Passenger Transport - May 6, 2011
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BREAKING NEWS

Millar Addresses Security Threats to Public Transit Operations; Cites Need for Increased Funding

In a statement released May 6, APTA President William Millar addresses reports that Osama bin Laden had considered targeting U.S. public transportation infrastructure in future attacks.

“This intelligence discovery reinforces what we have known for many years—transportation is the terrorists’ favorite target,” Millar said. “The threat to public transportation still clearly exists and the federal government needs to step up to the plate and adequately fund our nation’s public transportation security needs. Transit security is national security and national security is the responsibility of the federal government.”

He called for “a strong partnership” between public transit agencies and the federal government, including adequate security investment, “to make sure that the millions of people who use public transportation are as safe and secure as practical.”

NEWS HEADLINES

Transit Ballot Initiatives Pass in Ohio and Michigan

Voters approved six transportation-related ballot measures in elections May 3. Five of the measures, all in Michigan, were property tax renewals or increases, while the other, in Stark County, OH, was a sales tax renewal.

The Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) in Canton, OH, will continue operating at its current level thanks to voters throughout Stark County who renewed the current 0.25 percent sales tax for another five years. The vote, according to preliminary counts, was 67 percent in favor of the measure and 33 percent opposed.

The sales tax—originally passed in 1997 and renewed in 2002 and 2006—expires in June 2012, and the renewal will extend it through June 2017. It provides 74 percent of the agency’s operating budget and is expected to generate about $11 million each year.

Prior to the election, SARTA had said it would have had to shut down had the measure not passed.

In Grand Rapids, MI, a measure to increase the current five-year, 1.12-mill property tax levy by 0.35 mills for the Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) passed by a preliminary margin of 136 votes. Voters in Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids came out strongly in favor of the ballot issue, overcoming its defeat in Grandville, Walker, Wyoming, and Kentwood.

“I think it’s telling, in this difficult time, that we were still able to pass a millage increase to provide service improvements, and that we’re able to move forward with the first fixed guideway project in Michigan because of it. We’re looking at a future that is much brighter than yesterday,” said Peter Varga, executive director of The Rapid.

The levy will now total 1.47 mills for seven years, eventually raising $15.6 million annually. Varga said The Rapid plans to make improvements gradually, beginning with hiring additional bus operators, then purchasing 17 new buses to improve weekday bus peak frequency to 15 minutes on some routes and extension of the Cross County Connector to the agency’s central station, and ultimately introducing Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit service on Division Avenue.

The other property tax measures in Michigan included renewal of a 0.4-mill levy to fund the Macatawa Area Transit Authority in Holland, which passed with more than 76 percent of the vote; a 0.5-mill property tax renewal and restoration for local bus service in Benzie County, approved by three quarters of county voters; in Kalkaska County, 72 percent in favor of renewing a five-year, 0.25-mill levy for the county’s public transit authority; and a 0.95-mill property tax increase for Harbor Transit and road/bridge investment in Grand Haven Township, which received 59 percent of the vote.

 

Photo by Cory Morse, The Grand Rapids Press

Jubilant voters celebrate in Grand Rapids, MI. 

As Gas Prices Increase, So Does Transit Use; Nationwide, Agencies Weigh In

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Many U.S. public transportation agencies are watching their ridership increase as gasoline prices skyrocket—but no two systems are seeing exactly the same situation. With experts predicting a continued rise in gas prices, in future issues Passenger Transport will track how this affects ridership. Here are a few recent examples from across the nation.

Chuck Cohen, executive director of Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, described how March ridership on his system’s buses was 11 percent higher than the previous March. “Certainly, the rising gas prices can be a reason for some of that ridership increase,” he said. “There’s no question: if you look at our ridership during the year, it has spiked recently.”

Cohen also said Palm Tran has dealt with buses packed to capacity on an occasional basis in the past, but this situation is becoming more usual. “Luckily, it doesn’t happen every day,” he said, “but the buses are fuller, we’re seeing a lot more standees.”  For the longer term, the agency is beginning to look at options such as possibly purchasing articulated buses.

The North County Transit District in Oceanside, CA, gives rising gasoline prices—currently well above $4 per gallon in California—much of the credit for its noteworthy ridership growth. Alex Wiggins, communications director, cited his agency’s March statistics: ridership on Coaster commuter rail was 13.7 percent higher than in March 2010, while Sprinter light rail showed an 8.2 percent increase. Breeze bus ridership grew by 1.7 percent for the month.

“I see little doubt that high gas prices are helping to drive the ridership numbers up,” Wiggins noted. “In addition, we took a creative step and lowered our fares for Coaster and buses; the fare media for our buses also can be used for Sprinter.”

In Nashville, TN, both the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) reported a continuing trend of growth.

RTA ridership in March was 39 percent higher than the same month in 2010, including 48 percent growth on its buses and 40 percent on Music City Star commuter rail, which reported a record 25,321 passenger trips. MTA’s bus routes provided almost 13 percent more trips in March 2011 than in March 2010.

Paul Ballard, chief executive officer of MTA and RTA, cited the fuel price situation as a major reason for the increased ridership, but not the only one. “We had a tough winter here with a number of snowstorms,” he explained, “and people began using our services and stayed with them after the weather improved.”

He also cited the area’s Easy Ride program, through which employers subsidize their employees’ commute with transit passes.

The Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) in Research Triangle Park, NC, reported a 21 percent ridership increase in March compared with the same month in 2010, resulting in the largest number of rides in a single month in the system’s history: 124,277. The previous high occurred in October 2008, during the last increase in gasoline prices.

“We’re finding that we have more people riding us now when our fuel prices are lower now than they were in 2008,” said TTA Communications Officer Brad Schulz, explaining that gas prices in his region are at $3.80-3.85 a gallon, not yet above $4 as they were in 2008. “We think that speaks to the current economic condition: more people are seeing transit and the economic savings they can reap from using transit.”

Schulz noted that TTA has added service and expanded its service area since the last time gas prices rose: “We feel that’s also had an impact because people are finding transit more accessible to them than it was before. We feel that the economic condition, the cost of fuel, and our ability to provide service in areas we did not serve several years ago have actually benefited us.”

Ray Amoruso, chief of planning for Hampton Roads Transit in Hampton, VA, speculated that, “given the tight job economy and job market, more people are coming back to transit, perhaps not using a second car. Higher fuel prices may mean that drivers are becoming more judicious in their use of transit.”

House Hearing Examines Transit Security

On May 4, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Securing Our Nation’s Mass Transit Systems Against a Terrorist Attack.” As noted by Chairman Peter T. King (R-NY), “a successful attack on a train or bus in one of our cities would not only injure or kill innocent passengers, but would also have devastating economic implications across the country. We need to examine and address the vulnerabilities that exist.”

He continued: “We must ensure that our highest-risk mass transit systems receive the funding and assistance they need from the federal government…Each day, millions of Americans rely on our nation’s mass transit systems, which present security challenges due to their many access points and minimal passenger screening.”

Richard L. Rodriguez, president of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), testified how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recognized his organization’s results in a comprehensive security inspection program for public transit agencies. “Our system received high scores across all [17] BASE (Baseline Assessment for Security Enhancement) categories, which very few transit systems have achieved,” he said.

He reported on the security upgrades CTA has implemented with the help of DHS grants, such as high-resolution digital security cameras in all 144 of the system’s rail stations and, in the future, inside rail cars, and Transportation Security Administration resources including Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams and dogs from the Explosive Detection Canine Team Program.

Regarding the risk of attack facing public transportation systems, Rodriguez said: “In a free country, there is no such thing as a closed and perfect system. Transit systems across the country are inherently open environments designed to move people quickly to their destinations. It is a careful balance to strike between security and personal mobility—but we feel that we have found a good balance. We are determined to make our system as safe and user-friendly as possible, and to provide ready transportation consistent with the commitment to safety.”

Daniel O. Hartwig, deputy chief of police-operations with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Police Department, testified that BART completed four threat/vulnerability assessments with three government agencies and one private security firm soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and immediately invested capital funds to improve its security infrastructure.

“Today we continue to use Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) funds, as well as other local, state, and federal funds, to strategically and methodically eliminate identified vulnerabilities from the previously mentioned threat/vulnerability assessments,” he said.

John S. Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, and W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reported on their programs designed to secure and safeguard public transportation and passenger rail operations, including TSGP funds and VIPR teams.

“Determinations about where to locate resources are based on risk and various mass transit and passenger rail assessments. In all of our programs, we are committed to strengthening local and state efforts while working collaboratively with our private sector partners,” they stated in their joint testimony.

Also testifying at the hearing was Richard Daddario, deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, New York City Police Department.

U.S. High-Speed Rail Practicum: Experts Share Views at International Forum

BY SHARON SAMBER, Special to Passenger Transport

What is the future of high-speed rail?

The theme shared May 3 at the International Practicum on High-Speed Rail in Baltimore, sponsored by APTA and the International Union of Railways (UIC), was the need to be realistic and focus on an incremental approach to bringing high-speed rail to all regions of the U.S.

Ignacio Barron de Angoiti, director of the UIC Passenger, High Speed, and Stations Department, developed the curriculum and brought together the international experts for the practicum.

From small projects in Maine and Vermont to large projects in California, connecting multiple states and supporting better networks in regions are what is needed, said Karen J. Rae, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “We have to be focused on how to design regional networks that build on a national program,” she added.

Addressing the growing travel needs in the country is going to be difficult, according to Rae, but the need to invest is great and a lot will have to be done with a little money. She cited estimates showing that the U.S. population will grow by 100 million by 2050, with most of the increase in metropolitan areas, and said: “We need to find ways to move them.”

The Obama administration has taken the first steps in the push forward of high-speed rail. In January, President Obama declared that he wanted 80 percent of Americans to have access to high-speed rail within 25 years. The contentious discussions over the federal budget during the past several months led to the elimination of Fiscal Year 2011 dollars for high-speed rail, but the industry remains optimistic about its ultimate future.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley said she was “disappointed” about the funding cuts but told the audience that “high-speed rail is one of the greatest opportunities we've had in a very, very long time.”

As 32 states and the District of Columbia prepare to go ahead with high-speed rail plans, what high-speed rail might actually mean comes into play, explained Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman. “Sometimes high-speed rail is moving from 20 to 60 miles per hour,” he said, emphasizing the importance of taking slow steps.

Amtrak would be happy to move more quickly if there were sufficient funding, Boardman said later, but since not enough money has been budgeted Amtrak will instead build on an incremental basis and show its success.

The infrastructure condition and capacity constraints are serious challenges but demand continues to grow, Boardman noted.

Acknowledging that challenges lie ahead, APTA President William Millar highlighted the excitement of high-speed rail’s future, likening it to the building of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s. High-speed rail will bring economic growth and create new jobs and its benefits far outweigh the costs, Millar told the approximately 140 attendees.

“We have to make this attractive for the private sector to invest,” Millar said.

The meeting brought together people with technical expertise from all over the world, but Millar pointed out one of the struggles is to ensure that their models fit in the context of the U.S.

Takao Nishiyama of Eastern Japan Railway Company said he was “very encouraged” by the speakers’ remarks and hoped there would be more information disseminated. “We have to wait to see a clear image of high-speed rail projects so that we can help and join,” he said.

The incremental approach “makes sense” to Steven H. Santoro of New Jersey Transit Corporation, who said he believes the federal government needs to play a big part and keep the momentum going. Peter Cannito of Booz Allen Hamilton added that industry experts have to do a better job of educating the policy makers.

The focus on regional networks was met with enthusiasm as well. W. Robert Moore of Quandel Consultants LLC—a project manager of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a 15-year study of intercity passenger rail—said he believes the Midwest is tailor-made for an integrated system.

People look at one or two states but they need to look at multi-state projects, agreed John G. Haussmann of HDR Engineering Inc. of Walnut Creek, CA. National and state government leaders will now look at systems and the federal government can take charge.

“The stage is set now,” he said.

 

event photos by toddparolaphotography

Ignacio Barron de Angoiti, left, director of the UIC Passenger, High Speed, and Stations Department, speaks with APTA President William Millar at the practicum, which UIC co-sponsored with APTA.



 

Mayors’ Survey: Target Infrastructure Funds

A 176-city survey released May 3 by the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) calls on the federal government to give priority to metropolitan areas—home to two-thirds of U.S. residents—regarding transportation infrastructure investment.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, chair of the USCM Transportation Committee, delivered the survey findings during a recent event at the National Press Club in Washington.

“As the federal government sets priorities for long-term spending and deficit reduction, future transportation infrastructure investments should focus spending on pressing metropolitan transportation infrastructure needs as opposed to low-priority highway expansion projects such as the infamous Bridge to Nowhere,” Reed said, adding: “The long-term productivity of transportation infrastructure spending is greater when it is invested where economic growth will occur, which is in the metropolitan areas.”

Among the major findings of the USCM Metropolitan Transportation Infrastructure survey are:

* Ninety-eight percent of the mayors point to investment in affordable, reliable transportation as an important part of their cities’ economic recovery and growth;

* Ninety-three percent urge reforms in federal transportation programs to allow cities and their metropolitan areas to receive a greater share of federal funds directly;

* Absent a greater share of funding directly to cities and metropolitan areas, only 7 percent of the mayors indicate support to increase the federal gas tax;

* Ninety-six percent believe the federal government should increase spending on transportation infrastructure to reverse decades of underinvestment in cities, with strong majorities indicating support to increase the federal gas tax to improve transportation infrastructure, if a greater share of the funding were invested in local road and bridge infrastructure (89 percent) and public transit (65 percent);

* Seventy-five percent of the mayors indicate support to increase the federal gas tax if a greater share of the funding were invested in bicycle and pedestrian projects;

* Eighty percent of the mayors indicate that highway expansion should be a low priority; and

* Seventy-five percent say a national infrastructure bank or expanded availability of federal financing tools such as Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) or Build America Bonds would accelerate or increase the number of transportation projects that could be implemented.

The full text of the report is available here.

Rogoff Presents FFGA Funds for Twin Cities

Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), visited St. Paul, MN, April 26 to present a ceremonial check for half the cost of Metro Transit’s Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Full Funding Grant Agreement between FTA and the Metropolitan Council contractually commits the federal government to paying $478 million, or half the total cost of $957 million.

“The federal grant commitment of $478 million is the largest federal grant ever received in Minnesota for a transportation project,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Sue Haigh. “With this agreement with the Federal Transit Administration, the Twin Cities region will have generated more than $1 billion in FTA grants, including $364 million for Hiawatha [light rail], $157 million for Northstar [commuter rail], and $478 million for Central Corridor.”

“This project truly embodies the president’s vision for winning the future through infrastructure investment. It will create thousands of construction jobs now while paving the way for many thousands of jobs that will come to the Twin Cities through the economic development successes surrounding the new rail line,” Rogoff said during the event at the Harold E. Stassen Building in St. Paul. The building overlooks the light rail route and the future site of the Capitol East Station.

The remainder of funding for the Central Corridor comes from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, 30 percent; the state, 9 percent; Ramsey County, 7 percent; Hennepin County, 3 percent; and less than 1 percent from the Metropolitan Council, the city of St. Paul, and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

Metro Transit anticipates that weekday ridership on the line will exceed 40,000 by 2030, providing access to nearly 300,000 jobs in the two downtowns, at the University of Minnesota, and in the neighborhoods in between.

The 11-mile Central Corridor LRT line will return light rail service to University Avenue, where trolleys operated continuously from December 1890 to Oct. 31, 1953.

Initial planning activities for the new line date back to 1981, and service is scheduled to begin in 2014. The light rail line will connect with the Hiawatha LRT line at the Metrodome Station in Minneapolis and with Northstar commuter rail at the new Target Field Station.

 

Participants in the FFGA signing for Metro Transit’s Central Corridor Light Rail Transit line include, from left: Metro Transit General Manager Brian Lamb; Program Director Mark Fuhrmann of New Starts rail projects in the Twin Cities; Metropolitan Council Regional Administrator Pat Born; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak; state Rep. Alice Hausman; St. Paul City Council Member Melvin Carter; St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter; Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton; Met Council Chair Susan Haigh; Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, also head of the Counties Transit Improvement Board; Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN); Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough; former Met Council Chair Peter Bell; and Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega.

COTA Opens Mobility Services Facility


Visitors examine the Assessment Center at the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) Mobility Services Facility in Columbus, OH, which hosted grand opening ceremonies April 27. Speakers at the event included Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman and APTA President William Millar. The new 104,000-square-foot facility—designed to qualify for Silver LEED certification—houses operations, maintenance, and administrative functions for Mainstream, COTA’s demand-response service for persons with disabilities. The federal government provided 85 percent of the funding for the $21.7 million project, including $5.1 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds.

Des Moines’ Miller Takes St. Petersburg Job

Brad Miller, the first general manager of the nearly five-year-old Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) in Des Moines, IA, is joining the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg, FL, as its new chief executive officer, effective July 5.

Miller came to Des Moines in July 2006 just as DART, the state’s first regional transit authority, was created out of the former Metropolitan Transit Agency. He has overseen a staff of more than 250 employees, a fleet of more than 150 buses, and approximately 100 vanpools. PSTA operates 205 buses on 37 routes and provided more than 13.1 million passenger trips in 2010, about three times DART’s annual bus ridership.

Prior to serving in Des Moines, Miller was assistant chief operating officer with the Charlotte Area Transit System in Charlotte, NC, for six years, managing all service operations, development, and planning for the LYNX light rail line.

Miller is a 1999 graduate of Leadership APTA and an at-large director on the APTA Board of Directors. He also serves as secretary of the APTA Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee and a member of the Bus Operations Committee; Bus Safety Committee; Commuter Rail Committee; Legislative Committee; and Mid-Size Operations Committee.

AECOM Names Dionisio Chairman of Board

AECOM has named John M. Dionisio chairman of its board of directors, effective Oct. 1. He joined the company in 1971 and has served as president and chief executive officer since 2005; he will also continue to serve as CEO.

Dionisio succeeds Richard G. Newman, founder and chairman emeritus of AECOM, to become the third chairman in the company’s 21-year history. Newman will continue working with the board and management team as vice chairman and board member.

“AECOM is well positioned to capitalize on the significant change that we are seeing in our markets as we pursue new growth opportunities across our end markets and around the world,” said Dionisio. “I am honored to be appointed chairman, and I look forward to continuing to work with the board, and our management team, to advance our global growth strategy.”

In addition, AECOM appointed Jane A. Chmielinski chief operating officer and president of the Americas and Frederick W. Werner president, corporate development.

Chmielinski joined the company in 1993 and has served as executive vice president in charge of Americas operations, and chief corporate officer, since 2009. In her new post, she will be responsible for all AECOM operations while continuing to oversee AECOM’s business in the Americas.

Werner will take the lead client-facing role for the firm as it looks to seize new opportunities associated with large, multi-national clients, new mega projects, and evolving changes in procurement and delivery of projects globally.

How Did Transit Agencies Celebrate Earth Day?

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, public transportation agencies throughout the U.S. hosted celebrations and provided incentives for their communities to go green by using transit. Here are a few examples of APTA members spreading the word about the green benefits of public transit.

Broward County Transit (BCT) in Pompano Beach, FL, introduced a video titled “Go Green with Broward County Transit” on April 22. The video, available at the agency's web site, reiterates the agency’s commitment to contributing to cleaner air through its investment in hybrid-electric and articulated buses.

“Riding BCT, and other forms of public transportation, is one of the most effective actions individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint. And as gas prices continue to rise, we are encouraging individuals to make the switch to BCT today. Together, we can do our part—one bus ride at a time,” said Tim Garling, director of BCT and host of the video.


The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit District (MARTA) showcased its newest green project—the federally funded Laredo Bus Facility solar canopy installation—during its “Green-A-Palooza” April 15 at the Edgewood/Candler Park Rail Station. Once completed, the installation will be the largest structure of its kind in Georgia and the second largest at a U.S. transit system.

The solar panels will generate enough electricity to offset a significant portion of the Laredo facility’s annual electricity consumption and will have the same environmental benefit as planting more than 285 acres of trees a year. This innovative and effective initiative will further enhance MARTA’s growing sustainability program, which already includes clean fuel buses, water reclamation and harvesting operations, the installation of LED lighting, and a waste recycling program.
 

Because environmental awareness is an ongoing activity, Valley Metro in Phoenix helped promote bicycling events throughout April, Valley Bike Month, as part of the valley’s Clean Air Campaign. The effort included the Great Bike Chase—a bike expo and safety rodeo held in conjunction with a baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants—and Bike to Work Day on April 20.


The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside, CA, invited passengers to send proof that they rode the bus between April 18 and 22—a validated Day Pass, 7-Day Pass, or 30-Day Pass—to enter in a drawing for a free 30-Day Pass.

“Public transportation has been at the forefront of clean-fuels technology for more than a decade, and agencies such as RTA are continually working together to make the industry cleaner and greener,” said RTA Chairman Bob Buster. “Taking public transportation makes sense on Earth Day or any other day. It puts extra cash in your pocket, reduces stress, and helps our environment.”

Echoing Buster’s comments was Kathleen Rogers, president of the Earth Day Network. “Using mass transit is one of the easiest and most economical ways people can ‘act green,’ especially given surging gas prices,” she said. “We are delighted to count Riverside Transit Agency as an important member of our Billion Acts of Green campaign for Earth Day 2011.”


The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) distributed 5,000 free tickets at the April 21 BART Blue Sky Festival, held at Justin Herman Plaza at the corner of the Embarcadero and Market Street in San Francisco, near the Embarcadero BART Station. Dozens of eco-exhibitors took part in the event, which featured samples of healthy and organic food and live music.

Costumed penguin and polar bear characters, which represent species potentially endangered by global warming, greeted people during the event to acknowledge how, every weekday, BART riders keep four million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the environment.


In Tampa, FL, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) commemorated Earth Day by inviting passengers to “Ride Free with a Friend.” According to HART, riding public transportation for just one day will reduce the rider’s carbon footprint by 20 pounds.


Laketran in Painesville Township, OH, near Cleveland, added a Gas Saving Calculator to its home page on Earth Day. The calculations take into account commute distance, vehicle miles per gallon, and monthly parking fees downtown, then compare the savings to the purchase of a Laketran 31-day commuter express ticket for $135. Cleveland commuters can save $1,500 to $2,000 annually by riding Laketran.


As part of Earth Week in southwestern Florida, LeeTran in Fort Myers, FL, provided free rides April 19 for “Try Transit Day” and reported a 42 percent ridership increase over the same Tuesday in 2010, or 15,359 rides compared with 10,814. The figure was 30 percent above the 11,841 rides provided the previous day.

Agency staff reported helping a number of new riders navigate the system, saying that many were pleasantly surprised at the speed and ease of their commute.

For example, airport employee Martha Suarez wrote a thank-you note to LeeTran regarding her trip from Cape Coral, which included a transfer at the Bell Tower Shops.

 

 

The Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) in Albany, NY, showed its support of Earth Day and environmentally sustainable practices by unveiling the U.S. Postal Service’s new “Go Green” stamps. From left are Albany Postmaster Joseph Finan, Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and CDTA Chief Executive Officer Carm Basile. CDTA Travel Trainers also provided Earth Day information at events for New York State DOT employees and the public, and participated in a press conference and bicycle parade in Albany.

Ron Kilcoyne, center, chief executive officer of Greater Bridgeport Transit (GBT) in Bridgeport, CT, joined riders in signing the agency’s 2011 Sustainability Pledge as Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) stand by; the three officials also participated in a live radio broadcast. GBT’s other Earth Day activities included participating in a “Party for the Planet” at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, giveaways of reusable grocery bags and red maple tree saplings, and a food drive for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

 

 

Intercity Transit in Olympia, WA, distributed “Undriver’s Licenses” at green-themed community events surrounding Earth Day. People receive the “licenses” when they make a pledge to use transportation alternatives and skip using the car. The agency’s other Earth Day activities included a presentation on transportation and green building processes at the South Sound Green Tour Eco Expo and participation in a sustainability panel discussion during a forum at South Puget Sound Community College.

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority held an Earth Day open house—featuring local band Conjunto Los Pinkys—at the North Lamar Transit Center in Austin, TX. Bus operator Deanna Jackson and Field Supervisor Don Earle join in the promotional effort.

 

St. Louis Metro Donates Passes to Tornado Victims

In the aftermath of tornadoes in mid-April that buried personal vehicles under debris, Metro in St. Louis has donated 1,000 transit passes to St. Louis County for distribution to residents who do not have other means of transportation. The program serves the cities of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Berkeley, Dellwood, Moline Acres, Riverview, and St. Ann.

Each pass is good for two hours on MetroBus and MetroLink light rail, and can be used to allow people who have no other way to travel to reach such important destinations as banks, pharmacies, and grocery stores. United Way is overseeing the distribution program.

Also, on the night of the storm, Metro provided assistance in the transport of nursing home residents to area shelters.

Rep. Walsh Visits MCI Plant

Motor Coach Industries (MCI) recently welcomed Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) to its Schaumburg, IL, corporate offices. Walsh—a new member of the 112th Congress and chair of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access—addressed the MCI employees and took questions at a mini town hall-style meeting.

 

RTD Gives a Shout Out to Its Peeps


Who knew that Peeps—the iconic little marshmallow chicks and bunnies that appear in all colors around Easter—ride public transportation?

The Marketing Department of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) received a honorable mention in the Denver Post’s Fourth Annual Peeps Diorama Contest for its depiction of a “Peeple Mover” bus in front of Denver Union Station. The diorama shows Peeps in various outfits riding an RTD bus. One passenger holds an “EcoPeep,” a play on RTD’s EcoPass, while another reads the agency’s Read-n-Ride newsletter. The sign on the side of the bus reads: “Transit Peeps: Here a peep… There a peep… Everywhere a peep, peep!”

“The Peep is a metaphor for our community,” said Daria Serna, RTD’s manager of public relations. “As the public transit system for the Denver metro area, we’re moving Peeple, or rather people, from place to place. This was just a fun way to illustrate ourselves as part of our community.”

Serna continued: “Our goal was to entertain people and to get our message out in a new way, to inject a little levity into the importance of public transit and to show the positive impact it has on the environment and Peeple’s lives. It also helps illustrate how riding the bus and light rail can be fun.”

She noted that creating the diorama was a fun-filled, last-minute creative challenge for RTD’s Marketing Department, which strategizes and executes promotion of bus and light rail services across all media.

To see the other winners of the Peeps contest, click here.

APTA NEWS

APTA Adopts New Sustainability Guidelines for Public Transit Operations

In the spirit of Earth Day, APTA released its most recently adopted standard: the Transit Sustainability Guidelines, derived from best practices at home and around the world.

Original funding for the initiative came from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Innovations Grant to the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in 2006.

“We have to make American public transport systems work for Americans, not just lecture people about the environmental benefits of transit,” said Tian Feng, BART’s chief architect, who was the founder of this initiative and editor of the document.

Noting that America’s transit industry is at a critical juncture, Feng continued, “innovations in customer service and integration with community development are vital. The automobile industry succeeded in making cars a prime form of mobility in America, and government became the builder and operator of the automobile-based transportation infrastructure.”

Feng concluded: “We believe the application and implementation of the guidelines will lead to a renaissance of American public transportation where more and more transit systems offer enjoyable, timely, and safer transportation solutions.”

According to Timonie Hood, the EPA innovation project manager: “The guidelines represent a holistic approach to transit sustainability covering design through operations and maintenance. The combined environmental benefit of making American transit systems greener and more rider-friendly will make our communities more sustainable and dramatically reduce pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy consumption.”

Primary objectives of the sustainability guidelines include:

* Improving mobility and creating livable communities through facilitating more environmentally friendly forms of mobility, such as walking, biking, and public transit, and increasing the number of routine destinations that are safely and comfortably accessible through these modes;

* Reducing per capita automobile vehicle miles traveled (VMT);

* Reducing stress, loss of productivity, traffic deaths and injuries, and related health-care costs caused by automobile travel;

* Reducing passenger transportation-generated greenhouse gases and energy consumption; and

* Reducing passenger transportation-caused ambient hazards such as noise, pollution, and vibration.

Trottenberg Talks Candidly at Transportation Tuesday

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

“Right now, we at DOT face in transportation one of the most challenging times ever—political and fiscal. But we remain optimistic we’re going to get something done.” With that, DOT Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Polly Trottenberg began her presentation to a packed room at the May 3 edition of APTA’s Transportation Tuesdays series.

Noting that the Obama administration is both enthusiastic about and sympathetic to transportation, Trottenberg acknowledged the realities of future funding with the current divided Congress: “We’re going to have some victories; we’re going to have to take some losses. We may want more money, but we note that we’re going to spend it a lot more wisely.” She pointed out that, as part of its current strategy regarding funding, DOT has begun intensive discussions on Capitol Hill.

“We are firmly supporting a six-year [authorization] bill,” she said, adding that “there is a very strong case to be made for it.”
 Trottenberg also discussed high-speed rail, emphasizing that DOT is “very excited” about this program.

Her talk was deliberately brief to allow for an extended Q&A session.

One question focused on the role public-private partnerships might play in decisions regarding discretionary grant funding. Trottenberg said that while many of the proposed projects have revenue streams, “there are really important projects that can’t pay for themselves. We don’t necessarily want to preclude those projects in favor of those that will pay their way.” She added: “In TIGER [grants], we rewarded those projects that had private sector investment. If it helps you win discretionary dollars, that’s a real motivator.”

Another audience member asked if having a national transportation plan would be a help in the debate about funding. Trottenberg said developing such a plan takes months. “Ideally it’s a great idea, but in execution it’s extremely difficult to produce on in a timely way. Events can overtake a plan and it can become stale,” she said.

Some discussion focused on infrastructure and state of good repair. While citing the critical need for funding to bring transit infrastructure where it needs to be, Trottenberg talked about the difficulty in her years on Capitol Hill in gaining appropriators’ support. The thinking was, she said ruefully, “the fun is in the new, not in keeping up the old,” an idea she called “pernicious on the transit side.”

The speaker also examined performance-based models. Trottenberg said DOT is trying to move to that model, but keeps finding data gaps. And for that reason, “it’s going to be a process of some years to get us there,” she said.

She noted the difficulty involved in standardizing such performance measurements as asset management and benefit-cost analyses, and said DOT wants to “democratize these tools so they aren’t expensive and don’t require agencies to spend a lot of money.” She added that, having heard concerns from agencies that performance measurement might become a benchmark for awarding grants, she wanted to assure the audience that “performance measurement is a way to encourage you to measure yourself and learn from your data.”

Leadership APTA Seeks Applications for 15th Class

The Leadership APTA program invites interested individuals to apply by June 27 to become part of the Leadership APTA Class of 2012—a prestigious group of 25 individuals chosen from a competitive pool of APTA member applicants. Class members will join the ranks of more than 325 Leadership APTA program graduates who serve in executive and senior leadership roles at APTA, public transportation agencies, in the private sector, and at transit-related organizations worldwide.

Leadership APTA is the association’s premier professional development program, designed to develop and support the next generation of leaders of APTA and the public transportation industry. Class members participate in an intensive, year-long leadership program that brings them together with APTA’s executive leadership, public transportation industry leaders, and leadership experts.

Candidates can be assistant general managers, middle management personnel, and other individuals with strong leadership potential working for public transportation systems, private sector businesses supplying goods or services to the public transit industry, or other organizations related to the industry. Leadership APTA participants are sponsored by the public transportation system, private sector business, or other organization where they are employed.

Sponsoring a participant, providing the monetary resources, and allowing the time necessary for the participants to be involved in all required activities are critical to the success of the Leadership APTA participant and the program. The Leadership APTA Committee strongly recommends that individual organizations submit only one candidate as an applicant.
 For complete program information and to apply online, visit the web site or contact Joe Niegoski.

Submit AdWheel Entries by June 3

“The Spotlight Could Be Yours” at the 2011 AdWheel Awards competition. APTA is accepting nominations through June 3 for the annual award program, which acknowledges the creative excellence of member public transportation systems and business members in advertising, communications, and marketing.

APTA member transit systems and business members compete in five categories—print, electronic, campaign, special event, and social media—to determine the best of the best in public transit marketing and communications. Transit agencies are judged in categories based on the number of rides they provide each year.

Two new niche categories are joining the competition this year to recognize entries that showcase creative and innovative marketing and communication approaches in the categories of: Marketing and Communicating to Older Adult Riders and Crisis or Issue Communications.

The AdWheel Grand Awards, selected from among first-place awards in each category, will be presented during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting & EXPO in New Orleans.

To submit entries, click here. More information is available from Laticia King.

Dump the Pump Day on June 16!

APTA will hold its sixth annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 16—a great opportunity to promote public transit. After all, riding bus or a train is the quickest way to beat high gas prices—assuming public transportation is available. Also, according to the latest APTA Transit Savings Report, a household could save, on the average, more than $10,000 a year by downsizing by one car in a two-person household.

Last year, more than 120 public transit systems participated in National Dump the Pump Day. With gas prices possibly reaching even higher prices than in 2008, APTA anticipates that the 2011 National Dump the Pump Day will be an even bigger success. The Sierra Club is partnering with APTA and we will be reaching out to other national partners to make this the best National Dump the Pump Day ever!

To help you spread the word in your community, APTA is providing a toolkit, available May 9 by clicking here. It will provide artwork for ads, banners, and buttons, along with sample proclamations, a media advisory, a fact sheet, and suggested activities.

If you are participating, please contact Virginia Miller.

COMMENTARY

‘Green’ Community Aids Prove Their Political Mettle

BY NEAL PEIRCE

Does the rightward swing in national politics spell curtains for the Obama administration’s push for green agendas and sustainability in America’s cities and neighborhoods?

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan argues no—and cites congressional action to prove his case.

The hard-fought budget compromise for 2011 protects, for example, two stellar programs, both of which have triggered hundreds of competitive applications.

One is the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which helps localities and federal departments tie together and improve their efforts in housing, transportation and environmental decisions at the regional and grass-roots level. The program is to receive $100 million for this fiscal year.

Another save, with $528 million appropriated, is the highly popular TIGER program of transportation-related grants to cities and regions that come up with creative ways to rebuild their economies through such steps as safer streets, reduced carbon emissions and greater community livability.

Both programs had been zeroed out in the House Republicans’ initial budget proposal for the year.

So why, with many other programs cut deeply—for example, the Community Development Block Grants and the Hope VI mixed-income public housing program—did some initiatives survive in the hotly debated final budget?

Donovan’s claim: Both the Sustainable Communities Initiative and TIGER have generated “remarkably broad and deep support, tapping a wellspring of support in communities across the country.” Applications, he reports, have flowed in from equal portions of Republican and Democratic districts.

There had been initial congressional concern, Donovan acknowledged, that “the federal government was coming in to plan communities.” But now, he says, “there’s growing Capitol Hill recognition that the programs actually enable local vision to come to fruition.” Among the crucial supporters, he said, are local business leaders and development groups that see the grants as a way for their cities or regions to thrive and draw young people—fuel for an economy in which “capital follows people” rather than the reverse.

And then there’s the issue of a more efficient economic landscape. “We’re reaching the limits of the automotive city and metro area,” says Donovan, noting that “the costs of commuting and time lost in congestion are five times higher than 25 years ago.” He believes this undergirds the case for conscious federal policy to encourage compactness, including addressing the needs of regions with shortages of affordable—especially rental—housing.

Can this case sell politically? Realism says there’s a set of interests that benefit financially from sprawling development because it fuels demand for the oil and vehicles they sell. Their cause is taken up by conservative think tanks all too ready to label compactness scenarios as unwarranted government dictation. Financial support for the right-leaning policy groups taking such a stand, reports SourceWatch (part of the Center for Media and Democracy), comes from such organizations as the American Petroleum Institute, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Ford and General Motors.

But Donovan—like his colleague Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—expresses optimism that more efficient, less energy-demanding forms of development will be imperatives in a world of $4-and-higher gasoline and with the need for radically “greener” development.

“We need to drive many other federal investments in the same direction” as the Sustainable Communities Initiative, says Donovan. He describes a “preferred sustainability status” system that grants extra points for greener proposals, which are mutually supportive because they’re connected by physical location, in grant applications to federal agencies for housing, transportation, infrastructure, environmental protection, perhaps even school funding.

The multipurpose idea is encapsulated in a current proposal from New Orleans to remake its troubled Iberville public housing area. The idea is to create a more attractive, sustainable neighborhood through a richer variety of midrise apartment buildings and townhouses. To enhance prospects for residents, there will be a new transit line connecting them to jobs at a major new Veterans Affairs hospital. And the government will demolish an expressway link that’s long separated the neighborhood from the surrounding city.

Donovan is meanwhile championing a new PowerSaver mortgage product that the Federal Housing Administration is targeting for “green” retrofits of existing homes. Qualified homeowners are able to get loans of up to $25,000 to make energy-efficient improvements they select, such as new or added insulation, duct sealing, replacement doors and windows, water heaters and solar panels.

“PowerSaver hits on all cylinders by helping credit-worthy homeowners finance these upgrades, cut their energy bills and boost the local job market in the process,” Donovan asserts. At least 18 national and local lenders will make the loans but be required to have significant “skin in the game” because the FHA guarantee will cover no more than 90 percent of the loan in case of a default.

Within weeks, says Donovan, HUD will unveil a multifamily equivalent to PowerSaver. The clear message: Don’t expect the administration to let up on its green, sustainability push anytime soon.
 
E-mail Neal Peirce.
© 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Monica Louie
NEWARK, NJ—Monica Louie, a 23-year old Track Engineer in the Newark office of Parsons Brinckerhoff, has been recognized as a New Face of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Each year, as an integral part of ASCE’s National Engineers Week initiatives,10 young engineers, age 30 and under, are selected as the New Faces of Civil Engineering. The group represents not only those who have made an impact in their fields, but also in their own communities and in communities around the world through their volunteerism and community service.



Alex Karakhanov

HONOLULU, HI—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has hired Alex Karakhanov as a supervising estimator in the Honolulu office. His responsibilities include preparing estimates for PB’s infrastructure projects and reviewing change orders and claims on the Honolulu Rail Transit project.

Karakhanov has more than 26 years of project controls experience with expertise in planning, estimating, and value engineering for transit, power, highway, and bridge projects.


Allyson Teevan
ALEXANDRIA, VA—Allyson Teevan has joined the Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) as marketing and communications manager.

Teevan began her marketing career with Historic Manassas Inc. in Old Town Manassas, VA, and has worked for the [Fort] Belvoir Federal Credit Union and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors®.

Mike Gill Jr.
DENVER, CO—Mike Gill Jr. has joined Stantec as senior project manager in the company’s Denver transportation planning and traffic engineering practice.

Gill has almost 20 years of industry-related experience in engineering design and construction in both the private and public sectors. Most recently he served as group manager in the transportation engineering group for a major full-service engineering firm.



Beverly S. Silas
AUSTIN, TX—Beverly S. Silas, a board member of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) Board of Directors, has been named Woman of the Year by the Heart of Texas Chapter of WTS.

Silas is president and chief executive officer of Beverly Silas & Associates, a public involvement/public affairs consulting firm. She joined the Capital Metro board in January 2010 and was elected to the APTA Board of Directors in October 2010.