Passenger Transport - January 31, 2011
(Print All Articles)

Mica Convenes T&I Field Hearing in New York

Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, convened the first in a series of field hearings and roundtable discussions on critical transportation issues Jan. 27 in New York City. The hearing focused on high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, specifically the need for transportation choices in the most densely populated and congested U.S. region and ensuring inclusion of private sector investment.

“Bringing true high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor will benefit the entire nation,” Mica said. He referred to the 437-mile corridor between Washington, DC, and Boston as “one of our nation’s most valuable assets, including some of the most prime real estate in the world,” but that it is underserved by current modes of transportation.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the T&I Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee, also stressed his support for high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. In his opening statement, Shuster said: “High-speed rail is essential to our nation’s transportation future and our best hope for easing crowding on our congested highways and airspace. There is simply no better way to move large numbers of people from city-center to city-center than on high-speed rail.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania and co-chair of Building America’s Future, were among witnesses at the event.

"This hearing was an example of strong bipartisan support for the high-speed rail program," said APTA President William Millar. "We look forward to being a part of the discussion at upcoming hearings to implement these smart investments in high-speed rail, public transportation, and our overall transportation infrastructure."

More information on the hearing can be found online.

Obama Calls for Investment in Infrastructure, Transportation

President Barack Obama cited transportation infrastructure investment—including high-speed rail—as a priority for his administration during his 2011 State of the Union Address on Jan. 25. He listed support for infrastructure—“from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet”—as his “third step in winning the future,” following leadership in research and technology and strengthening the U.S. education system. “To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information—from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.”

“America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System,” Obama said, linking these projects to the development of new job opportunities. “The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp,” he explained.

While the nation’s infrastructure “used to be the best” in the world, Obama said, “our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.” He cited an American Society of Civil Engineers “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” released last year that gave the sector an overall D grade.

“Over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts,” Obama announced. “We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”

He also said: “Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying—without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway ... All these investments—in innovation, education, and infrastructure—will make America a better place to do business and create jobs.”

Following the speech, APTA President William Millar complimented the president “for emphasizing the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure to create American jobs and move to a better future. Good public transportation, high-speed rail, and highway infrastructure is the foundation not only for creating and supporting American jobs, but also for stimulating economic growth and prosperity.”

Millar added: “This is not the time to be complacent; it is the time to go forward with a vision of a better future. Rebuilding America through transportation infrastructure investment is something that cannot wait.  It is our fervent hope that President Obama and Congress will fashion a well-funded, long-term, multi-year surface transportation authorization bill this year.”

On Jan. 27, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood followed the president's speech with a visit to the Proterra electric bus manufacturing plant in Greenville, SC. Learn more here.

 

President Barack Obama delivers the 2011 State of the Union Address Jan. 25 on Capitol Hill.
Photo: AP/Evan Vucci 

TTI Report: Transit Saves Traffic Time and Fuel Consumption

The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), using enhanced methodology, has incorporated the latest traffic speed data into its newest report—with the results showing in increased detail the positive impact of public transportation on U.S. traffic patterns.

TTI’s 2010 Urban Mobility Report demonstrates that, without public transportation services, U.S. travelers in 2009 would have endured an additional 785 million hours of delay caused by traffic backups and consumed an additional 640 million gallons of fuel. Further, had public transportation not been available in the 439 urban areas covered by the study, congestion costs for 2009 would have risen by nearly $19 billion, from $115 billion to $134 billion.

While previous TTI reports have demonstrated the benefits of transit, this one shows that it has an even greater role than previously thought.

The report lists the New York metropolitan area as having the highest savings in hours of delay due to public transportation use in 2009, followed by Chicago; Washington, DC; Los Angeles; and Boston.

“There is no doubt that expanding public transportation use is key to reducing traffic congestion,” said APTA President William Millar. “Clearly, even if you don’t ride public transportation, it is still in your best interest to support investment in public transit. Better public transportation in your community means less congestion on the roads.”

TTI noted that its 2010 report is the first to incorporate data from INRIX, a private sector provider of travel time information for travelers and shippers, with the traffic volume data from the states. INRIX anonymously collects traffic speed data from personal trips, commercial delivery vehicle fleets, and a range of other agencies and companies, and compiles them into an average speed profile for most major roads.

The complete text of the report is available online.

 


 

DOT Officials Stress Optimism for Transit Funding

BY LAUREN MARKOE, Special to Passenger Transport

The federal commitment to high-speed rail remains high and the federal government will release its high-speed rail funding on schedule, DOT officials said at a Jan. 25 session during the Transportation Research Board’s 90th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

As they discussed other transportation initiatives over the course of the session, panelists expressed similar optimism, though some audience members questioned the feasibility of getting projects authorized and funded.

“I remind you that, 25 years from now, we will have 70 million more Americans,” said DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari, one of 11 federal officials on the panel. “How are we going to keep the mobility and the freedom of transportation choices that Americans enjoy? It’s hard to envision that future without high-speed rail as one of the alternatives.”

As for the $8 billion President Barack Obama announced a year ago as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to develop a nationwide high-speed rail system, “we’re substantially ahead of schedule in getting those dollars obligated,” said Joseph C. Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

According to Szabo, about 54 percent of the $8 billion, or $4.3 billion, is already obligated, and the law requires that all that money for high-speed rail be obligated by Sept. 30, 2020. “We’re highly confident that we’ll have all $8 billion obligated at least one year in advance,” he said.

An additional $2.5 billion for high-speed rail included in Fiscal Year 2010 federal appropriations also will be released, but the priority is the $8 billion, Szabo added.

Administrator Peter M. Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration responded to an audience member’s question about how federal officials handled the influx of ARRA funds for transportation projects. He emphasized that the question should be pursued in the context of more traditional federal funding.

“What we really need to look at is the Recovery Act money in combination with the regular annual apportionments that are made to transit agencies and state DOTs, and see what we accomplished pulling that money together,” Rogoff said. “Frankly, did the acceleration of one slow down the other, or were we all collectively able to pull off the acceleration within the normal time frame?”

Another audience member questioned the nation’s appetite for large public transportation projects in the coming years, citing support for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after he stopped the proposed Access to the Region’s Core passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River to New York City.

Porcari countered that public opinion is on the side of more investments in large transportation projects. “You can see and drive on and ride in the results of these investments,” he said. “Many people get it.”

Panelists also touted DOT programs to improve safety in public transportation and on the nation’s highways, and to boost research into greener fuels and vehicles. They highlighted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s specific concern about the dangers of distracted driving.

Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, talked about high-tech, federally funded research that aims to understand what drivers are focusing on behind the wheel. “They’re actually tracking the retina as it moves around,” Mendez said.

Also, David L. Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, described how his agency is working on guidelines that deal with on-board entertainment systems, navigational telephonics, and other stimuli that may take a driver’s attention off the road. “Distraction clearly is a multimodal activity,” he said.

“We’re looking at cognitive distraction as a critically important cross-cutting area of research,” said Peter H. Appel, administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration. “It doesn’t just affect the person driving the car.”

Roy W. Kienitz, DOT undersecretary for policy, acknowledged that many audience members were seeking information on a possible federal surface transportation authorization bill and teased that they would have to wait for release of the legislation. He did, however, offer general themes for a bill, including a stress on competition for dollars, an effort to distribute DOT funds to municipalities and groups that have traditionally been passed over, and a focus on intermodalism. “How do we actually run programs that fit with one another?” he said.

Also within the context of authorization, John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, asked the panel about the possibility of a statutory change that could help reduce the length of time in the highway project approval process.

“We certainly will be seeking input from states and stakeholders on how we can make our overall regulatory posture more productive and efficient, to get rid of anything that looks to be antiquated or counterproductive,” said Robert S. Rivkin, DOT general counsel.

Another panelist warned of the limitations imposed by the complicated process that goes into creating an authorization bill for federal funding. “To the degree to which some of the larger national policy imperatives are prioritized, they are prioritized within a constrained, specific congressional structure that we have to operate within,” said Dana Gresham, DOT’s assistant secretary for government affairs. 

DeFazio in Driverís Seat for New EmX Line

Steering a Lane Transit District (LTD) EmX bus rapid transit (BRT) vehicle, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) – former chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee – drove through a giant banner to officially dedicate the new LTD Gateway EmX Corridor at a Jan. 14 event in Springfield, OR.

The Gateway EmX Extension is the second BRT corridor serving the Eugene-Springfield community in western Oregon. Four years earlier, LTD opened its first BRT corridor, connecting downtown Eugene and Springfield; ridership on the new line was double that of the regular bus service it replaced.

Together, the two EmX corridors operate on one 15-mile round-trip route providing fast, frequent, and reliable transit service to passengers traveling between downtown Eugene, downtown Springfield, and the growing Gateway area in north Springfield.

Joining DeFazio were officials including Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region 10 Administrator Rick Krochalis, Oregon DOT Director Matthew Garrett, Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, and LTD Board President Mike Eyster. A crowd of about 100 people attended the event.

In his remarks, DeFazio heralded the extension as “great for Lane County.” He said: “The construction brought the community needed jobs and will promote economic growth in Springfield by linking the RiverBend and Gateway areas with downtown Eugene and Springfield. This project will move users seamlessly and efficiently between the two cities, and I am glad to have helped create the federal Small Starts program that allowed this project to become a reality.”

LTD initiated service on the extended EmX line on Jan. 9, ahead of the dedication event. To promote and celebrate the new service, agency staff greeted the public with free refreshments and a drawing for gift cards to merchants located along the EmX route. Radio personalities broadcast live music and highlighted the benefits of the new service. Hundreds of residents stepped aboard EmX as LTD provided free rides during the first week of the extended route.

Funding for the $41.3 million project came from FTA, $33 million; from the state’s ConnectOregon program, $5.4 million; and from LTD, $2.9 million. The project was completed after seven years of planning and nearly two years of construction.

LAVTA Launches Tri-Valley ĎRapidí BRT

The Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA) introduced “Rapid” service—a bus rapid transit (BRT) line connecting Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore, CA—on Jan. 24. In advance of the opening, dignitaries including Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and John Garamendi (D-CA) participated in ceremonies in Livermore.

Using 14 hybrid-electric vehicles, the limited-stop service Rapid will operate on a 14-mile route with 10-minute headways during peak travel times, using signal priority to extend the green light at intersections and bus queue jump lanes at targeted intersections that will allow the buses to bypass traffic. Rapid connects to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) at the Dublin/Pleasanton Station.

“I’m thrilled to mark the start of bus rapid transit service in the Tri-Valley,” McNerney said.  “This service will provide the residents of our area with the option of using public transportation that has more frequent service, quick travel time, and stops at places such as BART and the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories.”

“Today is a great day for Livermore, a great day for area residents who use public transit, and a great day for every Californian that wants to see jobs come back to our state,” said Garamendi. “LAVTA is purchasing buses made [by Gillig] in northern California, putting our neighbors to work and allowing more money to flow through our local economy.”

 

Cutting the ribbon for LAVTA’s Tri-Valley Rapid service are, from left, Jeff Flynn, LAVTA planning director; Dublin Mayor Tim Sabranti; Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena; Paul Matsuoka, LAVTA executive director; Pleasanton Councilman Jerry Thorne; Reps. Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi; Alameda County Supervisor and LAVTA Board Chair Scott Haggerty; Cindy McGovern, council member, City of Pleasanton; and Marj Leider, council member, City of Livermore.

 



 

WMATA Selects Sarles for Permanent Post

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has named Richard R. Sarles Sr., who has served as interim general manager for the past year, to stay on in a permanent capacity with a new title: chief executive officer.

Sarles joined WMATA in 2010 after John B. Catoe Jr. stepped down from the post. He headed New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) from 2007 until his retirement in 2010. His NJ Transit career began in 2002 as assistant executive director for capital programs and planning.

Sarles is a professional engineer who served more than 20 years in construction, project management, and project planning roles with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He also served Amtrak from 1996 until 2002 as a vice president, leading the Northeast Corridor High-Speed Rail program and subsequently leading capital program management for capital projects across the nation.

For APTA, Sarles is a member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee; Legislative Committee; Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee; and Rail Transit Committee.

Eno Foundation Names Schank President and CEO

The Board of Directors of the Eno Transportation Foundation has named Dr. Joshua L. Schank as its 12th president and chief executive officer, effective Feb. 21. He succeeds Dr. Stephen Van Beek, who stepped down to become chief policy and strategy officer with LeighFisher, a transportation management consulting firm.

Schank currently directs the National Transportation Policy Project at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC. His previous experience includes working as a consultant with PB Consult and a senior associate at ICF International in Washington, DC, as well as holding positions with DOT and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“I am eagerly anticipating joining the Eno team and helping to make Eno a stronger force for objective and rigorous policy analysis across all modes of transportation,” Schank said. “I look forward to working with the board in helping to develop more performance-based transportation policy at the state, local, and federal levels.”

The Eno board also announced the promotion of Dr. Barbara Gannon, interim president of the foundation, to the newly-created position of executive vice president. She also will continue to hold the title of executive director of the Center for Transportation Leadership.

Sam Schwartz Engineering Acquires Metro Transportation

Sam Schwartz Engineering PLLC (SSE), a transportation consulting company based in New York City, has announced its acquisition of the Metro Transportation Group Inc. (Metro), a traffic engineering, planning, design, and signal systems company headquartered in Chicago.

“Metro brings to SSE a rich 30-year history of working on some of the most significant projects in Illinois and the region while significantly increasing our Midwest footprint,” said Rob Phillips, executive vice president and chief operating officer of SSE.

Metro Chairman Dave Miller, P.E., will oversee the Chicago operations as vice president and general manager of the firm. The firm’s major clients include Soldier Field and Northwestern University.

T&I Announces Subcommittee Chairs, Ranking Members

Reps. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), ranking member of the committee, have announced the chairs and ranking members of the six T&I subcommittees.

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-TN) will chair the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, while Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), who chaired the subcommittee in the previous Congress, will be the ranking member.

For the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) was named chairman and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL), another former subcommittee chair, is ranking member.

Rep. Thomas E. Petri (R-WI) has been named chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, with Rep. Jerry F. Costello (D-IL), a past subcommittee chair, as ranking member.

Freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) assumes the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) similarly moves from chairwoman to ranking member.

The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will be chaired by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) as ranking member.

Freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) is the incoming chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, while Rep. Timothy H. Bishop (D-NY) serves as ranking member.

CCAP Report: Smart Growth Helps Boost Prosperity

A new report from the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) reveals that—in a reversal from the past—driving for longer distances is no longer an indicator of economic growth and that urban growth strategies such as walkable communities provide both economic and quality of life benefits.

According to the report, Growing Wealthier: Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity, smart growth enhances community prosperity and generates economic benefits for local businesses, households, and governments. It shows how pent-up demand for walkable communities is reshaping the real estate market and cities investing in public transportation and downtown development are experiencing cost savings, growing tax revenues, increased property values, and booming retail sales.

“In our transforming economy, more and more exchanges of goods and services take place in channels unimaginable a quarter of a century ago,” said CCAP Transportation Analyst Chuck Kooshian, co-author of the report. “While transportation is still vital to economic activity, people and goods in motion are only a part of a much greater whole.”

Growing Wealthier documents how efficient land use planning can improve household resilience to rising oil prices by enhancing travel choices. Allowing more people to live closer to job centers can boost employment rates and income levels for low-wage workers while reducing exposure to congestion for all. It also shows how smart growth policies can cut government infrastructure costs, enhance public health, and conserve natural resources.

The executive summary and full report are available online.

BPC: New Approach to Transportation Funding

“The nation can no longer afford to support poorly targeted [transportation] investments when the needs are so great and public resources are so constrained,” meaning that the Obama administration and Congress must consider a new approach to transportation funding, according to a report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

Authors Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Martin Wachs, members of BPC’s National Transportation Policy Project, emphasized the primary importance of transportation policy to economic policy. “The need for investment is clear: our roads are deteriorating and our transportation systems are not equipped to handle increasing capacity,” Holtz-Eakin said. “Still, we cannot devote additional dollars, much less borrowed dollars, to transportation programs that provide an uncertain number of jobs and no lasting economic benefit.”

The report, Strengthening Connections Between Transportation Investments and Economic Growth, outlines proposals for three specific policy changes:

* Allocate no new funds to existing transportation programs if they provide questionable job creation, unclear long-term benefits, or if the programs are solely an effort to increase short-term employment;

* Direct investments to programs that both are “shovel-ready” and provide long-term benefits, easing unemployment while also building the nation’s economic future; and

* Do not constrain federal transportation investments by the silos and restrictions that dominate the federal government’s existing surface transportation program. “Instead of focusing on how the money is spent—that is, on whether funds go to operations versus capital or to highway versus transit—the focus must shift to the outcomes being achieved with a particular expenditure,” the report stated.

The full text of the report is available here.

Bertrand Gagne Dies; Co-Founder of TDG

Bertrand (Bert) Gagne, 78, co-founder and former chairman of TDG Transit Design Group Inc. in Mississauga, ON, died Oct. 6, 2010.

Gagne worked in the rail industry for more than 40 years, and remained active in the field following his retirement in 2005. He was a member of APTA’s Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards (PRESS) Electrical Committee and Passenger Equipment RSAC Emergency Preparedness Task Force.

He provided contributions to many industry standards, specifically APTA RP-E-012-99, “Recommended Practice for Normal Lighting System Design for Passenger Cars,” and APTA SS-E-013-99, “Standard for Emergency Lighting System Design for Passenger Cars.”




Maximize the Benefits to Promote High-Speed Rail

BY CHUCK McCUTCHEON, Special to Passenger Transport

Saying that high-speed rail is facing a crucial need for greater public and political support, several of the technology’s highest-profile proponents are imploring their fellow backers to start talking up its many benefits so it can win wider acceptance.

Panelists at a Jan. 23 forum during the Transportation Research Board’s 90th Annual Meeting expressed satisfaction with the progress of high-speed rail in recent years, with $4.3 billion obligated to projects nationwide and another $2.7 billion close to obligation. But they said that, in a tightly constrained budget environment, they are concerned that too much emphasis could be placed on its upfront costs and not on its overall benefits.

“Our biggest challenge is one that I call all of you to action on … we need help with the continued communications challenges,” said Karen Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). “This makes sense in the rest of the world; this is new to a lot of Americans.”

APTA President William Millar agreed with Rae, saying that high-speed rail funding must be put in the context of making sure the U.S. remains economically abreast of nations that already have invested in—and are enjoying the benefits of—the technology.

“We have a competitive global future in front of us, and we need to wring every ounce of efficiency from our transportation system that we can,” Millar said. As a result, he told the audience of more than 150 people: “If we believe in this, you have an obligation to not only vote, but to talk to your representatives, talk to your mayors, talk to your neighbors. We have to make that happen.”

Citing one area where more education is necessary, Millar said he hopes that officials in the freight rail industry eventually will see high-speed rail as a business opportunity “in the way that they haven’t seen passenger rail in the past.”

The forum came as the Obama administration’s serious commitment to high-speed rail has run into some uncertainty with Republicans regaining the majority in the House.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, believes in the concept of high-speed rail, although he has said he wants to review how the money has been spent. A statement on the committee’s web site says the mode has “potential” in boosting U.S. transportation infrastructure.

But other Republicans are more skeptical. A budget-cutting proposal introduced Jan. 20 by the Republican Study Committee, the informal caucus of conservatives in the House, slashes more than 100 programs, including $2.5 billion in annual intercity and high-speed rail grants.

Anthony Perl, chairman of TRB’s Intercity Passenger Rail Committee, acknowledged that the decades-long debate over Amtrak’s viability as a national passenger railroad “crowded out” discussion of high-speed rail’s potential.

Rae and others at the forum repeatedly stressed that high-speed rail must be regarded as augmenting existing modes of transportation and not as a competitor. “It’s not about adding rail at the expense of everything else,” she said. “It’s about adding rail as a complement to everything else.”

But that presents its own challenges, said Angel Aparicio, who has worked on Spain’s transportation system and is a professor at the Civil Engineering School of Madrid. He noted that high-speed rail has been shown to be a successful substitute for air transport, but it remains less obvious under what conditions high-speed rail and airlines can cooperate.

Panelists stated that high-speed rail’s global warming-friendly technology and unmatched global safety record must become important parts of the national conversation.

“We killed 43,000 people two years ago on U.S. highways—that’s an epidemic,” said Rod Diridon, executive director of California’s Mineta Transportation Institute and past chair of APTA’s High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee. “Yet the oldest high-speed train systems in the world, Japan and France, have not had one fatality.”

At the outset of his talk, Diridon asked the audience for a show of hands for how many believed that high-speed rail eventually will happen. About half did so, prompting him to respond, “That’s better than most.”

To address Republicans’ call for more public-private partnerships on rail financing and operations, Millar said APTA is working with several groups, including the International Union of Railways (UIC). UIC Director-General Jean-Pierre Loubinoux said the organization will hold its Eighth World High-Speed Rail Congress in the U.S. in July 2012.

Loubinoux also said he sees no reason why the U.S. cannot join other nations that have invested heavily in high-speed rail. He advised that, as plans move forward for rail lines, great emphasis should go toward train stations as “centers of harmonizing the different modes of transportation.”

Some nations, such as Germany, have worked to develop Internet trip-planning sites that integrate high-speed rail with other transportation modes, said Patrick Hoenniger, a transport research planner at that country’s Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development. He also said Switzerland has developed a sophisticated combined-ticketing approach—for about $3,400 U.S. annually, customers can obtain a card enabling them to use the country’s entire public transportation network.

Perl said in closing that two key questions remain to be addressed: whether incremental progress will make it easier or more challenging for high-speed rail to advance, and how Americans’ travel behavior will change over the next 15 years. He said the latter will hinge on forces beyond the scope of the rail community, such as interest in climate change and in reducing foreign dependence on oil.

“The faster that those changes happen, the greater the demand [for high-speed rail] will be in North America,” he said.

 

Panelists at the event include, from left, William Millar, Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, Rod Diridon, and Karon Rae. 

TRB Session Considers Obama Administrationís Focus on Transit

BY KATHERINE LEWIS, Special to Passenger Transport

President Barack Obama’s decision to highlight public transit in his State of the Union address demonstrates how seriously his administration takes high-speed rail and infrastructure investments, according to DOT officials who spoke at a Jan. 26 session during the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) 90th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.

“We’re all excited to be in the State of the Union,” said Polly Trottenberg, DOT assistant secretary for transportation policy, referring to Obama’s promise on Jan. 25 to redouble efforts to rebuild America’s infrastructure and expand high-speed rail across the country. “For those of us who work in transportation, it was pretty exciting.”

Indeed, elevating a state of good repair to a major policy and investment focus is one of the five key elements of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s strategic plan, as described by Therese W. McMillan, deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

“Reinvesting in the billions of dollars of transportation infrastructure we have … has been a significant focus area for the administrator and myself,” McMillan said. “We have, at FTA, emphasized very much this year the need to see state of good repair investments—not only in significant formula programs, but also discretionary.”

She spoke about FTA’s efforts to fundamentally reorganize the New Starts program, the flagship method for federal partnerships with state and local governments in capital investment for rail and bus corridor expansion projects. Instead of evaluating only the cost-effectiveness of proposals, officials want to consider environmental, economic development, and community benefits as well.

“There had not been a sufficient and deep consideration of all the various factors that need to be brought to bear,” McMillan said.

Last year, she said, FTA received more than 2,000 comments in an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking looking at what criteria should be considered alongside cost-effectiveness. After considering this input, FTA will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking this spring or summer.

In addition to local partnerships, FTA is committed to the DOT partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, McMillan noted.

Meanwhile, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has undergone a huge transformation during the past two years, said Deputy Administrator Karen Rae, shifting from its specific focus on rail safety and Amtrak to responsibility for the administration’s goal of ultimately giving 85 percent of the population access to high-speed rail.

“It’s a little bit like running a marathon while having open heart surgery, but it has been exciting and exhilarating,” she said, crediting a number of partners in the endeavor. “We’re really talking about creating a network for the future.… This is the first time the rail part of that has been an integrated part of the conversation.”

The next steps include moving the federal dollars out the door, and “we have to build human and institutional capacity,” Rae said. “We didn’t have that skill and capacity when we were starting the space program. We are doing much the same here. We must increase our ability to educate and communicate.”

Amid all these new goals and programs, safety remains the highest priority for DOT, said Robert L. Bertini, deputy administrator of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). He also noted that the administration has signed three international agreements aimed at harmonizing standards in Intelligent Transportation Systems, with the European Union, Japan and Canada.

“We’ve made huge strides in becoming more global in our reach,” Bertini said. “We believe our safety research will lead to dramatic improvements in transportation safety in the future.”

DOT has embarked on a two-year pilot program on safety that involves the real-world deployment of thousands of vehicles communicating with each other and the infrastructure. RITA has launched 13 research clusters to try to encourage interaction among the researchers across the modes of transportation.

Funding debates in Washington won’t distract the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration from its focus on safety, said Deputy Administrator Bill Bronrott. “Dying on the highways is not a partisan issue,” he said, citing his agency’s record 17 rulemakings last year; several more are in the works, including efforts on hands-free devices and electronic on-board recorders.

In response to a question about a federal livability initiative, Rae said DOT is working on a guidebook that will help state and local officials who have received or want to apply for grants.

Finally, the administration is concentrating on workforce development. “We need to take the responsibility to look ahead 10 years,” Bertini said. “We need to nurture the next generation of TRB committee chairs, of TRB leaders.”

 

 

 


Panelists include, from left: Therese McMillan, Polly Trottenberg, Karen Rae, Bill Bronrott, and Robert Bertini. 

LaHood, Rogoff, Cook to Address 2011 Legislative Conference

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, a frequent participant in APTA meetings, will offer the keynote address at the March 14 Opening General Session of the 2010 Legislative Conference at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC.

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, will participate in a session that afternoon featuring key modal administrators from DOT, discussing issues including the outlook on surface transportation authorization and program updates.

Political commentator Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report and columnist for National Journal, will bring his insights to the March 13 “Welcome to Washington” session. Cook—described by Washingtonian magazine as “the man who knows more about everything political than anyone else”—has observed and analyzed state and national politics for more than two decades.

Cook is a political analyst for NBC News who has also appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, Nightline, and This Week, and NBC’s Today and Meet the Press, as well as CNBC, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio. Before joining the National Journal Group in 1998, Cook wrote a twice-weekly column in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Other highlights of the conference include a breakfast briefing on “The Insider Perspective on the Transit Industry”; presentations by members of Congress and stakeholders in the transportation community; and a luncheon program featuring satirical entertainment by the always popular Capitol Steps. APTA members will have time to visit Capitol Hill on March 15 to meet with their representatives, including a reception co-sponsored by APTA and the Amalgamated Transit Union.

For conference information, contact Meredith Slesinger at (202) 496-4860 or mslesinger@apta.com. For registration information, contact Adam Martin at (202) 496-4845 or amartin@apta.com or visit www.apta.com.

Apply for Local Transit Coalition Grants

APTA is seeking applications through March 1 for the next cycle of Local Transit Coalition Grants. Most grants awarded through the program will be approximately $5,000.

The program emphasizes proposals through which grassroots advocacy efforts could help achieve specific state and local public transportation goals, such as support for local or regional funding initiatives to help support public transportation in economically challenging times; activities supportive of national efforts to pass federal surface transportation authorization legislation; and efforts to educate decision-makers about policies favorable to transit and to support public transportation services in the community.

A local coalition can apply directly for the funds, provided it has a letter of support from the general manager of the local APTA member transit agency(ies). A transit system may apply on behalf of a coalition.

Over the past eight years, this grant program has helped support the activities of grassroots coalitions in communities across the U.S., including both public education programs and advocacy efforts.

Information on the grant program is available online or from Nicole DuPuis.

Share Your Transit Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and with all the hearts, flowers, and candies popping up in stores, APTA thinks it’s a great time to remind people why they love transit. Many people have shared stories in the past of riders meeting their future spouse on a bus or train, proposals on platforms, and even weddings on board buses.

This Valentine’s Day, APTA would like to share those stories with other riders and transit advocates as part of an upcoming texting campaign titled “i <3 transit.” Please send any stories, as well as photos and/or video, you may already have, or reach out to your riders for their stories, by Feb. 7. Contact Lesa Rair.



 

Urbanism Triumphant: New Yearís Hope?

BY NEAL PEIRCE

WASHINGTON—“Urbanism” isn’t a word that races many people’s motors. But think again. It might just be the key—not only to enrich community life but to achieve a safer energy future as well as efficient and livable metro regions, and to ensure our place in the larger world.

That’s the case that famed New Urbanist architect Peter Calthorpe lays out in his book Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, just published by Island Press.

Fighting to reduce our oil and coal burning, and combat global warming, much of the buzz surrounds such new “green” technologies as solar and wind power, industrial efficiency and fuel-efficient cars. But add up all the potential carbon savings they promise, argues Calthorpe, and we’ll still fall far short of reducing the United States’ grossly disproportionate use of fossil fuels and contribution to globe-imperiling climate change.

The only answer, he argues, is to start correcting the spread-out, energy-profligate patterns in how we use our land. In other words, a return to true urbanism, the historical patterns of relatively compact, more energy-efficient growth we once practiced in our cities and towns, but lost in the decades following World War II.

That means a radical turn from the post-World War II pattern of throwing up clumps of subdivisions, isolated office parks, commercial strips and shopping centers, strung together by arterials and highways, all accommodating the automobile but rarely if ever walkable or encouraging of civic life.

It’s as if, Calthorpe alleges, we’d gone on a “fast food, high-carbon diet” that let our metropolitan regions, where most of us live, “become obese” through our heavy dependence on oil—“a high-sugar and high-starch diet,” expanding the urban waistline, ballooning our output of carbon into the global atmosphere “without nourishing strength or resilience.”

The only cure, he argues, must be a return to a robust urbanism of efficiently shaped and planned cities and regions.

So what’s urbanism? You can recognize it by what it delivers, suggests Calthorpe. It is places that feature a diversity of uses—homes, shops, libraries, parks, schools—mixed closely so they’re walkable (or easily bikeable). It balances cars with public transit. It supports a rich public life.

And it is cities and other urban places that create, on a per capita basis, the least carbon emissions. (New Yorkers, famously, emit a third of the greenhouse gas emissions of the typical American.)

Urbanism, he insists, can come in many forms, scales or densities. It’s not just a big-city model. Many of our traditional small towns, village centers and streetcar suburbs, with their mixed uses and walkability, are as “urban” as historical city centers.

Our big need now, he’s suggesting, is to focus on the co-benefits of carbon reduction and more sustainable urban form. Examples abound. For heating, a joining wall (as in apartment houses or townhouses) is more effective than a detached house’s solar collector. A small neighborhood co-generation electrical plant that reuses its waste will likely save more carbon per dollar than a distant wind farm (with its inevitable heavy power loss in transmission cables). A walk or a bike ride costs less and generates less carbon than does a hybrid car covering the same ground.

What we need to do, Calthorpe contends, is to expand urbanism’s historical qualities of compactness and civic connectedness to the metropolitan scale, the citistate regions of our time. Rather than the old model of a city/suburb schism, we need to see regions as interconnected, interdependent networks of places.

Neighborhood becomes the metaphor of choice here. Just as a neighborhood needs a vital center—its crossroads—the citistate needs a strong center city that is its cultural heart, center of trade and symbol to the greater world.

But that’s not to eclipse other regional towns and cities. In fact, the pedestrian scale of successful neighborhoods has a mirror in regional transit networks, the lines focusing growth in the vital towns and cities in a region just as main streets focus a neighborhood.

And there’s an associated big value, Calthorpe argues, in diversity—mixes of all manner of people, the reverse of standard suburbia’s habit of separating us into subdivisions by age and income.

Is all this a touch Pollyannaish, wishing for good will and collaboration when the natural tendency among towns and places (not to mention businesses and individuals) is so often “us-first” competitiveness?

One might think so. Except that the old formula—easy mortgages, pro-sprawl land patterns, almost total automobile dependency enabled by cheap energy—was overturned by the Great Recession. The excessive resources aren’t there to go back to.

Calthorpe’s substitute—more prosperity for all by smart regional strategies that are civic, asset, and carbon conserving—isn’t guaranteed. But it would be a thousand times smarter.
 
Contact Neal Peirce here.
 © 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group
 

People on the Move

Patricia Bates, Paul Glaab, Don Bankhead, Larry Crandall, Peter Herzog
ORANGE, CA—The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors has named Patricia Bates, formerly vice chair, as its new chair. She succeeds Jerry Amante, who will remain on the board as the city representative from the Third District.

Bates is the Fifth District Orange County Supervisor representing the cities of Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. She joined the OCTA board in 2007.

Replacing Bates as vice chair is Laguna Niguel Councilmember Paul Glaab, who joined the board in 2006.

OCTA also welcomed three new board members: Fullerton Mayor Don Bankhead, Fountain Valley Mayor Larry Crandall, and Lake Forest Mayor Peter Herzog.

John Siragusa
FAIRFIELD, CA—John Siragusa, an 18-year employee of MV Transportation Inc., has been promoted to president of western operations.

Siragusa served most recently as vice president of operations for the company’s western region. In his new role, he will oversee MV’s team of regionally based vice presidents and support personnel across the western U.S. and Canada.

Malcolm Gatherwright
CINCINNATI, OH—After driving nearly three million miles in his career—enough to circle the globe more than 120 times—Malcolm Gatherwright, a bus operator with Cincinnati Metro since 1976, retired Dec. 31, 2010. The Ohio Public Transit Association honored Gatherwright as the state’s Bus Operator of the Year for 2010.

In his nearly 35 years with Metro, Gatherwright earned 33 annual safety awards for accident-free driving during his career. He is a member of the prestigious National Safety Council’s Two Million Mile Club for driving more than 30 years without a preventable accident.

During his career, Gatherwright received no negative customer service reports; required no discipline; and reported 2 percent or less unexpected absenteeism.

Khalid Bekka, Keven Keller
OMAHA, NE—HDR has named Khalid Bekka director of economics and finance. Bekka, an HDR employee since 2005, was previously a principal economist and department manager for the company’s Silver Spring, MD, office and will continue to be based there.

Bekka has 20 years of experience in applied economics. He succeeds David Lewis, who joined HDR when it acquired HLB Decision Economics in 2005 and will remain with the firm on a part-time basis. Lewis was a founding partner and president, and Bekka also was deeply involved in HLB’s development.

Also, Kevin Keller has been promoted to client manager for BNSF Railway, based in HDR’s Kansas City, MO, office. He assumes this role from Scott Goehri, who was named freight railroad market sector director.

Keller has been with HDR since 2007, serving previously as railroad sector environmental services director. He has more than 25 years of experience in the rail industry.

Jason Riviero
CINCINNATI, OH—The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has appointed Jason Riveiro to the board of Cincinnati Metro’s charitable foundation, Everybody Rides Metro (ERM). Riveiro joined the SORTA Board of Trustees in September 2010.

ERM works with partner organizations to provide transportation to low-income individuals who need help getting to jobs, education, health care, and other vital services in order to maintain their self-sufficiency.

Riveiro is vice president of media and business development for TSJ Media, serving as publisher of La Jornada Latina and market manager for Cincinnati’s Spanish-language radio station.

Jerome Gray
HOUSTON, TX—Veteran news anchor and reporter Jerome Gray is joining the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) as vice president and senior press officer.

Gray, a media professional with more than 20 years of experience in Houston, has been a news anchor and broadcast journalist with two Houston television stations. He received an Emmy Award for a series of reports on Africa, an Emmy and a National Telly Award for a jazz special, and a Texas Associated Press Award for coverage of South Africa’s first all-race elections.

Kenneth R. Fulmer, Kimberly Bentz
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Urban Engineers Inc. announced the appointment of Kenneth R. Fulmer as director of transit and passenger rail.

Since joining Urban in 1992, Fulmer has taken on increasing responsibilities, focusing primarily in the construction management arena. In 2006, he was named a vice president and associate of the firm. He has more than 20 years of experience in the design and construction industry.

Also, Kimberly Bentz, MSHRM, has been promoted to human resources director. She served as Urban’s manager of human resources since coming to the company in 2007.

Lillian Hames, David Heath
SAN RAFAEL, CA—Lillian Hames stepped down Jan. 21 as general manager of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART). David Heath, the district’s director of finance and administration, will serve as interim general manager until a permanent replacement is hired.

Hames was a transportation consultant in 2001 when she became project director—and, for several years, the only employee—of what was then known as the SMART Commission. After SMART became a special district created by California Assembly Bill 2224 in 2003, she oversaw the initial conceptual design of the project and the development of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Report.

Bob Franklin, John McPartland
OAKLAND, CA—Bob Franklin has become the first former employee of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) to become president of the BART Board of Directors. He succeeds James Fang.

Franklin has served on the board since 2004. Earlier he worked for BART for six years in the finance and planning departments.

The board also unanimously elected Board Member John McPartland to serve as vice president. McPartland also is a former BART employee: a safety specialist who served as a liaison to, and facilitated disaster response training with, public safety agencies within the agency’s service area.

Mitchell W. Pratt
SEAL BEACH, CA—Mitchell W. Pratt, an employee of Clean Energy since 2001, has been promoted to chief operating officer.

Pratt previously served as senior vice president, engineering, operations, and public affairs. He came to Clean Energy after serving as general manager of the natural gas vehicle department for the Southern California Gas Company.






Michael Izbicki

WASHINGTON, DC—Michael Izbicki has joined the Louis Berger Group as director of rail systems.

Izbicki has more than 30 years of experience in rail and transit systems, including serving as interim director of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority and planning commissioner for the Southern New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority.

Wade Norton, Ryan McElvaney
FARIBAULT, MN—ABC Companies announced the appointments of Wade Norton as director of sales for ABC Parts, Muncie Transit Supply, and Baker Transit Parts, and Ryan McElvaney as parts territory sales manager for the northeast region.

Norton will be responsible for the North American aftermarket sales team for ABC Parts and the Muncie and Baker affiliates. McElvaney will serve Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York excluding Long Island and New York City.


Bruce D. Nipp
DALLAS, TX—Bruce D. Nipp, P.E., has joined Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. as transportation regional manager. He will be responsible for business development, client relations, and managing transportation projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

Nipp has more than 25 years of experience in transportation planning and engineering, managing transportation-related projects involving all stages of development. He previously was president of Infrastructure Group Texas LLC, an engineering consortium of four firms. He also worked 15 years for Texas DOT’s Amarillo District.

Oliver Hoehne, Douglas Stencil
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has announced the appointments of Oliver Hoehne as a senior engineering manager in its Newark, NJ, office and Douglas Stencil as a senior supervising engineer in the Orlando, FL, office.

Hoehne has 18 years of experience in systems engineering and systems integration, with 13 years in rail and transit projects. He previously served as a project engineering manager for Siemens Transportation Systems on a large capital project for MTA New York City Transit.

In his new position, Stencil will be responsible for developing and implementing safety and security programs for the Central Florida Commuter Rail system, a new commuter railroad being managed by PB. He joins PB from Veolia Transportation, where he served as manager of safety and training for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail in Pompano Beach. Stencil has 34 years of experience, 21 of them with Amtrak.

Mark Isaak
MIAMI, FL—Mark Isaak, P.E., has been promoted to director of sales and strategy for the Transportation Service of PBS&J, an Atkins company.

Over his past seven years with PBS&J, Isaak has managed the service’s transportation business in the central and western U.S., including sales and prepositioning, staff development, and technical production activities. Earlier he was project director for the firm’s West Florida Program Management Services, with responsibility for four state and local general engineering consultant contracts.