connection to programs such as the employees’ sports club, fundraising, and social gatherings. Jey Ratnasingam, manager, internal audit, noted Parsons’ personable demeanor, saying that he genuinely enjoyed meeting new people and always remembered a person’s name.

Parsons began his career in real estate in 1959, establishing the largest independent real estate brokerage in Mississauga, ON, with partner Seth Taylor in 1965. He started his political career in 1967 when he was elected to the town council of Mississauga, representing Ward 2. In 1971, he became the youngest person ever elected warden by the County of Peel. He was appointed the founding chairman of the Region of Peel in 1973 by then-Ontario Premier William G. Davis and was re-elected twice as regional chair, serving until 1979.

The Vatican honored Parsons with the designation “Knight of St. Gregory” in 1984, in recognition of his years of distinguished service to the church. This honor gave him the right to include the title “Sir” before his name.

Nielsen Dies; VP of Honolulu’s TheHandi-Van

Patricia M. Nielsen, 62, vice president of paratransit services for Oahu Transit Services Inc. in Honolulu, HI, operator of TheHandi-Van, died Dec. 25, 2010.

Nielsen joined the agency in 1997 after 20 years with the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon in Portland, 11 years of which she spent in the area of meeting the public transportation needs of persons with disabilities. She herself had a condition for 46 years that necessitated using a wheelchair.

She received an award in 1992 from National Easter Seals Project ACTION for “fostering cooperation between transit officials and the disabled community,” and the National Transit Institute’s 1996 Distinguished Service Award for “her ability to develop partnerships between transit providers and the disabled community, her innovative training curriculum, and her willingness to share her materials and expertise with others in the transit industry.”

Nielsen was a member of the Honolulu Mayor’s Committee on Accessible Transportation and earlier chaired the city’s Disability & Communication Access Board.

APTA Looks Forward to 2011

BY MICHAEL J. SCANLON, APTA Chair

Winston Churchill once wrote: “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

It is my nature to be optimistic. At the same time, I am no Pollyanna. I recognize the importance of maintaining full awareness of the difficulties that face our industry in 2011 and the work involved in transforming those difficulties into opportunities.

For the past two years, we have enjoyed an unprecedented level of support from a new administration and Congress.

The shift in power from last November’s election, however, should not deter us from seeking continued support for a transportation industry that has historically been bipartisan. And even as some of our most ardent champions leave office, we have the opportunity to identify new champions who will embrace our basic message.

I congratulate Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), the incoming chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He has long been a stalwart supporter of public transit. It was my pleasure to first meet John when I worked in Broward County, FL, and I look forward to working with him this year.

With the congressional change, our task now is to build on old alliances, develop new ones, and continue to inform and—where necessary—educate policymakers and the public alike on the critical nature of transportation.
 
Selling Our Story
Last year, we told our story. This year, we must sell our story.

And to do that, we must practice what I’m calling the art of inclusion. What do I mean by inclusion? I mean that public transportation’s reach—literally and figuratively—is incredibly wide and deep, and that richness brings in an untold number of stakeholders (many of whom may not know they actually are stakeholders!).

So we need to include new partners from the world of biking, energy conservation, community planning—you name the subject, its advocates are probably stakeholders.

In fact, I charge all of us not only to keep our friends, but also make new ones! Let’s all reach out beyond “the usual suspects.”

The coming year is about educating and selling our elected leaders and their constituents on the critical need for a national public transportation investment program that is clean, green, growth-inducing, job-creating, and forward-looking.

Trumpeting Public Transportation’s Many Benefits
Public transportation is a jobs program, a quality infrastructure program that benefits the communities it serves, an environmental program, and an economic growth program.

Public transportation will not only reverse the damaging impact of climate change, but also free us from the burden of relying on foreign oil.

Public transportation is how we move goods and people, both private and public. Our American economy is dependent upon the mobility public transit provides us—what I have long called the fifth freedom.

Transportation is good not just for our industry, because this industry touches everyone, everywhere. Every part of this economy is affected in some way.

Further, economic growth is not possible without transportation and, therefore, will be an essential component of any program that will bring the economy out of its malaise and provide the means to drive down the federal deficit.
 In short, pushing for greater federal investment in public transportation is a good policy: it’s the right program and it’s smart politics.

Clearly, the top priority is authorization of the nation’s transportation program, but there are other opportunities, some of them quite significant.

Looking Ahead to High-Speed Rail
We must be ready to speak to the transformational potential of high-speed rail, the most significant infrastructure project in our nation’s history since the Highways Act. It was President Eisenhower’s vision that enabled our country to grow and prosper. It is therefore not possible to overstate the transformative effect of the automobile on our lives—and how it drove our economy for the past 50 years.

Times change, however, and where people want to live is changing as well, with a trend today being a move back towards America’s core cities. Public transit’s advocacy of safe streets, livable communities, and transit-oriented development is part and parcel of this “migration.”

I believe that high-speed rail can spur a growth in connectivity and be the catalyst for a revival of city communities and neighborhoods and a quality of life that is spent in the company of family and friends—all of whom are served by a sustainable network of transit, highways, roads, and transportation systems.

We will not replace the automobile, nor should we seek to do so. As we all know, it is not necessary for everyone to ride a bus or train for public transit to be deemed “successful.” We just have to achieve a better balance in transportation modes. In short, we must provide more choices.

Skepticism about high-speed rail is understandable—believe me, there is no larger or more vigorous group of skeptics than those within the communities I serve on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Looking Ahead
That’s why it becomes our task to explain its benefits and instill the vision of a national rail system interconnected with local and regional networks.

Yes, times are tough and most of us spend our days wrestling with the daily challenge of providing service and trying to make it through one more difficult year.

And to our business members—times are tough for you, too. You face ever-tighter budgets, more competition for orders, and—like us—continuing uncertainty regarding federal funding.

These are the circumstances presented to us, these are the difficulties we face, and, I truly believe, these are the opportunities presented to us.

It is with confidence, therefore, in our industry and the men and women who serve it—who serve our customers, our communities, our economy, and our nation—that I look ahead to 2011 and see it as a year of vast opportunity.

Please join me in making 2011 the year of authorization, of opportunity, and of inclusion.

Invest for Sustainable Economic Recovery

BY GREG EVANS, M.Ed., Vice President, Board of Directors, Lane Transit District, Eugene, OR

Our nation is currently mired in the depths of an economic crisis rivaling the Great Depression of the 1930s. The national unemployment rate has ballooned to nearly 10 percent in official statistics—12 percent if one counts the people who have fallen off the radar screen into the newest category of economic indicators, the “Underclass.”

The recent troubles of the housing market, mortgage lending, and the consumer and commercial lending sectors has, by some economists’ thinking, positioned the U.S. as a nation teetering on the precipice of a catastrophe of mega-proportions. In addition to our national financial issues, most of the state governments, local municipalities, school districts—and, yes, our own transit districts—are battling stifling deficits unparalleled in history.

As we desperately seek solutions to our financial woes, we tend to look past the obvious solutions of the past. Infrastructure investment has been a time-honored and tested remedy for many countries’ money issues.

The Romans, Greeks, and Persians all faced similar crises in the evolution of their great societies. People in antiquity realized that investment in public works and infrastructure was the cure of massive economic problems and a gateway to long-term, sustainable economic growth and prosperity. The Romans in particular plowed significant public and private investment into infrastructure development: aqueducts, bridges, water and sewer systems, housing, amphitheaters, stadiums—and, yes, roads—were answers to economic malaise in the ancient world.

The Romans laid the foundation, both literally and figuratively, for the modern transportation systems we enjoy worldwide today. Building streets and roads that linked villages, towns, and cities sparked further development and prosperity, leading to an ease of movement and travel for people, goods, and services.

In the U.S., our development as a great nation and world power has rested on the development of our transportation infrastructure. The construction of the Erie Canal led to unprecedented development that created the powerful industrial economic centers of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, as well as the expansion of New York City and the other key ports of the eastern seaboard. The first real “depression” in America, the “Panic of 1873,” was in large part solved by investment in transportation infrastructure; at that time, railroad construction and development were the primary vehicles for success.

America’s greatest advancement and fortunes are connected to our investment in the transportation infrastructure. The Vanderbilts, Morgans, Rockefellers, and Carnegies gained their vast wealth through the direct influence of the development of robust shipping and railroad infrastructure.

The major U.S. public works projects of the 1930s through the 1960s, including the development of passenger air travel and the Interstate Highway System, have created a prosperous way of life previously unimaginable.

Economist and futurist Richard Florida makes the case for transportation infrastructure investment as one of the primary vehicles for long-term economic recovery in his latest book, The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity. Florida points to the need to develop an advanced high-speed rail network and revitalize the crumbling urban transportation infrastructure as the key to future prosperity:

“…[I]nfrastructure is analogous to government support for basic research in medicine or the sciences. Such investments, which are either too large or too risky for private companies to undertake, offer a significant social rate of return that can drive future invention, productivity and growth. We can’t always justify them on the grounds that their immediate short-run benefits will outweigh their costs, and we can’t fully estimate their long-run benefits, but they are critical for prolonged prosperity.” (p. 170)

Economists and industry leaders agree with Florida’s assessment that transportation infrastructure investment is critical for long-term recovery and prosperity.

APTA must continue to engage our elected officials on the local, state, and federal levels for a program of bold, aggressive, innovative infrastructure investment. We also need to educate the American public that this investment in our future is not an excuse for more reckless, wasteful government spending. The investment in transportation infrastructure is our future generations’ ticket to a bright platform for prosperity.

Evans is a member-at-large of the APTA Executive Committee.

2011 Outlook: Inform and Inspire for Success

BY DORAN BARNES, Executive Director, Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA

I am executive director of one of the largest fixed route bus agencies in southern California, chair of the California Transportation Association (CTA), board chair for Access Services, and vice president of transportation management for Veolia Transportation, in addition to my member-at-large seat on the APTA Executive Committee. These varied assignments give me numerous perspectives from which to view public transportation and consider where it’s going in 2011.

The U.S. public transit industry faced significant—for some agencies, unprecedented—challenges in 2010. While the economy is experiencing what looks like the beginnings of a turnaround, the growth we’re seeing is very slow and tenuous and we’re faced with a new tone in Washington.

Examining some core areas for focus in the coming year is necessary if we are to take advantage of this forward motion and maximize our very limited and stressed resources—namely, money and time.

Messaging and outreach combined take the first priority. Elected officials would not make a funding or legislative decision in a transit organization’s favor if the only thing they know about said agency is coming from local media. This year is the time for transit systems to enhance profiles for governing board members, agency executives, and transit suppliers, accessing available resources, and shaking hands.

Our various funding partners are demonstrating a strong “anti-spending” mood. Now more than ever, we need to deliver the powerful message about the benefits of investment in public transportation, owning our roles in fuel conservation, environmental protection, and a superior quality of life.

Resources to help us strengthen that voice are available at both the local and national levels. For example, you’re reading one right now: Passenger Transport, one of many APTA publications that inform and advise local transit operators and vendors about issues that affect the industry and how to educate the public about them.

Through national associations like APTA and state-level bodies like CTA, we can unify our voices and pool resources for the benefit of all. They provide data, statistics, talking points, demographics, public opinion, and the tools to decipher and incorporate all of these things into the image we present to our communities and our elected leadership.

Working in Unison
Joining hands and marching forward in unison will achieve the results we need, most specifically informed legislation, tax initiatives, and dedicated transit funding.

California’s recent passage of Proposition 22 directly illustrates this principle and also shows how similar challenges facing multiple public bodies—cities, transportation agencies, first responders—can open doors among them and strengthen our ability to successfully achieve our objectives. (More information on the Proposition 22 collaboration is available online.)

While the current moment is an information turning point, it is also a human crossroads. Like so many other public service industries, public transportation is facing a steady egress of a strong and established leadership to retirement. And while this compaction of talent at the top takes place, we need to look ahead to recruits and new leaders who will move the transit industry into the next phase.

In order to succeed, that new pool of talent needs to be filled by leaders who have been tried and tested by the industry, as well as by private professionals whose diverse experiences will advance the industry into new business models and technologies. That new talent also needs to be buoyed by an industry culture that not only considers diversity in hiring, but imbues it into its culture through mentoring and networking across social and cultural differences.

Recruitment isn’t the only issue taking center stage. Retention of those hard-won recruits is also of primary importance. As we move to expand our workforce, it’s vital to ensure an industry environment that embraces differences of opinion, encourages discourse, and not only allows, but actively rewards new approaches to familiar challenges. Otherwise we end up playing a numbers game, fulfilling hiring goals, but then losing that new and diverse talent to more exciting and more welcoming career paths.

Mentoring plays a big role in retaining those future leaders and helping them feel invested in an industry that touches so many lives. Allowing time for networking and collaboration is part of that investment process, keeping good ideas and talent in the industry and preparing us for the new challenges we’ll face in 2011 and beyond.

Between the messaging about politics, leadership, diversity, culture, and collaboration is one common theme—people. The challenges we face for 2011 will focus on the human element of our industry: not in how we grow and shape that element, but how we can adapt as it grows and shapes us. It means espousing flexibility and walking new paths willingly and together.

Barnes is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.

To Deal with Transit’s Future, Consider the Past

BY ALAN WULKAN, Managing Partner, InfraConsult LLC, Scottsdale, AZ

In the truest sense of the word, 2011 will be a year of change for the transit industry.

First, as we know, a new, more conservative Congress will tackle tough issues like a new surface transportation authorization bill, deficit reduction, health care repeal, climate change, energy policy, and—perhaps most important—a slowly recovering economy.

At the same time, many predict the days of $4 a gallon gasoline are right around the corner. In addition, with much of the stimulus money gone, a number of states will face bankruptcy in 2011.

Despite the predictions of philosophical gridlock in Congress, Americans have always responded well to crisis. The first six months of this Congress will be difficult, with serious partisanship battles. However, if fuel prices continue to rise, the economy demonstrates a slow recovery, and unemployment remain high, there could be a new spirit of bipartisanship to solve the nation’s economic crisis. This would be quite a change that few would predict.

Since less than half the current members of the House were in Washington when the last transportation reauthorization passed, the public transit industry has a tremendous educational effort ahead to make sure we are part of whatever solutions come out of this crisis.

Of course, the next year will also be dominated by presidential politics, especially surrounding the Republicans’ choice of nominee for the 2012 election. In the face of the unrecovered economy, the Obama administration will continue to move more to the center, as evidenced already by the president’s recent Cabinet choices.

It would not be surprising to see the reauthorization debate focus on economic recovery and include a gas tax increase or indexing mostly focused on deficit reduction and job creation in the short term. That will make the race for the Republican presidential nomination very interesting as candidates also try to move to the center.

Finally, as political issues play out on the national level, it will be more important than ever to focus on the value transit brings to local communities. The industry has laid an excellent foundation over the past 10 years with overwhelming local voter support for public transit. We have built new coalitions with the business community and with many Republican mayors and conservative elected and appointed officials at the state level.

However, the emphasis is now on doing more with less. Demonstrating the benefits that expanded transit investments have made at the local level will be more important than ever before. Using new spokespersons from the business community will be critical to public transit maintaining the gains we have experienced across the country.

The transit industry has never been better prepared to deal with the change and challenges we are about to face. We have broad bipartisan local support, new partners, growing ridership, and—if fuel prices continue to rise—transit presents an even more viable transportation option in many communities. These will be challenging times for the country and our industry, but if we remember how we got this far, we will be fine.

Wulkan is a member-at-large of the APTA Executive Committee.

Fiscal Efficiency Keeps NJ Transit Operating Well

BY JAMES WEINSTEIN, Executive Director, New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ

As public transportation agencies enter the new year, the biggest issue we face across the nation remains largely unchanged: budget constraints due to a volatile economy.

Last year, New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) worked hard to balance its budget and create a sustainable, fiscally responsible plan that preserves New Jersey’s robust, multimodal transit network. In 2011, NJ Transit must continue to do its part to become the leanest, most efficient agency possible without compromising safety, so it can remain a strong, stable agency ready to respond to the transit needs of New Jersey citizens.

In these extraordinary financial times, we will continue to look for ways to do more with less—making the most efficient use of our resources and reducing operating expenses while maintaining a quality public transportation system.

As a statewide public transportation agency, NJ Transit provides service to nearly one million customers each workday. In the upcoming year, the agency will continue to position itself for rebounding ridership, particularly as more people turn to public transit in the face of rising gas prices. To that end, we will continue procurement of our popular multi-level rail cars, which provide 20 percent more seating capacity than the single-level cars they are replacing. We will also continue to take delivery of more than 1,400 new buses that will provide additional capacity and service flexibility.

Generating More Revenue
Already considered a pioneer in non-farebox revenue generation, NJ Transit will continue to pursue new and creative ways to generate even more revenue from its assets in 2011. Nearly 5 percent of the current operating budget comes from non-farebox revenue sources as the agency continually looks for ways to maximize revenue through advertising, real estate, strategic marketing partnerships, and other commercial revenue opportunities.

As part of our effort to make the most of our assets, we are currently pursuing a request for proposals from qualified firms to create a public-private partnership that will rationalize, improve, and unify parking for customers while addressing the growing cost of operating parking facilities and reducing taxpayer support for parking operations.

In recent years, NJ Transit has launched a number of initiatives as part of an ongoing effort to put technology to work for our customers to improve their overall commute—from the way they access travel information to their experience on board trains and at our facilities. Moving forward, the system will look to expand on these initiatives and introduce additional amenities where possible.

For example, in October 2010 NJ Transit launched its “My Bus” system, which enables any customer with text messaging capability to access schedule information for the more than 19,000 bus stops all over New Jersey, using unique bus stop ID numbers. In the coming year, the agency will introduce “My Light Rail” as another way for customers to access schedule information for the agency’s three light rail lines.

Also this past fall, NJ Transit launched a Quiet Commute pilot program on its busiest trains—select Northeast Corridor express trains—to test the feasibility of offering the amenity on our system. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback, we significantly expanded the pilot starting Jan. 3, adding Quiet Commute cars to all peak period, peak direction trains that begin or end their trips at New York Penn Station or Newark Penn Station.

NJ Transit is now working toward the expansion of Quiet Commute to its remaining lines—including trains that begin or end their trips at Hoboken Terminal—but we must first address some logistical challenges in recognition of the shorter train sets that operate on those lines.

Last year, NJ Transit also participated in the Tap & Go pilot program (now called “Tap > Ride”), which allows customers to use contactless payments on select bus routes and at the Newark Airport Rail Station (AirTrain). We are looking to expand the program this year to include other routes.

In 2011, NJ Transit will continue to advance capital construction projects around the state that will keep the bus, rail, and light rail systems running and position the agency for the ridership growth that will return when the economy recovers. In addition, continued investment in state of good repair projects will reduce the need for greater taxpayer support in the future.
Overall, NJ Transit will remain focused on providing convenient, reliable service to its customers and looking for ways to improve the overall travel experience by introducing additional amenities and tapping into the latest technology, while making the most of its resources within a tight budget environment.

Weinstein is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.

Funding: The First Hurdle for Transit Agencies

BY PETER VARGA, Chief Executive Officer, Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid), Grand Rapids, MI

One of the biggest challenges for the public transportation industry in 2011 will undoubtedly be the uncertainty of federal funding. For many systems, including The Rapid, a similar situation exists with state funding. This impacts our ability to serve our existing customers and inhibits the ability to plan for future growth and expansion.

Without sustainable, secure funding sources, agencies cannot operate at peak effectiveness. Concerns about funding cuts, the availability of grant opportunities, and an uncertain political climate limit options and require more staff time and resources just so a transit agency can figure out a way to cope—often with fewer staff to accomplish these tasks. This may lead to short-term decisions with undesirable long-term consequences.

The Rapid has been reasonably successful in managing in this uncertain climate, due to very conservative budgeting practices. To date, we have neither had to cut service nor increase fares in order to balance our budget.

In fact, in June of last year we finalized our Transit Master Plan, a vision for public transportation services in our community. Developed using extensive outreach, and firmly rooted in the desires and priorities of the Grand Rapids metro area, the plan lays out growth and expansion for the next 20 years.

The ability to put the first segment of improvements in place over the next five years depends on several things: increasing our local operating funding; maintaining our existing state operating contribution; and securing the funding (and matching funds) for the capital investment needed to make the services a reality.

All the pieces have to come together in order to make progress on achieving the community’s vision for transit. If approved, the local funds will be in place for seven years. We’ll have to continue to secure state and federal funding on an annual basis.

In its effort to continue advancing our agency despite these challenges, The Rapid has made the following new year’s resolutions:

* Continue to improve communications with employees so everyone knows and can articulate the master plan priorities and the kinds of improvements that can be made with increased investment;
* Build public understanding of the plan through targeted outreach to stakeholder groups and enlist community opinion leaders to help spread our message;
* Reach out to local, state, and federal elected officials to maximize awareness of an appreciation for the economic benefits of good public transportation; and
* Continue to provide service of the highest quality. Without credibility with the public, we will never be able to achieve our goals for 2011 and beyond.

Varga is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.

 

TARC Focuses on Building a Stronger Community

BY J. BARRY BARKER, Executive Director, Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY

Rebounding from a year of service cuts and layoffs, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) is refocusing on its mission to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of the greater Louisville region.

Our focus and several TARC projects in development support community goals expressed by Louisville’s new mayor, Greg Fischer, who is emphasizing educational attainment, the key to job creation, and a healthy and compassionate community.

Working with community organizations, business, and education leaders, TARC is designing services with available resources to continually improve access to jobs, education, and recreational opportunities.

When TARC introduces its new electronic fare collection system, it will acquire technology that will help support community goals—especially those relating to education. By using identification cards to pay fares, the new system can produce information such as how many students attend which programs and the routes they take to get there. This data can help support and track activities that wrap around educational experiences and make them more successful.

Also, by working with community organizations and the city’s Department of Health and Wellness through a federal grant, TARC will provide service to improve access to parks and recreation as a way to help curb obesity and foster healthy lifestyles. We’re putting more bike racks on dedicated buses to offer more options for using bike loops and exercising.

Our green initiatives are continuing, providing a more energy- and cost-efficient operation—including the addition of new hybrid-electric buses. TARC continues to partner with a wide range of human and social service agencies to improve Louisville’s quality of life.

TARC’s growing partnerships with major employers also underscore the importance of public transportation for job access and as a recruitment tool for young professionals who prefer the bus to driving and parking.

All of these efforts are important ways to support a strong community, both now and in the future. Our population is aging, younger people want to drive less, and environmental concerns and rising energy costs make accessible public transportation a requirement for major cities to be successful.

Importance of Federal Funding
Federal funding is helping TARC be a strong part of community-building efforts. With nearly $17.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds, TARC built an energy-efficient maintenance and training building, completed several other cost-saving and needed facility upgrades, and purchased 10 hybrid-electric buses. The ARRA funding also offset operating revenue shortfalls, which meant we avoided even steeper service cuts and layoffs.

With another $9 million in competitive federal grant funding awarded last fall, TARC will install a new electronic fare collection system, make renovations to boost energy efficiency in its historic headquarters building, and add another eight hybrid buses to the fleet. The fare collection system, which will allow customers to pay with a card, will make the system easier to use while also providing TARC with information that will improve planning efforts and help address community transportation needs.

In addition, TARC will implement a new radio system this spring, providing technology that will allow the agency to know the precise locations of buses in service: a first step to further advancements that will make this information available to customers.

Improving Service
TARC is preparing a major service improvement in February with increased bus service on two popular routes that carry a total of 20 percent of our passengers. Federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds totaling $1 million will allow TARC to add new buses to these routes to provide for headways of 15 minutes or less between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

By demonstrating the popularity of public transportation with frequent, reliable service, TARC intends to generate additional funding to maintain and expand this type of service on other routes.

Partnerships
Our ridership is also growing through partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as the YMCA; major employers such as Humana and UPS; Louisville Metro government; and the University of Louisville. Employees can use their identification cards for fares under these partnerships.

We are stressing these efforts with increased attention to bolster community initiatives, especially a public-private partnership pursuing the goal of achieving 55,000 new college degrees in our community by 2020. At the University of Louisville alone, students, faculty, and staff have taken more than eight million trips in the past eight years by showing a school photo identification card when boarding a TARC bus.

Barker is a member-at-large on the APTA Executive Committee.

Delaware’s DART First State Wins Award, Federal Funds

The Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) in Dover, operator of DART First State, recently received the 2010 Human Resources (HR) Excellence Award in Technology and was nominated for the 2010 HR Department of the Year Award.

The awards recognize human resources departments in the Delaware Valley region of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey that have demonstrated service excellence and measurable success for their organizations. The Rosen Group of Voorhees, NJ, is the premier corporate sponsor for the awards, along with other sponsors including the Philadelphia Human Resources Planning Society.

DTC’s HR Systems and Technical Team, which has as its goals ensuring data integrity, increasing performance, and streamlining processes, has implemented such technology enhancements as electronic validation for driver’s licenses; enhanced employee succession planning procedures; and implementation of a Health & Safety Module to record and track incidents, injuries, illnesses, and accidents.

DART First State also announced recently receiving two grants from the Federal Railroad Administration and three from the Federal Transit Administration.

Los Angeles Architects’ Group Honors Big Blue Bus Shelter Construction Plan

Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, CA, recently received the “Next LA” Citation Award presented by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for its shelter and bus stop redevelopment program. The award honors excellence in design by Los Angeles architects for projects not yet built.

“This is a very meaningful award, especially because one of the goals for this project was to create something totally unique,” said Dan Dawson, customer relations manager for the Big Blue Bus. “These new stops will make riding public transit a better experience by offering passengers a whole new level of enhanced information and comfort.”

Representatives of the Big Blue Bus and the city of Santa Monica worked with Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects to create a stylish design that would also incorporate real-time information, solar lighting, updated maps, and other desired amenities for riders. The final design, called “The Blue Spots,” will use modular structures flexible enough to adapt to various sizes of location and rider volumes.

All 360 bus stops throughout Santa Monica, and various other stops located around Los Angeles served by the Big Blue Bus, will be updated. New features at each stop will include:

* A system map;
* A local map showing places to visit within walking or biking distance;
* A timetable and route map of lines stopping at that location;
* Estimated travel times to key points along the route; and
* An ID number that allows for real time bus arrivals via cell phone.
* A shelter canopy.

Additional amenities at medium and high-volume stops will include real-bus arrival information signs; seating; trash and recycling containers; and solar-powered LED lighting that illuminates the structure and waiting area.

WV’s Mountain Line Offers a ‘NewFIT’

The Mountain Line Transit Authority in Morgantown, WV, recently introduced its “NewFIT” curb-to-curb service: a joint venture with In Touch & Concerned, a social service agency that provides accessible services including trips to appointments and supermarkets.

By calling a single phone number, any resident of Monongalia County, WV, who needs transportation—specifically Medicaid or Assistive Services clients who need a ride to work or training, medical appointments, or shopping—can get it through NewFIT. Typically this is curb to curb service, but the agency will provide additional assistance or door-through-door service if the client requests it.

Medicaid, veterans’ programs, senior programs, and other subsidized services may cover the cost of using this service, while passengers without access to any other service pay $9 each way. While persons with disabilities receive preference for the service, it is open to all county residents.

The transit agency and In Touch & Concerned created the program with federal funds through the New Freedom Program.

PRTC Recognizes ‘Gold Level Employers’ for Support of Programs for Commuters

Omni SmartCommute, a program of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) in Woodbridge, VA, has recognized four companies in the agency’s service area as “Gold Level Employers” for the variety of commuter benefits and programs they offer their employees. Employers in Prince William County, VA, can receive free commuter consultations through Omni SmartCommute.

The four Gold Level Employers are:

* American Type Culture Collection, a global nonprofit bioresource center and research organization that provides biological products, technical services, and educational programs to private industry, government and academic organizations;

* Comcast Corporation, a leading provider of cable, entertainment, and communication products and services;

* George Mason University’s (GMU) Prince William campus; and

* Micron Technology, a manufacturer of semiconductors whose products are used in everything from computing, networking, and server applications to mobile, embedded, consumer, automotive, and industrial designs.

To meet the Gold Level standard, employers must offer at least four different benefits or programs to improve their employees’ commutes and must encourage alternatives to driving alone. Suggested benefits and programs include starting a telework program, providing preferential parking for carpools and vanpools, offering flextime or compressed work weeks, and installing shower facilities for bicyclists and walkers.

For example, GMU’s Prince William campus has no direct form of public transportation, so the university operates a shuttle bus system connecting that campus with another in Fairfax, VA, and allowing connections to PRTC buses in Manassas, VA. Campuses with better public transit coverage encourage bicycling and walking to class, while staff members at all campuses are eligible for the monthly federal transit benefit of up to $230.

“By encouraging alternatives to driving alone, these four employers have increased employee satisfaction while helping to reduce traffic congestion,” said Sam Salkin, employer services representative at Omni SmartCommute.

L.A. Metro Operates All Clean-Fuel Fleet as Last Diesel Bus Retires

Los Angeles Metro retired the last diesel bus in its 2,228-vehicle fleet on Jan. 12, becoming the largest major transit agency in the U.S. to operate only alternative clean fueled buses. The “retirement” ceremony highlighted the agency’s significant contribution to reducing air pollution in one of America’s smoggiest regions.

“What Metro has achieved transcends Los Angeles County,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Don Knabe. “We proved from both a technical and economic standpoint that a large transit agency can operate with alternative, clean-burning fuels and this has led many other transit agencies to follow our lead. Likewise, what Metro is doing to tap solar energy, recycle, and build green facilities is raising the bar for the industry. That’s good for our customers, taxpayers, and the environment.”

Metro Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy—who helped spearhead the conversion to alternative fuels while heading bus operations for Metro’s predecessor agency, the Southern California Rapid Transit District—pointed that this effort not only is good for the environment, but also helps wean America from dependence on foreign oil because vast reserves of natural gas and other fuels exist in North America.

“As the largest transit system in the country to have a 100 percent environmentally friendly bus fleet, L.A. Metro serves as a model to the public transportation industry. This is a big achievement and I applaud Metro,” said APTA President William Millar. “It is important to note that this achievement did not happen overnight,” he added. “L.A. Metro and its predecessor organizations have been at the leading edge of clean bus fuel technology for about a quarter of a century.”

The Los Angeles public transportation system is among the largest in the U.S., with nearly 400 million annual passenger boardings. Its buses log just under 1.5 billion miles a year.

The agency’s directors decided in 1993 to order only clean air vehicles. After experimenting with methanol and ethanol buses that proved too corrosive for bus engines, Metro, ultimately, went with vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). The current Metro fleet includes 2,221 CNG buses, one electric bus, and six gasoline-electric hybrid buses—all together responsible for 1 billion clean air miles.

According to Los Angeles Metro, its CNG buses reduce cancer-causing particulate matter by more than 80 percent compared with diesel, and the switch from diesel to CNG means a drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 300,000 pounds per day. The health benefits compensate for the fact that CNG buses cost about 10 to 15 percent more to operate than standard diesel engine buses, largely because of increased maintenance costs.

“The American Lung Association in California applauds Metro’s accomplishment in converting their transit fleet from older diesel buses to cleaner natural gas buses,” said Jane Warner, president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association in California. “By acquiring cleaner-fueled buses, Metro is helping to address the region’s serious pollution problems and reduce smog related illnesses and deaths.”

“When I was growing up in Los Angeles, I remember days when the air was too smoggy to go outside and play, and today we understand how crucial clean air is for the health of our kids and communities,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I’m proud that our entirely clean-fueled fleet is a key element of greening Los Angeles, and we’re simultaneously improving mobility, customer service and air quality with these new clean fueled buses."

The clean air bus fleet is just one aspect of Metro’s green program, which also includes widespread use of solar panels at bus maintenance facilities and other energy-saving devices to cut energy costs; recycling; and building and retrofitting new transit facilities with sustainable materials and practices. Installation of solar panels, LED lights, and other energy-saving features and recycling saves Metro more than $1 million annually in operating costs. The solar panels alone reduced Metro’s carbon footprint by 16,500 metric tons in 2010, the equivalent of removing 3,200 private cars from Los Angeles area streets and freeways.

 

Photo by Luis Inzunza, Los Angeles Metro
A tow truck takes the last diesel bus in Los Angeles Metro’s 2,228-bus fleet away to retirement. The agency now operates only clean-air buses: 2,221 powered by CNG, six gasoline-electric hybrids, and one electric bus.

 

 

People on the Move

Alison A. Hewitt, Fran Davin, Wallace Bowers
TAMPA, FL—The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) Board of Directors has elected Alison A. Hewitt its chair. She previously served two terms as vice chair and represents the state of Florida on the board.

Hewitt was originally appointed to the HART board in 2006 by then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. She is also a member-at-large of the APTA Executive Committee and president and a founding member of the Central Florida Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

Hewitt serves as executive director of the Central Economic Development Center Inc., a financial non-profit dedicated to providing technical assistance to developing small businesses as well as the creation of affordable housing. She previously served as executive director for Gov. Bush’s Office of Urban Opportunity from 2000 to 2004.

Fran Davin, who represents the city of Tampa on the board, will serve as vice chair, and Wallace Bowers, representing Hillsborough County, is board secretary.

Art Hadnett
LOS ANGELES, CA—Art Hadnett, vice president of California transportation for Stantec, has been elected president of the Los Angeles County Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies of California.

He previously served as the chapter’s vice president.







James J. Eden

NEW YORK, NY—AECOM has named James J. Eden vice president-director, U.S. Tolling Services, Transportation.

Eden, a transportation infrastructure expert with more than 30 years experience, joins AECOM from the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, where he served as chief operations officer from 2005 to 2010. He is a former board member with the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association and a founding member of the Alliance for Toll Interoperability and the E-Zpass Interagency Group.