Passenger Transport - December 2, 2011
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BREAKING NEWS

National Freight Rail Strike Averted

The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents 30 freight rail carriers, reached an agreement Dec. 1 with 12 of its 13 unions to avoid a national rail strike. The strike, which could have began as early as Dec. 6, would have had a severe impact for a number of APTA commuter rail systems that run on track owned by freight railroads.

The remaining union agreed to a 60-day cooling-off period with continuing talks. This period, set to expire Feb. 8, 2012, will allow rail travel and shipping to continue unimpeded.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee had already introduced a resolution Nov. 30 to begin the process of a congressional intervention had an agreement not been reached to prevent a shutdown. The Dec. 1 agreements and creation of the cooling-off period prevent the need for such action.

NEWS HEADLINES

Metro Inks Houston’s First-Ever Full Funding Grants for Light Rail

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) will receive $900 million in federal funds for light rail expansion under two Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) awarded during a Nov. 28 signing ceremony. Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, joined elected officials and Metro representatives at the event, held at a rail expansion construction site overlooking downtown Houston.

According to Metro President and Chief Executive Officer George Greanias: “The $900 million federal grants more than double the local dollars being used to construct the 5.3-mile North (Red) extension and the 6.6-mile Southeast (Purple) Line and mark the first time rail projects here have received FFGAs. This is a great example of how we can leverage our local dollars to improve mobility in the region.”

Each of the lines will receive $450 million through its FFGA; the total construction cost for the two lines is $1.6 billion. The federal government has already set aside $484.5 million for the two projects as part of the FFGAs, of which Metro has received $84.5 million. The transit agency expects to continue receiving the federal funding over the next few years.

The rail expansion approved by Houston voters in 2003 includes the North (Red) Line and extends the current Main Street Line, starting at University of Houston-Downtown to the Northline Transit Center, Houston Community College, and Northline Commons Mall. The Southeast (Purple) Line connects downtown with local universities including Texas Southern University and the University of Houston central campus. Metro expects to complete construction of the two federally funded lines, along with the locally funded East End (Green) Line, by 2014.

 

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, seated center, signs the FFGA for Houston Metro, accompanied by Metro President and CEO George Greanias, left, and Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia. Standing, from left, are Houston Mayor Annise Parker; Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and Al Green (D-TX); Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX); and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).

 


 

Transit Commuter Benefits Face Cut; APTA Calls Upon Its Members to Contact Congress

BY PAUL DEAN, Vice President of Social Mission, Advocacy, and Education, TransitCenter Inc., New York, NY

For the second time in as many years, the nation’s public transit riders are looking to Congress to extend an expiring provision of the federal tax code that sets the pre-tax limit for the public transportation portion of the commuter benefit at $230 per month.
Congress has until Dec. 31, 2011, to enact legislation that would maintain the current $230 level, which is equivalent to the current pre-tax limit for the parking portion of the benefit. If Congress fails to act, the monthly parking limit will increase to $240, due to an automatic cost-of-living increase, while the public transit limit reverts to $125 per month. [APTA is working on several fronts to preserve this benefit.]

The public transit portion of the commuter benefit is a valuable, cost-saving measure that allows employees to withhold up to $230 per month from their paychecks, tax free, and use that money to purchase public transportation fares. More than 2.7 million commuters take advantage of the benefit, which can save them as much as $1,150 per year.
In addition, surveys have shown that the benefit creates a true incentive for commuters to switch to public transit instead of driving to work alone. This helps to reduce traffic congestion, preserve the environment, and reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil.

The benefit also helps employers save money. In 2009, employers saved approximately $300 million in payroll taxes by offering the benefit—money that could be reinvested to help create new jobs.

Prior to 2009, the monthly limit for the public transit benefit was $120. However, Congress—with the support of many public transit advocates, including APTA—increased the limit to $230 to bring it on par with the parking limit as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The increase in the public transit benefit was only temporary, however. Last year, Congress enacted legislation to extend the $230 limit for an additional year.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) have introduced legislation, the Commuter Benefits Equity Act, that would create permanent parity between the public transit and parking portions of the commuter benefit. This bipartisan legislation enjoys wide support among public transit advocates and awaits consideration in Congress.

To preserve the current limit for the public transit benefit, it is critical that Congress enact this legislation, or an additional extension, prior to the end of the current legislative session.

Call to Action for APTA Members
APTA is reaching out to advocates nationwide through its more than 100,000 Facebook fans, its Twitter feed, and online. Members are encouraged to link to APTA’s social media outreach and encourage their riders to take action by sending letters to their Congressional representatives in support of extending the public transit commuter benefit.
 
APTA will also issue a press release to the national media and provide a template release for members to use locally.

The text of a letter from APTA President and CEO Michael P. Melaniphy to Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), ranking member of the committee, can be found here.

More information on supporting the Commuter Benefits Equity Act is available from Mantill Williams.

In addition, APTA is part of TransitCenter’s coalition of public transit advocates, which includes several national advocacy groups and businesses. This coalition has launched an advocacy campaign—“Commuter Benefits Work for Us”—to encourage Congress to enact legislation to maintain the current pre-tax limit. The campaign has created a web site where public transit riders and advocates can learn more about the public transit benefit.

Ansaldo Signs $1.3B Honolulu Contract

Ansaldo Honolulu Joint Venture, a consortium comprising Finmeccanica companies Ansaldo STS (STS.MI) and AnsaldoBreda, has entered into its largest contract ever, valued at $1.33 billion, with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, to supply technology and vehicles for Honolulu’s new driverless rail line.

The contract covers design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the new, 19.9-mile line for the city of Honolulu, which will include 21 stations. Of the total amount, Ansaldo STS’ share comes to $1.13 billion and AnsaldoBreda to $200 million.

The design and construction work is scheduled to take eight years: the first stretch of track is scheduled to enter service in 2015 and the full project should be complete by 2019.

The Honolulu project is the tenth for Ansaldo STS’ Transportation Systems Unit based on driverless trains and unmanned stations—four in Italian cities, the other six in various locations around the world.

“Ansaldo STS is proud to have signed this important contract, whose value is the highest in our history. Our company has a proven tradition of delivering highly successful state-of-the-art rail systems around the world and we are fully ready to immediately get to work to honor our commitment,” said Sergio De Luca, chief executive officer of Ansaldo STS.

Stuffing the Bus for Thanksgiving


Head Start students from Wilmington, DE, were among the participants in DART First State’s 14th annual “Stuff the Bus” Thanksgiving Food Drive, which collected 11.2 tons (22,377 pounds) of non-perishable food for the Food Bank of Delaware—enough to fill three 30-foot buses. The transit agency collected donations at four locations throughout the state during the week-long campaign.

 

Keolis Acquires Tectrans

Keolis America Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Keolis, has acquired Tectrans Inc., a public transit operator headquartered in California.

Tectrans, which will be renamed “Keolis Transit America Inc.,” provides fixed route and paratransit transportation as well as airport, college, and corporate shuttles, taxi operations and other transit-related services such as call center management. The company has provided transportation solutions since the 1940s, currently holding more than 100 contracts in the U.S. with 1,525 vehicles and 1,400 employees.

Arnaud Van Troeyen, Keolis executive vice president, international development, called the acquisition “an important step for Keolis as it allows us to enter the public transit market and provides us with an outstanding platform for future growth in the U.S., which are at the heart of our priorities for our international expansion.”

“The management team and I see a good cultural fit with Keolis,” added Michael Griffus, president and chief executive officer of Tectrans. “We are excited about the future of Keolis Transit America Inc. Having a financially and technically strong parent company will facilitate our growth.”

The Keolis Group operates in 12 countries, while Tectrans serves more than 80 clients across the U.S.

MARTA Opens Innovative Solar-Powered Bus Facility

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) recently welcomed Therese McMillan, deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, to commemorate the installation of a locally manufactured solar-powered canopy at a bus garage near Atlanta. The Laredo Garage solar canopy, funded with a $10.8 million federal grant, is the largest structure of its kind in Georgia and the second largest within a U.S. transit system.

The 190,000-square-foot garage uses more than 4,800 photovoltaic (PV) panels installed on the roof canopy According to MARTA, the solar canopy is expected to save nearly $160,000 in utility expenses annually, cutting the garage’s electric bill nearly in half. It will provide further savings as it reduces summertime temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees, allowing buses parked in 220 stalls beneath the shaded canopy to use less fuel for air conditioning and enhance the work environment.

The project’s environmental benefits are estimated to be equivalent to planting more than 285 acres of trees annually.

“FTA is proud to be MARTA’s partner on a project that clearly demonstrates the transit industry’s capacity for innovation and ingenuity,” McMillan said. “We will continue to support competitive projects that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, spur the transit industry to reduce costs and increase efficiencies through smart energy policies, and create more green jobs for the 21st century.”

MARTA Board Chairman Jim Durrett responded: “We’re thrilled that the solar technology used to build the canopy for the bus facility was born out of Georgia Tech’s PV lab.  To be able to use home-grown technology to power this landmark project is a clear demonstration of the clean energy innovation and leadership found here in Georgia.”

 

At ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the solar-powered canopy at MARTA’s Laredo Garage are, from left, Circle D Enterprises President Hebrew Dixon III; Suniva Vice President of Sales for the Americas Matt Card; MARTA Board Member Harold Buckley; MARTA Board Chair Jim Durrett; MARTA General Manager/Chief Executive Officer Dr. Beverly A. Scott; FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan; FTA Region 4 Administrator Dr. Yvette Taylor; DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May; and Huntly Gordon, executive vice president of New South Construction.

 

Metro-North Restores Port Jervis Service Under Budget, Ahead of Schedule

Three months after closing its Port Jervis Line because of storm and flood damage from Hurricane Irene, MTA Metro-North Railroad restored full train service on the line on Nov. 28—one full month earlier and at a substantially lower cost than originally expected.

The railroad operates 26 trains on the line on weekdays and 14 each on Saturday and Sunday.

Metro-North announced that, while through train service will resume, it has not completed all track repairs; however, it has moved the estimated completion date from Fall 2012 to June 2012.

Because of the ongoing track work, the running time on the Port Jervis Line will be slightly longer than before the storm—3 minutes longer on the inbound route and up to 7 minutes more for outbound trains. Speed restrictions are in place for three and a half miles of track between Suffern and Harriman, NY, and because only one of the two tracks between Suffern and Sloatsburg returned to service on Nov. 28 and all trains in both directions have to use that single track.

Metro-North expects to return the line to its pre-storm schedule on Jan. 15, 2012.

Restoration Efforts
As a result of the rebuilding effort by its employees, Metro-North reported that the costs of repairs, substitute bus service, and lost revenue from the extreme damage from the storm are roughly half of the $60 million that was originally expected.  The current estimate is between $30 million and $40 million.

Metro-North spokesperson Marjorie Anders explained that maintenance-of-way and signal department employees worked “from daybreak to sunset, seven days a week,” observing the site and determining what action to take, then worked side-by-side with the outside contractor hired to complete the restoration—whose bid came in lower than expected.

The railroad also saved money and effort by reusing stones that had been washed away from the trackbed, according to Anders.

“We had a big estimate of how much stone we would need for the job, but we didn’t have to buy that much,” she explained. “The track was scoured by the rising Ramapo River, but when the river water receded it left the washed-out stone not too far away, so we were able to salvage the stone and reuse it.”

The Rapid Breaks Ground for Amtrak Station

The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, recently broke ground for a new Amtrak station adjacent to the public transportation agency’s main transfer facility, Rapid Central Station. A pedestrian walkway will connect the two facilities when the Amtrak station opens in 2013.

The new Amtrak station will be named in honor of former Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), whose district included Grand Rapids.

It will provide a multimodal connection for residents and travelers in the region and will complement the growth and redevelopment of the Grandville Avenue corridor anchored by Rapid Central Station.

 

Former Rep. Vern Ehlers, namesake of the new Amtrak station in Grand Rapids, MI.

 

NCST Opens Online Discussion

The National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) has announced an online discussion on planning for the transportation needs of older adults as part of its NCST Talks series. The conversations began Nov. 28 and remain open until Dec. 16.

The purpose of the discussion is to allow community members to discuss experiences, challenges, and recommendations that will help the center analyze the transportation needs of older adults.

This open dialogue between public transportation professionals and older Americans will allow all participants to learn how to be more effective, accessible, and responsive to the needs of older adults when it comes to the future of their transportation needs.

To join in the dialogue, click here

COMMENTARY

Expanding Transit a Necessity

BY RAY CHRISTMAN AND JIM STOKES

This article was originally printed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 21, 2011.

 

 

Last month, a regional roundtable of 21 local elected officials approved a list of transportation projects to be financed by a 1 percent sales tax. This levy must be approved in a 10-county regional referendum scheduled for July 31.

Will we invest in the necessary and appropriate infrastructure to support future growth and provide a decent quality of life for our residents? Nothing short of that is at stake in this vote.

The good news is that the project list approved by the roundtable offers a remarkable new direction for metro Atlanta — one that would invest in transit in a balance with roads and begin to provide more mobility and choice to residents.

From a transit standpoint, here’s what’s on the list:

* Three new rail lines (the Beltline, Clifton Corridor and the I-75 Corridor to Cobb County) that will serve an estimated 40,000 new riders daily and provide 22 miles of new capacity;

* Significantly expanded regional bus service including a new high-capacity line to South DeKalb County, restoration of the Clayton County system, and expanded service in other parts of the region;

* $600 million in badly needed capital improvement investment in the existing MARTA system; and

* Planning and engineering money to lay the groundwork for the “next generation” of rail transit projects, including Gwinnett rail, 400 North heavy rail extension and Atlanta-Griffin commuter rail.

Taken together, transit projects account for 52 percent — or more than $3.2 billion — of the overall list. This is truly transformative, both in terms of the shift in funding emphasis to transit and in the magnitude of new investments in the region.

There is still plenty of funding for roads on this list — nearly $3 billion for some 125 different projects throughout the region. And this is on top of nearly $11 billion in road money that will be available over the next 10 years from traditional gas tax and related funding sources.

But the big story in next year’s referendum will be transit — and the fact that local officials have called for bold new approaches and investments.

This is really not a choice for the region, but a necessity.

Our region is projected to continue to grow — by some 3 million people in the next 25 years, to a total of 7 million. During this period, our region will become distinctly older, have far fewer households with kids and will be comprised of a growing number of residents interested in living where they have good access to where they work. That means they will want more transit.

Virtually every one of Atlanta’s major competitor regions — such as Charlotte, Dallas and Phoenix — are investing in transit to create a place that employers will want to invest in because of better access for workers to jobs.

The Atlanta region has reached a “tipping point” with respect to support for transit. One can see it in various poll and survey results. And one can sense it in the growing coalition of supporters that includes urban residents and suburban commuters, environmentalists and business people.

A clear majority of our residents want more and better travel options. This referendum is, above all, a giant step in that direction through its $3.2 billion transit commitment. We can’t afford not to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Ray Christman is a former executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition of Metro Atlanta. Jim Stokes, former president of the Georgia Conservancy, is the coalition’s interim executive director.

 

APTA NEWS

U.S.-China Transportation Dialogue Forges Ahead; APTA Business Member Involvement Encouraged

BY JULIA WALKER, APTA Program Manager-International Relations

While the U.S. and China are thousands of miles apart and celebrate vastly different cultures and histories, we still find commonalities between them, such as transportation challenges in need of innovative and constructive solutions—and APTA is part of the effort to bring the two nations together.

A few years ago, recognizing the necessity of a high-level multimodal exchange to tackle these international issues, the U.S. and Chinese governments established the U.S./China Transportation Forum (TF) during the Fourth Strategic Economic Dialogue in 2008. They are currently in the midst of preparing for the upcoming Fourth Annual TF, Jan. 10-13, 2012, in St. Louis, MO.

In partnership with the Federal Transit Administration, APTA is assisting in the coordination of the Urban Congestion Working Group Workshop, an all-day event Jan. 10 prior to the kickoff of the TF.

While TF originally was a government-to-government dialogue between DOT and China’s Ministry of Transport, industry representatives gathered at previous forums to discuss challenges in the nations’ transportation systems and developments and determine top priorities. These priorities included urban congestion, new railway technologies, innovative financing, transport of hazardous goods, and disaster assistance coordination.

To continually address these priority areas, DOT and the China Ministry of Transport created five Working Groups that meet annually at the TF to collaborate on transportation best practices and research findings in both countries.

Memorandums of Cooperation (MOC) in support of the priority areas were signed between paired cities, including transit systems from San Francisco and Shenzhen; Los Angeles and Beijing; New York and Beijing; as well as by the Mineta Transportation Institute and the China Academy of Transportation Sciences. These MOCs have strengthened the collaboration among certain cities and benefit both countries’ transportation networks as a whole.

But something was missing: U.S. businesses! After the creation of the TF, DOT and the China Ministry of Transport determined that this exchange would not be successful without the influence and participation of the companies that build, finance, manufacture, and supply materials and equipment to transportation systems throughout the world.

Understanding the importance of the private sector playing a role, DOT, through APTA, is encouraging private sector representatives to introduce their products and services during this dialogue.

The Fourth Annual U.S./China Transportation Forum will be led by DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari and China Ministry of Transport Vice Minister Xu Zuyuan.

Given the current economic difficulty of international travel, this event brings the opportunity for trade and export of U.S. goods and services directly to the “Gateway to the West”—something that U.S. companies interested in business with China should not miss.

For more information, contact Julia Walker.

APTA Awards Six Coalition Grants

BY NICOLE DUPUIS, APTA Program Manager-Policy and Planning

APTA has announced six recipients of its Local Transit Coalition Grants for the Fall 2011 funding cycle. During the past eight years, the grant program has helped support grassroots coalitions and their advocacy efforts to achieve public transportation goals on the state and local levels.

Activities funded by the grants include both public education programs and advocacy efforts and have proven to be extremely helpful in promoting transit in communities around the country. Such activities could include support for local or regional funding initiatives intended to help support public transportation in economically challenging times, activities supportive of national efforts to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs, and efforts to educate decision-makers about policies favorable to public transportation and to support public transportation services in the community.

Each grant recipient received $5,000 through the program. They include:

* Arizona Transit Association (AzTA), Gilbert, AZ, which will use the grant award to support a first-ever statewide poll of voter preferences for public transit in Arizona. The AzTA Board of Directors believes that developing a baseline of voter preference information on transit is key to creating a successful strategy to secure a stable, sustainable state funding resource. The effort will poll as many as 400 statewide likely voters, plus the additional 200 oversample in Yuma and Flagstaff.

* Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI), Boise, ID, which is working with Idaho Smart Growth and community leaders to place the question of local option tax authority on the November 2012 ballot. CTAI will join with Idaho Smart Growth’s Transportation Choices Coalition to energize a grassroots coalition through the “IM4CTAI” initiative, inviting Idaho citizens and businesses to support public transportation options and funding needed in their communities.

* Friends of Transit for Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo, MI, which will support grassroots advocacy efforts to secure local funding for public transportation services in Kalamazoo County and to increase public transportation funding in the state and federal budgets. The organization will work toward passage of two local public transit millages in 2012 at the local level while helping local citizens advocate for increased state and federal transit funding levels. It will also work with Trans4m, a new statewide coalition with broad business support, to increase and stabilize transportation funding in Michigan.

* Transit Alliance, Denver, CO, which will continue its educational efforts on the benefits of public transit in the Denver metropolitan region. The group is working with other regional stakeholders to identify ways to solidify long-term leadership and advocacy for the region’s livability. In addition to its ongoing Citizens’ Academy program supporting motivation of community stakeholders, the Transit Alliance has begun working with alumni of that program to make plans for the future.

* Transit Now Nashville (TNN), Madison, TN, which is partnering with the Metro Nashville Public Health Department to develop a pilot educational program focused on incorporating public transportation as a component of a healthy lifestyle. For example, Metropolitan-Davidson County provides its employees an “Easy Ride” benefit that enables them to use the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority at no cost. TNN will engage with the health department to encourage and motivate participation in this benefit.

* Washtenaw Partners for Transit (P4T), Ypsilanti, MI, which advocates for reliable funding to implement the 30-year Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Transit Master Plan. P4T intends to engage, educate, and ultimately campaign in support of a county?wide transit funding ballot proposal to implement this plan, which will increase countywide access to public transit service and provide essential, currently nonexistent services.

Reserve Now for BMBG Meeting!

The APTA Business Member Board of Governors (BMBG) reminds all business members that the hotel block closes Dec. 10 for the Jan. 11-14, 2012, BMBG meeting in Indian Wells, CA.

Information on the meeting and the hotel reservation process are available here.

 

TCRP Releases Publications

The Transportation Research Board released several new Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) reports.

Report 148: Practical Resources for Recruiting Minorities for Chief Executive Officers at Public Transportation Agencies. This report provides recruitment and retention strategies for minorities to serve in chief executive officer (CEO) positions and offers resources to assist public transportation governing boards in the recruitment of minority CEOs. It also assesses the public transit industry’s recruitment processes for CEOs and provides a case for diversity that documents the benefits of minorities in public transportation leadership positions.

Report 149: Improving Safety-Related Rules Compliance in the Public Transportation Industry. This report identifies potential best practices for all elements of a comprehensive approach to safety-related rules compliance. The categories of best practices, which correspond to the elements of a safety-related rules compliance program, include screening and selecting employees, training and testing, communication, monitoring rules compliance, responding to noncompliance, and safety management. The report also outlines the features of a prototype safety reporting system for public transportation.

Synthesis 91: Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. This synthesis examines the use and deployment of real-time transit information on mobile devices. It explores the underlying technology required to generate the information to be disseminated; the mobile technology used for dissemination; characteristics of the information; resources required to successfully deploy information on mobile devices; and the contribution of mobile messaging to an overall agency communications strategy, including “information equity.”

Synthesis 92: Transit Asset Condition Reporting. This synthesis examines and documents the current state of the practice in transit asset condition management. It defines transit asset management as a strategic planning process that supports informed capital investment planning and programming. The objective is to provide public transit agencies and their federal, state, and local funding partners with a review of current practices to help encourage an industry-wide discussion on standards and the data needed to measure conditions and use the information in making effective investment decisions.

Copies of these reports are available online.

APTA, Eno Sign Agreement

APTA and the Eno Transportation Foundation formally recognized their longstanding partnership by signing a cooperative agreement in October. This document acknowledges the complementary visions in support of the public transportation industry that both organizations hold.

Among the organizations’ common goals are to increase the supply of well-trained professionals in the industry, enhance the knowledge and networks of public transportation professionals, and encourage continuous learning of emerging leaders.

This is a three-year agreement; its effectiveness in terms of meeting its goals will be reviewed annually.

Joan Stokes Dies; Wife of First APTA Head

Joan Stokes, wife of B.R. (Bill) Stokes, APTA’s first executive vice president (serving from 1974 to 1980), and a leading real estate agent in Northern Virginia for more than two decades, died Nov. 21 after a brief illness.

She worked out of the Great Falls, VA, office of Weichert Realtors, where she specialized in homes in Great Falls and McLean and received numerous company honors. She and her husband moved to Northern Virginia from the San Francisco Bay area in 1974, where her husband had led the struggle to finance and build the pioneering San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District transit system. 

A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she was a star diver for the Fairmont Hotel, Athens Athletic Club, and U.C. swim teams under her maiden name of Joan Pringle.

More information is available through the Adams-Green Funeral Home in Herndon, VA.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

N.Y. MTA Recognized for Programs to Assist Small Businesses

The New York & New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council recognized the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) with its Regional Corporation of the Year Award for its efforts in creating and implementing innovative small business development programs.

In an effort to broaden its base of contractors, the MTA has created an expansive series of programs to help minority-owned (MBE), women-owned (WBE), and disadvantaged business enterprises participate in MTA construction, construction-related, and personal services projects. They include small business mentoring, small business loans, surety bonding assistance, and construction and information technology training programs.

Michael Garner, MTA chief diversity officer, called the award “a major accomplishment for the MTA” and noted that the agency has aligned its efforts with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to increase contract awards to New York State certified MBEs and WBEs from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Omnitrans Commemorates 35 Years of Service

Omnitrans in San Bernardino, CA, observed the 35th anniversary of its launch of service with a media open house at agency headquarters, followed by free rides throughout the system on Nov. 25.

“From the start, the people of Omnitrans have worked to create a quality transportation system for the San Bernardino Valley,” said Chief Executive Officer/General Manager Milo Victoria. “From the humble beginnings of yesteryear to the high-tech plans for the future, we remain focused on the customer.”

The open house program highlighted Omnitrans’ history, accomplishments, current programs, and projects on the horizon. For example, the agency has provided more than 1.4 million rides in each of the last three months; the “Go Smart” pass pilot program has given more than 450,000 free rides to college students since August; and Omnitrans is making plans to construct a new transit center in downtown San Bernardino.

The agency entered service in 1976 with 29 vehicles and 60 employees. Omnitrans now operates a fleet of 158 transit buses, all running on compressed natural gas, and has 640 employees.

 

Two 35-year employees of Omnitrans—Gabe Serna, left, and Scot Huffman, center—reflect on their tenures with the public transit agency at a media open house event. At right is Omnitrans CEO/General Manager Milo Victoria.

 

DART Police Headquarters Still Making History After 97 Years

The U.S. Green Building Council recently honored Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) for its environmentally aware transformation of the former Monroe Shops streetcar maintenance barn into the DART Police headquarters. The building, almost a century old, is the first publicly owned building listed on the National Register of Historic Places to achieve Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum Certification, the organization's highest recognition.

The former train maintenance facility, commonly known as Monroe Shops, was built in 1914 for the Texas Electric Railroad and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. DART remodeled and rebuilt the structure and transformed it into the police headquarters in March 2011. It now provides approximately 69,000 square feet of workspace for police personnel including three floors of modern offices, meeting rooms, showers, lockers, and an exercise facility.

During the renovation process, DART worked closely with the Texas Historical Commission, Federal Transit Administration, and city officials and staff to ensure environmental compliance and conformance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Preservation.

LEED Platinum is the highest environmental standard a project can earn and certifies that a building uses less energy, water, and natural resources and creates less waste than a conventional building.

Capital Metro Aims to Discourage Smoking at Its Bus Stops

In conjunction with the 36th Great American Smokeout, on Nov. 17 the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, TX, launched its plan to discourage tobacco use at its more than 2,700 bus stops. This effort modifies the Tobacco-Free Facilities policy adopted by Capital Metro in 2010 along with a Tobacco-Free Workplace policy.

The public transit agency already prohibits tobacco use near the passenger boarding areas at transit centers, park-and-rides, and MetroRail stations. The revised policy discourages tobacco use within 15 feet of a bus stop in consideration of other riders and to create a healthier environment for everyone waiting for the bus.

Capital Metro also announced an ambitious new signage project designed to improve the amount and quality of information available at each bus stop. An interactive system that will allow users to find very specific next-bus information at stops, using a phone and the stop’s unique ID number, will replace bus timetable displays at all but the highest-volume bus stops.

The new signage offers four methods to help passengers find service information:

* Text the bus stop ID number to Dadnab™ at (512) 981-6221 and receive a reply text with the next scheduled bus arrival times for buses that serve that stop;

* Scan the square barcode on the sign using a QR reader app (available from an apps marketplace) to see bus times and a route map displayed on the smartphone;

* Open capmetro.org/stopid/ from a smartphone and input their bus stop ID number to pull up a mobile-friendly website with the next bus arrivals; and

* Call the Go Line at (512) 474-1200 to use the automated voice system or talk to a service representative. 

Capitol Corridor Receives California State Air Quality Grant

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) in Oakland, CA, has received a $320,000 Carl Moyer Fund grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District for the purchase of standby power units to run locomotives as they lay over at Capitol Corridor/Amtrak Sacramento Valley Station. This award will provide an additional four cleaner power units, bringing the total number to eight.

Standby units use electricity to power equipment so trains will not need to burn fossil fuel when stationed for extended periods of time. According to the air quality district, operating eight units will help prevent more than 330 tons of greenhouse gases and 2.5 tons of air pollutants from entering the atmosphere each year.

“Instead of idling and emitting harmful diesel emissions as crews clean and maintain the rail cars, passenger trains stopping at the remodeled Sacramento Valley Station next year will be powered by cleaner, quieter standby units,” said CCJPA Director and Sacramento Councilmember Steve Cohn.

CCJPA Chair Bob Franklin noted that the authority is providing $80,000 as a local match to the grant. “Not only will this partnership help the region attain federal air quality standards, we will prevent tons of climate change emissions and will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs as well,” he said. “Once these units are up and running, we expect to save about 303,000 gallons of fuel each year.”

The Carl Moyer Grant Program is a California statewide initiative established in 1998 to help defray the costs of new lower emission technologies for diesel engines. The air quality district awards help fleets pay for new lower-emission engines, lower-emission retrofits, and equipment replacements.

Tri-Rail Adds Station Area Maps

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA)/Tri-Rail in Pompano Beach, FL, has added a new feature to its web site: Transit Connection Area Maps. These show destinations and attractions that are in the general vicinity of all train stations, including how to access them via transfers to county and city buses, Miami-Dade Transit’s Metrorail, or free SFRTA shuttles. The maps are also on display in all Tri-Rail stations.

“One of the most common questions our customer service representatives hear is: ‘What do I do when I get off the train, where can I go?” said Bonnie Arnold, SFRTA director of marketing and customer service. “These new maps clearly answer that question.”

Designed with the transit user in mind, the maps show such points of interest as government offices, universities, libraries, performing arts centers, local attractions, hospitals, and shopping centers.

To access a map, visit the agency's web site, then click “Rider Information,” “System Map, Station and Shuttle Information,” and either the departure or arrival station. Each station has its own Transit Connection Area Map that shows the bus routes serving it.

All routes are color-coded for easy visibility.

GDRTA Introduces Video Ads

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (GDRTA) in Dayton, OH, has introduced a new form of advertising to its vehicles. Video has joined interior and exterior signage and audio ads.

GDRTA premiered the video ads on board shuttles traveling among the U.S. Air Force Museum and University of Dayton Arena and the annual Dayton Air Show, which provided 3,800 passenger trips. During the trip, riders were exposed to messages about services and products from leading companies in the area and the transit agency itself.

The agency is working with Commuter Advertising to institute the video advertising program in its fleet of new fixed route buses.

“The advertising revenue is a small fraction of our total budget,” said Mark Donaghy, RTA executive director. “However, it helps us to create incremental, non-farebox revenue, which is increasingly playing an important role in funding transit improvements….In addition to providing a venue for advertising, video advertising creates a new channel for RTA to communicate with its customers.”

GDRTA sees onboard video as a medium that gives businesses an opportunity to reach new markets while helping the agency increase its revenues, which in turn will help support service to customers.

"In addition to providing a venue for advertising, video advertising creates a new channel for RTA to communicate with its customers,” Donaghy added.

FAAC Plans Light Rail Simulator

FAAC Incorporated, part of Arotech Corporation’s Training and Simulation Division, has entered into a $2.1 million contract with Bombardier Transportation to design, develop, and deliver a simulator based on the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) new light rail vehicle.

Bombardier is producing the new railcar.

FAAC will deliver the simulator ahead of railcar delivery, so TTC employees will have a chance to begin training in advance.

Denver Board Participates in ‘Telephone Town Halls’

The Regional Transportation District Board of Directors in Denver has entered into an innovative form of dialogue with the community: 15 “telephone town hall meetings” that use updated telephone technology to allow the board members to speak directly with members of the community.

RTD board members will reach out to more than 400,000 residents of the agency’s service area, entering into discussion on such topics as public transit programs, services, and projects. The automated system places random calls to residents of each of the agency’s 15 Director Districts; those who choose to participate can hear about local bus and rail service, RTD’s FasTracks transit expansion program, and other projects underway.

Participants also will be able to ask questions of and make suggestions to their local elected representative, who will be on the call. To participate, residents simply stay on the line after answering their phones and they will be automatically connected to the meeting. RTD also has call-in information for residents who do not receive a call but wish to participate.

The 15-meeting series began Nov. 28 and will conclude Dec. 15.

“This is a great new way to better communicate with the public,” said RTD Board Chairman Lee Kemp. “Not everyone can come to a public meeting. This technology allows us to connect with our constituents by phone in the comfort of their home. We encourage everyone who is called to participate in shaping our transportation future.”

Video Highlights Fuel Economy of PSTA’s Hybrid-Electric Buses

As a result of seeing increased fuel economy on its diesel-hybrid electric buses, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) in St. Petersburg, FL, is the subject of a video documentary being made by Allison Transmission to promote its hybrid bus technology. A production crew from Carmel, IN, spent several days in Pinellas County shooting the video.

“The fuel economy on our hybrids has been consistently 26-40 percent better than the standard diesel buses,” said PSTA Chief Executive Officer Brad Miller. “When the manufacturer of the bus transmissions found out, they asked if they could feature our buses in a promotional video. Of course, we’re always eager to be featured as a transit success story.”

Twenty-four of the 191 buses in the PSTA fleet are hybrids, with an additional eight hybrids on order. PSTA noted that fuel efficiency varies depending on the route: hybrid buses operating on lower-speed routes with frequent stops get the highest mileage because this service maximizes the use of electric power cells rather than using diesel fuel.

When the PSTA Board of Directors authorized the original purchase of hybrid buses in 2008, the board members were told to expect a fuel efficiency increase of approximately 20 percent compared with standard diesel buses.

“Not only are the diesel electric buses cutting fuel costs, but they reduce emissions by 90 percent or better over standard diesel models, so they benefit our bottom line, the environment, and our community,” Miller added.

BART to Institute ‘Buy America’ Policy for Fleet Purchases

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Board of Directors has approved a Buy America Bid Preference policy that gives preference to rail car manufacturers that create U.S. jobs. Board members made the move after saying that, as they prepare to replace BART’s aging train cars with a new fleet, they have heard from both their constituents and state and federal officials that putting Americans back to work should be a strong consideration.

“The Buy America policy mirrors the economic goals of federal lawmakers,” said BART Board President Bob Franklin. “Adopting this policy on a regional level demonstrates BART’s leadership in the rail industry. It will also transfer rail car technology to the U.S.”

The new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2012, scores bids for federally funded procurements by using a formula that considers the domestic content level of a product.

BART’s “Fleet of the Future” train car replacement project is a $3 billion capital investment. The preliminary timeline is to award a contract to a manufacturer in the coming months.

Laketran Honored for Financial Management

Laketran in Lake County, OH, has received recognition at the local, state, and federal levels for the quality of its fiscal management.

Locally, Laketran received its 15th consecutive clean audit: an “unqualified opinion,” the highest possible ranking given for this type of audit, from a third-party auditor contracted by the state to issue an opinion.

At the state level, the system received the “Auditor of State Award with Distinction” from the office of David Yost, Auditor of State. The award is given for audits that contain no findings for recovery, material citations, material weaknesses, significant deficiencies or questioned costs among many other items.

Nationally, the Government Finance Officers Association honored Laketran’s controller, Lisa Colling, and the agency’s finance department with its Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the 2011 budget.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Paul J. Ballard, Tommy Bradberry, Cindy McGinnis, Jimmy Smith
NASHVILLE, TN—The Tennessee Public Transportation Association (TPTA) Board of Directors has elected Paul J. Ballard, chief executive officer of the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority and Regional Transportation Authority, as its president. He succeeds William Hudson Jr., president/general manager of the Memphis Area Transit Authority.

Tommy Bradberry, transportation director with the Northwest Tennessee Human Resource Agency in Martin, TN, was elected TPTA vice president; Cindy McGinnis, general manager of Knoxville Area Transit, secretary; and Jimmy Smith, transportation director of the Clarksville Transit System, treasurer.

Gary W. Cumbie, Rosa Navejar, Gary Havener, Rev. Maurice E. Barnes, Steve Berry
FORT WORTH, TX—The Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) Board of Directors re-elected its current slate of officers to serve in 2012.

Gary W. Cumbie, donor relations officer, Tarrant County College Foundation, remains as board chair. The vice chair is Rosa Navejar, executive director and president of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the secretary is Gary Havener, a real estate developer.

The T also announced two new board appointments. The Rev. Maurice E. Barnes, pastor of Zion Missionary Baptist Church, succeeds former state Rep. Reby Cary, and Steve Berry, a partner and co-founder of Vintage Capital Partners, a real estate development firm, takes the position previously held by former Chair Bob Jameson.









Lisa Gonzales Castañeda

HOUSTON, TX—Lisa Gonzales Castañeda, P.E., has joined the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County Board of Directors, representing Harris County. She succeeds Trinidad Mendenhall Sosa, who retired.

Castañeda is deputy director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority. She has 21 years of professional experience in multimodal transportation system development, highway, bridge, traffic, drainage, utility relocation, right-of-way acquisition, and toll systems engineering.


Darwin Rubeck
OMAHA, NE—Radio Engineering Industries Inc. (REI) announced the appointment of Darwin Rubeck to national sales manager-transit.

Rubeck has worked in sales for more than 30 years and has been a member of the REI sales team since 2006.



Susan E. Schruth
MARLTON, NJ—Susan E. Schruth has joined Hill International as an executive consultant.

Schruth comes to Hill after retiring from the Federal Transit Administration, where her last position was associate administrator of program management. She led staff efforts during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games and served as the first director of the Lower Manhattan Recovery Office, charged with administering $5 billion in transportation assistance following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She also has 25 years of state and federal experience.
 
Michael Loehr
MILLBURN, NJ—Hatch Mott MacDonald has named Michael Loehr, P.E., senior vice president and U.S. practice leader-rail and transit, based in the firm’s Richmond, VA, office.

Loehr has more than 33 years of extensive, worldwide experience in the engineering, design, and construction of a wide variety of railroad and transit industry projects, including commuter rail transit facilities, freight rail installations, railway bridges, parking facilities, and highways.

Dan Dawson
AUSTIN, TX—The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) has named Dan Dawson vice president of marketing and communications. This position replaces the existing vice president of marketing position, which has been vacant for more than a year.

Dawson spent the last decade as the customer relations manager for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus in Santa Monica, CA. Earlier he held other marketing and communications positions in both the public and private sectors.




Terry Parker
EUGENE, OR—Terry Parker, accessible services program manager for the Lane Transit District, has been named Outstanding Public Transportation Employee for 2011 by the Oregon Transit Association.

Parker received the honor for her leadership and compassion in social service planning and program administration.

She also chairs both the Easter Seals Project ACTION National Steering Committee and the Oregon DOT Public Transit Advisory Committee.