Passenger Transport - February 25, 2011
(Print All Articles)

BREAKING NEWS

Status of Florida High-Speed Rail Remains Uncertain

The status of a proposed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando, FL, remains in flux. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that he had met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who requested additional information about the project.

“I have decided to give Gov. Scott additional time to review the agreement crafted by local officials from Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland and Miami, and to consult with his staff at the state Department of Transportation,” LaHood said. “He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”

On Feb. 24, Scott rejected an alternative plan proposed by Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, that would have continued the state's high-speed rail project connecting Orlando and Tampa and transferred the project to local government grantees.

In a statement, Mica said he understands the governor's "concerns with the overall project, which would incur certain risks," but added: "I have done all that I can to salvage the project to this point and present what I consider to be a viable alternative plan that places the risk with the private sector and protects the taxpayers."

When he announced his proposal, which he called a "partial project rescue plan," Mica said: "The first 21-mile section of the proposed corridor, from the Orlando Airport to the Convention Center and Disney World, holds the potential for not only being a viable project, but one that could turn a profit with a qualified private operator."

According to the proposal, the project would include a 21-mile initial operating segment; an inter-local agreement crafted with Orange and Osceola counties and the city of Orlando as initial participants, with the potential for additional future partners; federal financial support for construction of the first segment, up to an agreed-upon funding amount; a solicitation of private-sector proposals by the inter-local parties to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain the project; and an agreement that all parties will proceed only if the project is financially viable and they have unanimous consent regarding the terms of ownership, development, and operation of the project.

This proposed phased development has the potential to address the governor's concerns by transferring the project from the state to another entity and limiting its scope to the financially viable route to ensure maximum ridership and to provide for future expansion.

"The ridership numbers for this corridor would be some of the best in the United States and the world," said Mica, "and I believe could also return revenue to each of the participating partners."

NEWS HEADLINES

Honolulu Breaks Ground for Rail

Before a crowd of more than 400 people, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle kicked off construction of the city's rail transit project at a ceremonial ground breaking and blessing Feb. 22, held near the site of the first of 21 stations planned along the 20-mile route.

"The Honolulu rail transit project will transform how we travel, work, play, and live," Carlisle said. "The project is the effort of many people throughout the years. Rail will provide thousands of jobs for our local workforce, relieve traffic congestion, improve mobility, and pave the way for an exciting future for Oahu residents. It is our gift to a better future."

Other speakers at the event--held along Kualakai Parkway (North-South Road) in East Kapolei--included Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, and Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia.

The elevated rail system, with an estimated cost of $4.4 billion, will stretch from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center, including stations in communities such as Waipahu, Pearl City, Aiea, Kalihi, Chinatown, Downtown Honolulu, and Kakaako. Additional stations will serve activity centers such as the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, Leeward Community College, Pearl Highlands, Pearlridge, Aloha Stadium, Honolulu International Airport, and Honolulu Community College.

The city has already awarded a construction contract for the first phase of the elevated rail guideway from East Kapolei to Pearl City. A second contract for the train storage and maintenance facility in Waipahu is expected to be executed shortly. The city plans to award two more major contracts this year for the second phase of the rail route, from Pearl City to Aloha Stadium, and for the "core systems," which consists of the train vehicles and the control center for the rail system.

 

Breaking ground for the rail transit project in Honolulu are, from left, Hawaii Senate President Shan Tsutsui; Hawaii House Speaker Calvin Say; Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz; U.S. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI); Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI); Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle; Honolulu City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia; City DOT Services Director Wayne Yoshioka; Honolulu Rail Transit Project General Manager Toru Hamayasu; and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

House Approves FY 2011 CR; Consideration by Senate Next

On Feb. 18, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund government operations through the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. The legislation would reduce federal spending in FY 2011 by $61 billion from FY 2010 enacted levels.

The bill now awaits consideration in the Senate, which was in recess last week, leaving few legislative days to work out a compromise solution before the current CR expires March 4. The Senate is not expected to approve the level of spending reductions contained in the House bill. Instead, it is expected to develop its own version of an FY 2011 CR.

The House bill, if enacted, would rescind $3.72 billion from the high-speed rail program from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriations and $2.475 billion from funds appropriated for FY 2010.

FTA program rescissions include reducing the New Starts and Small Starts program by $431 million below the FY 2010 level in FY 2011 and an additional $280 million from FY 2010. There would be no FY 2011 funding for the Transit Investments in Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction program and the $75 million for this program from FY 2010 would be rescinded. The CR also would not fund the $150 million authorized for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in FY 2011.

Among FRA cuts is the elimination and rescission of the $50 million in FY 2010 grants for positive train control. There is also a reduction in transit security funding from $300 million to $100 million in the CR for the Department of Homeland Security.

Regarding long-term funding, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), favorably reported out the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011, which would extend the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users through Sept. 30, 2011. The current extension expires March 4. The House plans to bring this legislation to the floor for consideration next week, and the Senate is expected to follow.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to introduce a one-month short-term CR so the House and Senate have more time to reach consensus on federal spending for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. He has instructed Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) to prepare a "clean" CR that continues funding at FY 2010 levels.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has stated that any bill that does not honor the spending cuts approved by the House is unacceptable, setting up the possibility for a government shutdown if there is no agreement on a compromise bill.

APTA urges all its members to contact their elected officials concerning these funding proposals. See the most recent Legislative Alert online.

EPW, T&I Committees Hold Joint Hearing in CA

Leaders of California public transportation agencies testified on the relationship between surface transportation projects and job creation efforts at a Feb. 23 joint field hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in Los Angeles.

"Simply put: Americans need jobs and cities and states across the nation need a federal partnership to help us put people back to work, which can be done through smart, innovative investments in our transportation infrastructure," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a member of the Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors, in his testimony. He noted that a county sales tax approved by the voters will generate $1.8 billion in the current fiscal year "that we are using to build, operate, and maintain a multi-modal transportation system, including robust investments in both highways and public transit," along with federal and state support.

The mayor, one of several speakers present, described a proposal for a federal infrastructure investment program that could generate almost one million new jobs nationwide and $51 billion in income while also generating $158 billion in total economic output.

Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for the San Francisco Bay Area in Oakland, CA, and a member of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, quoted the commission's report, Transportation for Tomorrow: "The Commission believes that surface transportation programs cannot fully contribute to economic growth, international competitiveness, or other national goals without a national investment strategy." He called for the federal government to protect its existing transportation infrastructure and suggested "a more productive partnership between the federal government and the nation's major metropolitan areas."

Will Kempton, chief executive officer of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in Orange, CA, testified that "investment in transportation infrastructure is essential to the creation of jobs and global competitiveness" and reported on major transportation projects in his county. "OCTA's discussions with Congress and the administration over the past months have revealed that others in Washington share the view that now is the time to expedite federal funding and reduce the burdensome requirements long associated with major federal projects," he said.

Walder Joins APTA Executive Committee

Jay H. Walder, chairman and chief executive officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), has joined the APTA Executive Committee, which approved his appointment as a member-at-large to fill the remainder of Christopher Boylan's one-and-a-half-year term.

Boylan retired from MTA last December, and subsequently resigned from the Executive Committee.

"I am very pleased to welcome Jay Walder, who brings extensive experience and expertise in the public transportation field, to the Executive Committee," said APTA Chair Michael J. Scanlon. "At the same time, I want to thank Chris Boylan for his decades of commitment to our industry. We look forward to his continued involvement."

Walder had worked for MTA from 1983 to 1995 before returning in 2009 to head the agency.

He also served five years as managing director for finance and development with Transport for London.

HART Extends Streetcar

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, presided over the official opening of the extension of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit's (HART) TECO Line Streetcar System in Tampa, FL. The $5.3 million extension--including $1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds-covers one-third of a mile, connecting the Tampa Convention Center to the central business district.

"Tampa and Hillsborough County are unique because you're still growing," Rogoff said in his keynote address. "Even during the economic downturn, transit ridership in Hillsborough County is still growing. It's an example of how we can work together to meet the needs of people who are going to work, school, and entertainment in this area."

He added that the investment in the streetcar will continue to produce new jobs along the route, pointing to "an estimated $1.2 billion in investment along the line to date, which means jobs not only on the line itself, but in every hotel, restaurant, and business along the way."

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood also noted the opening of the streetcar line extension on his "Fast Lane" blog. "From condominiums to hotels to entertainment centers, the TECO Streetcar Line has generated more than $1 billion in economic investment. The Recovery Act is working for the City of Tampa. By extending the TECO Streetcar Line, DOT is helping to ensure Tampa's sustained economic vitality."

 

Welcoming the extension of HART's TECO Line Streetcar System are, from left: Stephanie Agliano, Tampa Historic Streetcar Board director; HART Chief Executive Officer David Armijo; David Mechanik, president of the Tampa Historic Streetcar Board; Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL); HART Board Chair Alison A. Hewitt; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

 

BART Opens 44th Station

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) hosted ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the 44th station in the BART system--West Dublin/Pleasanton Station--on Feb. 18, the day before the station entered service.

The new station breaks up what had been the longest stretch of tracks between two stations: the 10-mile distance between Castro Valley and Dublin/Pleasanton. BART constructed the new facility between two freeways while trains operated on the track.

Amenities at the new station include 1,200 new parking spots and additional bicycle racks.  Eventually there will be a transit village to allow people live, work, commute, shop, and play, all within walking distance of BART--and all without a car. The agency offers reserved parking permits for the two garages at the intermodal station, which also provides connections to Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority buses.

"This new station represents smart growth in two ways," said BART Board President Bob Franklin. "It represents smart growth by adding BART's first infill station instead of expanding outwards, and by increasing mixed-use development around the station to give people additional reasons to take public transportation."
BART anticipates that the West Dublin/Pleasanton Station will serve an average of 4,300 riders each weekday this year and expects ridership to grow over time.

Importance of Partnerships
BART noted the importance of public-private partnerships that resulted in the completion of the $106 million project, citing--as one example--the contribution of more than $21 million from Windstar Communities and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors.

"These innovative public-private partnerships are truly creative," said BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger. Alameda County Surplus, the cities of Dublin and Pleasanton, and the Tri-Valley Transportation Commission also worked together to contribute $8 million toward this station.

Clifford Heads Metra

Metra, the commuter rail agency serving Chicago, has named Alexander D. Clifford, an executive with Los Angeles Metro, to be its next executive director and chief executive officer. In Los Angeles, Clifford served most recently as executive officer, high-speed rail. While at Los Angeles Metro, Clifford worked as an ombudsman with the California High Speed Rail Authority to help facilitate the integration of high-speed train service into existing transportation corridors in Los Angeles County. He also oversaw his agency's interest in the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, operator of Metrolink commuter rail, and its interests in the Los Angeles-San Diego Rail Corridor Agency.

Clifford also served two terms on the City Council in Riverside, CA, from 1991 to 2000.

EPA Opens Competition for Smart Growth Awards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting entries through April 6 for the 10th annual National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, which recognizes and supports communities that use innovative policies and strategies in ways that bring benefits to a wide range of residents and protect the environment.

Smart growth development practices support national environmental goals by preserving open spaces and parkland and protecting critical habitat; improving transportation choices, including walking, bicycling, and public transit, which reduces emissions from automobiles; promoting brownfield redevelopment; and reducing impervious surfaces, which improves water quality.

The award competition is open to public- and private-sector entities that have successfully used smart growth principles to improve communities environmentally, socially, and economically, but all applications must include a public-sector partner. Applications for public-nonprofit activities are welcome but must be submitted by the public-sector participant.

Winners will be recognized at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in December 2011.

The four award categories are Programs, Policies, and Regulations, particularly actions that remove barriers to or provide incentives for smart growth; Smart Growth and Green Building, where projects may be single or multiple buildings; Civic Places, especially projects that create well-designed and vibrant public spaces; and Rural Smart Growth, with EPA interested in thriving rural areas that have used smart growth approaches to encourage economic development and job creation, improve transportation choices and housing options, and support the economic viability of working lands. Applicants may apply in only one category for a given project; an "Overall Excellence" winner will be chosen from the four categories by the review panels; and significant activity must have occurred in the project or program between April 6, 2006, and April 6, 2011.

To download the official award guidelines and entry form click here. EPA will post an updated entry form in March with information on where to send the applications.

Rockefeller Report: Support for Infrastructure Investment Crosses Party Lines

Seventy-one percent of voters--including 66 percent of Tea Party movement supporters and 71 percent of Republicans--want federal officials to seek common ground regarding transportation infrastructure investment legislation including public transportation, roads, and bridges, the Rockefeller Foundation announced in a study released earlier this month.

According to the Rockefeller Foundation Infrastructure Survey, two out of three voters called improving the country's transportation infrastructure highly important, while 80 percent said they believe federal funding to improve and modernize transportation will boost local economies and create millions of jobs.

However, the survey also shows that respondents want changes in federal infrastructure investment policies. Two-thirds of respondents favored reforms tested in the survey, with 90 supporting more accountability and certification that projects are delivered on time and fit into a national plan. In terms of priorities, 80 percent believe the country would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system, while 57 percent believe that "safer streets for our communities and children" should be the one of the top two priorities if more money is to be invested in infrastructure.

The Rockefeller Foundation summarized the key findings as follows:

* American voters see improvement in transportation infrastructure as a way to improve the economy and their quality of life. With federal unemployment rates hovering at 9 percent, Americans feel that improvements to transportation and infrastructure will create millions of jobs.

* American voters seek consensus and cooperation in Washington, placing legislation related to transportation and infrastructure at the top of their list of issues.

* American voters see room for improvement in how government spends money on infrastructure. With a high federal deficit, Americans overwhelmingly say current government spending on building and maintaining transportation infrastructure is inefficient and unwise--64 percent overall and 72 percent of Republicans--and support reforms aimed at making spending more efficient while still producing results.

* American voters are open to several funding streams for national transportation projects: 78 percent support increased private investment and 72 percent cite imposing penalties on projects that go over budget or exceed their deadline. Other proposals gaining support include a National Infrastructure Bank, new transportation bonds, and eliminating subsidies for American oil companies that drill in other countries.

The foundation funded this nationwide survey of 1,001 registered voters, conducted from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6, 2011, as part of its Transportation Initiative, a $66 million investment aimed at promoting equitable and sustainable transportation policies at the federal and state level.

Highlights of the study are available online.

APTA NEWS

New Publication Released: 'Moving America Forward'

APTA has released a new publication, Public Transportation: Moving America Forward, which highlights the critical importance of public transit to the nation's economic well-being.

The brochure--a very useful tool that is small enough to fit in a folder or the inside pocket of a suit jacket--provides APTA members with a dual function when they meet with their Congressional representatives: they can use it both to introduce public transportation to newly elected officials and as strong background information for seasoned politicians.

This publication includes an emphasis on economic benefits and facts and highlights public transportation's return on investment and job creation, with a specific focus on private-sector jobs. It also underscores public support for local ballot initiatives across the country while noting the strong support nationwide for increased investment. Further, it demonstrates the important effect public transit has on a local community, giving as examples the number of hours of travel time and gallons of gas that transit use can save.

Copies are available at the APTA web site, in PDF format, so that APTA members can insert localized information when they meet with their elected representatives. For more information, contact Mantill Williams.

Attention: Now Accepting Nominations for 2011 APTA Awards

Each year, APTA Awards recipients are called the "best of the best" of the public transportation industry.  Nominations for the 2011 APTA Awards program are now open through April 22, as announced by the APTA Awards Committee. Winners in previous years serve as outstanding role models of excellence, leadership, and innovation whose accomplishments have greatly advanced public transportation.

Award categories for 2011 are: Outstanding Public Transportation Manager; Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member; Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member; Local Distinguished Service; Hall of Fame; Innovation; and Outstanding Public Transportation System, presented in several size categories.

The awards will be presented at ceremonies during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and International Public Transportation EXPO in October in New Orleans.

APTA invites members to participate in the awards program by nominating top individuals and organizations who deserve to be recognized for their significant contributions.

More information about the awards program, including nomination criteria, is available online or from Erin Cartwright.

'Passenger Transport' Takes the Silver

Passenger Transport recently received a significant award in the 2010 Association TRENDS All-Media Contest--the Silver Award in the Monthly Newsletter/Communication category--for its July 5, 2010 issue.

This themed issue focused on "Safety and Security: The State of the Art," which presented numerous perspectives on the topic--from the need for continuous staff training to innovative technology solutions to community education and outreach. 

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

TANK, University Create App for Riders

The Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) and Northern Kentucky University's (NKU) College of Informatics have released a second mobile application (app) for download to Android hand-held devices. The "myTANK" app--previously made available for the iPhone--provides passengers with on-demand, location-aware bus routes, times, and trip planning tools in the agency's service area.

Both myTANK mobile apps were built as part of a research partnership between TANK and the NKU College of Informatics, providing another way transit passengers can get transit information at their fingertips. Students in the college contributed a significant portion of the research and development to create both applications. The partnership began in 2008 when it provided TANK information for use by Google Transit.

These applications are the culmination of technologies that resulted into a single handheld app. They use such mobile technologies as maps, Global Positioning Satellite location, and alert notifications to provide TANK riders with the information they need to make better transportation decisions.

"Social media and mobility has changed the way the world communicates, and at TANK we are no different. TANK is proud of all of our research work with NKU and pleased to roll out both an iPhone app and an Android app to serve the growing needs of our tech-savvy passengers," said Gina Douthat, project manager for TANK.

Other technological products created through the partnership include Wi-Fi and video screens on part of TANK's fleet; a TANK mobile web site; and the myTANK alert system to send detour information via text message or e-mail to passengers signing up for the service.

"During a time when transit systems, including TANK, are facing budgetary constraints, TANK looked to the students and researchers at NKU to innovate and help meet some of the technology expectations of today's transit rider--that information will be easily accessible and simple to use. From the Google Transit trip planner to the mobile apps, there is truly a way for just about everyone to get information about TANK in the way that they prefer to receive it," said Andrew Aiello, TANK general manager.

AATA Park-and-Ride Facility Heralded as 2010 Project of the Year

The Metro Detroit Branch of the American Public Works Association has honored the Plymouth Road Park-and-Ride Lot constructed by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (TheRide) in Ann Arbor, MI, as its 2010 Project of the Year. The citation recognizes the transit agency for "reducing traffic congestion and improving parking availability in the city of Ann Arbor by constructing a parking facility implementing environmentally preferred best management practices."

The site, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides commuter parking coupled with an internal transit shelter. The lot features 245 vehicular spaces, including designated spaces for handicap vans, compact cars, five-minute parking, and electrical vehicles. The parking facility also provides a standing pad, shelter, and benches for bus passengers, amenities for bicycle storage, and storage lockers.

Since its opening for service in May 2010, TheRide has seen daily use of the lot increase from 60 vehicles on the first day to the current average of 150 vehicles.

Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment Inc., the engineering consulting firm for the project, submitted the nomination for consideration in the "transportation less than $5 million" category.

Dayton Bus Operator Lends His Voice to Announcements

Thanks to a lucky meeting on board a Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (GDRTA) bus in Dayton, OH, bus operator Derrick Hardin now has a second career that also involves public transportation.

About a year ago, Katie Hill--founder of Commuter Advertising, a Dayton-based company that sells, creates, manages, and tracks audio announcements that play on public transit vehicles--took a ride on Hardin's bus to perform a standard quality control check. He asked if she was checking sound and told her he had a background in audio broadcast engineering. From there--it was fate: the Commuter Advertising team liked what they heard and signed up Hardin as a contractor, recording more than 100 spots for paid advertisers and public service announcements. He even recorded the voiceover for the company's own commercial.

As a child, Hardin dreamed of becoming a disc jockey, and he is currently a student at Dayton's International College of Broadcasting while continuing his GDRTA job. His family also has gotten into the act: his sister and daughter are now participating in the recording process.

COMMENTARY

Views on Infrastructure Investment

Editor's Note: Infrastructure investment is a critical element of the Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2012 budget. The administration sees such investment as the key for economic competitiveness and job growth. Here are some views on this issue.