Passenger Transport - October 10, 2011
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Thomas Takes Helm as APTA Chair; Millar, Melaniphy Address Opening Session

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

On receiving the gavel from outgoing APTA Chair Michael J. Scanlon, Gary C. Thomas officially became chair of APTA for 2011-2012.

“Our challenges are familiar. You live them every day,” said Thomas. “A tough economy and uncertainty over funding—especially at the federal level—are just two that come immediately to mind. At the same time, our services have never been more important.”

He called on all APTA members to join in the advocacy process, providing “fresh voices in the room and new faces at the table … We can learn from each other. We can work together to solve our shared problems.”


 Photo by Jerome Holmes

Speakers at the Opening General Session include, from left: Elliot G. Sander of AECOM, sponsor of the session; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; RTA Chief Executive Officer Justin T. Augustine III; Mark Joseph, chief executive officer and chairman, Veolia Transportation; BMBG Chair Charles R. Wochele; RTA Board Chairwoman Barbara C. Major; APTA President and CEO-Elect Michael P. Melaniphy; Louisiana Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri H. LeBas; APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas; APTA President William Millar; and APTA Immediate Past Chair Michael J. Scanlon.

In addition to increasing member involvement in the organization, Thomas said he will focus on passage of a surface transportation authorization bill and workforce development.

Thomas continued: “These are absolutely tough times, so let’s get ready for the opportunities that are coming. We have to use all our resources to make sure things happen. No one person has all the answers, but together we can find them …. This is a time of both opportunity and challenge for our industry. We will be strongest when we are all on board and at the table.”

He concluded: “Thank you for electing me as your chair. I am honored to hold this position, and I promise you – together we will make this year one to remember!”

Millar Makes Farewell Speech
A packed house recognized APTA President William Millar with two standing ovations during the session, which also incorporated a video showing highlights of his life and an overview of his 40-year career in public transportation.

In his address—beginning with his trademark “Good morning!”—Millar reflected on his experiences through the years. “I’ve made lifelong friendships, I’ve been fortunate to work with many talented people, and sincerely hope I have left some mark on public transportation across North America,” he said. “I’ve loved visiting with many APTA members … because, by doing that, I got to see the real backbone of our industry.”

Among his proudest accomplishments, Millar listed the 1997 ceremony where he presented Rosa Parks with APTA’s first Lifetime Achievement Award; the association’s contribution to transportation exhibits at the Smithsonian and the National Building Museum; the growth in APTA membership from less than 1,100 when he started as president to more than 1,550; and the APTA workforce development initiative.

Millar also reported on current successes for the public transportation industry. For example, U.S. public transit ridership for the first six months of 2011 showed a 1.7 percent increased compared with the same period the previous year. “That’s 5.2 billion trips—nearly 86 million more than were taken in the first half of 2010,” he noted, adding that both the heavy rail and light rail sectors saw increases during that time.

Millar cited statistics from a newly-released report that showed steady growth in the U.S. public transportation sector during the past three decades and that public transit is now a $55 billion industry. The report, The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation, also notes that 73 percent of transit-related ballot measures have passed over the last 12 years.

Millar told the session participants that Congress recently passed a six-month extension of the surface transportation authorization bill and that discussion of a six-year bill may follow. “We must continue to join forces to make sure that all our voices are heard and to ensure that early next year we have a long-term bill,” he added.

AECOM sponsored the session; Elliot G. “Lee” Sander, its group chief executive-global transportation, welcomed attendees to New Orleans.

Melaniphy: Looking Forward and Back
Michael P. Melaniphy, who will succeed Millar as APTA president and chief executive officer on Nov. 1, spoke about his transit industry experience in both the public and private sectors: “I have been on both sides of the table and I look forward to putting the education I received from the public and private sides of our industry to work for the membership of APTA.” He noted he is a member of the Leadership APTA Class of 2005.

“We have a strong foundation at APTA,” he said, “and I have a tremendous passion for the people, the activities that are the lifeblood of this association. I love public transportation.”

Melaniphy noted that his first job in the public transit field was driving a bus while attending Indiana University, studying with the legendary professor Dr. George Smerk. During that period, he said, he picked up his future wife, Karen, for dates at her sorority house in the bus he used to transport the IU basketball team coached by Bobby Knight.

After quoting late NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki—“Obstacles are those things you see when you take your eyes off of the goal”—he said: “My fellow APTA members, I don’t see obstacles in our future, I see opportunities. And if we all move forward together, with one common voice, we can and will achieve tremendous success. Now is the time and APTA is that voice!”

Scanlon: Public Transit Drives Development
Michael J. Scanlon, 2010-2011 APTA chair, was the first of several speakers to emphasize public transportation as an engine for community and national growth and renewal. At issue is how increased federal investment in public transit projects will put people back to work while strengthening the nation’s infrastructure.

“I wish the doubters in Congress could be here. In fact, I wish every elected official could be here, and everyone who casts a ballot, to get a feel for what we’re really all about,” Scanlon said. “Since they can’t be here, it’s up to all of us to devote as much time as we can to share our ideas. We must communicate to them.”

Scanlon also pointed to APTA members giving back to the community in another way. More than 200 volunteers arrived in New Orleans before the meeting began to participate in rebuilding efforts for flood-damaged homes in St. Bernard Parish, and another 100 were scheduled to join the program after the meeting ended Oct. 5.

New Orleans: Rebirth and Renewal
Rebirth and renewal—and reinvestment—were the primary themes of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA), host system for the meeting. RTA kicked off the day’s events with a video of city scenes—including buses and streetcars—in decline and recovery, accompanied by the voice-over of spoken-word artist Xero.

Barbara Major, chairwoman of the RTA Board of Commissioners, reported on the agency’s restoration and improvement of New Orleans’ public transportation service in the six years since Hurricane Katrina.

“You are here at a time of great renewal,” she said. “Seventy-five percent of New Orleans residents have returned since Katrina; RTA is operating a new bus fleet and restored streetcars; and we have received money for two new streetcar line expansions.”

The devastating hurricane destroyed 251 buses out of a 380-vehicle fleet and damaged 30 streetcars (out of 31) so severely they required complete restoration, Major said. However, “RTA overcame enormous challenges,” restoring bus service and partial streetcar service within months. She acknowledged the role other U.S. transit agencies and the Federal Transit Administration played in helping effect this renewal. 

Justin T. Augustine III, RTA chief executive officer, described how the agency has put its passengers’ needs first, investing $250 million in capital improvements. For example, he said, the new streetcar service will operate to Loyola University and into the French Quarter.

Sherri H. LeBas, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, said that RTA not only rebuilt the transit system after Katrina, but built it better and stronger. She noted how public transit continues to keep Louisiana moving—LA Swift bus service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge began shortly after Katrina and remains in operation—and that further advances are ongoing.

New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu enthusiastically called the rebirth of his city “one of the great stories of resurrection and redemption … This area has gone through things in the past decade we wouldn’t wish on any other town: the aftermath of 9/11, Katrina, other storms, last year’s oil spill—now we’re waiting for an invasion of locusts,” he joked, “but we got off our knees and moved on.”

Cutting the Ribbon
In a bow to Millar, Thomas invited the outgoing APTA president to join him on stage at the conclusion of the session—along with Charles R. Wochele, chair of the Business Member Board of Governors, and other APTA leaders—to cut the ribbon that opened the 2011 International Public Transportation EXPO. A parade of session attendees left the ballroom and followed a 125-piece band and lavishly costumed “Mardi Gras Indians” into the exhibit hall, where nearly 800 exhibitors displayed the latest in public transit products and services on 22 miles of floor space encompassing 274,000 net square feet to an estimated 15,000 visitors.


Photo by Jerome Holmes

2010-2011 APTA Chair Michael L. Scanlon, right, symbolically "passes the gavel" to his successor, Gary C. Thomas, at the Opening General Session. 


Rogoff: Make the Case for American Jobs Act

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

“If the president of the United States can make the case for public transit, surely you can do the same thing,” Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), told a packed audience at the Oct. 3 Opening General Session of the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans.

“You tell me the last time a president stood up to talk about the importance of funding public transit,” said Rogoff, emphasizing the important role of public transportation in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act. Given that FTA is such a small agency, he noted: “It’s kind of spooky to have our efforts at the center of the president’s recovery agenda. It’s a time when nobody can sit on the sidelines.”

Rogoff traced the administration’s strong support for public transit back to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—months before he addressed APTA’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL.

“When I gave my first speech to APTA as FTA administrator, I told you that how we worked in putting the Recovery Act funds to work would affect everything thereafter. We got billions of dollars on the street rapidly,” Rogoff noted. “But the reward for work is often more work: now the administration is asking for $9 billion for transit in a single year.”

He emphasized, however, that these are contentious times for infrastructure funding, with two sides proposing fundamentally different approaches. While the administration wants to increase public transportation funding in addition to the $9 billion investment up front, the proposed House bill would cut funding by one third in a single year. He reiterated the necessity for APTA members to contact their elected officials to urge them to vote for the American Jobs Act, saying that DOT support just wasn’t enough to convince Congressional legislators that investment in public transit infrastructure not only makes travel safer and more efficient—it creates jobs.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood contributed remarks by video. “You want safe, reliable, convenient, and affordable public transit,” he said, “and the Obama administration is fighting alongside you.” LaHood noted that the proposed jobs bill includes an immediate investment in laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of track for intercity trains and rail transit; $9 billion in repair jobs; and $5 billion for a scaled-up TIGER program.

“In communities across America, transformations are underway because of you,” LaHood continued. “We need you to bring that same commitment to the critical push for the American Jobs Act. This is our chance to put people to work building transit. Transit is not an end in itself, it’s a means. It’s the way we lead our lives and pursue our dreams. If we come together, fight to break through the status quo, we can give American people the transportation choices they demand and deserve. Now’s the time to act.”

EXPO 2011: Bigger and Better Than Ever

To the sounds of a New Orleans jazz band, thousands of U.S. and international public transportation professionals streamed into the massive exhibit space of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for the gala opening of the 2011 EXPO—at the conclusion of APTA’s Opening General Session.

In the Center were nearly 800 exhibitors covering 274,000 net square feet—displaying their newest and most innovative ideas, products, services, and technologies. With 54 buses, two train cars, two railcar mockups, and golf carts running continuously for people who just couldn’t walk one more step, this was an opportunity for APTA members and the interested public to talk with equipment manufacturers, consultants, and researchers.

Even Administrator Peter M. Rogoff of the Federal Transit Administration put in time at the FTA booth. “Everyone from FTA who is here in New Orleans takes a turn at the booth,” he said.

The first APTA EXPO was held 30 years ago in Chicago. When it opened in 1981, there were 265 exhibitors and 5,500 attendees.

By way of further comparison, 15 years ago 600 exhibitors occupied four halls of the Anaheim Convention Center, making use of 173,000 net square feet.

All those connected with this year’s EXPO agree that both APTA and this exhibition—the largest public transportation showcase in the world—have come a long way since then!

The range of exhibits was close to mesmerizing—from smaller companies with tabletop displays to very large companies with two-story revolving and illuminated signs and seating areas so prospective customers could talk comfortably with the business representatives.

There was significant foot traffic every hour the EXPO was open. One APTA member was heard to say: “If your feet don’t hurt, you haven’t walked around enough, and you haven’t learned all you can!”

Also on the floor were International Showcase sessions, numerous prize drawing moments, the Michelin Man, at least two magicians, and a small musical group dressed in lederhosen!

Held every three years in conjunction with APTA’s Annual Meeting, EXPO is the platform from which the public transit industry moves forward.

So, while some of what took place might seem a bit festive, it was all designed to attract public transit professionals who might be looking precisely for what some of the exhibitors could provide. That’s what an EXPO is about, and by all accounts, this EXPO did that—and much, much more.



Photos by Ken Bordelon

Visitors look at the latest technologies in buses. 

Attendees pack the EXPO floor. 


Photos by Ken Bordelon

The expansive EXPO 2011 exhibit floor in New Orleans, where nearly 800 exhibitors filled 274,000 net square feet on 22 miles of floor space.


So much happened at the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO, it won’t all fit in one issue of Passenger Transport! See continuing coverage in the Oct. 24 issue.

APTA Officers Inducted

Photo by Linda Reineke

The APTA Board of Directors inducted its 2011-2012 officers at its meeting Oct. 1. From left are Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., secretary-treasurer; Gary C. Thomas; chair; and Flora Castillo, vice chair.

APTA Releases Reports at Annual Meeting & EXPO

On Oct. 4 in New Orleans, APTA released a newly updated report making the case for investment in the public transportation industry by detailing the enormous growth in ridership, service provided, and funding levels. The report, The Case for Business Investment in Public Transportation, demonstrates that public transit has undergone steady growth over the past three decades and is now a $55 billion industry.

The report shows that America’s public transit systems completed more than 10 billion passenger trips for the fifth consecutive year in 2010, the highest levels since 1957. It also presents support for better public transportation through public approval of transit ballot measures, which have a 73 percent approval rate over the past 12 years.

The report cites consistent, diverse, and stable sources of funding for public transportation.

“These local, state, and federal investments help us to put Americans to work building the rail tracks and equipment that will move America’s economy forward,” said Charles Wochele, chair of the APTA Business Member Board of Governors and vice president for industry and government relations at Alstom Transport.

The increase in ridership has led to dramatic growth in the number of rail systems and vehicle replacements. The number of rail systems increased more than two and one-half times since 1980, from 10 commuter rail systems in 1980 to 28 by 2010. The number of light rail systems increased five-fold, from seven in 1980 to 35 in 2010.

“This report shows that the growth trends in public transportation makes investing in the industry a smart business decision,” said Jeffrey Wharton, chair of APTA’s Business Development Committee and president of IMPulse NC.

The report is available here.

Public Transportation Ridership Continues to Rise
Another APTA report, also just released, found increased ridership for all major modes of public transportation despite the continuing economic downturn. Heavy rail and light rail saw the largest increases in the first six months of 2011 with increases of 3.8 percent and 3.7 percent respectively.

“There is strong support for public transportation nationwide and the uptick in our 2011 ridership figures is a reflection of this,” said APTA President William  Millar.

Nationally, bus ridership rose slightly in the first six months of 2011, but ridership increased by 4.8 percent in communities with a population below 100,000 and by 4 percent in communities with populations ranging from 100,000 to 499,999.

Demand-response increased in the first six months of 2011 by 3.6 percent.

To see the complete APTA ridership report, click here.

Omnitrans Begins Work on First BRT Line

Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, launched construction Sept. 29 on the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, the E Street Corridor sbX line, with approximately 200 people in attendance. The $192 million project is one of only 10 Small Starts projects in the nation to receive Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding in Fiscal Year 2011.

“These transit projects—at the end of the day and at their essence—are really not about asphalt, concrete, steel, and buses and trains,” said Leslie Rogers, Region IX administrator for FTA, at the event. “At their essence, they are really about people moving people, providing people additional transportation options.”

“There is a lot of hope in the sbX project to provide a high-quality and efficient transit option in the region while contributing to the revitalization efforts currently underway in San Bernardino,” said Milo Victoria, chief executive officer and general manager, Omnitrans. “sbX will reduce commute times, allowing people to spend less time on the road and more time at home with family and friends or engaging in activities they desire. It will improve the quality of life of the people Omnitrans serves.”

Building the line is expected to provide more than 200 direct jobs and hundreds more indirect jobs in San Bernardino County, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported 14.1 percent unemployment in August 2011. The agency explained that FTA selected this line for funding because of the clear need for public transit infrastructure in the region and the possibility of creating economic opportunities.

Upon completion, the E Street Corridor sbX will cover 15.7 miles, from north San Bernardino to Loma Linda, with 16 stations at key university, government, business, entertainment, and medical center locations, and four park-and-rides. It will operate with a new, specialized 60-foot articulated bus.

Omnitrans designed sbX as an environmentally friendly, technologically advanced, cost-effective, and time-efficient mode of public transportation that also will address greenhouse gas emissions as required by California state law. It is the first of several transit projects that will bring together BRT, rail, and traditional bus service in downtown San Bernardino

In addition, each station’s design will complement its neighborhood and include appropriate public art. For example, the VA Hospital Station in Loma Linda will feature a Stars and Stripes art monument and tribute to the U.S. armed forces.


FTA Region IX Administrator Leslie Rogers speaks at the ground-breaking program for Omnitrans’ E Street Corridor sbX BRT line.


Carpenter to Succeed Aesch in Rochester, NY

The Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Bill Carpenter as the authority’s next chief executive officer, effective Oct. 1. Carpenter, who most recently served the agency as chief operating officer, will succeed Mark R. Aesch, who served in the position for seven years.

“The combination of Bill’s professional background, which spans more than 30 years in public and private sector work, and his strategic vision for the authority’s future clearly set him apart from the other candidates,” said RGRTA Board Chairman James H. Redmond. “Bill is also very active in the community, which will further advance the authority’s efforts to continue to increase collaborative relationships with public and private organizations in our seven-county service area.”

Before joining RGRTA in 2010, Carpenter was chief operating officer of Salient Management Company, a performance management software firm based in Horseheads, NY, and director of the Monroe County, NY, Office of Management and Budget.

RGRTA comprises eight subsidiary transportation companies and serves the seven county Finger Lakes region surrounding Rochester including Monroe, Orleans, Livingston, Genesee, Seneca, Wyoming, and Wayne counties.

Bennett Is New CEO of Proterra

Proterra, a manufacturer of zero-emission public transportation vehicles based in Greenville, SC, announced the appointment of David Bennett as its new chief executive officer.

Bennett brings significant experience in the power unit and vehicle industry, acting most recently as vice president of business development for the industrial sector for Eaton. He also served in other operational and corporate managerial roles with Honeywell and General Electric. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master of business administration degree from Drexel University.


FTA Officials Present Priorities and Updates

BY STEPHANIE BRUNO, Special to Passenger Transport

Audience members attending the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting crowded into a conference room Oct. 4 to hear Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), speak about the agency’s priorities and updates.

Joined by Therese McMillan and Dorval Carter, FTA deputy administrator and chief counsel respectively, Rogoff expressed a desire both to inform the public about priorities for his agency and to solicit input about how best to address certain issues. In addition to McMillan and Carter, he brought additional members of his executive management team to ensure that all questions would be answered.

“We are working under a president who cares about what we do,” he said. “Public transportation is at the center of the president’s recovery agenda and he is critically interested in helping us move forward.”

Rogoff cited $8.7 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds directed toward public transportation and $9 billion included in the American Jobs Act now under consideration. He also said FTA will oversee $5 billion in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants once Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood determines the recipients. In addition, Rogoff announced $10 million in federal funding for a national infrastructure bank.

According to Rogoff, federal initiatives—such as the “State of Good Repair” program, which would receive $6 billion of the American Jobs Act funding—are key to the future of public transportation.

He also pointed to the “critical need to recapitalize projects at the same time we are expanding into a larger footprint,” advocating for passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill and a rail/transit safety bill.

Rogoff emphasized the importance of compliance with environmental justice, Title VI, and Buy America policies for his agency. He also invited the audience to provide input about ways to simplify and streamline the triennial review process.

“I would like to reform the oversight process because we spend a lot of resources doing oversight of funds without clear benefit,” he said. “We can miss really big things because the working checklist isn’t organized to identify them and instead we spend time on things of relatively little risk. We need to do better and we need to have a dialogue to get us there. “

McMillan announced the completion of two compliance circulars, one on environmental justice and the other on Title VI. She chaired the task force that produced the circulars, which are now out for notice and comment.

She noted that the environmental justice directives are not new, but this is the first time FTA has produced a circular to provide clear and consistent direction on the topic. “Before, it was embodied in an executive order, a directive to federal agencies. It was less than a page,” she said. “Now it explains in detail what must be done to uphold environmental justice requirements.”

The Title VI circular, McMillan noted, also was pre-existing but has undergone a major revision. “There are no new requirements,” she explained, “but now the old requirements are clearer.”

Carter continued the theme of compliance by stressing the administration’s robust focus on enforcing compliance with Buy America requirements. “If you have a question or aren’t sure, call us,” he said. “There will be less flexibility to correct non-compliance the further you go in the procurement process.”

He also warned that self-certification is no longer an option and that verification is required. FTA is using audits to validate adherence to Buy America provisions.

In addition, he said, FTA is no longer granting public interest waivers and non-availability waivers are subject to far greater scrutiny than in the past.

Rogoff underscored the more stringent enforcement of the Buy America policy and issued a warning: “If you thought before that it was better to ask forgiveness than permission with Buy America, that has changed.”

RTA Recovering and Thriving Post-Katrina Through Hard Work and Partnerships


The Oct. 4 Host Forum at the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO highlighted the efforts of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005—for which APTA honored the agency with its first Special Recognition for Extraordinary Recovery.

Huelon A. Harrison, chair, APTA Business Member Small Business Committee; former chairman, Dallas Area Transit Authority; and principal, Legacy Resource Group, Dallas, moderated the session.

RTA Board Chairwoman Barbara C. Major spoke enthusiastically and passionately about the resurrection of New Orleans. She cited the innovative methods RTA employed to improve mobility, ridership, and operations and how they served as a “major contributor to the city’s renewal.” For example, the RTA Board of Commissioners entered into a contract with Veolia Transportation in 2009; Veolia now manages all major transit authority responsibilities and operations.

“RTA is doing an amazing job, and we’re creating a model that may be used in other parts of the country,” Major said.

Transit service, she said, “contributed to the revival of New Orleans in the wake of the man-made disaster where 1,600 lives were lost.” Many RTA employees lost loved ones, she said. “They lost everything. We lost key talent who went to other cities; we lost office facilities. For four years, administrative staff worked out of trailers.”

Major said RTA sent the call for help to APTA and “we are so grateful for the buses, the parts, the people, and the morale boost it provided.”

Justin T. Augustine III, RTA chief executive officer, said the agency needed a transformation. “We needed to transform our mindsets. We were in financial trouble; we needed a branding system,” he said. The result: RTA deployed a completely new fleet, revised bus routes, improved passenger information, installed automated ticket vending machines, introduced Global Positioning Satellite technology, and launched a new state-of-the art passenger web site. Customer satisfaction is up dramatically and ridership has grown in the last three years by 30 percent.

But, he added, this process was extremely challenging and RTA had to consider the sensitivities of residents. “People were fearful; they felt let down. We had to make sure we provided opportunities to relieve that fear,” Augustine said. “It was a true collaboration. FTA was also by our side to help.”

Judy Reese Morse, New Orleans first deputy mayor, said 80 percent of the city was destroyed following Katrina. “But this is a city of people who will not quit,” she added. “We learned that New Orleans had to do everything possible to come back. We found our direction and transportation was a vital part of that recovery.”

Mark Romig, chief executive officer, New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, added: “Service workers and tourists alike touch our public transportation systems. This is a great partnership with our tourism industry. We could not do it by ourselves.”

Harrison asked RTA Commissioner Charlotte Burnell why the agency selected Veolia. “The system was totally broken, and we had to decide what to do next,” said Burnell. “We decided it was in the best interest of the city and RTA to send out RFPs for a delegated management company. It was difficult; tough decisions had to be made. It’s the best of public-private partnerships that we could not have generated on our own,” she added.

Next, Harrison asked Mark L. Joseph, chief executive officer, Veolia Transportation, why the model is unique and if could it work in other places. “We’ve been in business for 150 years,” Joseph responded. “We’ve created public transportation in many places of the world. We bring resources from around the world.” He cited similar partnerships at Foothill Transit in West Covina, CA, and the Chatham Area Transportation Authority in Savannah, GA. “There are great efficiencies achieved through these kinds of partnerships,” he said.

APTA Honors ‘Best of the Best’ at Awards Luncheon

The public transportation industry honored its top leaders and agencies in North America at the Oct. 4 APTA Awards Breakfast, held during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO in New Orleans. The ceremony's sponsor was GFI GENFARE, an SPX Division.

Organizational Awards
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston received the Innovation Award for its Open Data Initiative. MBTA launched this program in 2009, when the agency decided to provide information to software developers and media companies rather than developing its own smartphone apps. Since then, many third parties have used MBTA data to create numerous ways to spread system information at no cost to the agency.

APTA presented the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award to systems in three different ridership categories.

Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT) in Ithaca, NY, received the honor among public transportation agencies that provide four million or fewer annual passenger trips. TCAT began through a consolidation of three public transit systems operated by the city of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and Cornell University, and became a private not-for-profit corporation in 2005. Its efforts include opening the flagship Green Street Station and implementing an updated fare collection system.

Among transit agencies providing more than four million and fewer than 20 million annual passenger trips, APTA recognized Sun Metro in El Paso, TX. During the past three years, the agency reported a 21 percent ridership increase, despite the nationwide economic downturn; completed four new transfer centers; installed about 200 new shelters; and implemented a precursor to Bus Rapid Transit service on two routes. Sun Metro also received safety awards in 2009 and 2010 for the lowest collision rate per 100,000 miles.

The Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award for agencies providing more than 20 million annual passenger trips went to Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus. The agency in Santa Monica, CA, recently opened a state-of-the-art maintenance facility—honored by the Southern California Chapter of the American Public Works Association as  2010 Project of the Year—and a bus stop redevelopment program recognized by the American Institute of Architects. Big Blue Bus also implemented a revised accident policy that led to a 41 percent drop in injuries.

APTA also presented a new award, Special Recognition for Extraordinary Recovery, to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in New Orleans for its return to service following Hurricane Katrina. Despite losing most of its bus fleet and sustaining damage to many streetcars and facilities in the catastrophic 2005 storm, the RTA resumed partial bus service and  streetcar operation within months. In addition, two streetcar expansions are underway and the RTA is operating with completely new bus and paratransit fleets.

Individual Awards
The Outstanding Public Transportation Manager honor went to Stephanie G. Negriff, retiring director of transit services for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus. During her tenure, the agency became a leader in environmental sustainability, systems innovation, and alternative fuel technology. She has overseen significant expansions of both the fleet and transit facilities and implemented public outreach programs and green technologies and operations policies.

APTA recognized Sharon Greene, president of Sharon Greene & Associates in Laguna Beach, CA, with the Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award. Greene is an expert in financial analysis and evaluation of major transportation system investments who has developed and implemented programs to help public transit agencies find new funding sources. She also has chaired the APTA Business Member Board of Governors.

Crystal Fortune Lyons, chairman of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCRTA) Board of Directors, received the Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award. Lyons joined the board in 2004 and has served as its chairman since 2007. She oversaw the return of waterborne transportation to the Coastal Bend community and promoted installation of bike racks on all CCRTA buses. Current projects include introducing alternative fuels and fully implementing new fare collection technology.

The Local Distinguished Service Award went to the late Cameron Beach, a member of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors from 2007 until his death earlier this year. Beach’s 44-year career in public transportation included 25 years with the Sacramento Regional Transit District. After he retired from the agency as its chief operating officer in 2006, he became principal of Beach Consulting. He also worked to preserve San Francisco’s fleet of historic streetcars.
Roger Snoble became the newest member of the APTA Hall of Fame, which recognizes public transportation professionals with long, distinguished careers and who have made extraordinary contributions to the field. Snoble began his service to public transit in 1965 as a planner for METRO Regional Transit Authority in Akron, OH, and retired in 2009 as chief executive officer of Los Angeles Metro. He also served in the top post at Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the San Diego Transit Corporation.



All award photos by Kathy Anderson

Richard Davey, Massachusetts DOT secretary and chief executive officer, receives the 2011 Innovation Award on behalf of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from Angela Iannuzziello of GENIVAR.


Joseph A. Calabrese of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, left, presents the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award for agencies providing four million or fewer annual passenger trips to representatives of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Inc. in Ithaca, NY: from second from left, General Manager Joe Turcotte; Alice Eccleston, assistant general manager and human resources manager; and Dr. Hank Dullea, chairman of the board of directors.



From left, presenter Larry King of Muncie Public Transportation Corporation and representatives of Sun Metro in El Paso, TX, recipient of the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award among agencies providing more than four million and fewer than 20 million trips annually: El Paso Mayor John Cook; Jane Shang, deputy city manager for mobility services; Sun Metro Director Jay Banasiak; Laura Cruz-Acosta, public affairs coordinator; and Kevin Bunce, assistant director for maintenance.

Representatives of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus accept the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award among systems providing more than 20 million annual passenger trips from John B. Catoe Jr. of The Catoe Group, left. From second from left are Pam O'Connor, Big Blue Bus board member and Santa Monica City Council member; Assistant Director Joe Stitcher; and Tina Wimberly, transit operations superintendent.



A new award, Special Recognition for Extraordinary Recovery, went to the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans. From left are presenter Michael P. Melaniphy, APTA president and CEO-elect and outgoing chair of the APTA Awards Committee; RTA Commissioners Flozell Daniels Jr., Vice Chairwoman Earlene Roth (in wheelchair), Connie Goodly, Chairwoman Barbara Major, and Sharon Wegner; and General Manager Justin T. Augustine III.

Karen Antion of Karen Antion Consulting LLC, left, presents the Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award to Pam O'Connor, who accepted the honor on behalf of Stephanie G. Negriff.



Michael Townes of Wilbur Smith Associates presents Sharon Greene with the Outstanding Public Transportation Business Member Award.

The winner of the Outstanding Public Transportation Board Member Award--Crystal Fortune Lyons, left--receives the honor from Rosa Navejar of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority board.



Family members of the late Cameron Beach—wife Carmen Clark and son Timothy Beach, right—accept the Local Distinguished Service Award in his memory from Kim Green of GFI GENFARE.

Roger Snoble, the newest member of the APTA Hall of Fame, is recognized by Shirley A. DeLibero of DeLibero Transportation Strategies LLC.

2011 AdWheel First-Place and Grand Award Winners

Here is the complete list of first-place winners in the 2011 AdWheel Awards competition. Grand Award winners are listed in bold italic.

Group 1: Public transportation systems with four million or fewer passenger trips per year.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Transit Works,” Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLink), Moline, IL
Advertisement-Promotion: “Summer Youth Pass,” Sarasota County Transit Authority, Sarasota, FL
Annual Report: “Access Services Annual Report,” Access Services, El Monte, CA
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “rabbitEXPRESS Commuter Billboards,” York County Transportation Authority (dba rabbitransit), York, PA
Brochure: “Smart Business Partnership.” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Direct Mail: “New Rider Kit,” Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Woodbridge, VA
Illustrated Vehicle: “Ride ’til 3 a.m.!”, Blue Water Area Transportation Commission, Port Huron, MI
Newsletter: “New Mexico Rail Runner Express Newsletter,” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Poster: "Cleared for Take-off," South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL
Promotional Materials: “KAT Route System Jigsaw Puzzle,” Knoxville Area Transit, Knoxville, TN
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “KAT System Map Brochure,” Knoxville Area Transit, Knoxville, TN
Transit Card: “Interior Bus Cards,” Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN

Electronic Media
Internet Homepage: KAT Website, Knoxville Area Transit, Knoxville, TN
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Lucy & Ethel Radio Campaign,” Lakeland Area Mass Transit District, Lakeland, FL
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Dump the Pump,” County of Lackawanna Transit System, Scranton, PA
Video Presentation: “Spirit of Accessibility Award,” Access Services, El Monte, CA

Promotional Campaign: “Arlington's Car-Free Diet Testimonial Campaign,” Arlington Transit, Arlington, VA
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “TARTA Empty Seat Campaign,” Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, Toledo, Ohio
Shoestring Campaign: “MATBUS' Two-Ten in Twenty-Ten (210 in 2010) Campaign,” MATBUS (City of Fargo), Fargo, ND

Social Media
Social Networking: “PART Facebook,” Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, Greensboro, NC
Viral Video: “A MATBUS Message from NDSU Student Leaders,” MATBUS (City of Fargo), Fargo, ND

Special Event
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “Senior Idol,” South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL
Promotional Special Event: “Holiday Tour of Lights Christmas Trolley,” Waco Transit System, Waco, TX

Group 2: Public transportation systems with more than four million, but fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “The Name Event,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth, TX
Advertisement-Promotion: “Just One Day a Week,” Regional Transit System, Gainesville, FL
Annual Report: “150th Anniversary Annual Report,” GRTC Transit System, Richmond, VA
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “Fifteen Minutes Between Buses,” Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY
Brochure: “RTA branded print material set,” Regional Transit Authority, New Orleans, LA
Direct Mail: “OmniGo Launch,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Illustrated Vehicle: “DART Central Station Wrapped Bus,” Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Des Moines, IA
Map: ‘Shoreline Connection Map,” Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, Corpus Christi, TX
Newsletter: “Rapid Reporter,” Spring 2011, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI
Passes & Tickets-Transit Fare Media: “25th Anniversary Day Passes,” Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority, Corpus Christi, TX
Poster: “Transport Yourself,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth, TX
Promotional Materials: “Love that new bus smell!” air freshener, Salem-Keizer Transit, Salem, OR
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “The NEW StarMetro Ride Guide,” StarMetro-City of Tallahassee, Tallahassee, FL
Transit Card: “TARC LOOP to the LOOP Bus Service,” Transit Authority of River City, Louisville, KY

Electronic Media
Digital Ad: “Stop Talking Out of Your Tailpipe” Expandable Banner Ad, Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth, TX
Internet Homepage: “E Bus Book,” Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Resolve to Ride,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “AATA-Transit Master Plan,” Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Ann Arbor, MI
Video Presentation: “Rack and Roll,” Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, Dayton, OH

Promotional Campaign: “Transport Yourself,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth, TX
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “It All Started on a Bus...” Campaign, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, Tampa, FL
Shoestring Campaign: “EWC Tiger Team Hunt,” Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville, FL

Social Media
Social Networking: “RTS Facebook Profile,” Regional Transit System, Gainesville, FL
Twitter: “The Rapid’s Twitter Page,” The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI
Viral Video: “Holiday Video,” San Mateo County Transit District, San Carlos, CA

Special Event
Promotional Special Event: “DART Central Station Name Unveiling,” Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Des Moines, IA
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “Expressions That Move You Art Contest Kickoff with Fort Worth ISD After School Program,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority, Fort Worth, TX

Group 3: Public transportation systems with more than 20 million passenger trips annually.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Zoo Train,” Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Houston, TX
Advertisement-Promotion: “RTD Image Ad Campaign,” Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
Annual Report: “Overcoming Challenges, Building Mobility,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “511 Outsmart Traffic Campaign,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Brochure: “CTA Public Art Brochure,” Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago, IL
Direct Mail: “Sleigh Bells,” Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
Illustrated Vehicle: “Stop Think Train,” Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Houston, TX
Map: “Convention and Visitors Map,” Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX
Newsletter: “Connections Newsletter,” Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
Passes & Tickets-Transit Fare Media: “Value Pass Program–Passes,” City of Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica, CA
Poster: “Green Line Commemorative Posters,” Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX
Promotional Materials: “Valley Metro Notes Rock n’ Ride Handout Cards,” Valley Metro RPTA, Scottsdale, AZ
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “UCI Riders’ Guide and Route Map,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA
Transit Card: “Destination Rail Posters,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA

Electronic Media
Digital Ad: “Metro ‘Multiples’ Campaign,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Internet Homepage: “TransLink Homepage,” TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority), Burnaby, BC
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Pace-Soldier Field Express-Sackman Radio,” Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, IL
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “PSA: How to Ride the Light Rail,” Valley Metro RPTA, Scottsdale, AZ
Video Presentation: “Ed Video: Take Your Bike for a Ride,” Valley Metro RPTA, Scottsdale, AZ

Promotional Campaign: “Valley Metro Notes Promotional Campaign,” Valley Metro RPTA, Scottsdale, AZ
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “Anti-Crime Campaign,” San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco, CA
Shoestring Campaign: “Lunar New Year Promotion,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA

Social Media
Blogs: “The Source,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Social Networking: “‘My Blue Sky Story’ Campaign,” San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, Oakland, CA
Twitter: “UTA Twitter Integration with Social Media Hub,” Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT
Viral Video: “Viral Video:  Just One Pass,” Valley Metro RPTA, Scottsdale, AZ

Special Event
Promotional Special Event: “Auto Show Bus Simulator,” Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland, OH
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “Green Line Art Invite and Booklet,” Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Dallas, TX

Group 4: Business members (manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, consultants, associations, transportation management organizations).

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Pedestrian Safety Campaign,” Veolia Transportation, Silver Spring, MD
Advertisement-Promotion: “Best Kept Secret in Transportation Management,” Tectrans, Los Angeles, CA
Brochure: “Orion Parts Solutions,” Orion Transit Buses, Greensboro, NC
Direct Mail: “IFMA Direct Mail Postcard,” VPSI Inc., Troy, MI
Newsletter: “Spring 2011 Exchange,” Veolia Transportation, Silver Spring, MD
Promotional Materials: “WTF T-Shirt,” The Rideshare Company, Bloomfield, CT

Electronic Media
Internet Homepage: “MCICOACH.COM/Pre-owned Plus,” Motor Coach Industries Inc., Schaumburg, IL
Video Presentation: “Easy Green Carpools Video,” The Rideshare Company, Bloomfield, CT

Promotional Campaign: “PrimoveCity-Unique E-Mobility Solution for Efficient and Sustainable Public Transportation,” Bombardier Transportation, Berlin, Germany

Social Media
Blogs: “ - VPSI’s Blog Page,” VPSI Inc., Troy, MI
Social Networking: “,” The Rideshare Company, Bloomfield, CT
Twitter: “First Transit Twitter Page,” First Transit, Cincinnati, OH
Viral Video: “Communicating Change,” First Transit, Cincinnati, OH

Special Event
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “Future of Florida High Speed Rail Tour,” Siemens Industry Inc., Sacramento, CA

Niche Awards

Category 1: Marketing and Communication to Older Adult Riders
“Marketing to the Elderly,” Jacksonville Transportation Authority, Jacksonville, FL

Category 2: Crisis or Issue Communications
“If You See Something, Say Something,” Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston, MA  

‘How We Commute Matters’: Florida Keynotes General Session

BY STEPHANIE BRUNO, Special to Passenger Transport

“The systems you build and the battles you fight in the face of an unbelievably uninformed public are truly heroic,” Richard Florida told an audience of public transportation industry professionals at an Oct. 4 General Session during the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting.

Described by APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas as an “economist, futurist, and author,” Florida spoke passionately about what he refers to as “The Great Reset”: the seismic shift in what will propel future healthy economies away from what propelled them in the past.

“It isn’t just an economic reset,” Florida said. “It’s social, cultural, psychological. And central to it is accelerating the speed by which we move people, things and ideas.”

Florida referred to his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, in which he posited that a transition from “old-style industry to something new” has been in progress over the past few decades. He calls it a shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, and argues that places—even “mega-regions”—that attract and nurture creativity are the ones that will benefit from economic prosperity in the future.

“Place and community are coming to supplant the industrial economy as the key social and economic organizational unit,” he said. “The idea that place matters is paramount. We have to invest in transit and other things that make place.”

Florida noted that thriving mega-regions transcend geopolitical boundaries and concentrate creative capital in communities.

“The world isn’t flat, it’s clustered,” he said, refuting a popular theory of how globalization has changed the worldwide economy. “Old patterns are crumbling. Places that understand how to concentrate and cluster people will prosper.”

Florida elaborated, saying that the new economic system will be built not around the automobile, but instead around public transit, high-speed rail, and other forms of public transportation that help the creative class cluster. “The way we build our transportation systems is critical,” he stressed.

Florida explained that traffic and gridlock resulting from the suburbanization of the nation in the 20th century are responsible for hundreds of billions of hours of lost time and productivity. He cited studies associating long car commutes with lowered happiness levels, financial instability, illness, and obesity. The move now, he said, is away from the suburban model and toward cities and regions where residents can benefit from public transit hubs.

“We need better transportation systems, better rail systems, to knit areas together,” he said. “How we commute matters.”

More Scenes from the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO



Photo by Jerome Holmes

A moment before cutting the EXPO ribbon.

Photo by Ken Bordelon

The St. Augustine High School Purple Knights Marching 100 band marches onto the EXPO floor following the ribbon-cutting ceremony.



Photo by Ken Bordelon

Attendees visit the expansive EXPO 2011 exhibit floor in New Orleans, where nearly 800 exhibitors filled 274,000 square feet on 22 miles of floor space.

Photo courtesy of AECOM

About 200 APTA members participated in home rebuilding efforts in St. Bernard Parish, LA, in conjunction with the APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO. 



Photo by Jerome Holmes

APTA President and CEO-Elect Michael P. Melaniphy exits a mock-up bus as he enters the stage at the Opening General Session.

Photo by Jerome Holmes

A capacity crowd gives a standing ovation to William Millar at his final APTA Annual Meeting as president of the association.



Photo by Kathy Anderson

William and Barbara Millar distribute Mardi Gras beads to the crowd during the Oct. 2 Welcoming Reception at Mardi Gras World.

Photo by Linda Reineke

Past and current APTA chairs join together to honor William Millar at a tribute dinner on Saturday night that raised funds for an APTF William Millar Scholarship.



Mass transit can help revitalize neighborhoods, too


This article originally appeared Oct. 2, 2011, in The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN. Reprinted by permission.

Marcus Saloane has lived along College Avenue near East 28th Street for almost two decades.

He’s watched the neighborhood change from a place where young men would brazenly stand in the streets to shoot people to a place where young professionals are moving in with their families. The blight and the crime aren’t gone, but redevelopment efforts are slowly picking up speed.

But to kick that redevelopment into overdrive, Saloane and many of his neighbors hope to capitalize on a potential commuter rail line that would run between Noblesville and Downtown Indianapolis.

“We’re acting as if we’re going to be a stop,” he said. “We’re looking for positivity. The neighborhood has been in disrepair for a long time.”

This is the untold story of mass transit.

When many people in Central Indiana talk about why we should or should not fund a $2.4 billion system of public trains and buses, often the conversation gets stuck on the notion of moving people.

People say things like: “Why would I pay to make it easier for commuters from the suburbs to get Downtown?” Or, “I don’t want to go to Noblesville to have fun.”

Those are valid points, but both miss the larger point.

Mass transit does more than move people from Point A to Point B. When planned properly with the right community support, it can spur economic growth in struggling neighborhoods.

In Central Indiana’s case, those neighborhoods fall primarily between East 38th Street and Downtown, along the Monon Trail and a stretch of long-abandoned railroad tracks. Under the multibillion-dollar Indy Connect transit plan, those tracks would be rehabbed to support commuter or light rail.

If a stop or two is installed along the way, these neighborhoods could be transformed into vibrant havens for young professionals and families living in upscale condos and houses, and patronizing new shops and restaurants.

In some ways, such a transition would actually be a return to the past.

These neighborhoods, now bereft of the kind of activity that often comes with stops along transit lines, are the same neighborhoods that were built and then thrived on transit in the early 1900s. There were Interurban, or electric streetcar, stops all along College Avenue. Indianapolis, in fact, had one of the most extensive systems of streetcars in the country.

“Every four blocks all the way up to Broad Ripple, there’s a node of development. That’s where there was a stop,” said Brad Beaubien, director of Ball State University’s College of Architecture & Planning in Indianapolis. “There’s a legacy of transit that you can still see today.”

Perhaps it’s time to revive that legacy—both to help solve longstanding problems in neighborhoods and to ensure that Indianapolis is attractive to future generations.

Building for transit
The rule of thumb is that transit, particularly rail, increases the value of nearby property. Study after study has shown this to be true in San Diego, Portland, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and many other cities.

The increased value isn’t the same from city to city, of course. And there are some exceptions to the rule. Development projects in Denver and Minneapolis, for example, have had a tough time lately because of the economy.

But transit is generally a boon for a neighborhood.

The trick for residents is to secure a stop along the way—and that’s not as easy as it used to be.

Once a decision is made to build a rail line in a city, almost every neighborhood wants a stop. The competition can be fierce. So, neighborhoods have to prove they are transit-ready.

Connectivity matters. Are there bike lanes? How about sidewalks with streetlights? Is there a major employer nearby? There’s no point having a stop in an area that doesn’t connect to anything else in a city.

“You really think about transit as being a market accelerator, not a market maker,” said Catherine Cox Blair, program director for the nonprofit advisory group Reconnecting America.

Just because you build a transit stop doesn’t mean they’ll come.

So, these days, developers are looking to cities and local transit officials to identify stops that would be good catalysts for condos or retail. What’s more, because of the economy, many projects around transit lines are “infill” projects, such as a new apartment building next to existing houses and a park.

The idea is to build on the density of a neighborhood so small retailers will follow. A convenience store or a small grocery store might pop up. Compare it to the kind and number of businesses that have opened along the Monon Trail, another key part of Indianapolis’ transportation ecosystem. Last week, for example, Cafe Patachou’s Martha Hoover said she plans to open another restaurant, Public Greens by Patachou, along the trail.

“The more activity you have, the more you’re going to attract retailers and residents,” said John D. Jackson, an associate principal with Indianapolis-based RATIO Architects. “You expect to see something very urban.”

Back to the future
Not long ago, Indianapolis had that kind of activity in its neighborhoods, and a lot of it was tied to the Interurban streetcar system.

Over four decades, 111 companies operated more than 3,000 streetcars over 2,100 miles of track across Indiana, ranking second only to Ohio, according to the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Eventually, the popularity of cars and the buildout of the highway system helped kill the streetcars—although the names of some roads, such as Stop 10 on the Far Southside, are reminders of its existence.

The automobile changed the culture of Indianapolis. It enabled urban sprawl, and neighborhoods that once sprung up around businesses and transit lines eventually found themselves without both. What’s left, at least in neighborhoods south of East 38th Street along the Monon Trail, are abandoned industrial sites known as brownfields.

Cleaning up those sites has been one of the first priorities of residents to make their neighborhoods transit-ready.

“Right now, it doesn’t make sense to put a stop there,” Beaubien said. “You wouldn’t put one in the middle of the greatest concentration of brownfields in the county and destroyed neighborhoods.”

Officials from several community development corporations have met to come up with other ways to prepare the neighborhoods for a rail line.

Among them: There are plans to build a “bicycle boulevard” along East 17th Street, which would link Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, over the Monon and rail line, to Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue. There also are plans for new housing. With some strategic rezoning, the idea is to use the large tracts of abandoned industrial land for new development instead of tearing up neighborhoods of homes.

Brian Kirtz, who owns a house in the changing neighborhood of Kennedy King, says he hopes those plans will be enough.

“What our main concern is, will there be a stop or not?” he said. “We would probably be offended if the train just went on by.”

Ehren Bingaman, head of the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority, insists there will be at least one stop, possibly more, south of East 38th Street. That’s assuming, of course, that state lawmakers agree to put a referendum on the ballot and then voters decide to raise taxes for transit. And those are big assumptions.

Some residents are skeptical—about transit itself and about whether they’ll ever see a stop to help their neighborhoods. Saloane, however, is a believer.

“We’ve heard so many stories; so many things have come and gone,” he said. “But we’re just sure that eventually, a train will be coming down those tracks.”