Passenger Transport - April 8, 2011
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BREAKING NEWS

Rogoff Releases Letter on Potential Government Shutdown

Editor's Note: Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, released the following Dear Colleague letter April 7 regarding the possible shutdown of the federal government if a the current Continuing Resolution is allowed to expire without a new funding bill by midnight April 8.

Dear Colleague:

I know that many of you have been following with interest the current discussions in Washington about funding for the rest of the fiscal year, including funding for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Throughout these discussions the President has made clear that he does not want a government shutdown, and the Administration is willing and ready to work day and night to find a solution with which all sides can agree. Given the realities of the calendar, however, I am required to apprise you of the procedures that FTA will use to implement an orderly shutdown should Congress be unable to pass a funding bill.

As soon as funding lapses, FTA will not be permitted to incur further financial obligations. This means FTA will neither obligate grants nor make payments to grantees. For projects under development, FTA staff will not carry out environmental, legal, civil rights, and other reviews essential for advancing projects to the point of obligation since these are not related to immediate issues of life and safety. FTA’s Financial Management Systems will be unavailable for all grant and vendor payments. FTA will also not obligate or outlay funds for research and technical assistance activities because appropriations will not be available to pay the salaries of the staff executing the payments.

As you know, FTA customarily reimburses grantees for ongoing operations and construction projects to enable you to provide transit services to the public and compensate your employees and contractors. Recently, these payments have totaled slightly more than $270 million per week. During the shutdown period, FTA will not continue any of its unfunded core agency functions. No grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, purchase orders, travel authorizations, or other documents obligating funds will be executed to any of the FTA’s 1300 grantees.

In the event of a shutdown, roughly 90 percent of FTA’s staff will be furloughed. The remaining staff will be limited to three individuals who will remain in duty status for the purpose of shutdown and startup activities as well as emergency needs. A small number of additional employees will remain in duty status because they are compensated either from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) or the emergency legislation providing for the recovery of Lower Manhattan in the wake of the September 11th attacks. During a shutdown, however, the work of those employees will be limited exclusively to the oversight of already-awarded Recovery Act grants and the Lower Manhattan recovery efforts.

President Obama, Secretary LaHood and I sincerely hope that Congress will be able to pass a funding bill and obviate the need for all the measures cited above. Still, we want you to be fully informed of our plans so that you might be able to take measures to minimize the impact of any potential suspension of Federal assistance.

Sincerely,
Peter M. Rogoff

NEWS HEADLINES

Congress Debates Funding for FY 2011 and 2012

With a government shutdown looming as Passenger Transport went to press, legislators from both houses on Capitol Hill were presenting proposals on budgets for Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. Given the all-around push for reductions in spending, public transportation investment is still very much in flux.

FY 2011 Budget
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government was set to expire at midnight Friday, April 8. Congress must either enact another short-term CR to fund the remainder of FY 2011, or reach a compromise on a package for spending by that deadline to avert a government shutdown.

On April 5, the House Appropriations Committee filed a one-week CR that would fund the federal government through April 15. This bill proposes to reduce funding for the current year by an additional $12 billion below FY 2010 levels; President Obama has spoken forcefully against further CRs. Previous CRs have already made $10 billion in reductions government-wide. Among the reductions in the one-week CR proposed by the House are cuts in four programs critical to transit and passenger rail:

* $1.5 billion for High-Speed Rail. This proposal would reduce funding for the High-Speed Rail program from $2.5 billion provided in FY 2010 to $1 billion for FY 2011, the same level proposed in the President’s budget for this year.

* $280 million for Capital Investment Grants (New Starts). The proposal would reduce funding for the New Starts Program from $2 billion in FY 2010 to $1.72 billion in FY 2011. The bulk of these funds would come from the canceled New Jersey ARC Tunnel project.

* $3.27 million for FTA Research and University Research Centers. The proposal would reduce funding for this program from $65.67 billion in FY 2010 to $62.4 billion in FY 2011.

* $40 million for Rail and Transit Security Grants. The proposal would reduce Department of Homeland Security funding for this program from $300 million in FY 2010 to $260 million in FY 2011.

FY 2012 Budget
Nearly simultaneous with the competing proposals to fund the rest of FY 2011, Congress is also wrestling with FY 2012 budget proposals.

On April 6, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his proposed budget blueprint for FY 2012. The proposed budget resolution would reduce spending for all transportation programs by 31 percent.

The Budget Committee stated that these reductions would ensure funding for transportation programs at levels supported by trust fund receipts, avoiding the need to transfer general fund dollars into the Highway Trust Fund to keep it solvent in the near future.

The committee asserts these reductions can be made because the Government Accountability Office has reported many duplicative transportation programs.

While the proposal does not make specific recommendations on where within the transportation budget these cuts would come from, it does not recommend continued funding for high-speed rail projects.

In response to this proposal, APTA President William Millar urged the House to reject reductions on transportation investment, including public transportation and high-speed intercity passenger rail programs.

“The budget plan proposed by Chairman Ryan would place ill-conceived limits on federal investment in transportation,” said Millar. “The House budget plan needlessly restricts investment options by calling for all transportation programs to be cut 30 percent or more. This would halt thousands of projects needed in the years ahead to bring our nation’s public transportation infrastructure up to a state of good repair and build the capacity for millions of new riders.”

Millar added: “Instead of adopting limits on transportation investment, Congress needs to pass a well-funded, six-year, multimodal surface transportation bill. With gas prices rising steadily, now is not the time to place misguided restrictions on public transportation and high-speed and intercity passenger rail investment.”

The chairman’s initial Budget Resolution must be approved by the full Budget Committee and then agreed to by the full House and Senate.

Millar Testifies Before T&I Subcommittee

APTA President William Millar was one of 19 witnesses testifying April 7 before the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA). The subject of the hearing was “Railroad and Hazardous Materials Transportation Programs: Reforms and Improvements to Reduce Regulatory Burdens.”

The T&I Committee is preparing to draft major transportation and jobs legislation that will include policy reforms to improve rail and hazardous materials transportation in the U.S. “These titles will focus on improving the efficiency of programs and ensuring that the federal government does not get in the way of safe, effective transportation and flow of commerce in the United States,” Shuster said at the subcommittee hearing.

“Enacting a well-funded, six-year, multimodal surface transportation bill is one of the most important actions that this Congress can take to push our nation’s economic engine into high gear,” Millar said. “The United States must develop a fully integrated multimodal commuter and high-speed and intercity passenger rail system without denigrating our world-class rail freight system, in order to meet the rapidly expanding needs of an ever-growing and highly mobile population,” he added.

Millar, speaking on behalf of APTA, urged the subcommittee and the full T&I Committee to support President Obama’s request for $53 billion over six years to modernize the nation’s high-speed and intercity passenger rail network and to streamline the New Starts and Fixed Guideway Modernization programs to ensure efficient and timely project completion.

To read Millar's full written testimony, click here.

Also, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies has scheduled hearings for April 12 on the Federal Transit Administration budget and April 14 on the Federal Railroad Administration budget.

High-Speed Rail Federal Investment: New Report Details Impact on Job Creation

APTA recently released a report detailing the enormous impact high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects will have in driving job development across America while also rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing sector and generating billions of dollars in business sales. The report, The Case for Business Investment in High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail, focuses on key issues critical to private investors as they consider investments or future expansion into businesses serving the growing passenger rail markets.

The report reinforces the fact that investments in high-speed and intercity rail will lead to many direct and indirect benefits. For each $1 billion invested in high-speed rail projects, the analysis predicts the support and creation of 24,000 jobs. Nationally, proposed federal investment in high-speed rail over a six-year period could result in the support and creation of more than 1.3 million jobs and would serve as the catalyst for attracting state, local, and private capital, which will result in the support and creation of even more jobs.

According to the report, which was sponsored by the Business Member Board of Governors, investments in building a 21st -century rail system will lead not only to a large increase in construction jobs, but also to the sustainable, long-term growth of new manufacturing and service jobs across the country.

“It is evident that investing in high-speed and intercity rail projects presents one of the clearest and fastest ways to create green American jobs and spur long-term economic growth,” said APTA President William Millar in a conference call with the press and several APTA members on April 6.

Other participants in the media call were Jeffrey Wharton, president of IMPulse NC; Charles Wochele, vice president for industry and government relations at Alstom Transport; and Kevin McFall, senior vice president at Stacy and Witbeck Inc., a leading public transit construction firm.

“Investing in high-speed rail is essential for America as we work to build a sustainable, modern transportation system that meets the environmental and energy challenges of the future,” Millar added.

In addition to thousands of new construction jobs, investments in high-speed rail will jumpstart the U.S. economy. The Economic Development Research Group for the U.S. Conference of Mayors studied the business impact of high-speed rail investment in different urban regions. It found that in Los Angeles, for example, high-speed rail investment generates $7.6 billion in business sales, and in Chicago, $6.1 billion.

Wharton said: “U.S. businesses have been known for their cutting-edge technologies and innovations. We need to put this expertise to work, providing business and employment opportunities while catching up with the rest of the world in high-speed rail and its associated benefits.” Wharton added that America’s transportation systems are the “backbone” of the U.S. economy.

Wochele said: “We are excited about the prospect of putting Americans to work building the rail tracks and equipment that will keep America’s economic recovery moving forward. We look forward to partnering with the federal and state governments to ensure these projects get off the ground.”

“Federal high-speed rail investment is a strong driver in getting private companies to invest,” said McFall. “This program can be a shot in the arm for the manufacturing industry. These high-speed rail projects will give us the opportunity to put people to work building the rail infrastructure this country desperately needs.”

High-speed rail, he said, “is crucial to breaking the U.S. economy out of its employment slump. It’s an opportunity to put people to work building infrastructure that people need.”

The report is available here.

Radio Documentary Showcases Public Transportation

Sirius XM satellite radio is launching Passengers, an audio documentary on public transportation, this weekend. APTA sponsored the documentary, which includes interviews with many APTA members.

The first part of the two-hour documentary will air on Sirius XM Channel 134 Sunday, April 10, at 5 and 6 p.m. and Monday, April 11, at 11 p.m., and on Channel 135 on Saturday, April 9, at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. All times are Eastern. The second hour will be broadcast April 16-18.

The documentary also is being distributed to NPR stations around the country. The link to listen is here.

‘BusPlus’ Brings BRT to the Albany Area

The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) in Albany, NY, launched service April 4 on BusPlus, the first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service in upstate New York. The limited-stop bus route operates between Albany and Schenectady along Central Avenue, the region’s busiest traffic corridor.

Leaders in government, business, and the community joined CDTA representatives March 28 at an event to introduce BusPlus to the public. The new service has several aims: to provide quicker commutes for riders while reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and stimulating economic development in the Capital Region of New York State.

“We’re proud to offer this innovative mobility option for our community that will connect cities, create jobs, stimulate our economy, and improve the environment,” said CDTA Chairwoman Denise Figueroa. “BusPlus is made possible through the cooperation and support of our government representatives, transportation, community, and business partners.”

BusPlus will make only 18 stops along the 17-mile corridor, compared with 90 stops on the regular bus line that previously operated along Central Avenue. Sleek silver-and-red buses, coupled with premium stations branded as the “Fastest Way to Get Ahead,” will provide a visual signature for the BRT service.

 

CDTA Chief Executive Officer Carm Basile, right, makes Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) an honorary BusPlus Ambassador by presenting him with a BusPlus cap.

 

DOT Reaches Out to Disability Community

As part of an outreach effort to provide better access to transportation services for persons with disabilities, DOT officials met April 1 with representatives from the disability and transportation communities to discuss President Obama’s 2012 budget, answer questions, and get feedback.

Organizations participating in the event included APTA; Easter Seals Project ACTION; the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging; the National Council on Independent Living; and the National Organization on Disability. DOT employees included representatives from the Office of the Secretary; Federal Transit Administration; Office of the Inspector General; Federal Highway Administration; and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“At the Department of Transportation, we believe that America’s planes, trains, buses, and sidewalks are more than ways of getting from one place to another. They’re the avenues by which people connect with opportunities to achieve their dreams,” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “That’s why we’re laser-focused on improving everyone’s access to transportation systems.”

LaHood also referred to DOT’s proposed Transportation Leadership Awards: a $32 billion competitive grant program that would encourage states and planning organizations to develop innovative transportation systems that serve the needs of all citizens, based on merit rather than politics.

“The point is clear: all Americans deserve unfettered access to the transportation systems this great nation offers,” the secretary added. “We all deserve an equal chance to pursue employment, education, and essential services—and mobility is crucial for all of these.”

GAO: U.S. Seniors Need Transportation Services

A new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that an estimated 21 percent of U.S. residents age 65 and older are likely to need transportation services due to their inability to drive or lack of access to a vehicle.

The report is titled Older Americans Act: More Should Be Done to Measure the Extent of Unmet Need for Services.

GAO obtained the 21 percent figure by analyzing data from the 2008 Health and Retirement Study to identify adults over age 65 who reported they could not drive, could drive but lacked access to a car, or did not have access to transportation services through their living facility. Examining the data for age and sex shows other gradations: some 41 percent of people  age 80 and above are likely to need transportation services, compared to just 12 percent of ages 65-69, and the figures for women and men are 29 percent and 12 percent respectively.

The report also shows that seniors with lower incomes and lower net wealth, as measured by homeownership, had a higher need for transportation services, and that older adults with higher levels of education were less likely to need transportation services than older adults with a high school degree or less.

The text of the report is available online. The section regarding transportation needs is Appendix V.

Tampa's PBSJ Now Atkins

The PBSJ Corporation of Tampa, FL, and its PBS&J subsidiary company are now known as Atkins, effective April 1. PBSJ has operated as a national business of Atkins in North America following its acquisition in October 2010.

“The Atkins name is well known and highly respected through the United Kingdom and Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific, and in key sectors such as energy,” said Robert J. Paulsen, former chairman and president of The PBSJ Corporation and now president and regional managing director of Atkins in North America.

Atkins is the world's 11th largest design firm.

NCAA Champion: Houston METRORail


Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County provided an estimated 148,000 light rail rides to NCAA Final Four college basketball games at Reliant Stadium and related events at other venues during four days. METRORail reported the highest Saturday and Monday total since entering service in 2004, providing more than 93,000 rides on each of the two game days. Hundreds of volunteer ambassadors positioned along the Red Line greeted visitors and helped them navigate the experience.

Purchase the Royal Couple – on an Oyster Card!

Transport for London (TfL) knows what kind of crowds descend upon the city at the time of a royal wedding, and it’s doing its part by offering a limited-edition Oyster farecard commemorating the April 29 marriage of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. TfL will make the cards available beginning April 21.

Around 750,000 of the cards will be sold from all London Underground and London Overground stations. They will have the same charge as the regular Oyster: £5 deposit and at least £5 in fares.

“Just as royal wedding fever starts to take hold in the city, this fantastic commemorative Oyster card is a great chance for Londoners and visitors to have a slice of the action as a fabulous memento of the happy day,” the mayor said.

 “London’s transport network will play a key role in helping people travel to the wedding celebrations, so it is appropriate that we commemorate the day with a limited-edition Oyster card,” added London Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy.

TfL is following precedent with the issuance of a commemorative farecard. In 1981, the agency’s predecessor, London Transport, produced a unique £2 ticket in honor of the marriage of William’s parents, Charles and Diana.

Glines Dies; 40 Years in Transit Signaling

Robert H. Glines, 70, a 40-year employee of General Railway Signal Company (now part of Alstom), died March 26 in Penn Yan, NY.

Following service in the U.S. Navy, Glines joined General Railway Signal in November 1962 as a commercial engineer and retired early in December of 2003. He provided engineering, sales, and business development services for the firm and its subsequent owners, SASIB Signaling and Alstom Signaling.

Glines also held senior-level positions for such companies as Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gannett Fleming, and ended his working career as an advisor on the board of directors of ETA Transit Systems. His projects—spanning North America, Western Europe, and Japan—involved bus information systems, train control, microwave systems, public safety communications, high-speed rail, driverless transit, and Communications Based Train Control.

Glines was a member of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors for 22 years and also served on the APTA Board of Directors. He was vice chairman for passenger transportation with the Railway Progress Institute for 13 years and was a charter member of the High Speed Rail Association.

The family suggests that memorial contributions be made to the Keuka Comfort Care Home, P.O. Box 107, Penn Yan, NY 14527.

Barbour Dies; Longtime San Joaquin Board Member

James Barbour, 84, a board member of the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) in Stockton, CA, for more than 30 years, died March 24.

Barbour joined the board of what was then the Stockton Metropolitan Transit District in 1972 and concluded his years of service in March 2006—a tenure of 34 years. APTA recognized his longtime commitment to RTD and public transportation with the Outstanding Public Transit Board Member Award in 2003.

During his time on the board, Barbour served four times as its chair and five times as vice chair. His APTA activities included membership on many committees and service as vice chair-transit board members.

RTD recognized Barbour in 2005 with its John Lopez Inspirational Award, which “acknowledges outstanding achievements of such magnitude that they exceed being exceptional in one’s job, but in addition, inspire others by their significance.”

When RTD laid the cornerstone for its new Downtown Transit Center in July 2006, a few months after Barbour’s last board meeting, the agency included his name on the cornerstone plaque along with those of the current board members to commemorate his support for establishing such a transit hub.

McGlashan Dies; SMART Board Member Since 2005

Charles McGlashan, 49, vice chairman of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) Board of Directors, died March 27 of an apparent heart attack during a ski trip to Lake Tahoe.

McGlashan had served on the Marin County Board of Supervisors since 2005. He represented the Third District in the southern part of the county, which includes Mill Valley, Marin City, Belvedere, Strawberry, Sausalito, Tam Valley, and Tiburon. He was a strong supporter of environmental causes.

SMART Community Outreach Manager Chris Coursey called McGlashan “a passionate champion of the SMART project….He was front and center in the campaign to win funding for SMART in 2008, and worked tirelessly since then to keep SMART on schedule for a 2014 opening.”


AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Longtime Commuter Celebrates 22 Years of Laketran Ridership

In 1988, when Patty White began a job at KeyBank (then Ameritrust) in Cleveland, she planned on working downtown for a year, with hopes to relocate to another job closer to home. However, she discovered Laketran, the public transportation agency in Grand River, OH.

White celebrated her retirement from KeyBank—and 22 years of riding Laketran—on April 1.

“The car I had back then wasn’t really reliable, so I was a little nervous if my car could handle the 50-mile commute,” White said. She noticed a Laketran bus during her trip to work and learned that the Cleveland Commuter from Lakeland College could cut 22 miles from her daily commute.

“At first, I decided to take Laketran because I hated driving in rush hour traffic and the bus fare was cheaper, even with gas at $1.16 a gallon,” she added.

In 1995, Laketran introduced Commuter Express Route 11, starting at the firehouse parking lot in the city of Madison, OH; after outgrowing the city lot, Laketran built the Madison Park-and-Ride in 2001. “I was so grateful that my 50-mile commute was now only eight miles,” White said.

White served five years on Laketran’s Passenger Advisory Committee, representing commuter riders.

“Patty did more than attend meetings to provide us feedback on our service,” said Outreach Specialist Julia Schick. “Over the years, she volunteered her time at many community events to promote Laketran. She even threw a party for one of our drivers when he got promoted to a supervisor position.”

General Manager Ray Jurkowski added: “Lake County needs more voices like Patty’s. She has always been a cheerleader for public transportation and Laketran. Like many of our riders, she’s our eyes on the street to make sure we are doing the best to serve our customers. We’ll miss her on our Route 11 runs and wish her the best in retirement.”

“I’m not going to miss work, and I’m definitely not going to miss my commute, but I’ll definitely miss Laketran,” concluded White.

Nashville’s MTA, Partners Save Through Fuel Hedging

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, TN (Metro), and its area agency partners—including the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA)—report saving more than $1.7 million in fuel purchases because of a fuel-hedging program implemented 19 months ago.

After having to reduce some bus service levels in July 2008 because of fuel price hikes and volatility on the spot market, MTA sought a way to create budget certainty with regard to fuel prices through the use of commodity hedging. That’s when MTA approached Metro, which agreed to work to create a partnership to facilitate a fuel-hedging program.

“With fuel costs spiraling out of control and the economy in a downturn, it was becoming increasingly difficult for government and agencies to get control of our operating budgets,” said Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling. “MTA’s request for assistance gave us the impetus to try to do something about it.”

Riebeling and City of Franklin Assistant City Administrator for Finance and Administration Russ Truell, who spearheaded the development of state hedging legislation, oversaw the creation of an interagency agreement between Metro Fleet, Metro Schools, MTA, RTA, and the City of Franklin to begin the program. The partnership currently includes three contracts for gasoline and seven for diesel.

“It had always disturbed me that, other than personnel costs, our single biggest budget item was fuel purchases, and it was uncontrollable,” Truell said. He noted that fuel costs skyrocketed following the 2005 Katrina hurricane; gasoline prices eventually came down, but diesel fuel costs remained high.

“After three years of budget reductions, most government agencies no longer have budgets with any fat in them. And we do not want to be in a position to lay off police or fire department personnel just to purchase fuel as costs continue to rise,” Truell said.

Under state fuel-hedging legislation that passed the Tennessee General Assembly in spring 2009, participants can lock in prices for 24 months forward.

In May 2009, Metro and its partners locked in diesel prices for two years at $1.88 per gallon—saving a combined total of $632,811 in Fiscal Year 2009-2010. During the current fiscal year that began July 1, Metro and its partners already report saving $1.1 million.

Because of the overwhelming success of the program, the partners have signed a new fuel-hedging contract, effective July 1, 2011, that locks in prices at $2.30 per gallon through June 30, 2112.

“This is a great success story and an example of government working effectively on behalf of taxpayers to save money and operate more efficiently,” said MTA Chief Executive Officer Paul Ballard. “We see the hedging program as insurance for the unexpected. It mitigates the necessity to reduce services when fuel prices rise dramatically on the spot market and budgets are tight.”

IN DEPTH

Study: Schedule, Map Design Improvements Yield Many Benefits

BY ALASDAIR CAIN, Former Senior Research Associate (2004-2010), Center for Urban Transportation Research, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, and JUDITH LAVELLE, Lavelle Consulting Group, Greeley, CO

The public transportation industry has known that the general public may have problems using transit schedules and maps. When a study conducted by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida in Tampa found a success rate of only 52.5 percent, researchers realized that the problem was bigger than they thought.

Their response was to conduct research to help them understand the reasons why trip planning is so difficult for so many people, and to identify the design options that maximized user comprehension.

This research effort culminated in the publication of a guidebook titled Designing Printed Transit Information Materials—A Guidebook for Transit Service Providers that provided a series of recommendations and best practice examples. Transfort, the transit service provider in Fort Collins, CO, used CUTR’s research as a guide to its “design overhaul” process, which was completed in 2008.

This article summarizes the holistic approach Transfort took to revise their materials, the changes they made, and the subsequent impact of these changes on customer satisfaction and ridership.

Marketing staff evaluated the existing information materials, which had been created in-house, and identified a range of design issues and potential barriers to implementation.

With these issues in mind, Transfort conducted a design “overhaul” of its printed information materials with the following objectives:
* Increase user comprehension of the printed materials;
* Increase ridership; and
* Reduce printing costs while adding four additional routes to the printed materials.

The Five-Phase Process
Transfort developed a plan to improve the design of its materials and achieving stated objectives, taking into consideration both internal (Transfort management and staff) and external (Transfort customers) input. The process also would allow monitoring of the impacts of the redesign on customer satisfaction and ridership. The plan consisted of five project phases:

* Secure internal approval
* Identify required design changes
* Design the new materials
* Market test the new materials
* Introduce the new materials to the customers

The agency made revisions to the materials on an incremental basis, beginning in early 2007, with initial drafts circulated among management and operators before being market tested to samples of transit service users and non-users.

Major changes included providing service timing information on the route maps instead of a separate tabular schedule and summary timing information on the route map header, as well as using the new Geographic Information System overlay map format for both route and system maps, combining the accuracy of the overlay style with the clarity of the schematic style.

Impacts of the ‘Design Overhaul’
The five-phase approach contributed directly to the high level of success concerning the three key project objectives:

Increase user comprehension of the printed materials. Market research conducted on prototypes of the new materials showed significant support for new design features, such as providing timing information at selected stops on the route map (92 percent support) and summarized timing and frequency information in the route map header (87 percent support). In the weeks following implementation, Transfort operators reported much lower incidence of complaints and requests for information.

The high levels of support for these new design features, reinforced by anecdotal evidence from operators and management, all point to higher levels of comprehension made possible by the new materials.

Increase ridership. Sixty-five percent of post-implementation survey respondents said they rode the bus more than they did the year before, when the old printed materials were in circulation; ridership increased 17 percent in the first seven months of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007. While we cannot be certain of a direct connection between these impacts and the revised materials, they do point to the existence of a causal relationship between material design improvements and ridership increases, even without the associated fare incentives that were a feature of other documented studies.

Reduce printing costs while adding four additional routes to the schedule book. Despite adding the four new routes, Transfort rearranged its route information into a more consolidated format that reduced overall document space requirements. This resulted in a new full-color, 24-page publication that cost 32 cents each—a 26 percent reduction in net costs, which in turn allowed for a new policy of printing schedules twice instead of once a year.

The agency was also successful in integrating the semi-annual publication of the schedule book with an agreement with Transfort management to make service changes only twice per year. This meant that the schedule book would now always be fully consistent with actual service, dramatically improving the ability of customers to successfully plan their transit trips.

Concluding Remarks and Recommendations
As well as consulting available resources on material design, it is recommended that transit agencies considering a design overhaul consult both their transit agency staff and the local riding and non-riding population. This allows both “real world” awareness of local design problems and potential solutions to inform the design process and encourages staff to become invested in the success of the redesign process; operations staff are often responsible for schedule design and budgeting.

The Transfort experience also shows that a major redesign must be accompanied by a marketing campaign that publicizes the upcoming changes and explains why they were made, thus reducing confusion during the transition.

While this project demonstrated that a design overhaul can improve customer satisfaction and reduce printing costs, there is still a major shortage of information on the impact of a printed material design overhaul on service usage. A commitment to targeted market research studies and ridership tracking before and after the design overhaul would help each transit agency—and the industry as a whole—fully understand and quantify the costs and benefits associated with the redesign process.

This article is a summary of the full research paper titled “A Five Phase Approach to Improving the Design of Printed Transit Information Materials and Monitoring their Impact on Customer Satisfaction,” which will be published in the Transportation Research Board’s Transportation Research Record later this year. The guidebook mentioned at the start of the article, and other supplementary information on its development, is available here.

 

 

Transfort's original system route map format. The schedule appeared separately.

The redesign combined the schedules and time points with the specifics of an individual route. 


APTA NEWS

Business Networking Breakfast Returns to APTA Bus Conference

APTA business members will have the chance to make new business contacts and establish partnerships at a breakfast session Monday, May 23, as part of the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference in Memphis, TN.

“Last year’s breakfast at the bus conference was so successful, we didn’t have enough space in the room to accommodate everyone,” recalled Huelon Harrison, chair of the APTA Business Member Small Business Committee. “We’ve got a bigger room this year in Memphis, and I’m confident that there will be a lot of important new connections established again this year. It’s become a ‘must attend’ event for APTA business members at the bus conference.”

The Business Member Board of Governors established the networking breakfast for business members to help facilitate new partnerships between APTA’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and small business members and prime contractors looking for new suppliers and subcontractors. In a survey of last year’s participants at the bus conference breakfast, 71 percent of respondents reported making new contacts; 52 percent noted having discussions about working with their new contacts; and 29 percent said they had gotten new work or new business partners as a result of their participation.

“The survey is helping us improve this year’s breakfast for our members,” Harrison said. “We learned that advance information on what companies will be at the breakfast, what the companies do, and what certifications DBEs and small business have, would help our members make better use of their time at the breakfast. So this year we’re asking companies to register in advance.”

People wishing to attend the breakfast must register by April 27; registration information is available online. The Business Member Activity Fund supports the breakfast, so there is no charge for attendees. A similar event will be held at the APTA Rail Conference, June 12-15 in Boston.

Additional information is available from Fran Hooper.

Award Nominations Due April 22

The nomination deadline for the 2011 APTA Awards is April 22.

The awards, to be presented in October during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and International Public Transportation EXPO, recognize public transportation professionals and agencies that serve as outstanding role models of excellence, leadership, and innovation whose accomplishments have greatly advanced public transportation.

This year’s award categories are: Outstanding Public Transportation Manager; Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member; Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member; Distinguished Service; Hall of Fame; Innovation; and Outstanding Public Transportation System, presented in several size categories.

More information about the awards program is available here or from Erin Cartwright.

 

Barrington Receives Scholarship

Last month, Glenn Barrington, operations manager at UMass Transit Services in Amherst, MA, received the American Public Transportation Foundation’s Frank Lichtanski Scholarship for 2011.

The scholarship—named in memory of the longtime head of Monterey-Salinas Transit in Monterey, CA—provides $2,500 in tuition support for an eligible candidate from a small or medium-sized transit agency to attend the Eno Center for Transportation Leadership’s Transit Executive Seminar.

Barrington began his career at UMass Transit Services as a bus driver. He worked as a contract manager for Ryder Student Transportation Services and has served as operations manager at the agency since 1992.

The Eno Center has designed the Transit Executive Seminar to meet the specific needs of senior-level leaders in transit agencies. The week-long course, being offered in April and July, will help participants strengthen their leadership capacity and broaden their industry perspective.

Applications for the course and the Frank Lichtanski Scholarship may be found online. Questions about the Eno Transit Executive Seminar may be addressed to Lindsey Robertson, director of meetings and programs.

Submit Multimodal Proposals Now

The APTA Multimodal Operations Planning Subcommittee invites all APTA members to submit abstract proposals by April 19 for presentations at the 2011 Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop, Aug. 15-17 in Seattle. The Call for Presentations forms are available here.

Suggested topics for presentations include:
* Scheduling for Efficiency and Effectiveness
* Redesigning Routes
* Facilities
* Bus Rapid Transit: A Variety of Flavors and Operating Experiences
* Technological Advances in Vehicles and Service Levels
* Mobility Management
* Expedited Service Strategies

More information is available from Kevin Dow.

Amtrak’s Engel Stresses Importance of High-Speed Rail in U.S.

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

“The rest of the world has been investing in high-speed rail, with more than 8,000 miles of high-speed rail globally,” said Albrecht (Al) Engel, vice president, high-speed rail, for Amtrak. “In a global economy, multinational companies will invest where they have the best mobility.”

Engel emphasized the importance of a high-speed rail network in the U.S. and his vision of how to accomplish that goal when he spoke April 5 at a Transportation Tuesday program in the APTA offices in Washington, DC. He acknowledged President Obama’s support for high-speed rail—saying: “It’s wonderful to have a president who speaks for this.”

“I think Amtrak is the best path to high-speed rail,” Engel said. He noted that its Acela service already moves at high speed—150 miles per hour—in the Northeast Corridor between New York City and Boston, although it is far slower than lines in Europe and Asia that may top 200 mph.

He cited statistics showing the efficient and affordable service provided by Amtrak: the system has seen record ridership for the past six years; it recovers more than 76 percent of its costs from the farebox; 69 percent of travelers in the New York-Washington market travel by either rail or air; and the Northeast Corridor supports 722,000 rides each day on both Amtrak and commuter rail.

One structural challenge facing true high-speed rail in the corridor, however, is that the newest part of the rail line is 75 years old and many rail bridges have operated for more than a century. Outdated infrastructure is a primary cause of bottlenecks, he explained.

“We’re building for our grandchildren,” Engel said, “but at the same time we don’t want you to wait 30 years for a high-speed rail network. We want to make stairstep increases that you can see.”

COMMENTARY

Every Day Should Be Earth Day for the Transit Industry

BY KEVIN DESMOND

For 40 years, the transit industry has joined with others to celebrate Earth Day. This started long before the word “sustainability” entered our vocabulary.

As transportation providers, our commitment to sustainability must be more than a one-day celebration, because it touches on everything we do. It starts with our employees and carries through to our fleet, facilities, technology, marketing, legislation, policy, and planning.

In these days of dwindling resources and growing concern about public spending, a commitment to sustainability is also a commitment to adding value to limited transportation dollars. If we invest in and emphasize sustainability principles, our organizations are more efficient in the long term and better support sustainable community development.

If our goal as an industry—and as individual citizens—is to create livable communities, we must start with a bottom-up approach within our own organizations. Every employee must have a role. Teach bus drivers to limit idling for better fuel efficiency. Train mechanics to close garage doors. Turn off lights when we leave our own offices.

Local action is more effective than trying to legislate down from the federal level. At King County Metro Transit, which serves the Seattle metropolitan region, we see mitigating climate change as critically necessary. Operating fuel-efficient vehicles, applying sustainable practices at facilities, and reducing energy consumption all save us money.

Plus, transportation accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Washington State. Our transit services are seen as increasingly relevant and valuable as the region and state work to cut emissions by reducing vehicle trips.

Our agency is part of the larger King County government, which gives Metro a broad-based policy framework for its many programs and initiatives under the sustainability heading. These policies are firmly embedded in our mission and strategic plan.

As county departments plan, work, and execute together, we learn from one another, share tools, and get a bigger bang for our buck. It’s important to have policies and actions that go hand-in-hand to provide both a structure and an impetus to make real change.

Many of King County’s policies rely heavily on transit strategies. In turn, Metro uses countywide policies as a guide for developing operational programs and planning strategies. For example:

* By the end of 2011, almost 50 percent of Metro’s fleet will be hybrid diesel-electric buses or all-electric trolleys. This supports the county’s goal to reduce energy consumption 10 percent in all vehicles by 2015. And, it reduces transportation emissions by incorporating the latest low or no-emissions technologies.

* King County promotes innovative vehicle technology with a focus on electric vehicles. We are adding 20 Nissan Leaf vehicles to Metro’s commuter van program, and support private use of electric vehicles by locating charging stations in park-and-rides. We also received a federal grant to purchase a prototype battery-powered electric bus.

* Metro monitors utility consumption with software that records billing and usage monthly. We use that information to develop trend lines for active management of electricity, natural gas, and water. Through constant monitoring, we broaden employee awareness of consumption levels and identify opportunities to reduce costs.

* We work with cities, employers, and community groups to change travel behavior to meet statewide trip-reduction goals. Metro delivers and refines services to integrate its countywide bus network with regional bus and rail services to expand mobility options and increase transit mode share, especially during peak hours when vehicle emissions are highest.

* King County was one of the first in Washington State to link climate policies with land use. This includes partnering on transit-oriented development projects, setting emissions-reduction targets, providing technical assistance on Green Building standards, and helping guide climate change programs. As required by county policy, Metro uses Green Building standards for design and construction. Our new Communications and Control Center is a LEED Gold Certified building, and a new operating base is being built to the same standard.

* Metro’s Facilities staff has implemented “green cleaning” techniques at operating and maintenance buildings, including the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Green cleaning includes not only the products used, but also policies, procedures, and training to clean with less impact on human health and the environment. In 2010, due to innovative changes in trash collection, we recycled more than 100 tons of waste rather than dump it in landfills.

* We routinely seek inventive public-private partnerships. These range from sharing the cost of new bus routes with cities to sponsoring neighborhood-level “In Motion” programs, which offer incentives through local businesses to increase the use of transit, carpooling, bicycling, and footpower. We also work with utility companies on energy projects that leverage our dollars through incentive rebates.

These are just a few examples of what we are doing here in Seattle. Around the world, we can see that quality transit services are the foundation for sustainability.

Enriching our communities with sustainable transportation makes them more competitive in attracting people and businesses. They become communities that work—not stagnate.

We all benefit from more energy-efficient vehicles and buildings, more access to jobs and education, and more livable and sustainable communities. Don’t set sustainability off in a corner and dust it off once a year for Earth Day. It must be integrated into everything we do every day.

Kevin Desmond is general manager of King County Metro Transit in Seattle and chairs APTA’s Sustainability Committee.