Passenger Transport - February 10, 2012
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BREAKING NEWS

House, Senate Scheduled to Debate Surface Transportation Legislation Next Week; Important Amendment to Be Offered to Restore Dedicated Transit Funding

During the week of Feb. 6, the House and Senate continued work on their respective versions of surface transportation authorization law. This action is a major step forward toward ultimate enactment of a bill.

While the bills share many common traits, they still differ in the length of the authorization and in their treatment of public transportation. The Senate bill would continue to fund the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund while the House bill eliminates the account altogether.

The Senate began floor consideration of amendments to its bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, on Feb. 9 and expects consideration to continue at least through the balance of next week. In the House, consideration of H.R. 7 will resume Feb. 13.

As was reported earlier in Passenger Transport, the House Ways and Means Committee forwarded a title that would eliminate the Mass Transit Account. Now an amendment has been introduced by Reps. Nadler (D-NY); LaTourette (R-OH); Blumenauer (D-OR); Gibson (R-NY); Crowley (D-NY); Turner (R-NY); Rangel (D-NY); and Grimm (R-NY) to restore the Mass Transit Account and the dedicated funding. While it is unclear how the House Rules Committee will rule on allowing a vote on this amendment, APTA is urging a full floor vote prior to final passage.

The sponsors sent a Dear Colleague letter on behalf of the amendment on Feb. 10. The authors called the amendment “a simple, common sense measure to restore the status quo,” noting that it follows 30 years of federal law in restoring the Mass Transit Account and the 2.86-cent dedicated funding stream for public transportation programs.

For more details, see APTA's Legislative Alert.

NEWS HEADLINES

House Proposal Threatens Public Transportation; Eliminating the Mass Transit Account Means End of Dedicated Funding Source

BY CHAD CHITWOOD, Program Manager-Communications

Provisions of the surface transportation bill (H.R. 3847) advanced Feb. 3 by the House Ways and Means Committee (W&M) would jeopardize public transportation and American jobs. The committee seeks to end the traditional dedicated source of funding for public transportation, replacing it with a one-time appropriation.

Motor fuels tax revenues have been a historical source of funding for public transportation for almost 30 years. The W&M proposal would end a dedicated and predictable source of funding and replace it with a one-time appropriation to a newly created “Alternative Transportation Account” that would be funded only through 2016. This action would imperil the ability of public transportation systems to get the best rates possible when requesting bond funding to support capital funding.

Further, this one-time appropriation of $40 billion does not even fully fund the authorized program, even if the money was authorized each year over the life of the bill.

On the Senate side, the Finance Committee voted Feb. 7 to approve its title to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation. By a bipartisan vote of 17-6 (with one member voting present), the final Senate committee with jurisdiction over the surface transportation programs has acted.

During the debate in the Senate Finance Committee, members discussed the need to find a long-term solution to funding U.S. transportation projects. While there was no consensus on that issue, members expressed frustration with having to rely on one-time offsets to pay for the two-year MAP-21 legislation.

In addition, the committee adopted a one-year restoration of the public transit commuter benefit at the $240 monthly level; this benefit expired at the end of 2011, reducing the monthly funding level to $120. This does not guarantee a quick resolution, however. Debate on a bill of this size could take several weeks on the Senate floor.

Last week, APTA took several steps to address concerns with the W&M portion of the House bill.

Gary C. Thomas, APTA chair and president & CEO of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, said: “We have an obligation and a responsibility to make sure our congressmen and congresswomen know how we feel about this. We have a responsibility to make sure they know what the impact would be specifically to our organizations, our customers and the constituencies we serve, and to our stakeholders and elected officials to understand the impact this bill would have. This bill affects our agencies, our customers, and the people who ride our systems every day.”

APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy stated: “Our covenant with the taxpayers is under attack and we urge all in APTA’s network to mobilize—we cannot let this challenge stand. This proposal seeks to undo nearly 30 years of overwhelming bipartisan support for dedicated federal investment in public transportation.”

Other committees on the Hill have not proposed action as drastic as the steps suggested by W&M. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s bill—H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012—funds public transportation at current levels for five years and does not address the issue of accounts. Meanwhile, two Senate committees, Banking and Environment and Public Works (EPW), would continue funding at current levels in two-year bills. The Senate Finance Committee’s legislation provides solvency for the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund and retains the traditional Mass Transit Account, as opposed to W&M’s proposal to end it in favor of a one-time appropriation.

APTA has created a variety of resources and tools that its members can use to keep up to date on this issue, and urges its members to contact their congressional representatives in Washington. APTA is running full-page ads in five Congressional newspapers promoting support of public transportation, calling for the continuation of the current funding model, instituted by President Ronald Reagan. (To see this ad, click here.)

APTA continues to coordinate with its many coalition partners to create messages and campaigns that will direct attention to press for the defeat of the W&M proposal. A recent coalition letter signed by more than 600 organizations was sent to the Hill supporting a pro-public transportation bill.

Webinar, Media Call, Additional Outreach
APTA created a special webinar for its members Feb. 7 to help brief them on the many nuances of the House proposal. More than 350 APTA members participated, many of whom had questions and voiced concerns over the proposal. APTA will continue to inform its members of breaking news in the coming weeks. To view this webinar, click here.

On Feb. 8, APTA held a national media call with partners and industry experts that detailed the legislative action to date and took questions from reporters from across the country. The lack of a dedicated funding source came up in reporters’ questions a number of times, as did the support of voters in pro-public transportation ballot initiatives over the past 12 years. During the call, APTA also rolled out its newest report, which takes a closer look at the impacts of the W&M legislation.

The report outlines the negative financial effects the proposal would have on America’s public transportation systems, as well as on the communities and individuals that rely on public transportation. The report—House Proposal Erodes Credit Ratings, Ties Hands of American Communities—is available here.

The report notes that federal funding is essential for attracting reliable state and local funding; removing dedicated funds from public transportation would discourage state and local governments from contributing to public transit system operations and increases in services. Federal support focuses on capital projects, thereby encouraging local and state support. William D. Ankner, Ph.D., a contributor to the report and a participant in the media call, is an expert in transportation financing and former state transportation secretary in Louisiana and Rhode Island. He described how the proposal would increase uncertainty and impact the ability of public transportation agencies to secure bonded funding for long-term projects.

“Agencies around the nation could experience higher costs associated with routine bond issuances necessary to operate a transit system,” Ankner said. These cost increases, he added, will lead to deferred maintenance, fewer transit system extensions, and higher fares, threatening to derail the public transportation program.

In addition, on APTA’s web site, members can find many resources and tools that will help them take part in the campaign to protect public transportation funding. Legislative Alerts and Updates will keep them apprised of changes in the legislation and the status of the bills as they work their way through Congress. APTA is working with members of the House and Senate to address issues in the bill.

Also on the web site are sample letters to Congress for public transit system members and business members to complete and send to their legislators. Systems and business members must be involved in the campaign, and sending letters to their members of Congress and senators as well as calling them is one clear approach they can use to make their thoughts known. The most effective way to influence members of Congress is to tell them that their constituents are watching and that their vote will affect jobs and lives in their district.

APTA encourages its members to urge mayors and local elected officials to call and write to Congress on behalf of public transportation interests in the surface transportation bill. APTA members should urge their staff to contact their congressional delegation and use their facilities and web sites to promote riders sharing their stories of public transportation. Members should also set up meetings with their members of Congress while it is in recess.

In addition to the sample letters on APTA’s web site, members can find backgrounders and fact sheets that allow them to customize letters with details and information that can intensify the impact for their elected officials. These facts are also useful for pushing information out on social media networks. Another suggestion is for fans on Facebook and Twitter to visit the APTA Facebook page, where they can send letters to officials and learn the latest news, as well as see updates through Twitter. Any and all of these actions will let Congress know that ending the Mass Transit Account is unacceptable.

Melaniphy said in the Feb. 8 media call: “This proposed tax title by the Ways and Means Committee will have a profound negative impact on public transit systems, private business, and the communities they serve.”

As Passenger Transport went to press, the situation in Washington was still in flux. However, a few activities were anticipated in the coming days.

The Senate is expected to vote on a motion that would permit consideration of the EPW portion of the bill before the end of the week of Feb. 13. In the House, the Rules Committee issued the “Rules Committee Print” that outlines rules governing debate on the House version of the bill and requires amendments to be submitted to the committee by Feb. 13 before the hearing is held.

Technological Innovation: Driving the Industry

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

What effect has technology had on public transportation?

“I think the industry is dependent on technology now in a way it never was before,” said APTA Information Technology Committee Chair Angela K. Miller, chief technology and sustainability officer, North County Transit District, Oceanside, CA.

Not only in ways it never was, but—more to the point—in ways most non-technology people never envisioned.

Who might think, for example, that it would be possible to add money to a smart card—at home, without going to a station and using a machine? And taking one step back, who might once have envisioned a smart card?

For many veteran industry experts who remember the days of paper tickets—and no smart card readers!—technology has opened up communication, enabling systems to reach their public and the public to access valuable time-saving information.

For example, signal train control technology has reduced the amount of space required between trains, so more trains can run more often with more passengers. And there are information resources to tell people where trains are, and to inform them when circumstances might restrict their passage.

It’s all about productivity, said Robert A. MacDonald, director, engineering services, B&C Transit Inc., “getting more with less. As the technology grows and the databases grow, they drive how you manage your railroad or bus system. The more information you get, the better the management capability.”

“I think anything that makes it easier for passengers to understand their travel will certainly make it simpler, straightforward, and more attractive to them,” said Patrick A. Nowakowski, executive director, Dulles Rail Project, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.  He added:  “That certainly should entice more people to use public transportation.”

So what else is “new and exciting” in the public transportation industry? Read what a number of APTA members are saying.

Energy Storage
New technologies and new applications in energy storage are being tested at rail and bus systems around the country. In its broadest sense, energy storage results in reduced energy consumption. Projects ongoing at various rail properties use wayside energy storage systems to better capture braking energy while also providing improvements in power quality. Other projects focus on on-board energy storage systems.

Wayside energy storage.
Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) continues its pilot use of a wayside energy storage system through the use of lithium-ion batteries—working with the local power company. This technology captures braking energy, which in turn saves SEPTA money. [See related stories.]

“When I spend $12-15 million a year on the power to drive the trains,” said Andrew Gillespie, SEPTA’s chief engineer-power, “then a 10 percent reduction is a lot of money.”

Gillespie said SEPTA is unique in that it is the only system in the country that both uses a battery to capture and store electrical energy consumed by braking trains—and participates in the energy market. While the agency is seeking new technologies to refine its system, he acknowledged: “It may not be exactly the technology we are using now, but as we progress I think you’ll find that means and methods to store energy will become more prevalent.”

On-board energy storage. Through its standards program, APTA is developing modern streetcar guidelines, and one chapter focuses on power supplies for these vehicles. Efforts using on-board energy storage are also underway nationwide. But as John Smatlak, president, rpr consulting, points out, there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to making a decision about which new technology to use. [See related story.]

A variety of technologies are emerging that apply different strategies for charging these on-board batteries. Some use intermittent overhead wires or underground induction systems, while others use variations of charging stations at station stops. This technology can also address additional benefits such as voltage sag, power quality, and braking energy recapture similarly to wayside storage.

The key reasoning behind using this technology is aesthetics: the desire to run vehicles in transit corridors visually sensitive to the presence of overhead collector wires that are typically found in streetcar and light rail operations.

Smatlak pointed out that what works on a short, flat line in one part of the country may not work at all in a longer, hilly line. Additional issues or challenges concerning the use of this application include the added weight and size of batteries, the long-term life of operation, potential safety implications, and battery efficiency and capacity for such heavy demand loads as air conditioning and stop-and-go in urban settings.

While experts and system CEOs are enthused about this technological advance, Smatlak cautioned: “We have to present a balanced view of the benefits—and risks.”

Fare Collection
Fare collection for transit agencies represents perhaps one of the most important applications for new technologies. Several public transportation systems are pursuing “open payment” technology that lets customers pay to ride by using a personal credit or debit card, which in turn makes travel easier. “This removes barriers to understanding complex fares for visitors and locals alike,” said Jane Matsumoto, deputy executive officer, regional TAP operation, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority [see related story].

This is also a huge opportunity for payment providers, such as banks and mobile phone operators, that have been active in promoting transit payment solutions, Matsumoto said. “It will be the challenge going forward to settle on one or a series of mobile phone architectures that truly provide payment choice for patrons and the benefit of competition to reduce transaction costs for transit agencies. Mobile may be the best technology to disrupt the usual payment environment while offering real advantages to public transit,” she added.

Communication/Information
Nearly every APTA member contacted for this overview talked about the sea change in communication from systems to riders and back again. While all kinds of technologies are being used, the one that leads them all is smart phones.

“In a culture where information is literally at our fingertips on demand, we’ve got to plug into that,” said John M. Lewis Jr., chief executive officer, LYNX-Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Orlando, FL. “How do we push the maximum amount of information out to our public so they can make informed decisions?”

Matsumoto noted: “The emergence of smart phones may not only change transit, but change the world in how we shop, communicate, exchange services, receive detailed walking directions within a building, or pay for a Coke using any number of payment media beyond the simple credit or debit card. Struggling to pull out cash on buses, having exact change, will all be a thing of the past.”

“Technology allows us to instantly communicate with our passengers,” said Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. “We can provide real-time arrival information immediately with texting and smart phone applications. We can send out travel alerts. This technology allows us to overcome one of the biggest challenges in attracting new riders: providing to them an easy way to know when their bus or trolley will arrive.”

“It’s probably one of the efficient and effective tools that we have to operate our business,” said Mary Ann Collier, director of operations, Swayzer Engineering Inc., and chair of APTA’s Human Resources Committee, “whether it’s from bus/rail operations or the human resources aspect. It’s vital in all of those areas. Today we can do much more, much more quickly, as a result of access to information technology.”

Calling the flow of instant communication “hugely valuable,” Jeff Hamm, executive director/CEO, Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority, Vancouver, WA, added: “It’s increasing ridership, increasing customer satisfaction, and reducing the anxiety of waiting for the bus.” Moreover, he said, it provides riders with “some certainty about the reliance of public transportation.”

Technology, said Sue A. Stewart, safety and health administrator, King County DOT/Metro Transit, Seattle, and vice chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee, “helps us to work smarter but not harder in so many different ways. It helps our operators to work smarter, it helps our customers to get more information—and overall, it helps our agencies to provide a lean, functioning agency for the taxpayer and the consumer.”

Public transit, said LYNX’s Lewis, “needs to think of itself no different from any other commodity or service: people are exercising their choice based on a specific return. Whether it’s money, time, related quality of life, efficiency—whatever that touch point is for individuals, they are making choices based on that criteria. We’ve got to find a way to connect, and I think technology helps us bridge that gap.”

Martin Schroeder, APTA chief engineer, contributed to this story.

 

Providing Super Service in Indy


IndyGo in Indianapolis, IN, operated at capacity during the festivities surrounding Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5. The agency educated riders about route changes, Jan. 27-Feb. 5, with the “Know Before You Go” campaign and offered free rides Feb. 2-5, funded by a federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant.

Local fixed route ridership surpassed expectations throughout the entire detour period with a 39 percent increase over average ridership: a total of 325,212 rides over 10 days. IndyGo operated additional buses to accommodate the crowds on fixed route service, reaching a peak of 28 extra buses assisting routes on Feb. 4.

 

Biden Visits American Seating Headquarters

American Seating welcomed Vice President Joe Biden to its transportation plant in Grand Rapids, MI, where the company manufactures bus and rail seats used in vehicles operated by more than 75 percent of North American public transportation systems.

During his Feb. 1 visit to the plant on the American Seating Park campus, Biden spoke with company leaders and employees, as well as local, regional, and statewide dignitaries, about the Obama administration’s plan to help businesses bring manufacturing jobs back to America by eliminating incentives to ship jobs overseas and offering tax credits for insourcing.

“American Seating’s mission is to make seats and other furniture for everyday people, for just about every public setting imaginable. We’re pretty proud that we’ve been doing that for more than 125 years, right here in the same location, right here with a Grand Rapids, Michigan, made-in-America workforce,” said American Seating President Tom Bush. “American companies need Washington to focus on how important it is for our country to continue to manufacture products right here. With the right environment and a level playing field, there is no reason why we can’t grow our manufacturing base.”

American Seating manufactures all its products in the U.S., and 95 percent of its products are made from domestic content. The company celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011 and remains on its original campus, which also includes the architectural manufacturing plant and headquarters.

Touring a U.S.-Made Railcar


APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy, second from right, and Rep. John Mica (R-FL), right, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, recently toured a domestically manufactured railcar from US Railcar Company at the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail’s Metrorail Transfer Station in Hialeah, FL. Joining them are Kristin Jacobs, SFRTA board chair and Broward County commissioner, and SFRTA Executive Director Joseph Giulietti.

 

LaHood in Grand Rapids for ‘Rapid’ Ribbon Cutting

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) joined representatives of The Rapid in Grand Rapids, MI, for the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony at the public transportation agency’s new Wealthy Operations Center, located on Wealthy Street.

The new facility houses The Rapid’s dispatch center, maintenance facilities, and training center, and provides storage for its fleet of 117 fixed route buses and the vehicles operated by the city for its downtown area shuttle.

The original facility on the site, which opened in the late 1970s, could accommodate only a maximum of 100 buses and was no longer able to meet the needs of the agency. The renovation and expansion allows for growth, providing storage for 170 buses; additional maintenance bays; and increased space for bus operators, dispatchers, supervisors, and other personnel working out of that location.

The Rapid also designed the new facility with green features such as bus wash water reclamation, a green roof, increased daylight/natural light and natural ventilation, radiant floor heating in the garage, and high-speed garage doors. The agency expects LEED certification at the Silver Level for the center.

The Wealthy Operations Center project began in December 2009 after The Rapid received $10.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, along with funding from other federal capital grants and a $4.2 million match from Michigan DOT. The project came in $1 million under budget for a final cost of $31.4 million.

DOT Grants for Veterans’ Access

DOT has announced that approximately $30 million is available to create or increase access to local and regional transportation resources that veterans and military families need to get to work, school, and other destinations. This funding would boost access to jobs and training for U.S. service members and their families. Proposals are due April 19, 2012.

This is the second round of Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative grants funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The first set of grants, announced in November 2011, provided $34.6 million for 55 projects in 32 states and Guam, selected from 70 proposals seeking $52 million.

The grants will help states and communities build or expand “one-click, one-call” transportation resource centers that provide comprehensive information on local transportation options and other community services with just a single phone call or click of the mouse.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: “As tens of thousands of our military personnel return home, we must reward their sacrifices and those of their families with the services they need to more seamlessly reintegrate into their communities as quickly as possible. This investment helps to do that, and it serves as one small thank-you for their honorable service.”

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff added:  “The president asked that we do all that we can to support those who have served our country, and we are answering his challenge. We must ensure that our nation’s veterans and their families are able to connect to jobs, school, work, and medical appointments wherever they live—and improving access to reliable, affordable transportation is key to helping them do so.”

The notice of funding availability for the program’s second round of grants appeared in the Feb. 7, 2012, Federal Register.  A list of the projects that have already been funded under the previous round is available here.

This initiative is led by the federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, a permanent partnership of federal departments—chaired by LaHood—working together to better coordinate federal programs on behalf of persons with disabilities, older Americans and low-income individuals. Additional information is available online.

FTA Announces Available Funding

On Feb. 7, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the availability of $650 million in discretionary funding for State of Good Repair (SGR) and $125 million for the Bus Livability Initiative under the Bus and Bus Facilities capital program, subject to availability. The program makes grants to assist state and local governments in financing “capital projects to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities.”

Criteria for the program include linkage to livability principles and mobility, environmental sustainability, cross-disciplinary support by non-transit agencies, need, and project readiness.

FTA also announced $51.5 million in funding for the Clean Fuels Program, to “promote the usage and development of energy efficient technologies that reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.” Projects funded by this initiative must demonstrate use of clean fuels/advanced technology and be located in ozone or carbon monoxide maintenance or non-attainment areas, although applications from other areas may be funded through the Bus and Bus Facilities program.

Application deadlines are March 22 for SGR proposals; March 29 for Bus Livability; and April 5 for Clean Fuels. Proposals must be submitted electronically through the apply function at grants.gov.

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

Sun Tran Opens Northwest Bus Maintenance and Storage Facility

Sun Tran in Tucson, AZ, joined the city of Tucson to celebrate the opening of its Northwest Bus Facility with ceremonies Jan. 26. The 25-acre facility will store and maintain the agency’s expanding fleet of buses while allowing the continued expansion of transit service in the region.

“The completion of this facility represents a major milestone for our community,” said Kate Riley, Sun Tran general manager. “This state-of-the-art complex was built in three phases to accommodate the growing need for transit options in our region.”

The Northwest Bus Facility now has the capacity to operate and maintain 250 buses for the entire Tucson region. Although the $56 million facility is complete, Sun Tran will continue to operate approximately one-third of the service from its previous location.

Sun Tran began construction at the site in 2005 with an access road and the city’s fueling facility, funded through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and city bonds. The $29 million second phase, completed in 2009 and funded through FTA and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), included construction of the operations building and a portion of the maintenance facility. This phase, built to accommodate operation of up to 150 buses, included 17 bus bays to repair and maintain the fleet, a fare retrieval area, bus wash, and dispatch center.

The third and final phase incorporated expansion of the maintenance building, a new administration building for regional transit operations, and additional bus parking. It received $16 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment funds and $3 million from the RTA. The peak month of final phase construction resulted in the creation of 186 local full-time jobs.

COTA Renames Administrative Offices for Retired Head Lhota

The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) Board of Trustees has renamed its 10-story administrative headquarters building in downtown Columbus, OH, in honor of William J. Lhota, who recently retired as the agency’s president/chief executive officer.

The 80,000-square-foot building houses COTA’s administrative staff, bus operator check-in, and pass sales functions.

Lhota pursued the relocation of COTA’s headquarters to the central business district in 2008 to serve as the hub of its service and demonstrate the agency’s commitment to downtown. In addition, the downtown location encourages its employees to ride the bus: COTA does not provide any parking for its employees at that facility.

“Bill Lhota’s passion for public transit in our community is evident each day to the thousands of riders who rely on transit to get to jobs, school, shopping and entertainment,” said COTA Board Chair Linda Mauger. “Bill has re-energized COTA and positioned the agency favorably to meet the transportation challenges of the future.”

The COTA board also named the agency’s leadership development program after Lhota, who conceived and launched the William J. Lhota Leaders of the Future Program. The purpose of this program is to identify potential leaders within COTA while providing training and development opportunities to candidates for advancement.

Lhota joined COTA in 2004, coming out of retirement after a senior management career at American Electric Power.

Cincinnati’s Access Rebrands Paratransit Vehicles

Access, the paratransit service in the Cincinnati region, recently received a logo and design makeover to emphasize the service’s family resemblance to the vehicles providing Metro fixed route service. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority operates both Metro and Access.

Three new Access buses with the new logo and design entered service Feb. 1, the day after the agency unveiled one of the vehicles at the Easter Seals Work Resource Center. Access will introduce the new look on buses as they replace the current 44-vehicle fleet.

Access is a shared-ride public transportation service, providing origin-to-destination transportation in small buses for people whose disabilities prevent them from riding Metro buses. The service provides about 175,000 rides per year.

 

Cutting the ribbon on the first Access bus with the new design are, from left, Lisa Aulick, Metro director of ADA and accessible services; DeAnthony Thomas, Easter Seals Work Resource Center participant; Pam Green, Easter Seals Work Resource Center president and chief executive officer; and Stephanie Griffin, Access driver.

 

New York MTA Announces Winners of ‘App Quest’ Competition

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has announced the winners of its App Quest competition, selecting the best mobile phone app to help MTA customers from 42 contestants.

Embark NYC, an all-purpose transit navigation app for Android and Apple iOS devices, took the grand prize. It provides services including trip planning, service advisories, interactive maps, and schedules to users.

Second prize went to Free NYC Subway Locator for Apple iOS. This app automatically calculates the nearest subway entrances to the user’s current location and lists them by direction, in order of proximity by feet. The app also shows the individual station entrance locations, service alerts, and elevator and escalator outages, all using data provided by the MTA.

The third-prize winner was Notify Me NYC for Android. This app notifies the user in case of service problems on board MTA New York City Transit subways, MTA Long Island Rail Road commuter rail, or MTA Metro-North Railroad commuter rail, based on the user’s ridership schedule.

Two apps received Popular Choice Awards, determined after 42 days of public voting. The CityMaps app, which combines real-time information about local businesses with subway information about how to reach them, placed first, and Right Track: Metro North, which allows Android users quick access to Metro-North schedules, real-time status updates, and track assignments, came in second.

The special Large Organization Award, presented to bigger corporations working on apps, went to Slalom Consulting for NYC Station Finder, which allows iPhone users to find station entrances with an augmented reality station finder.

“They say competition brings out the best in people, and there’s no doubt that’s what happened in this contest,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. “I want to congratulate all of the winners and all of the entrants, because the quality of all apps we’ve seen has been fantastic. In fact, when you think about this contest for a second, it’s pretty clear who the real winners are: all of us—the riding public—the 8.5 million people who use our system every single day and now have more tools to make those trips easier and more rewarding.”

Saying Goodbye


With head signs flashing the slogan “Paterno Proud,” the Centre Area Transportation Authority (CATA), State College, PA, operated its fixed route service fare free on Jan. 26, the day of a public memorial service for Penn State’s legendary football coach Joe Paterno, who died Jan. 22. The free service provided some relief for on-campus traffic congestion and parking issues that day: CATA reported 37,762 trips during the day, about 3,000 more than its average weekday ridership. In addition, all CATA operators observed a moment of remembrance at 2 p.m., coinciding with the start of the service: they pulled to the side of the road at a safe location, secured their vehicles, and stopped.

Foundation Connects Workers to Jobs

BY JOE CURRY, Executive Director, Everybody Rides Metro Foundation, Cincinnati, OH

Getting a job is great, but being able to get to the job is just as important.

The Everybody Rides Metro Foundation, administered by Metro in Cincinnati, provided more than a million free rides between May 2008 and the end of 2011 to help low-income workers get to and from jobs, job training, and related activities. Almost 100 agencies partner with the foundation, including Talbert House, Freestore Foodbank, St. Vincent de Paul, Lighthouse Youth Services, and Cincinnati Works.

To provide job-related free rides, the Everybody Rides Metro Foundation uses a federal Job Access-Reverse Commute grant, which is matched by the partner agencies to provide bus tokens at no charge to low-income residents to connect them with job counseling, job interviews, job training and exams, and job-related child transportation, in addition to transportation to and from work.

Temporary public transportation assistance helps people get jobs and then helps them keep those jobs. Without transportation, neither can happen—and in a tough economy, tokens are very important to prospective employees. Without the free bus tokens, many low-income residents who want to work could not afford their job-related transportation.

“For people returning to a job after extended unemployment or working in a low-wage position, the bus tokens provided by Everybody Rides Metro are truly a godsend,” said Liz Carter, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. “It’s the difference between getting to work until the first paycheck arrives or losing out on a much-needed job.”

Other partner organizations are also pleased with the results. “The Cincinnati Works partnership with Everybody Rides Metro Foundation is a cost-effective, efficient partnership that makes it possible for our members who live below the Federal poverty level to have adequate transportation for their training and job search activity,” said Dave Phillips, Cincinnati Works co-founder. “This is truly a win/win partnership.”

The Everybody Rides Metro Foundation provided more than 300,000 free rides to more than 30,000 individual riders in 2011 alone. This number is expected to grow by 10 percent in 2012, based on partner agency projections. More than a third of the free rides provided by the foundation were used for job training, an increase over the previous year.

 

Representatives of the 96 agencies that partner with the Everybody Rides Metro foundation to provide public transportation fare assistance to help low-income job seekers.

 

WageWorks Acquires TransitChek

WageWorks, a provider of tax-advantaged programs for consumer-directed health, commuter, and other employee spending account benefits, has acquired the business operations of TransitCenter Inc., which offers commuter benefits to more than 10,000 small and mid-size clients across the nation. These benefit programs, known primarily under the name TransitChek®, will now become part of WageWorks’ commuter services.

The new entity will provide commuter benefits to employers of all sizes, drawing on the market segment and program offering experience of the parent organizations. It will broaden product choices across the country in all major U.S. markets and enable the use of technology platforms built by each company for its customers.

“The combination of WageWorks and TransitChek enhances the options we can offer to customers,” said Joe Jackson, chief executive officer, WageWorks Inc.

Dan Neuburger, TransitCenter’s president and chief executive officer, added: “This transaction expands TransitChek’s ability to service our clients across a broader geography. It enables us to offer a larger suite of commuter benefits products, as well as health and welfare benefits, and it builds on our focus on compliance and outstanding customer service.” Neuburger will now report to Jackson.

TransitCenter will continue to operate as a non-profit corporation, focusing on promoting the conservation of natural resources, reducing traffic congestion, and fighting air pollution by supporting the use of public transportation.

COMMENTARY

Responses to House Ways and Means Committee Proposal

Editor's Note: The action by the House Ways and Means Committee has provoked a fury of negative reaction nationwide--from DOT Secretary Ray LaHood to newspaper editorials coast-to-coast to an array of concerned associations and public transit agencies. Below are just a few examples of the responses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Elizabeth Presutti!

Elizabeth Presutti
General Manager
Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority-DART

How many people do you employ/how many people at your agency? 250

How long have you worked in the industry? 12 years

How long have you been an APTA member? 12 years

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I discovered my love of public transit as part of my grad school work at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. I had the opportunity to work in the transportation research lab, and my first project was to create a model that compared the effectiveness of coverage vs. frequency.

Basically, we wanted to provide a scientific answer to a simple question: What’s the best way to grow ridership? We compared two strategies: cover more parts of a city with bus routes, though with lower frequency service; or cover fewer parts of the city, but use major corridors and run the buses more frequently.

We found that frequency was more important than coverage in growing ridership. To me, it was a fascinating exercise. I was hooked.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
I am a proud graduate of the 2011 Leadership APTA class. That experience has been invaluable in the progression of my career, development of leadership skills, and making new lifelong friendships. Having the ability to participate in such a great program that allows you access to so many industry leaders and experiences is a great benefit of APTA.

In addition, APTA really affords people within the public transportation industry the ability to make connections. More than anything, I learn by seeing what other people are doing. So it is incredibly valuable for me to have the opportunity at conferences and other meetings to get to know my colleagues. For most transit agencies in mid-sized cities, there are no other entities within the community that provide transportation services on the same scale, which is why it is so important to have a network to call upon.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
I was recently faced with a major dilemma. DART is building a new LEED-certified transit center in downtown Des Moines. We are using the APTA standards for the elevator in the building, but we were having the hardest time finding a heavy duty elevator that met the specification and also met 100 percent Buy America.

So I reached out to APTA and found out who wrote the standards. From there, I was told about other agencies that had recently gone through elevator procurements as part of a building construction. I contacted them and asked them how they worked through the same issue. With that information, eventually, we were able to find an elevator that met the Buy America requirement (and I also learned a lot about the Buy America standards).

In short, if I’ve got a problem, one of my first calls is to APTA or a fellow APTA member.

What do you like most about your job?
I like the public service element of it—knowing that the hard work that your entire team does every day really is a benefit to the community, improving the quality of life within the region we live. I also like the diversity of the job—having the opportunity to work with all the different departments and to see things change, for the better. I couldn’t ask for a better team; the staff at DART truly enjoys what they do and their willingness to improve upon what they do every day definitely makes it a pleasure to come to work.

Right now, DART is in a period of rapid expansion, which is very rewarding to see. As I mentioned earlier, DART is building a new transit center in downtown Des Moines, thanks to $20.5 million in state and federal grants. When it opens this fall, it will provide customers with indoor waiting areas, public restrooms, customer service desk—amenities that, while seemingly basic, are not available on our current open-air transit mall.

What is unique about your agency/business (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
Living in a Midwest city, people seem to be focused on their cars, but there is a tradition of public transit within Des Moines that still percolates today. Little known fact: Des Moines, Iowa, was one of the first cities in the country with electric streetcars. Why? A clever businessman used electric streetcars to skirt a charter agreement that the city had with one of his competitors, giving this competitor the exclusive right to operate animal-powered vehicles on city streets. With animals off limits to him, this entrepreneur went electric.

Today, there is still a group of streetcar buffs who regularly meet to keep alive the city’s transit history. In addition, a majority of DART’s customers are choice riders.


Make sure you see Elizabeth's video now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Cheryl Pyatt!

Cheryl Pyatt
Program Manager-Educational Services
Program Management and Educational Services Department

What are the job elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?
The general areas I work in are workforce development and youth outreach. Specifically, I’m a staff advisor for the Higher Education Subcommittee, which comes under the umbrella of APTA’s Human Resources Committee. We create mentoring and internship opportunities in the industry, as well as matching up students with potential job offers and promoting diversity within the industry.

Regarding youth outreach, we promote public transportation as a viable career—from kindergarten through 12th grade. I help organize an annual youth conference, our second annual youth summit—“Generation Green on Board: A Youth Summit to Advance Public Transportation”—National Transit Career Day, the Garrett Morgan video symposium, and career fairs.

Other responsibilities? They include:
* Supervising all higher education students at our major conferences. While they can register for free, I assist them with that process.
* Managing the entire call-for-papers, abstract notifications, and speaker selection process for the bus and rail conferences.
* Handling professional accreditation (CEUs) for our technical conferences. One of the several credentialing bodies we work with is AICP, the accrediting body of the American Planning Association.
 
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the two most recent times you’ve helped out a member.
What immediately comes to mind is helping members with the guidelines of the abstract submission process. I advise them on what we’re looking for to have an abstract approved; the topics of the moment, because they change every year; and the importance of keeping up with deadlines.

In New Orleans [at the 2011 APTA Annual Meeting and EXPO], I helped a young new member who was struggling with the program—trying to figure out where to go, what sessions to attend. So I highlighted some of the sessions I thought he might want to attend—after talking with him to find out what he did in the industry. And I always tell members who ask me what sessions they should go to—to make sure they attend “This is APTA”—so they can learn more about the organization. 
 
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I’m particularly proud of our Youth Summit—because we just added so much to our first program. We even had several students from Hawaii, so our teen population was more diverse.

I won a grant from FTA that helped support the event, arranged a White House tour as well as a tour of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and put together a “meet and greet” with DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff.

Several APTA business members were so impressed with this program that they have already pledged significant funds toward our next youth summit.

Along the same lines (of working with youth), we completed a YouTube project this year.

We received approximately 60 videos from young professionals working in different careers across public transit—from marketing to accounting to HR to operations. We highlighted 20 up-and-coming “stars” and created a 7-minute video that was shown in New Orleans.

The point of the video was to illustrate the diversity of both people and careers in transit—and it can be used for recruiting purposes, by companies, as well as within the school system for career opportunities. 

How did you “land” at APTA?
I was working at HNTB when a current APTA staffer informed me there was an opening within the association. I came in as an executive assistant and was eventually promoted to program manager—educational services.

How long have you worked here? Nearly 5 years.
 
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
Yes, HNTB—for almost 2 years.
 
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I have a daughter in college … AND … I was a cheerleader in high school, often the “top” of the pyramid.

Make sure you see Cheryl Pyatt's video, now that you've read this!

TECHNOLOGY

Strategic Planning for Improved Operations

BY JONATHAN H. McDONALD, Western Division, Rail Systems Director, HNTB Corporation, San Francisco, CA, and Chair, APTA Research and Technology Committee

On Jan. 30 and 31, the APTA Research and Technology Committee got together at its annual strategic planning session in Irvine, CA. Much was discussed about the state of the industry and the obvious benefits that transit provides, but also that public transportation provides only 1.9 percent of the 1.2 billion trips Americans take each day.

This year, unlike past years, we could refer to an illuminating study from the Brookings Institution, Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America. It shows that 70 percent of the top 100 U.S. metropolitan areas are covered by transit, but only 30 percent of jobs in those regions can be accessed in less than 90 minutes.

From a numbers standpoint, we have room to grow as public transportation serves only 5 percent of all commuters. However, from a value standpoint, a 90-minute trip is equivalent to a massive traffic jam for most commuters.

The Texas Transportation Institute has estimated that the average commuter loses $15.47/hour, or up to $8,577 per year, in wasted time. This is much more than the $2,106 that I calculated on the APTA public transit savings calculator! So why would anyone ever take public transit? More importantly, how do we solve this issue and deliver the value for our riders and our communities that we espouse?

Solving this issue is not as easy as you would like to think, but here are some ideas that came out of our meeting that can help.

* Wi-Fi and/or other productivity tools on board. In today’s economy, smart phones and laptops abound. Simply providing the capability for riders with trip times in excess of 24 minutes to connect and be productive on-board may enable people to bridge the gap and justify the longer commute times. However, implementing this will require some thought, such as installing tray tables and sufficient Wi-Fi capacity to handle the expected load. A cell phone dial-up connection doesn’t cut it for 30 active users.

* Solving the “last mile” problem. This may be our most significant industry issue. High-capacity lines such as rail and Bus Rapid Transit have much higher throughput and shorter route times than traditional local bus routes, but are limited in their coverage. Extending their coverage footprint with effective public transit solutions is one way to solve this. Among the ideas we discussed were:
o Bicycle sharing;
o Ride sharing facilitated by online web sites; and
o On-demand short haul routes facilitated by call buttons at bus stops using vans or 16-passenger buses.

* Transit-Oriented Development (TOD). Usually thought of as a revenue scheme for transit, this also can be used to help provide value to riders. Statistically, 84 percent of all trips Americans take are non-work related and many are for shopping or entertainment. By bringing these services close to high-capacity routes in a TOD scheme, transit gains more of each rider’s market share of trips. This brings value to riders by reducing the time they spend driving to the store or theater.

As both our agencies and our riders face tighter wallets in these challenging times, we need to think more and more about the value proposition that transit provides. By solving some of these key issues for our riders, we will build upon the faith and good name we’ve built in our communities, thus ensuring that future funding and trust will be there when we need it.

More on this topic and others to come will follow as we finalize this year’s Strategic Plan.

ITS Provides New Answers for Public Transit Concerns

BY JOHN M. INGLISH, Chief Executive Officer, Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT, and Chair, IVI Subcommittee, APTA ITS Public Transit Forum

In Salt Lake City, the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) is discovering how intelligent transportation systems (ITS) can provide new answers for existing public transportation concerns. UTA has set in motion some technological innovations that are beginning to pay off, including changes in its fare collection procedures, safety techniques, and fuel efficiency.

Account-Based Fare Collection
For example, UTA is looking toward implementing account-based automated fare collection. The electronic farecards used by many other public transit agencies are part of a purse-type system: the passenger loads money onto the card and draws down from that balance, and the agency gains no information about the user.

In contrast, an account-based fare system uses a contactless card—or a specially equipped cell phone—to identify the rider but accesses a linked checking account or credit card to pay the fare. Because the system registers both the point of entry and the point of departure (“tap on, tap off”), it charges according to the length of the trip on both bus and rail.

By using a distance-based approach, we can see the rider’s patterns and can make individual marketing decisions about the person’s use of service. This system eliminates the need for passes or other fare media and allows an agency to charge a lower fare for traveling a short distance than for a longer one. Increased awareness of the individual user’s needs—such as graduated fares for different trip lengths—could help public transit agencies adapt better to a changing transportation market.

Public transit agencies also need a mechanism to recognize passengers who have some kind of social service condition that calls for a change in fare: for example, in Salt Lake City, welfare recipients can charge their transit fares to the state’s food stamp program. If the system is going to set up an account-based fare collection program, it must make an effort to include people who have been defined by a social service agency or state to be eligible for this kind of help.

Connected Vehicles
Technology is being developed that can help avoid collisions by connecting individual motor vehicles in a specific external environment. For example, if one vehicle is moving too fast while approaching a stop sign and may not be able to stop in time, this ability to connect vehicles could inform another vehicle on the cross street of the first vehicle’s approach. Remedial actions also can be built in to avoid a likely accident.

While much of this technology already exists, it can only work through the creation of a large network of connected vehicles—which would also include buses.

This vehicle connection technology is comparable to the current use of traffic signal prioritization in Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). UTA operates BRT service in a single exclusive lane, which operates like single-track light rail and allows passengers to escape all road congestion and arrive 25 percent faster than traditional bus service.

UTA’s operators also have the ability to look at an in-vehicle radio screen, which we designed and developed at the agency. The screen shows if the vehicle is running late or early, not time point by time point but stop by stop. This way, the driver can adjust his or her speed to keep the vehicle on time through the entire process.

Electric Power Innovations
The internal combustion engine may still be the standard, but ultimately electric propulsion systems will take precedence. This shift depends on ways to induce an electric charge safely without exposed electrodes or other points of contact.

UTA has received a federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction grant to operate electric buses across the University of Utah campus and plans to begin service in six to nine months. Recent research has led to a way to induce the charge from a coil buried in the roadway across a 10-inch gap to the vehicle, and provide sufficient power to operate a shuttle bus.

This technology will change the nature of battery-operated vehicles: for example, a vehicle that does not have to carry its fuel on the roof will be notably lighter. Future advancements in electric switching technology could lead to trolleys and trolleybuses that operate without overhead wires.

The issue is, ultimately, what’s the most efficient way to distribute power and energy to the things we need to do. We can operate a vehicle with this technology and the savings in energy costs alone will offset both the cost of installation and the cost of power itself.

The Bus as a Data Node: Bringing Systems Together

BY JOSEPH WRIGHT, Chief Architect, Harris Corporation, Washington, DC

Today’s public transportation agencies enjoy the benefits of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems, Computer-Aided Design/Automatic Vehicle Location, on-board diagnostics, and other on-board systems. The data these technologies generate lead to more efficient operations and better use of assets—and address many issues in real time.

Unfortunately, not all of these systems work in concert, which may leave transit operations having to piece together disparate data on the back end. Next-generation bus data collection and analysis systems that leverage fully integrated real-time data sources are beginning to emerge today.

How public transit authorities can best leverage this data requires a fresh, new perspective. Thinking of the bus as a data node on a large network is the starting point for understanding entirely new capabilities in the transit market.

Analog to Digital Changes Long Held Assumptions
The shift from analog to digital throughout the public transit world is well recognized. Less known are some of the implications and opportunities that are quickly emerging from this transition.

To understand the potential of emerging systems and why it is important to think of buses as data nodes, we must first understand what systems will be on board new buses. We also need to recognize that on-board vehicle data systems, communications systems, and back office systems need to be integrated to take full advantage of the new data being collected.

Vehicle Data Systems
The term vehicle data system (VDS) refers to the collection of all data-generating systems on board a bus. These systems include advanced fare collection, video security, mobile asset management, weather monitoring, collision avoidance and pedestrian safety, passenger management, enunciators, on-board video display, vehicle performance monitoring, and driver monitoring systems.

While some of these systems share real-time data, many either do not or cannot interface with each other, resulting in data silos.

Next-generation systems will use data from various components to establish holistic “situational awareness” of bus operations. Location data can interface with fare payment, on-board video (for hyper-local advertising), mobile inventory management, temperature sensors, and other systems to provide location awareness throughout the bus. Conversely, roadside ITMS or DSRC sensors can validate GPS data to improve safety, security, or schedule adherence for buses. VDS integration is essential in the creation of operational awareness as the foundation of next-generation transit operations.

Communications Systems
With on-board systems working in unison to create operational awareness, buses must be able to communicate their data in real time to allow a public transit agency to manage its operations. This process requires reliable infrastructure and communications systems to ensure that vehicles remain connected to the transit enterprise network and data flows continuously.

This infrastructure will evolve from LAN/WAN-based networks to wireless Metro Area Networks that will allow vehicles to maintain secure, reliable communications along their routes.

Currently, most system components on a bus have their own dedicated communications link, which results in “porcupine” antenna arrays on buses and increases the complexity of managing each subsystem. A benefit of migrating from multiple subsystems to an integrated communications system is the ability to employ a single (redundant) link that allows for multi-frequency, variable bandwidth, and high throughput rates, allowing data to be concatenated, analyzed, and used for decision making in real time.

Integrated Transit Systems
Where there is some correlation of data in today’s public transit environment, next-generation transit systems will rely on real-time data from on-board systems to create a detailed view of system performance.

Public transit agencies will use passenger, vehicle performance, schedules, location, security, weather, traffic, and other data from on-board systems to provide situational control at their facilities.

Exception-based alerts will notify controllers of issues, which can be proactively shared with public safety agencies, first responders, and media outlets.

To take full advantage of the possibilities that can be achieved by considering the bus as a data node, public transit authorities will need to merge their Information Technology (IT) and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) departments. When there is no distinction between IT and ITS data, agencies can leverage all data in daily operations.

Capturing, Integrating, and Leveraging Data is a Catalyst for Change
With advances in collision avoidance, pedestrian awareness, more precise geospatial information, mechanical control systems, and security systems, buses will become more predictable, safer, and efficient.

Ultimately, as these systems are refined, they can provide new capabilities including the advent of driverless buses that combine on-board data heuristics with remotely monitored and controlled capabilities.

New systems are on the way. New capabilities will transform transportation. But new thinking is required in order to maximize the benefits. Starting to think of the bus as a data node is a key starting point. 

Innovation Helps Optimize Energy Usage for Public Transit

BY JIM McDOWALL, Business Development Manager, Energy Storage Systems Business Unit, Saft, Cockeysville, MD

As U.S. public transportation systems struggle to stay afloat in the face of economic challenges worsened by rising energy costs, the demand for advancements in smart grid technology is growing rapidly.

An innovative pilot project aimed at reducing costs and consumption while addressing environmental sustainability issues is making significant headway in Pennsylvania. Dubbed the “SEPTA Recycled Energy and Optimization Project,” the effort is a joint venture between Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the nation’s sixth largest public transit organization, and Viridity Energy, a Philadelphia-area smart grid company, with support from Saft, a designer and manufacturer of high-tech industrial batteries.

The project came about in response to observations and consequential concerns about the vast amounts of energy wasted over time because many public transit systems are unable adequately to exploit the excess of electricity created when a train is decelerating.

As a train slows, it consumes less energy than it produces; the surplus electric current converts to heat and dissipates. The purpose of the Energy Optimization Project is to harness the energy created from the regenerative braking ability of trains, and then store the energy for later use.

For this initiative, Saft is supplying one Intensium Max20 lithion-ion (Li-ion) megawatt energy storage system to capture train braking energy, then discharge it back to the third rail to power SEPTA trains leaving the station and to support overall rail traffic. In addition to improving power quality and saving energy, the project will also enable SEPTA to generate revenue by participating in the PJM Interconnection market for demand-side frequency regulation and wholesale power. (PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia.)

As a fully integrated, containerized Li-ion solution, the Saft battery system should provide efficiency of greater than 95 percent and maximize system availability while helping to manage power flows. Through this project, Saft is supplying a dual purpose trackside energy storage system (ESS) unique to North America—a system manufactured at a new dedicated facility in Jacksonville, FL.

Envitech Energy, a provider of alternative energy-storage traction solutions to the public transit industry, serves as system integrator for the project and will deploy its ENVISTORE System to control the energy exchange between the network and Saft’s ESS: capturing the braking energy from the trains, storing it in the ESS, and releasing it to the third rail on command. The system will also ensure line receptivity during braking, providing voltage regulation to improve the performance of the system.

The pilot project has both immediate and far-reaching implications. By reducing SEPTA’s electricity consumption, the project will help the agency lower its carbon emissions by 1,258 tons per year. Taking it a step further, following a successful demonstration period, a strong pilot could lead to potential deployment at up to 32 SEPTA substations, presenting transit systems with opportunities to resolve their fiscal challenges while simultaneously improving grid reliability in highly populated metropolitan areas.

Metro Introduces Visa-TAP and Visa-TAP for Access: Pre-Paid Debit Cards for the Unbanked and ADA Paratransit Customers

BY JANE MATSUMOTO, Deputy Executive Officer, Regional TAP Operation, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA, and F SCOTT JEWELL, Deputy Executive Director, Administration, Access Services, El Monte, CA

Two major public transportation providers in southern California—the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Access Services (Access)—joined together last year to launch a revolutionary electronic payment card that provides a valuable financial services product to under-banked and paratransit customers.

Under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, Metro operates the third largest public transit system in the country with 1.5 million boardings a day. It also is the regional transportation planning entity responsible for implementing the county’s multimodal transportation system.

Access, led by Executive Director Shelly Verrinder, is a local public entity that provides Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit on behalf of the county’s 45 public fixed route operators, both bus and rail.

Visa-TAP and Visa-TAP for Access
The innovative Visa-TAP and Visa-TAP for Access fare technology and payment media are being introduced to the transit community for the first time in the form of a prepaid debit card. These co-branded cards, targeted at public transit users with specific consumer needs, help remove barriers to mobility while also offering additional voluntary end-user benefits.

The Visa-TAP card addresses the community of riders who do not have traditional banking relationships with commercial financial institutions such as banks or credit unions. The Visa-TAP card for Access was introduced to serve persons with disabilities who use ADA paratransit.

Public transportation customers without access to traditional financial institutions and products may pay huge fees for cashing paychecks and paying bills. (This community spends on average $800 per year just for financial services such as check cashing and purchasing money orders.) Their total reliance on cash means they must carry cash if they want to use public transit, to buy passes and have exact change for fares. For people without debit bank cards, simple things like bill paying, online shopping, or renting a DVD are impossible.

The VISA-TAP for Access is a multi-functional product that, first and foremost, was issued to serve as rider identification for qualified riders of the ADA paratransit system in Los Angeles County. The card also contains a TAP smart chip that allows Access riders to ride free on fixed route systems as part of Access’ Free Fare program. The card allows for significantly enhanced reporting and fraud prevention, since it is much harder to duplicate than the legacy rider ID card.

Additionally, Access partnered with ReadyCARD to add the functionality of a prepaid Visa® to the card. This gives riders the option of loading money on the card: to pay for a ride on Access instead of using tokens or coupons, to pay at their favorite stores, shop online or over the phone, or pay bills without money orders.

Use of the new TAP card has been impressive, with more than 30,000 cards issued in the last three months of 2011. In December 2011 alone, passengers took more than 486,000 boardings using the card on our Free Fare partners.

Earning Recognition
These solutions have already garnered awards. The Los Angeles Chapter of WTS honored Metro and Access with the Innovative Transportation Solutions Award for implementing the Visa-TAP program.

In addition, the five-judge panel for the 2012 Paybefore Awards recently selected the VISA-TAP for Access Prepaid Card as one of the three winners in the Best Government-Funded Prepaid Program category. These awards are presented in 20 categories by Paybefore, which provides publications for the global prepaid community.

As fare payment technology evolves, Los Angeles County will continue to work to address customers who can easily be overlooked. Innovation combined with social responsibility is how we see fare technology evolving for customers in southern California.

Technology: A Future Look

BY GREGORY COOK, General Manager, Veolia Transportation CCT, Marietta, GA

What does the future hold in the field of public transportation as technology continues to advance?

We look to safety to be the number one priority while real-time information to the customer moves forward. I think we will see connected vehicle information from all forms of vehicles moving through cities and on the highways. And we shall see more real-time information readily available to all the many wireless gizmos we carry with us.

Connected vehicle information can alert motor vehicle operators to traffic congestion due to either accidents or magnitude of traffic. This technology could lead to automated highways that manage traffic flow through technology to maintain constant spacing between vehicles. This capability saves time, money, and lives—a key premise of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

Both political barriers and ownership and privacy issues must be overcome to allow the technology to prevail. The technology is here now and has proven itself to the believers; now it must impress the masses.

For example, we need to outfit entire fleets with devices that automatically alert pedestrians that a bus is turning; this technology is a good idea for trucks as well. Some systems make a beeping sound when the bus is turning, while others have a voice stating, “Caution, bus turning.”

The camera systems on board buses have become so sophisticated today with automatic downloads in the bus yards with supreme clarity and color. Many on-board cameras get set off by G force (a sudden stop or erratic turn), making them important assets in the examination process following an accident. The police deal with many of our systems, requesting video for their investigations.

Technology is the key for customers who want to know when their bus is arriving, so they can get that last cup of coffee and power down their laptop or tablet, walk out the door, and see their bus there. We are getting better at transferring real-time information on our bus systems to the various devices customers use. The latest devices are the lifeline, and more, for the younger generation, who expect to get every bit of information they need from them. The need for this bus info is imperative.

The great thing about our world today is that we never know where the next technology explosion will come from. In our industry we have learned that buses do the same job they always did, but now they have more technology than we ever dreamed. Mechanics are technicians now. Driver’s compartments are cockpits.

What’s coming next? Time will tell and we will find out about it on our smart phone or tablet.

Customers Keep on Moving

BY NURIA FERNANDEZ, Chief Operating Officer, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York, NY

In New York, we’re continuing with both internal and external efforts to implement technologies that will help our customers move around. We develop new technologies in house for our customers, but we also make data available to third-party app developers; we want to encourage them to work with us to make additional apps quickly.

The Help Point intercom system is undergoing pilot testing on two of the busiest stations on the 6 subway line. It’s a simple object that has two buttons: a green one for customer information and a red one for emergency service. The presence of this system means that, right there on the platform, our subway riders have access to the information they need.

Say passengers make changes in where they’re going. They need only to push the green button to be connected to MTA’s travel information center, which allows them to talk to a real person. The red button connects to the MTA rail control center, which has people on standby to help subway users deal with emergency situations.

Help Point has been very well received by the public in both locations. MTA designed it as part of an agency-wide shift toward giving customers the opportunity to buy their own fares and get their own information rather than dealing with station agents. It’s to their benefit, since our travel information employees have access to more comprehensive information than an employee in a specific station. Our larger subway stations still have station agents, but the overall aim is to use technology to obtain better service for our customers.

Another pilot project, called On the Go!, is now in three subway stations. This is an interactive touch screen that provides travel planning services, some real-time weather information, real-time bus information, and third-party information about cultural and dining destinations. Again, it’s all there to help our passengers make their best travel decisions after they’ve entered the station.

On the bus side, MTA recently rolled out real-time bus information on Staten Island; it’s been in Brooklyn for about a year and is coming next to the Bronx. We take our data stream that tracks the buses and make it available to app developers so people can use their hand-held devices to see where the bus is and make decisions—is there time to get a cup of coffee or buy a newspaper before the bus arrives? This way, people know they can stay in their offices until the bus is two blocks away rather than standing at the stop.

These seem like small changes, but remember that a small change in the daily routine will have a major cumulative effect. We want to give our passengers the feeling that they’re more in control of their travel decisions—a nice service that will only continue to get better.

The fact that this information is moving so much faster now than in the past has a definite positive effect because increased efficiency is the whole purpose of the technology.

APTA Members Speak Out on Technology's Value Today
Matthew Tucker

Executive Director
North County Transit District
Oceanside, CA
Chair, APTA Safety Coordinating Committee

Since I am chair of the APTA Safety Coordinating Committee, my first response about technology is the value of video analytics embedded in closed circuit television cameras—from a dummy camera that just records to having a camera that is “intelligent,” gathering information and helping you focus your resources.

Having that camera is great, assuming you have someone watching that camera all the time. But all agencies have way more cameras than people observing them. Analytics help you focus in on areas or conditions that are different from what you expect them to be—the day-to-day activities in and outside of stations.

If someone is at a location where people usually do not congregate, or there is activity outside of typical behavior, technology would recognize and alert you to that. At your operations control center, staffed 24-7, those analytics enable a person who may have 10-30 screens to monitor and relay information directly to the pertinent safety or security official.

The role of technology is to improve the customer’s riding experience: broadly defined, making the service meet the customer’s expectations, including safety and security. There are significant changes in technology since I started 17 years ago, but I’d say that the top one is the increased use of computers—and how they are used across all business platforms.

To cite just a few examples: customers use computers to obtain real-time information; we use automatic passenger counters to help us improve our efficiency and understand what’s happening in our system; and we analyze information about the performance of our buses and trains. Or take scheduling. Back in the dark dinosaur days, people scheduled with papers all over the room. With computers, that process is now more efficient—both in the time it takes and the efficiency in the routes produced.

Kevin Desmond

General Manager
King County Metro Transit Division/DOT
Seattle, WA
Chair, APTA Sustainability Committee

I see two primary areas of action in the public transportation technology field: the extent to which we can drive down our energy use—particularly regarding bus fleets—and customer information.

King County Metro has received a $5 million Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction grant for design and construction of at least one all-electric demonstration bus. It will be a year-long examination of the technology, with practical use further down the road.

Because our trolleybuses have to be connected to wires, we’re looking at other technology experiments that could lead to the use of a fast-charging battery. We could extend the range of our zero-emission fleet without having to install overhead wires. We’re also continuing to work on the next generation of rolling stock, using hybrid technology in 40-foot and 60-foot buses and investing in all-electric vehicles for the vanpool fleet.

We also try to keep current with the type of tools, features, and products wanted by an increasingly sophisticated, plugged-in public. Almost all our customers have cell phones and they expect real-time information. We make our information available to third-party developers—it’s a cost-effective way to get new products out there. For example, a graduate student created the “One Bus Away” app that provides Next B.us arrival time for any stop in our system. That isn’t something we could have built easily ourselves.

The challenge facing public transit is making sure we provide information to developers in a standardized format so they can create fancy new apps, while at the same time, determining what features we must host in house. We want to find the proper balance between the traditional information we provide and third-party apps.

Sustainability is the main issue: as an industry, are we doing everything we can to make transit competitive to using your own car? We need to provide a good service to begin with, then extend our market reach with new features that can make service more seamless and convenient, adding to rider confidence.

Susannah Kerr Adler

 Vice President/National Director-Transportation Facilities
URS Corporation
Vice Chair, APTA Sustainability Committee

At a very base level, technology is a terrific tool you can use to get information out and get information in. What we need to do in the industry is recognize how best to use this—and enhance what we’re doing through its use.

For your internal operations, technology is the way we’re starting to communicate more: internet wireless, environmental management systems, capturing data for ridership through electronic ticketing. How all this information is synthesized and interpreted to streamline and enhance our performance is really critical.

On the external side, it’s imperative—in today’s age and with the focus on social media—that we use technology to communicate what’s going on, proactively. This applies not only to features like Next Bus but also to incident management and emergency management. Through technology, agencies can help manage expectations and real-time information.

Also, you’re starting to see Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs showing up more and more in public meetings and project planning as a way to solicit—in real time and kind of unfiltered—the public’s thoughts about projects and programs. There’s a lot more information coming in through the door and I think that’s going to increase.

Because we are so connected 24 hours a day, whether for our personal or professional lives, we can be a slave to technology or we can recognize how to use it appropriately—and then be able to direct how we do use it, such as a YouTube video to solicit public input for a rail extension.

On the subject of creating sustainability, inherent to the whole process—including smart buildings and energy efficiency—is that technology can track, monitor, and stay on top of all that. It’s also becoming more prevalent on the social side of sustainability in how people connect and interconnect. We have a responsibility to understand how it’s being used to help folks engage in a way that’s meaningful through its use.

Sue A. Stewart

Safety and Health Administrator
King County DOT/Metro Transit
Seattle, WA
Vice Chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee

We have a project at Seattle Metro—to take this issue of emerging technologies and figure out how to make everything work smarter and better. And in particular, how do we improve the work environment for the transit operator?

When you line up an old bus from 30 years ago and look at a new bus today, it looks fancier, glitzier, but much has not changed.

We may have added more tools in the console area, but it raises the question of what do I really need to do my job—which is drive a bus and drive it safely.

We’re working with our local Amalgamated Transit Union and representatives of vehicle maintenance with the goal of making the driver’s work station more ergonomic. If we could build this bus from a blank sheet of paper—we’re asking such questions as: where should the controls be, where should the pedals be, and what should be the flow of information?

I don’t see heads-up cockpits like the military because that would be another sort of distraction, but we have to make sure that the controls function in an optimal way—that they don’t require excess force to apply them. Like air brakes. The transit operators need the opportunity to rest their legs from time to time, so there’s more opportunity if manufacturers could think about a different way of applying that critical braking system to all their safety concerns, yet is easier to apply and release to people who use it more than twice a day.

What we’re hoping to do with this project is lay some groundwork using ergonomic professionals to help us. We’ll work with business partners and BC Transit. We want to check in with them because they are so leading edge. We’re hoping that, because of our collective size and might, we can inspire equipment manufacturers to think differently about the products they do make—to challenge their paradigm about what ergonomics means in the driver’s work station.

We understand that we live in a market-driven country. Change doesn’t come because you want it to happen. Change comes because you’ve identified a need and it’s worth your while to do it. We’re hoping to find the quotient that could drive that change.

Deborah Y. Chin

Lead Construction Manager
MTA New York City Transit
Leadership APTA Class of 2012

Technology is basically communications. My whole job is to implement the new model of giving people information before they get to the station—bringing all this information you would get standing on the platform to your mobile devices.

It’s changed how people behave physically in our system: they no longer have to lean over the tracks to see headlights to gauge when the next train is coming. I even get e-mails saying we have removed stress from riders’ lives! They also say that the waiting time is so much shorter when they know when the train is coming.

While some of these features are not new technologically, like Next Bus, they are new to us. We also benefit when we share our data over the Internet by having third-party developers use it to create more ways to move real-time information to the public.

Because we use a lot of different signage, if we have a service disruption, they know right away.

We as a transportation industry need to meet the demands of our customers. Right now, everyone’s lives are so busy, so this and other technologies allow people to not waste time.

The role of technology is to make our business processes and service delivery more efficient. It also helps eliminate mistakes, like human error—and cuts down on accidents. With fail-safe systems built in, we improve safety, efficiency, and productivity. We also receive the ancillary benefits associated with making transit people’s jobs and riders’ lives easier.

Angela K. Miller

Chief Technology and Sustainability Officer
North County Transit District
Oceanside, CA
Chair, APTA Information Technology Committee

The transit industry is really opening up from a technology perspective—to work with crowd sourcing of applications. We’re making our data available and we’re finding that people are doing these wondrous things with us as a result—in ways that don’t cost us a lot of money and provide a lot of value to the community.

For example, putting our schedule up resulted in people showing up with great applications to help our customers. And now that we’re starting to make feeds available in real time, it makes the data all that more valuable. That’s such a different dynamic from how we used to operate.

Add into that all the social media contact, and suddenly younger people are starting to feel part of the transit system—they are invested in it. Social media is tremendously exciting for the industry, but at the same time it’s also challenging: Is it secure? Can we guarantee its reliability?

None of these products were things we thought were achievable just five years ago.

The speed of change of these mobility technologies is, in turn, changing everything. So now, how fast can you get information to customers and how self-sufficient can they be?

When you think about a vehicle, everything from the way in which people on the vehicle communicate back to the operations center to how we track where the vehicles are is dependent on technology now. Cameras for the security, counters for how many people ride, where they get on, where they get off, emergency communications—these are all dependent in a way that was not there 10-15 years ago.

John Smatlak

President
rpr consulting

I’m the project manager for developing guidelines on modern streetcars—through APTA’s standards program.One of the guidelines’ chapters deals with power supply. If you put enough energy storage in a streetcar, you can operate it without overhead wires, and that’s where it gets interesting.

Why eliminate overhead wires? A key issue is aesthetics. You might be running a tramway against a 16th-century cathedral. Or you might have an impaired clearance, and thus no room. In Seattle they are building a streetcar line that does not put overhead wires up to avoid a trolleybus overhead.

It could be cheaper—but before you jump to that conclusion, you need to look at the pros and cons. How far you can go on the energy storage alone is dependent on all kinds of things, like going up a hill.

In the guideline, we’re encouraging people to look at the lifecycle cost, not just the capital ones.

The technology is sized for a particular application, because you don’t want to carry around extra capacity, which means you’re carrying extra weight. With batteries, however, you need external power to recharge it—and how long will that take? If it’s a two-mile line, if the charging time is longer than the headway, that would impact the cost.

So why is this of value?

First of all, energy storage is something that can pay off literally in cost savings and can bring other operational benefits as well. So cost savings is the primary driver.

In some cases, there are definitely reasons why it would be really handy to eliminate overhead wire. Whether, over the lifecycle cost of the project, that investment translates into cost savings is still open for discussion.

Reginald A. Mason

Director of Safety and Training/Chief Safety Officer
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
San Francisco, CA
Chair, APTA Bus Safety Committee

While pedestrian safety warning devices for buses are not new, there’s newer technology out there that’s pretty exciting. It’s an audible sound, a voice. While once it was just beeping, now it’s speech.

When the bus is making a turn, systems can start “talking” as soon as the wheel turns because it’s automatically integrated into the steering system. It will work the same in trolleys and diesel buses, and companies are also looking to use the same kind of technology in light rail vehicles.

If this type of technology can prevent one pedestrian fatality, it pays for itself. Look at lawsuits where public transit agencies have had to pay millions of dollars.

Then there’s something we implemented in 2009 in Houston that’s starting to catch on now. We were experiencing too many rear-end collisions, so we installed an LED stop sign at the back of the bus. Then, every time the bus operator hit the brakes, the sign started flashing “STOP.” In short, it worked.

Technology has brought major change to the industry I joined 15 years ago. For instance, we did not have event recorders on buses or trains to count speed or braking distance; now you have them, similar to what you have on an airplane. We didn’t have cameras then either.

In general, technology has helped improve the way we deliver our services, from route planning to scheduling, operations, and safety.

Mary Ann Collier

Director of Operations
Swayzer Engineering Inc.
Chair, APTA Human Resources Committee

One of the results of technology is that it’s raised the level of expertise and talent we need in our employees.

When you think about it, it used to be that bus operators only had to be able to drive a bus, but now—with such features as smart cards and farebox collection and more, all pretty much technology-based—we need to make sure the people we recruit either have or are capable of learning new skills.

That raises the bar, in my opinion. It’s not a circumstance of young vs. old—I have some senior people who are as technologically astute as the younger ones (but I do think the younger generation comes with those skills)—but it is about being flexible, with a willingness to learn.

The core of our business is providing real-time communication about scheduling, incidents, delays—and we need to continue to enhance that.

These days, people can load their smart cards and pay for transit-related parking without having to go to multiple places or use different payment methods. That’s important because it makes it seamless, which in turn makes it more customer- and service-friendly.

In workforce development we talk much more about using social media to attract younger people to our industry—to advertise, to communicate what our career options are, to talk about sustainability, going green—all those kinds of marketing issues that young people are interested in. That’s one of the resources we’re using because, if we just put it in newsprint, they won’t see it.

Social media is also an excellent tool for marketing key issues in public transportation, including legislative ones. It’s so important to keep our public engaged, aware of the ability to use transit, which means supporting our ballot initiatives.

Focusing on the flip side of social media—how we gain information rather than putting information out—one example is that we frequently use Facebook to obtain a broader reference of an applicant, before we even arrive at the interviewing process.

Another use of technology is in interviewing someone from out of town and gaining information you wouldn’t have through just a telephone conversation. In my previous position, we conducted an on-screen interview where the applicant was clearly aware that we could see and hear him. And yet, through his non-verbal communication we saw such things as non-positive facial expressions and body movements that indicated discomfort, which helped us make a decision about who would make a better candidate!

Yet one more use of technology—in these economic times where a lot of travel budgets have been cut—we hold Go To meetings or present webinars. With the ability to see speakers and post questions, it’s like you’re there on site.

Technology, no question, has been and continues to be a tremendous asset across the board.

Andrew J. Gillespie

Chief Engineer-Power
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Philadelphia, PA

We are going to install a half a megawatt lithium-ion battery in a traction power substation on SEPTA’s subway line.

This battery, capable of storing enough power to light up 120 households in a day, will be charged from the electricity generated from when the train brakes. We will store that electricity until another train comes by that wants to accelerate, and we’ll discharge that electricity into the system.

What makes our project unique is that we are using the battery to save electricity already, but getting paid to help the local power company keep a balance of its network—balancing supply with demand.

Our power company is our grid manager, controlling the flow of electricity from those who generate it to the end user.  By using the lithium-ion battery and going through Viridity Energy, we can coordinate with the power company to determine when to charge or discharge the battery in accordance with that company’s needs.  That company pays us because, by using our stored energy, it doesn’t have to repeatedly fire up an extra burner, which costs money, and then shut it down.

Plus, we received a TIGER grant from FTA to test a different storage technology; we’re currently asking people to propose their technologies, but we haven’t selected anything else.

We are the only ones using a battery to do both the capturing and storing of electrical energy used by braking trains—and participating in the energy market.

For public transportation, it’s a means of generating revenue. But it also makes the capture of regenerated braking power economically feasible. Without the battery, the extra energy would have to go through a resister bank and be burned off as heat because it would have no place to go. With the battery, we can store it and hold onto it until we’re ready to use it.

Other than taking up space (approximately 12 feet x 20 feet), I can’t think of any disadvantages.

From a positive point of view, we hope to reduce our energy consumption by at least 10 percent, which allows us to achieve our sustainability goals, and the revenue that’s generated allows us to fund projects like this. I’m hoping the money we generate from the second pilot will let us do two more. Ideally I’d like to have a battery in every one of my substations.

APTA NEWS

Transit CEOs Meet at Annual APTA Seminar in Orlando

BY PAMELA L. BOSWELL, APTA Vice President-Program Management and Educational Services

More than 130 public transportation agency executives, deputies, and other industry experts gathered in Orlando, FL, for the recent 2012 APTA Transit CEOs Seminar. This annual professional development event focuses on leadership and executive skills.

Hosted by John Lewis, chief executive officer, LYNX-Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Orlando, the seminar program addressed APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas’ initiatives of value, agility, and thought leadership. Sessions included executive exchanges, peer-to-peer presentations, labor relations, public transportation security, new business models, improving customer service, working with the media, and using an evidence-based transportation management process.

APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy and Thomas, also president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, welcomed attendees. Later, they conducted a roundtable featuring updates on advocating for the federal surface transportation authorization bill, regulatory issues, and feedback from discussions during the “lunch by system size” on how APTA can increase the value of its membership and better serve the needs of chief executive officers and their public transportation agencies.

A Few Highlights
New this year, in addition to the president’s breakfast for new and nearly new transit CEOs, Melaniphy hosted a conversation over breakfast for deputy chief executives, focusing on what APTA can do to support them in their careers and methods for increasing their association involvement.

In the session “Policy & Trends in Surface Transportation,” Joshua Schank, president and CEO, Eno Transportation Foundation, stated that “one thing we need to do is reframe the discussion about federal funding for public transportation so it is not all about the money, but also policy change.” He said the focus must be on making sure the federal program has a very real and clear purpose, including articulating national goals and performance metrics.

“New Business Models” addressed how public transit agencies under difficult economic conditions have been resourceful in creating new partnerships and business models, leading to more funding, less costs, better streamlining of operations, and more ridership. Presenters included Matthew O. Tucker, executive director, North County Transit District, Oceanside, CA; Meredith Birkett, acting general manager, Chittenden County Transportation Authority, Burlington, VT; and Neil Petersen, executive advisor, CH2M HILL.

John Patterson, who spoke at the session “Wired: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About It,” noted that recessions have made customers value the riding experience more than ever before. Further, through social media, customers stay more informed and will look for what others say about a product or service.

The seminar also included sessions on the importance of staying on message and the art of maintaining control of media interviews; the much anticipated “peer-to-peer” presentations featuring eight CEOs sharing best practices and initiatives; and strategies to improve quality service through the use of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 as factual approaches to decision making.

 

 

Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

APTA Chair Gary Thomas, left, and APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy listen during the Transit CEOs Seminar Roundtable.

Photo by Herman Sandoval, LYNX

Presenters at the peer-to-peer session include, from left, Phillip Washington, George Greanias, Thomas Fox, Will Hudson, Terry Garcia Crews, Will Kempton, Michael Allegra, Carl Sedoryk, Aurelio Rojo Garrido, and Yves Devin.

 

 

APTA Members Share Expertise on Reducing Urban Congestion at the U.S.-China Transportation Forum in St. Louis

BY JULIA WALKER, APTA Program Manager-International Programs

The 4th Annual U.S./China Transportation Forum, held last month in St. Louis, concluded on a high note with the U.S. and China continuing to examine how to best tackle transportation challenges that both nations face. This year’s forum, led by DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari and Xu Zuyuan, vice minister, People’s Republic of China Ministry of Transport, provided an opportunity for the Chinese delegates to witness a city that is a major U.S. transport hub.

As part of the Strategic Economic Dialogue in 2008, the U.S. and Chinese governments recognized the need for the forum as the two nations face population increases and growing demand for transportation services.

The five priority areas determined after creation of the forum are urban congestion, new railway technologies, innovative financing, transport of hazardous goods, and disaster assistance coordination. Working groups centered on each priority meet at this now-annual event to discuss challenges and solutions and to share best and worse practices for each area.

The Federal Transit Administration, coordinator for this year’s Urban Congestion Working Group, asked APTA to be part of the dialogue and present public transportation challenges and successes for reducing urban congestion—by sharing with the Chinese government officials the many technologies, products, and services U.S. companies provide. These conversations helped the Chinese delegates gain a better understanding of how the U.S. industry—designers, engineers, consultants, and financiers—can contribute to confronting these issues and how U.S. public transportation professionals can assist with China’s future development in this area.

APTA business members and staff shared expertise on areas such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), accessibility for persons with disabilities, and urban public transportation standards. In turn, the Chinese participants shared China’s plans relating to rail and BRT development as well as strategic plans regarding that country’s public transportation investment. Parsons Brinckerhoff, MV Transportation, and Clever Devices sponsored the workshop.

Much of the forum’s success is due to existing Memorandums of Cooperation (MOC). Past partners included Los Angeles and Beijing and the Mineta Transportation Institute and the China Academy of Transportation Sciences (CATS). This year, the University of South Florida and CATS signed such a cooperative agreement. APTA also officially joined this collaboration by signing an MOC with CATS in the areas of development, management, and organization of passenger transportation system standards.

The 5th Annual U.S./China Transportation Forum will take place this December—in China! For information on this event and how to participate, contact Julia Walker.

 

Participants in the Jan. 11 APTA/CATS Signing Ceremony include, from left, DOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari; Kathy Waters, APTA vice president-member services; Li Zuomin, CATS president; and Xu Zuyuan, vice minister, People’s Republic of China Ministry of Transport.

 

APTF Task Force Hosts Delegation of 40 Young Industry Professionals

The American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF) Scholar Task Force, comprising past scholarship recipients now working in the industry, recently hosted approximately 40 young industry professionals and interested individuals at APTA’s offices in Washington. The group—led by Task Force Chair Larry Duhon Jr., technology project manager, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority—discussed current initiatives and future plans during their visit.

Building on the results of a survey conducted by the task force, the group examined three main objectives: creating a transfer mentor program, developing continuing education and networking opportunities through webinars and conferences for scholarship recipients, and establishing a transit professionals program to place interns in public transit agencies.

In addition, the group worked to ascertain ways that APTF could work with such organizations as Young Professionals in Transportation, WTS, Transportation Learning Center, and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials to create information repositories on groups, internships, education, training, and schools that have dedicated transportation programs.

Also in attendance were APTF Chair Bonnie Shepherd, vice president, northeast transportation, Hatch Mott MacDonald, and Jill Chen Stober, a 2008-2009 scholarship recipient; transportation planner, KFH Group Inc.; and APTF board member.

Videos from this meeting are available for viewing online.

COMTO Honors, Celebrates Women Who Move the Nation

The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) will recognize women who have had the greatest influence and biggest impact on transportation at its inaugural awards ceremony, “Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation,” March 14 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC. This morning event will be held in observance of Women’s History Month and is open to the public.

The 15 honorees represent all sectors of the transportation industry, from members of Congress to heads of the nation’s largest public agencies to private sector executives.

The list of distinguished honorees includes Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL); AECOM Vice President Jane Chmielinski; Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler; longtime transit Shirley DeLibero, DeLibero Consulting Strategies LLC; Nuria Fernandez, chief operating officer, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; United Airlines executive Nene Foxhall; former Labor Secretary Secretary Alexis Herman; Dr. Beverly Scott, general manager/CEO, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; and Maryland DOT Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley.

Tickets for this event are limited, so interested persons are asked to reserve early. For more information, contact Kathleen Moore.

 

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

John McPartland, Tom Radulovich
OAKLAND, CA—Retired Oakland Fire Department Battalion Fire Chief John McPartland is the new president of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Board of Directors. He served as board vice president for the past year and succeeds Bob Franklin.

Before joining the board in 2008, McPartland was a BART safety specialist for six years. He retired from the Oakland Fire Department after 25 years as a chief officer.

Tom Radulovich, a BART board member since 1996, was elected vice president.

Gregory A. Walker
PHOENIX, AZ—Gregory A. Walker, AICP, has joined Huitt-Zollars Inc. as vice president responsible for transportation planning. His duties include urban transportation system analysis, transportation investment planning and programming, capital program management, and decision support/policy analysis.

Walker comes to the firm with extensive experience in capital investment programming, transit system analysis, and project development.

Patrick Campbell

SANTA MONICA, CA—Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus announced the appointment of Patrick Campbell as chief operations officer.

Campbell served most recently as general manager for MV Transportation’s 280-vehicle paratransit operation in Brooklyn, NY. Earlier he was transportation director for the Capital District Transportation Authority in Albany, NY; operations and grants manager for Johnson County Transit in Olathe, KS; and director of transit with Greater Glens Falls Transit, Glens Falls, NY.



Guy Templeton, Robert Stromsted

NEW YORK, NY—Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) has named Guy Templeton president and chief operating officer of the firm’s Asia/Australia-Pacific/Southern Africa operating company, based in Sydney, and Robert Stromsted a senior vice president based in New York.

Templeton succeeds Chuck Kohler, who served in the position on an interim basis. Kohler has been appointed group director of operational delivery for Balfour Beatty, PB’s parent company.

Prior to joining PB, Templeton operated his own consulting firm and served as chief executive of Minter Ellison Lawyers, the largest law firm in the Asia Pacific region.

Stromsted has 35 years of consulting engineering experience in the private and public sectors. Before coming to PB, he was chief executive officer of HNTB Corporation, with clients including federal agencies, state DOTs, toll authorities, port authorities, airports, municipalities, public transit agencies, rail authorities, freight railroads, private businesses, construction contractors, and concessionaires.

Douglas E. Sizemore
CINCINNATI, OH—The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) presented its Royal Coachman Award to Douglas E. Sizemore, executive secretary-treasurer of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council and a SORTA board member for more than two years.

Sizemore’s union career began with the Molders Union. He subsequently was a member of United Auto Workers Local 647; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 912, ultimately becoming eastern territory education representative; and assumed his current post in 2006. He was appointed to the General Board of the national AFL-CIO in 2010.

Jay Fisette, Jeff McKay, Paul C. Smedberg
ARLINGTON, VA—Jay Fisette of Arlington County, VA, is the 2012 chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. Jeff McKay of Fairfax County, VA, was elected vice chairman and Paul C. Smedberg, Alexandria, VA, is secretary-treasurer.

Catherine Hudgins and James W. Dyke will represent Virginia on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board of Directors, with Mary Hynes and William Euille as alternates.

These NVTC board members will serve on the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board: principals, Sharon Bulova, John Cook, Chris Zimmerman, and Smedberg; alternates, McKay and Fisette.

Gene A. Davis
DULUTH, GA—Gene A. Davis, P.E., has joined Stantec as senior railway engineer overseeing the southeastern U.S.

Davis has more than 27 years of experience in the rail industry including operations, economics and engineering for railroad companies, state DOTs, and major municipalities. He has worked with commuter rail, intercity passenger rail, and freight rail projects across the nation, including 18 years with Norfolk Southern Corporation.


Michael C. May, Francis C. Jones, Susan B. Stimpson, Frederic N. Howe III
WOODBRIDGE, VA—The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission announced that Michael C. May, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, will chair its executive board.

Other newly appointed members of the board are Vice Chairman Francis C. Jones, mayor of Manassas Park; Secretary Susan B. Stimpson, chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors; Treasurer Frederic N. Howe III, a member of the Fredericksburg City Council; Immediate Past Chairman John D. Jenkins, also of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors; and at-large members Jonathan L. Way, Manassas City Council, and Gary F. Skinner, Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

Ron Aames, Scott Somers, Trinity Donovan
PHOENIX, AZ—Peoria Vice Mayor Ron Aames has been elected to a one-year term as chair of the Valley Metro Board of Directors. Mesa Vice Mayor Scott Somers is vice chair and Chandler Vice Mayor Trinity Donovan treasurer.

The board also welcomed two new members: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who succeeds Vice Mayor Michael Johnson, and Surprise Councilmember Richard Alton, succeeding Mayor Lyn Truitt.

MIchael Weidger, Ivan Mitchell, Turhan E. Robinson
BALTIMORE, MD—The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) announced the appointments of Michael Weidger as director of mobility/paratransit services; Ivan Mitchell, deputy director of service development; and Turhan E. Robinson, Esq., as principal counsel.

Weidger comes to MTA from Columbus, OH, where he served as operations transit analyst for fixed route and paratransit services for the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

Mitchell’s management duties include scheduling, planning, data collection, and developing short- and long-term strategic goals. He previously served the Delaware Transit Corporation as an analyst in the Office of Planning and Development.

Robinson is former deputy counsel for the Maryland Department of General Services. He also serves as civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Maryland, an appointed position he has held for the past 10 years.





Kerry Reid

IRVINE, CA—Kerry Reid has joined HID Global as vice president of HID Connect.

Reid has more than 20 years of industry experience in channel and OEM sales, marketing management, and international sales. He previously served as vice president of worldwide sales at ATTO Technology.

Antony Hall
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Antony Hall, LEED® AP, has joined Gannett Fleming as a construction manager, based in the firm’s San Francisco office.

Hall has more than 20 years of construction management experience to the firm, working with client representatives, design teams, and contractors both internationally and throughout the U.S.




Emmanuelle Humblet, Amir Rizavi
NEW YORK, NY—Two VHB employees have received professional recognition for their achievements in the industry and community.

Emmanuelle Humblet, LEED® AP, a project manager with VHB’s environmental group, was recognized as one of Engineering News Record-New York’s Top 20 Under 40. She specializes in sustainability planning for airports and institutions.

Amir Rizavi, P.E., a senior project manager in VHB’s transportation group, received the Young Professional of the Year Award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Metropolitan Section of New York and New Jersey. He focuses on management and performance of traffic engineering for planning, design, and development studies.

Barbara Sullivan-George, Dr. Freda Hinsche Otto, Lori Ann Farrell
LONG BEACH, CA—The Long Beach Transit (LBT) Board of Directors elected Barbara Sullivan-George as its chair, Dr. Freda Hinsche Otto as vice chair, and Lori Ann Farrell as secretary-treasurer.

Sullivan-George, a board member since 2007, is a recipient of the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund’s Black Woman of Achievement Award.

LBT also welcomed three new members of the board.

Donald First retired from the Long Beach Police Department as commander in 2000 after a career of more than 30 years. He owns and manages multiple local residential income properties.

Maricela de Rivera has served on the public affairs team at the Long Beach Airport and as a volunteer public information officer for the American Red Cross. She has also volunteered for Leadership Long Beach, Long Beach Rescue Mission, and Special Olympics.

Victor Irwin started his own high-end furniture small business, which has grown into a company with three locations.

Gary Hansen, William Droste, Jane Victorey
BURNSVILLE, MN—Gary Hansen, an Eagan city council member, has been elected chair of the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority (MVTA) Board of Directors. He succeeds Will Branning, Dakota County commissioner for District 7.

William Droste, mayor of Rosemount, is the new vice chair. Jane Victorey, Savage city council member, was re-elected treasurer and also elected secretary in anticipation of a change in the MVTA’s Bylaws and Joint Powers Agreement to combine the positions.

Mark McCollough
ELYRIA, OH—Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC has named Mark McCollough vice president and general manager for the charging business. He joined Bendix in 2004 as engineering manager for compressors and was promoted to director of air treatment in 2008.

Previously, McCollough was engineering manager for EFD, a division of Nordson Corporation, based in East Providence, RI.

Robert (Rob) Turton
NEW YORK, NY—Robert (Rob) Turton, P.E., S.E., has joined HNTB Corporation as a senior vice president and national leader of its bridge practice.

Turton has more than 35 years of experience in the planning, design, and construction of bridge structures. He has worked on major projects including the Hoover Dam, the Navajo Bridge in Grand Canyon National Park, and the Golden Gate Bridge seismic retrofit.