Passenger Transport - November 4, 2011
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BREAKING NEWS

Senate Considers Jobs Act Proposal; GOP Offers Two-Year Authorization Bill as Alternative

This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought before the Senate the transportation infrastructure component of President Obama’s American Jobs Act. In response to this proposal, Senate Republicans offered a two-year surface transportation authorization bill as an alternative.

Neither proposal was able to get the required 60 votes for passage. On a 51-49 vote, the Senate failed to overcome a filibuster over whether to proceed to S. 1769, which included the $50 billion in President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act for DOT infrastructure spending. The Republican alternative, a two-year transportation funding bill introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), fell with 47 votes for and 53 votes against. The wide-ranging GOP bill incorporated a copy of the most recently enacted surface transportation extension law and all current law dollar amounts prorated for that period of time.

Contact Your Senators
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to mark up the highway portion of a two-year surface transportation authorization bill on Nov. 9.

It is therefore critical for APTA members to contact senators on the Finance Committee to urge them to support the efforts of Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to mark up the finance title of the Senate bill.

If one of your senators serves on that committee, make sure to point that out when you ask for his or her support.

Other members of the Senate Finance Committee are Orrin Hatch (R-UT), ranking member; John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV); Kent Conrad (D-ND); Jeff Bingaman (D-NM); John Kerry (D-MA); Ron Wyden (D-OR); Charles Schumer (D-NY); Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Thomas R. Carper (D-DE); Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD); Charles E. Grassley (R-IA); Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME); Jon Kyl (R-AZ); Michael D. Crapo (R-ID); Pat Roberts (R-KS); Michael B. Enzi (R-WY); John Cornyn (R-TX); Tom Coburn (R-OK); John Thune (R-SD); and Richard Burr (R-NC).

These markups are vital to initiating consideration of a multi-year surface transportation authorization bill in the Senate that preserves funding for public transportation programs.

APTA is running ads in the inside-the-Beltway publications and web sites targeted to congressional members and staff.

Boehner: Bill by End of Year
Separately, on Nov. 3, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that House Republicans will introduce an energy and infrastructure jobs bill that they hope to move through the House before the end of the year. While details are still being provided, Boehner indicated that the proposal would be funded in part with revenues from expanded oil and gas drilling.

Rep. John Mica (R-FL), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said that this legislation would include a six-year authorization of surface transportation law.

NEWS HEADLINES

Obama Calls for Increased Public Transit Investment

In remarks Nov. 2 in Washington, DC, President Obama called on Congress to pass the transportation piece of the American Jobs Act, which will make immediate investments of $50 billion in U.S. transportation infrastructure.

“The United States is falling behind on investing in the roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems that keep our economy humming,” he said, adding “We spend just 2 percent of our GDP on infrastructure projects. Europe and China invest 5 percent and 9 percent of their respective GDPs on developing infrastructure.”

“Construction workers have been among the Americans hit hardest over the past few years,” he continued. “This week, Congress has the chance to do something about it and pass a bill that will put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports, and transit systems.”

He emphasized: “It’s a bill that includes the kinds of ideas both parties have voted for in the past, it’s paid for, and its ideas are supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people.”

White House Releases Infrastructure Report
The White House also announced the release of Recent Examples of the Economic Benefits from Investing in Infrastructure, a report that emphasizes the “ongoing need for new investments to maintain, upgrade, and expand the nation’s stock of transportation infrastructure.”

Such investments in transportation infrastructure provide substantial economic benefits in both the short and long run, the report states. It cites several recently completed infrastructure projects, including expanded public transit services to new communities:

* The Green Line light rail extension in Portland, OR, moves commuters and other travelers to their destinations efficiently and with less congestion. “Without a well-functioning system of roads and highways, public transit, railways, seaports, and aviation, much of the activity in the U.S. economy would grind to halt,” the report said.  

* Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s 24-mile Green Line light rail extension opened for service six months ahead of schedule, in December 2010, with the report terming this “a remarkable transformation for a city, and a region, dominated by an automobile culture for most of the last century.”

* The 10.6-mile Mid-Jordan Light Rail line opened in Utah in August, providing a direct connection to the Salt Lake City central business district, the University of Utah, and other metro area destinations.

* Seattle’s Sound Transit invested $377 million, funded with Build America Bonds, for light rail projects including the initial Central Link line and the Airport Link and University Link extensions.

The report examines the economic reasons for making these investments now and presents four different types of infrastructure projects that would most likely result in large returns. At the conclusion of the report are discussions of innovative financing methods, including leveraging private funding and developing methods to ensure that infrastructure funds go where they will have the most direct effect.

The text of the report is available here.

Transportation Funds Included in Minibus Bill Passed by Senate

The Senate voted Nov. 1 to approve a $182 billion appropriations minibus bill that includes DOT. The bill passed by a bipartisan margin of 69-30, with one senator voting present.

The term “minibus” refers to legislation that could be considered a smaller version of an omnibus bill because it covers appropriations for several agencies instead of the entire federal government.

Congress will now proceed to the next step, which is to appoint a conference committee that will reconcile differences between the version of the bill that passed the House and the bill as amended and passed by the Senate.

This bill started as the agriculture appropriations bill, becoming a minibus when funding for Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Justice, and Science were added. It is the first of two expected minibus bills.

Also, the Senate still has other appropriations bills up for consideration that could affect funding for public transportation agencies. One likely to affect public transit funding is the Homeland Security appropriations, which has already passed the House.

However, action on the minibus bill must be taken by Nov. 18, the date on which the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires. If passage is not achieved by that date, Congress must implement another short-term CR. This will keep these areas of the government funded until the conference committee can reconcile differences in the legislation and send the final bill to the president for his signature.

Melaniphy Takes Helm at APTA

Michael P. Melaniphy is now officially on board as president and chief executive officer of APTA, effective Nov. 1, 2011.

Previously, Melaniphy was vice president, public sector, Motor Coach Industries Inc. He has led public transit systems in Charlotte, NC; Wichita, KS; Hamilton, OH; and Laredo, TX.

He was unanimously approved by the APTA Board of Directors in July after an extensive search that included more than 180 candidates.

COMMENTARY

I Am Thrilled to Be on Board as Your President and CEO

BY MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY

It is both an honor and a privilege to have been selected to serve as APTA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. This is an extraordinary time for the public transportation industry and I am excited about the many opportunities that lie ahead.

I am also excited to be working alongside many of you with whom I have forged relationships during my 23 years in the transportation industry in both the public and private sectors. Many of you I know through my participation on a variety of APTA committees and task forces and as a graduate of Leadership APTA. From my first job in the industry, driving a bus at Indiana University for Bobby Knight, to my first week on the job at APTA, public transportation has been my life. It’s even where I met my wife!

I am also honored to be named Bill Millar’s successor. His leadership and vision have brought our industry unprecedented success, and with your help, we can build on his legacy and take our association to even greater heights. Bill, my professor at Indiana University George Smerk, and frankly, many of you, are true inspirations to me.

Fortunately, Bill left APTA with a solid foundation to build upon. This will allow me to focus my energies on moving the association’s agenda forward. Change will come incrementally and always with you, the members, in mind. By working together, we can continue to reap the benefits of this solid foundation and cultivate the new initiatives focused on the vision developed by APTA’s membership. That vision is a national multimodal public transportation system that is available and accessible to all and is the key for sustained economic vitality and global competitiveness.

As I begin my new role at APTA, I pledge to do my absolute best to serve you and to ensure that our association is steadfastly focused on strengthening and improving public transportation. I look forward to working with APTA’s volunteer leaders and with the dedicated staff at APTA to continue to grow and strengthen our association for many years to come.

I want to thank APTA’s Board of Directors for their faith in me. I am humbled that they voted unanimously to elect me as President and CEO of APTA. This action was also very energizing because it shows we are not only strong, but also united.

Over the course of the next year, much of my time will be spent on the road visiting with you at your rail yards, your bus facilities, and on your factory floors. And, if all else fails, in your offices! I want to meet your local partners. While I have visited hundreds of public transit agencies and many suppliers over the years, there are literally hundreds more I want to get to know. Each APTA member’s experience and insight is critical, since our association’s collective knowledge is our strength.

It is a strength that will help us secure passage of a long-term, multimodal surface transportation authorization bill, which is a priority for all of us. We will amplify our message to Capitol Hill to make the case for federal investment in public transportation and to reinforce the fact that public transportation drives our economy while creating and supporting jobs. But beyond authorization, there is much more to focus on.

I will work with APTA Chair Gary Thomas and the Board of Directors on several key areas. We will stress the concepts of inclusion and involvement and continually enhance the value of your APTA membership. We encourage many more of you to get actively involved in APTA and its committees. We will provide you with the tools and information you need—when you need it—by enhancing our member communications.

We will work hard to position APTA as the thought leader in transportation policy. In short, we will make APTA more agile—incorporating constantly evolving technologies and innovations.

And, as we evolve our association, I want to hear from you about what’s working, what’s not, and how we can make APTA even more responsive to you. This kind of feedback is essential to be a truly successful association. And we all want APTA to succeed!

So, let’s get to work.

ADDITIONAL NEWS

NJ Transit and Google Simplify Buying Tickets

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) has some good news to share about purchasing tickets.

The system, working in partnership with Google Wallet, Google’s recently released contactless payment system, notes that it is the first public transportation agency to offer rail and bus customers the option of using their smartphones to pay for transportation tickets at select locations.

“We are putting the latest technology to work for our customers and improve the overall customer experience,” said NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein. “By partnering with Google, we are leading the industry with emerging technologies that will streamline the way customers buy their transportation tickets.”

“Transit has been a common element of every major successful ‘near field communication’ (NFC) effort globally and is a critical component of Google Wallet’s success,” said Stephanie Tilenius, vice president of commerce at Google. “Transit is the fastest way to accelerate adoption and reach usage density in major urban centers by habituating the behavior of tapping and paying with phones, and we’re excited to launch our transit effort here with NJ Transit.”

Google Wallet is a free mobile app that makes “tap and pay” transactions quick and convenient by storing virtual versions of users’ credit cards on their smartphones. The technology uses NFC, which enables wireless data transmission between two objects when they are brought into close proximity with one another, so customers simply wave their phones in front of a sensor. Result? No more juggling cash or using credit cards to make purchases.

Currently, Google Wallet is available on Sprint’s Nexus S 4G phone and supports Citi MasterCard credit cards and a Google Prepaid Card, with plans to support additional card companies and more Android devices with NFC capabilities in the future.

Another benefit to users: This public-private partnership with Google Inc. was developed at no cost to NJ Transit.

For more information, click here.

Cardinals Fans Take Transit to the Ballpark


Crowds of St. Louis Cardinals fans exit MetroLink light rail at the Stadium Station, near Busch Stadium, on their way to watch the Cardinals defeat the Texas Rangers in seven games during the 2011 World Series.

York Agency Breaks Ground in Gettysburg; New Transit Center with Historic Look

The York Adams Transportation Authority (rabbittransit) in York, PA, broke ground Oct. 19 for its new Gettysburg Transit Center. The authority manages and operates Freedom Transit fixed route service in Gettysburg.

The design of the 1,500-square-foot structure fits with the historic charm of the town, reflecting the aesthetic of the adjacent Historic Gettysburg Railroad Station—where President Abraham Lincoln arrived by train to give his Gettysburg Address. Interior plans call for a mixture of stone and natural materials to complement the inner design of the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center.

The authority noted that it expects the Gettysburg Transit Center to serve as a cornerstone of the Gettysburg experience, to provide visitors and residents alike the ability to connect to the entire community.

Site enhancements will include streetscape improvements with associated landscaping and pedestrian scale lighting, stormwater management rain gardens to improve runoff water quality, plus four bus bays. Improvements to the southerly property boundary will incorporate a connection with a planned bike path facility and other site amenities such as lighting, landscaping, and a bike rack, as well as way-finding and historic signage.

In addition, the transit facility will be the first boarding location of the rabbitEXPRESS commuter bus service between Gettysburg and Harrisburg, the state capital. The bus service also connects Harrisburg’s airport and Amtrak station with historic downtown Gettysburg.

Funding for the project came from the Federal Transit Administration, Pennsylvania DOT, and Pennsylvania Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Freedom Transit began providing fixed route service three years ago as a demonstration “Transit in the Parks” initiative. Ridership has continued to climb and trips increased by a total of 84 percent this year as compared to last.

“The need to cement our transit footprint is even stronger as the 150th celebration of the Civil War approaches [the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in 1863] and transportation infrastructure will be critical,” said Darlene Brown, authority board member.

 

Breaking ground for the Gettysburg Transit Center are, from left, York Adams Transportation Authority Board Member Richard Carson; authority Executive Director Richard Farr; Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA); Gettysburg Mayor William Troxell; PennDOT Division Chief Robert Sharp; Bob Kirby, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park & Eisenhower National Historic Site; Gettysburg Borough Council Vice President Holliday Giles; Scot Pitzer, field representative for state Sen. Richard Alloway; and transit board member Darlene Brown.

 

 

SFMTA Renames Streetcar Yard in Memory of Beach

At ceremonies Oct. 25, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors renamed the San Francisco Municipal Railway’s (Muni) Geneva Yard, home of the F Market & Wharves historic streetcar fleet, in memory of SFMTA board member and transit advocate Cameron Beach. Beach, who died in the spring, worked in public transportation for 44 years and was a member of the SFMTA board for more than four years.

The yard has housed Muni streetcars since 1900 and currently serves as the home of the F Market & Wharves Line, which operates with historic streetcars and carries more than 20,000 customers on an average weekday.

“Cameron’s passion to deliver a world-class public transportation system to San Francisco was shaped, not just by his vast transportation experience informed by decades of work, but most importantly by the riders of Muni themselves,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “His leadership and commitment to them and to our operators, maintenance workers, bicyclists, and pedestrians is reflected every day in the operations of our SFMTA. As we dedicate this yard to Cameron’s legacy, we also rededicate ourselves to providing our city with the transportation system it deserves.”

SFMTA Board Chairman Tom Nolan added: “As a daily Muni rider and native San Franciscan, Cam had an unparalleled passion for Muni, our customers, and the future of this system. His expertise and insight are greatly missed. This action is a fitting memorial to his legacy for this agency, this city, and the public transportation industry.”

As a final honor to a public transit industry veteran, Beach posthumously received APTA’s Local Distinguished Service Award at the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO.

 

© 2011 SFMTA/Heather Moran

Members of the SFMTA Board of Directors pose with the plaque renaming the Geneva Yard in memory of Cameron Beach. From left are Malcolm Heinicke, Chairman Tom Nolan, Vice Chairman Jerry Lee, and Cheryl Brinkman.

 

New in New York City: MTA Boutique at Macy’s

This holiday season, one New York City tradition—the public transportation agencies of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—is partnering with another—Macy’s. A 1,000-square-foot boutique in The Cellar of Macy’s flagship Herald Square store features a unique collection of MTA-trademarked products developed especially for the store.

The collection, titled NYC Underground, includes such items as apparel, accessories, mugs, water bottles, note pads, and wrist watches. Products featuring the easily recognizable New York subway map will be accented with the iconic Macy’s red star to mark the famous 34th Street and Broadway intersection known as Herald Square.

Macy’s has decorated the temporary boutique with subway maps, station signs, and even real subway benches and metal hand grabs on loan from MTA New York City Transit.

“As we look to make every dollar count across everything the MTA does, we’re working to enhance the value of the MTA brand and trademarks,” said Paul J. Fleuranges, MTA senior director of corporate and internal communications. “We are delighted to be able to do that with a prominent presence in such an iconic and world-renowned space.”

Gouda Inc., an official MTA licensed company, created the NYC Underground brand exclusively for Macy’s.

“Macy’s is excited about our partnership with the MTA and its new branded merchandise endeavor, NYC Underground. The MTA is the one thing that connects all New Yorkers. The city, our employees, and customers rely so heavily on the MTA getting us there that I’m sure visitors and New Yorkers alike will be proud to own an item of the collection. We’re happy to have the MTA Boutique pull into Macy’s Herald Square,” said Patti M. Lee, district vice president and Macy’s Herald Square general manager.

While MTA licensees have previously secured small, dedicated displays in other retail stores, this deal with Macy’s is the first instance of direct, co-branding collaboration between the MTA and a large retail store.

‘Don’t Text and Drive’; Take the Bus Instead

Citilink in Fort Wayne, IN, has partnered with Parkview Hospital to introduce a Citilink bus wrapped in a message promoting the hospital’s “Don’t Text & Drive” program. The wrapped bus will remain in service for a year.

The partnership is one component of an effort to increase awareness about the dangers of texting while driving, which became illegal in Indiana on July 1. Parkview launched the “Don’t Text & Drive” initiative with billboards and broadcast public service announcements in February 2009, targeting both teens and adult drivers.

“This is a great partnership that will assist us in our efforts to educate the community about the dangers of texting while driving,” said Lori Hunt, trauma prevention coordinator, Parkview Trauma Centers. “We want residents to be as safe as possible and recognize the risks associated with texting and driving.”

“Citilink is pleased to offer area businesses the opportunity to provide rolling billboards on the exterior of our buses. This is not only an opportunity to inform the community but also helps to support the public transit system that provides approximately two million trips per year to your customers and employees,” said Betsy Kachmar, assistant general manager, Citilink.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

OCTA Unveils Parking Structure at Tustin Metrolink Station

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in Orange, CA, opened a new, 823-space Metrolink parking structure at the Tustin Metrolink Station in mid-October. The station serves approximately 800 daily passengers and previously provided 300 parking spaces.

“Increased ridership shows that Orange County residents are commuting to their jobs more than ever before,” said OCTA Director Jerry Amante, also mayor of Tustin. “Taking alternative forms of transportation is a great way to reduce congestion on the streets. I hope Tustinites can use the parking structure and ride the train in place of a commute as I do a few times a month. Riding frees me up to be productive: reading the newspaper, going through work papers, writing e-mails, or just enjoying a book!“

OCTA designed the five-level parking structure with energy-efficient features such as LED lighting and solar panels on the roof to power the facility. Electronic signage at the entrance displays where parking spots are available. The project, which came in under budget for a total cost of $15.4 million, received funding under OCTA’s Measure M and from the state.

Fort Worth’s ‘T’ Turns Plaza into Student Art Canvas

The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) opened the plaza of its downtown Intermodal Transportation Center in Fort Worth, TX, for a student sidewalk art celebration on Oct. 20. Forty students from kindergarten through high school represented the Fort Worth Independent School District for the Lights On! Afterschool Sidewalk Art Celebration.

Lights On! is a national celebration to call attention to the importance of after-school programs for America’s children, families and communities. The program also featured student entertainers and remarks from community leaders and officials.

The event also kicked off The T’s 2011-2012 “Expressions That Move You” Art Contest for students who participate in the Fort Worth After School program supported by the school district and the city of Fort Worth. The contest invites students to create and submit artwork depicting a theme on what The T, public transportation, the city, or the environment means to the entrant. The artwork of 10 winners will appear on the exterior of The T’s buses next summer.

“I’ve seen some really wonderful art on our plaza here today,” said T President Dick Ruddell in announcing The T’s contest. “Use your talents to draw what you imagine when you think of public transportation, and you could become one of The T’s winners with a giant blowup of your art on one of our buses traveling all over the city for everyone to see,” he added.

Last year’s “Expressions That Move You” contest received both first-place and grand prize honors in APTA’s 2011 AdWheel Awards competition.

CamTran Updates Fleet with Low-Emission Buses

The Cambria County Transit Authority (CamTran) in Johnstown, PA, recently dedicated seven new 35-foot Gillig buses, replacing older buses in the fleet that have reached the end of their their useful life. The new buses are accessible and operate with ultra-low-sulfur, low-emission diesel engines, as well as improvements to the exhaust system to limit carbon emissions.

“These new buses will help make the overall transportation experience more pleasant for our riders and in turn help us achieve our goal of providing the very best in customer service,” says CamTran Executive Director, Rose Lucey-Noll.

The buses cost a total of $2.7 million. Six of them were purchased with SAFETEA-LU funds, matched by state and local funds, and the other through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

PSTA Launches New Trolley Service

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority in St. Petersburg, FL, recently initiated its new Central Area Trolley service, which connects the St. Petersburg Pier with Pass-a-Grille Beach.

The service operates on a combined route previously served by the Pier Trolley, the Looper Group’s Central Avenue Shuttle, PSTA Route 35, and the Suncoast Beach TrolleySM.

PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller explained that, in the past, riders had to make three transfers to travel from the pier to the beach. “On the new Central Avenue Trolley they’ll have the luxury of an easy, no-transfer ride between the two popular destinations,” he said.

The Central Avenue Trolley features a new multi-zone fare system that offers free transport between the St. Petersburg Pier and the BayWalk shopping and entertainment complex. The fare between BayWalk and PSTA’s Grand Central Station is just 50 cents, while regular PSTA fares apply to the segment between Grand Central Station and Pass-a-Grille Beach.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

John Valls, Vangie Chapa
CORPUS CHRISTI, TX—The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) Board of Directors elected John Valls as its chairman and Vangie Chapa as vice chairman.

Valls, appointed by the city of Corpus Christi, has served on the board for six years. He is the principal of Valls Consulting Group and a former member of the Texas Transit Association Board of Directors.

The board also swore in three new appointees—Lamont C. Taylor, representing Nueces County, Ray Hunt and Robert B. Garcia, both named by the Committee of Mayors—and two reappointed board members, Gil Hernandez and Angie Flores Granado.

Andrew Frohn, Thierry Prate, Kirk Hunt
NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) announced the appointments of Andrew Frohn as a design quality assurance manager in the Honolulu office; Thierry Prate as a principal consultant in the Denver office; and Kirk Hunt as a technical manager in the Newark office.

Frohn will oversee the design quality assurance program for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, a 20-mile, 21-station elevated rail system that will connect West Oahu to Honolulu. His more than 25 years of experience includes 20-plus years with MTA Long Island Rail Road, four of those years as director of corporate quality assurance.

Prate comes to PB from a management consulting firm in Paris and London, where he was a senior project manager working with public and private European rail clients. He has extensive experience as a strategic consultant specializing in international economics and finance for transport and rail projects with an emphasis on high-speed and regional rail.

Hunt is a field project manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority on the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project. He has 28 years of experience in the transit industry, working most recently on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access Project in New York City.


Ron Paananen

DENVER, CO—Ron Paananen, P.E. former administrator and project director with Washington State DOT, has joined the Transportation Business Group of CH2M HILL. He is based in the company’s Washington, DC, office, working on the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative project that includes multiple transportation, land use, and economic development projects.

Paananen brings more than 32 years of experience with WSDOT and King County, WA, to CH2M HILL.

APTA NEWS

TCRP Releases Three New Publications

The Transportation Research Board recently published the following Transit Cooperative Research Program publications:

Report 145—Reinventing the Urban Interstate: A New Paradigm for Multimodal Corridors. This report presents strategies for planning, designing, building, and operating multimodal corridors, freeways, and high-capacity transit lines running parallel in the same travel corridors.

Report 150—Communication with Vulnerable Populations: A Transportation and Emergency Management Toolkit. This report describes how to create a communication process to reach vulnerable populations regarding their transportation options in emergencies. The toolkit provides a guiding framework and tools for constructing a scalable, adaptable communication process built on a network of agencies from public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Together the partners form interconnected communication channels with the ability to carry out the function of emergency communication not necessarily possible by working alone.

A PowerPoint slide show that summarizes the toolkit is available online at TRB’s web site.

Legal Research Digest 36—Transit-Oriented and Joint Development: Case Studies and Legal Issues. This digest examines a combination of large, medium, and small transit-oriented development (TOD) and joint development projects since 1999 and provides comprehensive case studies.

Sample documents are included with the print version of the publication in CD-ROM format. The CD-ROM is also available for download from TRB’s web site as an ISO image. Links to the ISO image and instructions for burning a CD-ROM from an ISO image are provided as well.

To order copies of these reports, click here.

IN DEPTH

Translation Keeps Transit Agencies, Riders Speaking the Same Language

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor


Suppose you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, and you’re trying to navigate an unfamiliar public transportation system without being able to read the signage in the station. Where can you turn?

For many U.S. transit agencies, the answer is a translation service that helps non-English speakers find their way to their destination. They can take any of a variety of approaches, such as translation software programs on their web sites, employing multi-lingual personnel, or contract with a live translation service. Transit agencies, which follow local and federal guidelines in providing outreach in languages common to their service area, provide translations that range from the common (Spanish, Chinese) to the surprising.

For example, few people outside Fort Wayne, IN, may know that this Midwestern city is home to the largest Burmese population outside Burma, an influx that began with church-related political refugee resettlement efforts and now includes federal immigrant/refugee programs. Citilink, a service of the Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corporation, provides specialized services to this community including, most recently, a Burmese-language version of its 18-minute video, “How to Ride a Citilink Bus.” (The video is also available in English and Spanish.)

“The Red Cross MIX Program had translated some of our materials into Burmese,” said Citilink spokesperson Betsy Kachmar, “and I had made some travel training presentations—with translation—to newcomer groups. However, it was suggested that more hands-on training and a visual tool would be helpful, as many refugees do not know how to read the Burmese language and there are many dialects.”

A bilingual instructor at the Burmese Advocacy Center leads the transit travel training, Kachmar said, but the video takes the training to another level.

“We had a great time making the video,” she continued. “The Burmese community provided willing passengers to ride on the bus while the cameraman—who works for the county/public library and public access TV—and I tried to figure out what we wanted to shoot and how to show them what to do. The Allen County Health Department provided technical support, and the Red Cross MIX Program [also] translated the Spanish version. I am the English narrator. All of this happened without any money. All effort was donated by the parties involved.”

Creole in South Florida
Another part of the country, another language challenge: South Florida has a sizable Haitian population that speaks Creole, in addition to a large Spanish-speaking population. Many of these people are migrant workers who use public transportation to travel to work, but have little grasp of English. To give these riders the help they need, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail (SFRTA) in Pompano Beach uses a translation service to provide essential information in both Creole and Spanish.

“I usually have in my call center the capability to answer questions in those languages. I specifically employ staff to be able to do that the majority of the time,” said Bonnie Arnold, SFRTA director of marketing.

Arnold explained that SFRTA decided not to use an automated translation service for its web site because of possible problems with the tone of the responses and the fact that many transit-specific terms are difficult to translate. She said the agency is considering whether to add the web site to the responsibilities of its translating contractor.

Outreach to Visitors
Cosmopolitan cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles are centers of both commerce and tourism, meaning that public transportation agencies must provide greater outreach to meet the needs of the riding public often not fluent in English.

For example, both the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and, across the bay in Oakland, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) follow government guidelines regarding communication with people for whom English is not the primary language.

“Federal regulations require that recipients of federal funds take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their services and benefits for persons with limited English proficiency,” said Luna Salaver, public information officer for BART. “Under these regulations, programs and activities normally provided in English must be accessible to persons who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English and whose primary language is not English. To that end, BART has developed a Language Assistance Plan for people with limited English proficiency, offering free language assistance upon request to assist customers in riding BART.”

BART provides bilingual transit information representatives at the Transit Information Center; they provide guidance in Spanish and Chinese to speakers of those languages who are not proficient in English. Employees at each BART station also have immediate access to Language Line Services, which provides interpreters for up to 170 languages over the telephone. BART makes its Basics Guide and Safety Guide available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, German, Italian, and French editions, and basic system information is available at the web site in Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Italian, Korean, and Spanish.

SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland said that, as a San Francisco city department, her agency must follow both municipal and federal requirements about offering alternative languages to its residents. The agency provides transit information in Spanish and Chinese, she said, and supplies additional information to the city’s 24-hour customer service phone center, 311, “which is able to provide an even greater depth of language services.”

Holland emphasized: “We have large immigrant populations who would have limited use of our services without information in their languages. We also have a large tourist population, many of whom travel here with multiple language skills, and it’s nice to be able to communicate with them quickly and easily.”

Los Angeles Metro provides both Spanish and English versions of its news releases on the same page of its web site, under the News and Information tab.

Gayle Anderson, a spokesperson for the agency, pointed out that Los Angeles Metro also provides “pocket guides” in English and 10 other languages in PDF format as part of its limited English proficiency outreach plan. These guides, updated annually, include essential information for riders on such topics as fare information, hours of operation, and prepaid passes. The languages, selected to meet the diverse needs of the population, are Armenian, Cambodian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.

The DART First State web site, covering public transit services throughout Delaware, offers a translation option of web pages into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, through Google. The agency’s customer service representatives also have access to live translators by phone and use this service about five times a month.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) consulted existing demographic data before deciding on its linguistic outreach approach. As part of the redesign of CTA’s transitchicago.com web site that launched in December 2008, the agency began providing select bus and rail service content in Spanish, Polish, and Mandarin Chinese, all spoken by sizable numbers of the region’s population, to improve the customer experience while also making public transit and pertinent service information more accessible. CTA reported receiving positive overall feedback since the implementation of this translation service.

Vancouver, BC—described by TransLink spokesperson Drew Snider as “a multicultural city that’s more mosaic than melting-pot”—flags certain customer service alerts in Chinese, Punjabi, and Korean. Employees of the SkyTrain system have access to the on-call Provincial Language Service, which provides interpretation services in 150 languages.

Probably the most linguistically diverse city in the U.S. is New York City, so New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) went with a service that provides web site translation into more than 40 languages—ranging from Afrikaans and Albanian to Welsh and Yiddish—at the click of a button. Google Translate is a free, pre-packaged service, according to MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan, which means that all users have access to all the languages it offers, and new languages automatically become available to users as they are added.

“We also liked that Google Translate allows native speakers to suggest alternate phrases in a situation where the generated translation is not quite correct or stilted,” Donovan said.

He summed up the importance of translation to public transit operations in a multi-lingual city: “It is no exaggeration to say that the population of New York City and its region can be viewed as a microcosm of the world, with languages from across the globe being spoken every day in homes and on the street. In addition, millions of travelers from around the world visit the city and region each year. Many of them may learn about our services via the web before they get here, and we want them to be comfortable using our system. In order to better serve all of these diverse populations, the MTA needs to make sure it can communicate effectively in as many languages as possible.”