Passenger Transport - February 24, 2012
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BREAKING NEWS

House Leadership May Retain Dedicated Federal Investment in Public Transit

As Passenger Transport went to press, news reports in Washington were suggesting that the House may not call for changes to dedicated federal public transit funding as announced earlier. In addition, the House may move forward with a shorter-term bill than the original five-year legislation.

“We are encouraged that it appears that the U.S. House of Representatives leadership has decided to maintain dedicated federal investment for public transportation through the [Mass Transit Account of the] Highway Trust Fund as they work towards finalizing a multi-year transportation bill,” said APTA President and CEO Michael P. Melaniphy.

Melaniphy noted that the Mass Transit Account has provided tax revenues to public transit since 1983, under President Ronald Reagan. “We are pleased that the Congress will continue the overwhelming bipartisan support for dedicated federal investment in public transit that has existed for nearly 30 years,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the progress and look forward to working with the Congress in developing a well-funded multi-year transportation bill.”

 

NEWS HEADLINES

Public Transportation Executives: House Title Will Cause Irreparable Harm

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

The Feb. 3 announcement by the House Ways and Means Committee that its tax title for surface transportation authorization would eliminate the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund galvanized not just the public transportation industry, but newspaper editorial boards and cartoonists, interest groups from across the spectrum, and the general public. Thousands of voices have emphasized the unfairness of the proposal and called for the implementation of an amendment proposed by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to restore dedicated federal funding for public transit—a program originally approved during the Reagan Administration.

As members of Congress returned to their districts for the President’s Day work period, leaders of seven public transportation agencies across the U.S. told the media in a Feb. 22 conference call how losing a dedicated federal funding source would damage their ability to provide efficient and effective service to their communities.

Twenty-five media representatives participated in the call from news organizations including The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Crain’s Chicago Business, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Wall Street Journal.

“Eliminating dedicated funding is a step backward that would have dire consequences for public transportation,” said APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy, who convened the conference call. “Millions of people take public transportation every year and this would undercut a public transit system’s ability to move forward with critical capital projects, including making sure our systems are brought up to a state of good repair.” He called the Nadler-LaTourette amendment “crucial for the future of public transportation.”

Speakers on the call were Richard Sarles, general manager and CEO, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA); Joseph J. Lhota, chairman and CEO, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA); Joyce Eleanor, CEO, Community Transit, Snohomish County, WA; Joseph M. Casey, general manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Philadelphia; Joe Costello, executive director, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago; Will Kempton, CEO, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), Orange, CA; and W. Curtis Stitt, president and CEO, Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Columbus.

Melaniphy continued: “At a time when gas prices are rising, have we not learned from history? We know that people flock to public transit when gas prices are high. It is ironic and inconsistent that Congress would cut dedicated funding at the very time the public is demanding more transit services.” He also noted: “Our country relies on a multimodal transportation network that includes highways and public transit. Public transit decreases congestion, which makes the entire transportation system work better.”

Among his other efforts, Melaniphy convened a conference call with selected APTA members and LaTourette to discuss strategies for enacting the amendment.

Sarles called the Ways and Means proposal “the first step in the wrong direction.” Following years of underinvestment, he said, WMATA launched the largest capital rebuilding effort in the agency’s history—but elimination of a dedicated federal funding source would mean “difficult choices” in how to use the remaining money and “would affect all services.”

Sarles gave an example: escalator repairs are a systemic problem at Metrorail stations, but they would have to wait behind safety concerns if funds are limited.

“The MTA provides safe, reliable service, but without help from the federal government, it’s hard to keep it that way,” said Lhota. He noted that the enactment of the Mass Transit Account in 1983 helped New York subways recover from chronic disrepair—a situation that might return if the long-standing partnership between the MTA and the federal government is in jeopardy.

Noting that the New York City metropolitan area accounts for 12 percent of the nation’s economic activity and that 85 percent of the region’s commuters use the MTA’s services, Lhota emphasized: “We cannot do without stable, reliable federal support. There is no alternative.”

Eleanor echoed Lhota, saying: “We require some certainty in our funding to stop a catastrophic reversal.” Her system, which provides local routes in the Seattle suburbs and commuter routes into the city, has already cut services because of funding shortfalls—the buses no longer run Sundays or late nights and keep limited hours on Saturdays—and elimination of the Mass Transit Account would equal a new 28 percent funding cut for all public transit systems in the Puget Sound region.

“I was part of the group that worked for this funding 30 years ago,” Eleanor said. “Without it, our systems will deteriorate.”

Casey mentioned another point of financial impact: SEPTA’s bonds could be downgraded if the Ways and Means proposal passes.

“Transit is an essential component of our community; we need more funding, not less,” Casey said. For example, SEPTA recently completed reconstruction of its Market-Frankford rail line, which cost $750 million over five years: “We could not do this without guaranteed funding.”

Costello cited the “devastating impact on Chicago’s regional transit system” that the legislation would cause. “It would pose a critical threat to projects throughout the region—work on stations, bridges, bus replacement—and would make it even more expensive to borrow money for capital projects.” He agreed with Casey about the threat to bond ratings if the funding stream becomes unreliable.

“Our customers chose to tax themselves to support public transportation, with the expectation of support from a federal funding stream,” said Kempton. “Elimination of the Mass Transit Account would undermine this partnership.”

He agreed with other speakers that ending the federal funding source would lead to additional service cuts and layoffs: OCTA receives $58 million per year through the program, which covers 19 percent of its bus operating budget.

Stitt presented another side to the public transit funding story: the state has cut its support 85 percent over the past 10 years. “We would hate to see the nation go in the same direction as Ohio,” he added.

Stitt reported that a local sales tax covers COTA’s operating expenses, but the agency needs federal funding to pay for such capital costs as bus replacement. Noting the agency plans to build a Compressed Natural Gas refueling station while maintaining its fleet in a state of good repair, he said, “Our capital infrastructure is at risk if the Mass Transit Account is eliminated.”

 

TOLES © 2012 The Washington Post. Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL UCLICK. All rights reserved.

This editorial cartoon by Tom Toles, which originally appeared Feb. 10, 2012, in The Washington Post, is just one example of the editorial opinions in response to the House Ways and Means Committee's proposal to eliminate the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. 

LaHood, Rogoff Kick Off Streetcar Construction

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood helped kick off construction Feb. 17 for a new 3.9-mile streetcar line in Cincinnati. Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory joined him at the event.

The modern streetcar will connect Cincinnati’s riverfront and downtown employers with Findlay Market and the Over-the Rhine historic district, revitalizing neighborhoods along the route and giving people greater mobility and access to jobs and services. The new service is expected to spur the city’s efforts to revitalize the downtown core by improving access to major employers, the developing riverfront, and many area attractions.

“All across America, there is work like this to be done that will improve our transit systems, highways, railways, airports and ports for years to come. At this make-or-break moment for the middle class, we can afford to do no less,” LaHood said.  “In city after city, we’ve seen the unmistakable proof that transit transforms communities, revives aging downtown centers, creates jobs, and improves the quality of life for hard-working families.  I couldn't be happier for the community of Cincinnati; working together to move this transformative project down the track is a tremendous achievement.”  He added:  “But the need for better transportation options and economic development doesn't end in Cincinnati.  That's why we're calling on Congress to pass a long-term transportation jobs bill that gets Americans back to work on more projects across the nation like this one.” 

“The Cincinnati streetcar line fits perfectly with the city’s vision to transform the riverfront into a vibrant and desirable destination, while improving access to jobs and attractions like the Great American Ballpark and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center,” Rogoff added. “In Cincinnati, and all across Ohio, people need to know they can count on the funds being available for future transit projects like this that offer an alternative to sitting in traffic or paying more at the pump.”

DOT is contributing a total of $39.9 million to the streetcar project, including $10.9 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery funds; $25 million from FTA’s Urban Circulator grant program; and $4 million from a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant. Local funding sources are covering the remaining cost of the project.

 

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, second from left, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, third from left, help break ground for the new modern streetcar in Cincinnati.

 

 

Augustine Honored

Justin Augustine, chief executive officer, Regional Transit Authority (RTA), New Orleans, was honored as a Champion for Change Feb. 15 at the White House. This program, created as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative, recognizes U.S. citizens for their extraordinary efforts in creating jobs in their communities and using innovative techniques to develop valuable projects helping to improve America’s infrastructure.

“The work we do in government cannot be done without our partners,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Whether we’re investing in safety, road repair, or regional transit solutions, the team using those funds must be responsible and innovative to ensure we get the most bang for our buck.”

Augustine received the honor for leading RTA, specifically to restore and expand service in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“To assist the city in its recovery efforts, I quickly realized that transportation would have to play a pivotal role,” he explained. “We would have to restore transportation to the community and use transportation as an economic catalyst. The economic catalyst would be the creation of a new streetcar line along Loyola Avenue … [which] would serve as a connector to the existing streetcar lines serving the historic French Quarter, the Central Business District and, in the future, the Union Passenger Terminal.”

He continued: “The streetcar project is turning block after block of bleak, asphalt-savanna surface parking into a livable community. Bring in transit and builders of higher-density residential and retail will follow.”

Capital Metro Opens Its Park-and-Ride in Manor, TX

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, TX, opened its 15th park-and-ride facility, the Manor Park & Ride, with a commemorative grand event and ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 15.

“Capital Metro recognizes the explosive population growth occurring east of IH35, and the Manor Park & Ride is a great investment for the region,” said Linda S. Watson, president and chief executive officer of Capital Metro. “This facility represents another milestone in our goal to get people where they want to go, reduce traffic, and improve the quality of life for central Texans.”

The new facility in Manor, TX, with two bus shelter canopies, sits on 1.19 acres with parking space for 68 vehicles and four bicycles. It is a boarding area for Capital Metro’s Manor/Elgin Express, which connects Manor with downtown Austin employment centers and extends service east to Elgin in partnership with the Capital Area Rural Transportation System. The number of boardings on the express route has nearly doubled in the last year and tripled over the past six years.

The Manor Park & Ride is a locally funded project and part of Capital Metro’s All Systems Go! Long-Range Transportation Plan, which addresses population growth. With extensive growth forecast for eastern Travis County and beyond, the Manor Park & Ride facility is also part of a regional planning effort called Project Connect, a partnership among the area’s public transportation agencies to work together and promote environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation options.

 

Cutting the ribbon at Capital Metro’s Manor Park & Ride are, from left, Manor Mayor Jeff Turner; Capital Metro Board Member Beverly Silas; Capital Metro President/CEO Linda S. Watson; Capital Metro Board Member Justine Blackmore-Hlista; Elgin Mayor Marc Holm; and Capital Metro Board Member Norm Chafetz.

 

Metro-North Completes Renovated Cortlandt Station

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) marked the completion of a major renovation project for MTA Metro-North Railroad’s Cortlandt Station at ceremonies Feb. 15. MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Lhota and Metro-North President Howard Permut joined Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi and other local and state officials for the event in Cortlandt, NY.

The new facility includes an overpass extension that ties the original station east of the tracks with a new entrance on the west side off Route 9A, new parking, and a landscaped, canopy-covered, intermodal drop-off plaza. The overpass incorporates a spacious, heated waiting area with numerous benches and a coffee concession. Elevators and enclosed staircases provide access to both parking lots and the center island platform.

The new parking lot has 712 spaces for cars and nine spaces each for motorcycles and motor scooters, bringing the total number of spaces at the station to 1,615. Other improvements include an additional heated shelter at the north end of the platform and new lighting, signage, emergency call boxes, and bicycle racks.

“Road access and adequate parking are essential if suburbanites are to get out of their cars and onto mass transit,” said Lhota. “This project ensures that Metro-North is ready for the ridership growth that is sure to continue as the regional economy recovers.”

Permut added: “The search for appropriate places to add parking is a major challenge in the dense territory we serve.”

The $34.7 million project received $21.2 million in federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding, which includes a $5.2 million CMAQ grant to New York State DOT. Metro-North’s capital program contributed $13.5 million to the project.

 

Photo by New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Patrick Cashin

MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota, center, speaks at a ceremony commemorating the opening of MTA Metro-North Railroad’s expanded and upgraded station at Cortlandt, NY.

 

 

RITA Introduces Searchable ‘Research Hub’ Website

DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) recently launched the U.S. DOT Research Hub website, a searchable database of the latest agency-sponsored research, development, and technology projects.

The database acts as a central location for information on projects funded by DOT’s operating administrations, providing access to the department’s research portfolio at the project level. It also provides links to research reports and other products generated by completed efforts.

The website has been released as a test version to solicit feedback from the transportation community that will be used to help develop future database iterations.

Banta to Head Both Bus, Rail Agencies in Phoenix

In a unique collaboration, the two boards of directors representing the regional bus and rail public transit agencies in Phoenix—Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority (RPTA) and Valley Metro Rail, operator of METRO light rail—have selected Stephen R. Banta, chief executive officer of Valley Metro Rail since January 2010, as the single CEO for both agencies, effective March 1.

“I am pleased to have this opportunity and the confidence of both boards to serve as the single CEO,” Banta said. “This is a positive step forward in creating a more efficient and robust transit system, which will result in benefits to our regional customers and communities.”

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton approved the boards’ decision. “Cities can think and act regionally on critical issues,” he said. “Delivering an efficient and effective transit system crosses city boundaries and impacts the entire region. This is a step in the right direction.”

When the RPTA agreement goes into effect, Banta’s pre-existing employment agreement with METRO will end. If a conflict arises between the two boards, the parties will create a subcommittee to resolve actual or prospective disputes.

David Boggs, the former executive director of RPTA, retired Dec. 31, 2011.

“We are delighted with the decision to have Steve Banta as the single CEO who will lead both RPTA and METRO,” said Tempe Councilmember Shana Ellis, a board member for both agencies. “It speaks to greater efficiencies as we continue to deal with budget challenges.” Ellis led the working group that developed the plans for establishing a dual leadership role that will be governed by two separate boards of directors.

Riley Promoted in Tucson

Professional Transit Management (PTM)/Veolia Transportation Inc. in Tucson, AZ, has promoted Kate Riley to general manager for both Sun Tran and Sun Van paratransit.

Riley joined Sun Tran as director of human resources in 1981 and was promoted to assistant general manager in 2007. She succeeds Katrina Heineking, who is now general manager for a Veolia-managed property in Austin, TX.

“A Sun Tran employee and Tucson resident for over 30 years, Kate’s experience and passion for public transportation make her an excellent choice to continue the work of expanding the Tucson area’s regional transportation system,” said Tom Hock, PTM/Veolia vice president.

Jeff Rock, a Sun Tran employee since 2000 and most recently director of maintenance, has been promoted to interim assistant general manager for Sun Tran.

Armijo Joins AC Transit

AC Transit in Oakland, CA, has appointed David J. Armijo as the agency’s general manager, effective March 1. He succeeds the retiring Mary King, who led the transit district since 2009.

“We are pleased and honored to have David Armijo join AC Transit,” said Board President Elsa Ortiz. “We welcome his commitment to changing our transit system to improve services for our riders, provide transparent and ethical leadership to our organization and its employees, and help chart a course for the next century of service to Alameda and Contra Costa transit.”

Armijo has more than 30 years of experience in government and has served as chief executive for public transit agencies in California, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. Most recently, he was chief executive officer for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, FL. During his tenure, HART received the 2010 APTA Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award.

He is a member of the APTA Executive Committee and Board of Directors, as well as the APTA Legislative and Workforce Development committees.

Llort New Director of MDT

Miami-Dade Transit (MDT) has named Ysela Llort its director. She had served in the post in an interim capacity for the past six months.

Ysela came to MDT after serving as Miami-Dade County assistant manager for transportation, overseeing public transportation, Miami International Airport, the seaport, and public works. She worked for Florida DOT from 1994 until 2007.

She was born in Cuba in 1954, five years before the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. Her father fled the country in 1959, arriving in Miami, and she followed with her mother and sister in 1961.

Woolsey Dies; 37 Years in Rail Industry

Fred Woolsey, 56, a longtime consultant to commuter rail systems and engineering firms, died Feb. 22 following a battle with cancer.

Woolsey worked in the rail industry for more than 37 years, beginning with MTA Long Island Rail Road in 1974 and also serving ABB Traction/Adtranz, now Bombardier. At the time of his death, he was principal consultant for Interfleet Technology and a senior consultant with LTK Engineering Services, both in the Philadelphia area.

During his career, Woolsey was responsible for technical achievements including project management; electrical engineering, systems engineering, and systems integration; hardware and software safety engineering; and engineering oversight. Among his significant contributions to the industry was his role in implementing the first complete North American rollout of the IEEE 1473 train data network standard for communications.

Information on the service is available from Jamie Krakow. The family suggests memorial contributions to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, American Cancer Society, or World Vision.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Jeff Hamm!

Jeff Hamm
Executive Director/CEO
Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority (C-TRAN)
Vancouver, WA


How many people do you employ? 390.

How long have you worked in the industry? 21 years.

How long have you been an APTA member? 13 years.

I’ve been the CEO since 2007. Before that I was the general manager at Salem-Keizer Transit for 9 years, and before that I was the GM at Jefferson Transit, a small rural system on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
Like so many things in life, serendipity plays a large role. There were probably two pivotal points, one being when I was in graduate school. I had a research assistantship in the civil engineering department at the University of Washington, studying transportation systems management. That led to opportunities in ridesharing and vanpool development. When that program was absorbed into the public transit system in Seattle in 1984, I found myself surrounded by people talking about schedule adherence and breakdowns—and it kind of went from there. I went with the flow—it swept me up—into the public transportation field.

I have embraced it since that early initiation. As my family will tell you—we travel quite a bit, and I always come back from those trips with more photos of the transit systems than anything else!

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
The opportunity to rub shoulders and talk face-to-face with the best and the brightest in the public transportation industry.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
When I come back from every APTA conference, I write a report for my board and staff summarizing the most important points that I have learned—epiphanies I have grasped from being there. One example was implementing a safety initiative in my organization because I was moved by how Toronto addressed its safety issues several years ago.

APTA also provides education for me and other board members surrounding national issues as well as legislative advocacy. Those are just really important benefits of APTA that could not be gotten any other way.

What do you like most about your job?
It is constantly changing—it requires a complete palette of professional and technical skills every day. From labor to politics to data analysis to personnel problems to customer complaints/sensitivity, it’s always different every day. It’s not just the variety, either. It’s the challenge that comes with the component parts of that variety. That there are few easy answers—I find that exciting.

To me, what’s important in leading this organization is being able to relate to every employee, and that starts with learning every employee’s name. I think that pays off. It helps humanize me and helps humanize them in my eyes.

I ride the system a lot, so I see them in their daily work environment and the things they have to contend with daily. And I’m able to convey that to the board and the non-transit users.

Every Wednesday I travel on my most heavily traveled route—and it’s a slice of life like you wouldn’t believe, like the time a woman got on the bus carrying a screen door—with her 4-year-old daughter in tow. Another time, there was a bike on the front bike rack. A man got on the bus and said: “Whose bike is that? It looks just like mine, which was stolen yesterday!” Another man initially said it was his, but after a heated argument, rapidly left the bus at the next stop, so the first man got his bike back!

What is unique about your agency/business?
We’re not in Canada—we’re in the United States. It’s Vancouver, Washington.

Make sure you see Jeff Hamm's video, now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Michael Smith!

Michael Smith
Program Manager-Safety and Security
Member Services Department

What are the three job elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?
My biggest responsibility is working on the modal safety audit programs for rail, commuter rail, and bus. I’m currently training to be a full-fledged staff auditor—not only for those, but on audits where I serve more of a support role when we audit public transportation agencies on their system safety program plans. For commuter rail properties in particular, the focus is regulatory compliance. For other agencies, it can be both regulatory-based and out of their own “due diligence” to show that they are improving safety.

I also assist the APTA security standards working groups and the peer review program.

And I serve as a staff advisor to the APTA Bus Safety and Rail Safety committees and the Safety Coordinating Council.

Do any of those give you direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about two recent times you’ve helped out a member.
I’m currently focused on a project for a large agency where our team is taking a look at all the open findings and recommendations for the past 10 years—it amounts to hundreds. What we’re doing is helping to consolidate findings into a more manageable package by categorizing and prioritizing so that they aren’t overwhelmed.

I’m also working on the quality service initiative of APTA, begun in 2005 by a service quality task force, so I interact directly with the people on that task force. The hope is, in the near future, to help actual public transit systems in implementing their quality management programs and sharing best practices. The distinction is—it’s supposed to go beyond your typical quality assurance, which is something that most systems already have. This is more in line with continual improvement, based on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9001 standard.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you been part of at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I put together the bus safety awards that are presented at every bus conference, recognizing a diverse group of agencies in different size categories for their outstanding safety initiatives and programs. I take pride in that in particular because I get to see firsthand what different agencies are doing—and they aren’t just the “big ones.”

For example, Go West Transit in Illinois designed an award-winning security initiative, and they were competing against much larger systems. So it was really neat not only to see them win, but also to encourage other folks in the industry to start applying some of their effective practices.

How did you “land” at APTA?
I applied to a posting I saw on APTA’s web site.

How long have you worked here? Nearly 1-1/2 years.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
I’ve been in the public transportation industry for 10 years, starting as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia (UVA). I share something in common with our president & CEO, Michael Melaniphy, in that we both drove buses as undergraduate students. I started very young, but I really care about what I do. I’ve fallen in love with the field and it was always my intention to progress my career in public transportation.

In addition to driving buses, I’ve been a dispatcher, street supervisor, a trainer—for both UVA and the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC). I also briefly worked for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, serving in a quality assurance role.

What are your professional affiliations?
World Safety Organization.
Project Management Institute.

Is there something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a commercial driver’s license that I keep up to date, because I never know when I might be called upon to drive a bus! Along those lines, John Lewis, now CEO at LYNX, used to be my boss at GRTC. I drove him and other “higher-ups” around one day on a 40-foot transit bus. Also, in 2007 I competed in the Virginia State Roadeo, winning honors for the highest combined score in safety.

Make sure you see Michael Smith's video, now that you've read this!

COMMENTARY

Tea Party Politics Imperils Transportation Bill

BY NEAL PEIRCE

WASHINGTON—A wildly imbalanced transportation bill, supporting highways but imperiling federal support for public transit systems, for biking, walking or livable communities, moves onto the floor of the U.S. House the week of Feb. 13. [Editor's note: This column first appeared on Feb. 10, 2012.]

The measure would devote the entire federal highway trust fund to roads, terminating a 30-year-old agreement, made with President Reagan’s approval, to apportion 20 percent of the gas tax-supported fund to public transportation. Transit would be invited to compete for general fund congressional appropriations each year—a scary prospect in a time of deep, impending cuts to the federal budget, with a requirement to show an “offset” in other federal spending for each transit dollar appropriated.

Transit supporters are outraged. Transit use, they argue, is rising nationwide. But many local systems are in fiscal jeopardy as more people—new urbanites as well as low-income people—rely on buses and subways to reach work, schools and doctors. The bill even halts assured funds for Safe Routes to School, a program promoting safe walking and biking trails.

[. . .]

So why is the Republican House leadership backing this bill? There’s a two-word explanation: tea party. “This is a gesture to the tea party Republicans who hold a balance of power in the Republican caucus,” asserts Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), an advocate for biking and other livability agendas. “It is part of a pattern,” he asserts, “where some of these people are agitating at the local level against rational land-use planning and zoning.”

The connection seems undeniable. The last year has seen tea party activists across the country storming community planning meetings, raising angry voices against efforts by citizen groups or local or regional governments to promote smart growth, density, rail service, walking trails or other amenities. Each such initiative, they claim, is a sinister plot, somehow linked to Agenda 21, a 20-year-old United Nations resolution that suggested ways to promote sustainability in cities worldwide.

Last month, the Republican National Committee climbed on board with a resolution declaring: “The United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called ‘sustainable development’ views the American way of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms—all as destructive to the environment.”

A top target of the extremists is ICLEI USA-Local Governments for Sustainability and its network of 550 local governments. ICLEI’s straightforward mission is to help communities define their own goals and plans to protect clean air and water, increase energy independence and reduce their carbon footprints. Its president and board chair, Patrick Henry Hays, mayor of Little Rock, AR, says the work is more vital than ever as communities wrestle with record-breaking droughts, floods and other natural disasters. But tea party activists show up at community meetings to demonize ICLEI as an Agenda 21 plot to steal Americans’ rights.

Sadly, the ideological fog created by the tea party and its mostly older, white constituency is obscuring important issues about how America musters the dollars and political will to maintain (or restore) a quality transportation system.

There’s a school of thought, represented by transportation expert Kenneth Orski, that says it’s a splendid idea to sever transit funding from the Highway Trust Fund: “It would restore the program’s lost sense of purpose and focus trust fund resources on what they always were meant to do—preserve and renew the nation’s prized asset, its interstate highway system.”

But another transportation veteran, former New Jersey Transit and Amtrak head Thomas Downs, replies that tossing the transit constituency out of the decades-old trust fund alliance is a high-risk move. The fund’s base—gas use—is in danger: In January, motor fuel use was down 7.3 percent from 2011. For 19 years, trust fund backers haven’t been able to persuade Congress to raise the gas tax from its current rate of 18.4 cents per gallon. “So they’ll drain their bank account to the bottom, cutting off their closest allies—and then,” Downs suggests, “whistle past the graveyard hoping for large-scale expansion in gas use in the future.”

What’s required for the long run?

First, we can hope, a burn-out of the tea party extremism, just as the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” movement of the mid-1800s finally dissipated.

But second, we need courageous leaders—national, state and local—to assert that the United States does need a world-class transportation system, combining road, rail and air, and based on sane low-carbon energy alternatives serving accessible, livable, walkable communities. And that we’re willing to pay for it.

Ideology aside, what’s wrong with that?
 
E-mail Neal Peirce.
© 2012, The Washington Post Writers Group

AROUND THE INDUSTRY

VIA Receives State Award for Ingram Transit Center Trailhead Project

VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, has received the Great Texas Trail Head Award from the Texas Trails Network for the public transit agency’s Ingram Transit Center Trailhead project.

The award recognizes public and private entities that have completed a project incorporating innovative trail planning and design. VIA received the honor for its collaborative effort with the city of San Antonio to develop a trailhead at the Ingram Transit Center to connect with the Leon Creek Greenway.

VIA acquired the land next to the busy transit center to accommodate more parking for people who ride the bus, then worked with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to make this tract of land accessible to trail riders using the Leon Creek Greenway. Now the Ingram Transit Center Trailhead provides both public transit users and trail riders with seamless access to such passenger amenities as restrooms, vending machines, and customer service representatives. Amenities at the trailhead itself include lighting, interpretive signage and maps, picnic tables, bicycle parking, and a shade structure.

Valley Metro Adds Bike Racks

Thanks to a partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks professional baseball team, Valley Metro in Phoenix is helping bicycle riders find more places in the downtown area where they can secure and leave their bikes. Valley Metro installed the first of the uniquely designed bike racks on Feb. 6.

“By increasing available bicycle parking, more riders will feel comfortable with traveling to a venue by bike,” said Suzanne Day, Valley Metro business services representative. “Bikes are a great way to exercise and contribute to cleaner air at the same time.”

Bicycles can also provide an easy way to extend a transit trip because they can be loaded onto light rail trains and buses. The valley’s bus system carries more than 1.5 million bikes each year.

The baseball team contributed $5 to the bike rack effort from each ticket purchased by participants in last year’s Great Bike Chase, a family bike ride hosted by Valley Metro that begins in several different valley locations and ends at Chase Field for a Diamondbacks baseball game. More than 300 riders participated, contributing to the creation of 11 bicycle racks.

The heavy-gauge steel racks, manufactured by Arizona Correctional Industries, feature a medallion designed by local artist Lilydog Industries. The medallion is accented with the buyer’s choice of five different slogans—such as “Bikes Welcome” or “Ride On”—encircled by a chain ring design. Varying in size to accommodate between four and 12 bikes, the racks are made available to businesses, neighborhoods, and organizations at 50 percent of the cost to build. Valley Metro funds the remaining cost with the money donated by the Diamondbacks.

Tri-Rail Launches Free Trolley to West Palm Beach Locations

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail (SFRTA) in Pompano Beach, FL, has introduced a new free trolley service connecting the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail Station to employment and entertainment destinations in downtown West Palm Beach.

The new service was made possible by a federal Job Access Reverse Commute grant of $688,500, which will provide service for two years. The trolley is a cooperative partnership comprising SFRTA, the Downtown Development Authority, the Community Redevelopment Agency, the city of West Palm Beach, and CityPlace, a shopping destination.

MCTS Launches MetroEXpress Bus Service in Milwaukee Area

The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) introduced its three new MetroEXpress Routes at ceremonies Jan. 28 on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), followed by an inaugural ride. The service entered regular operation the next day.

The three new routes and associated changes serve major job access corridors and transit-dependent areas. For the first time, MCTS is using colors instead of numbers to identify routes: the BlueLine (Fond du Lac-National), RedLine (Capitol Drive), and GreenLine (Bayshore-Airport).

According to Lloyd Grant Jr., MCTS managing director: “The three express service routes will help MCTS better meet the needs of bus riders and the community through improved air quality, faster service, and increased capacity for the level of demand in  these high ridership corridors."

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele added: “This is an important day for the community as we bring Milwaukee County residents new transit service. Federal funding is allowing us to continue and improve an essential public service and retain access to jobs.”

“Thousands of UWM students, faculty, and staff use the Milwaukee County Transit System every day, and our university is grateful for every MCTS service innovation to facilitate their daily journeys,” said UWM Chancellor Michael R. Lovell. “This initiative complements the work of the UWM Office of Sustainability and is another creative solution to urban environmental challenges.”

MCTS had faced the likelihood of drastic service cuts because of a 10 percent reduction in state funds for 2012 and 2013, but did not have to instigate the cuts because the system received $19.1 million in Federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grants.

Mobile Farmers Market Coming to St. Louis Transit Centers

Metro in St. Louis has announced that, beginning the week of March 18, four of its transit centers will host weekly farmers markets featuring locally grown farm foods. The facilities—North Hanley in St. Louis County; Riverview-Hall and Delmar, both in St. Louis; and Emerson Park in East St. Louis—are located in areas where nearby residents have little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables, according to Metro.

Metro has entered into a partnership with the Sappington Farmers Market’s “Farm to Family Naturally Program” to bring the “Farm to Family Mobile Market”—a community initiative program launched by the Sappington market—to the four transit centers. The market will sell locally produced foods such as eggs, vegetables, fruits, and value-added items like jams and jellies under the brand name of Farm to Family Naturally.

Palm Tran Welcomes Its First Articulated Buses to Busiest Routes

Palm Tran in West Palm Beach, FL, recently acquired its first six articulated buses. The 61-foot vehicles from New Flyer Industries will enter service on the system’s busiest routes beginning in April.

The articulated vehicles can seat 58 passengers and are capable of carrying approximately 80 people including standing loads.

“These buses are clearly needed, based on our growing ridership, and will enable us to increase capacity during these times of economic constraints without the additional operating costs of placing more buses on these routes,” said Executive Director Chuck Cohen.

APTA NEWS

Get Involved at Legislative Conference

With Congress considering issues of grave importance to the public transportation industry, all APTA members will want to participate in the APTA Legislative Conference, March 11-13 at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington.

Following committee meetings during the weekend, the conference begins with Major Garrett, White House correspondent for National Journal, headlining the “Welcome to Washington” General Session Sunday afternoon, March 11. The Welcome Reception follows that evening.

Garrett worked for eight years at Fox News; he was chief White House correspondent and also covered Congress, two presidential elections, and the war in Iraq. Before that, he covered Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for CNN and worked for publications including U.S. News and World Report and The Washington Times.

Speakers including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Peter M. Rogoff, administrator, Federal Transit Administration; and Joseph C. Szabo, administrator, Federal Railroad Administration, are on the calendar for Monday, March 12. The day begins with a breakfast session sponsored by APTA’s business members, providing an insider perspective on public transportation, addressing such issues as the surface transportation authorization bill and appropriations.

LaHood will join APTA leadership to address the Monday morning Opening General Session: “What’s Ahead for Transit—New Opportunities in 2012.” Next is a general session where key congressional staff members will report on how the members of Congress for whom they work are addressing issues facing public transportation, including surface transportation authorization legislation.

The Capitol Steps, celebrating their 30th anniversary, will make their annual appearance during the Monday luncheon, looking at what’s happening in politics through satire and music.

Rogoff and Szabo will speak during a session, presenting program updates, information on new department initiatives, and the president’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Following this session is “Expanding the Transit Coalition: Partners in Transportation Authorization,” where representatives of APTA coalition partners in the authorization process will discuss how their organizations are advocating for a long-term bill. APTA is partnering with a broad spectrum of special interest and membership groups to advance the industry’s message.

On Tuesday, March 13, the schedule begins with the “Get Started With Members of Congress Breakfast,” featuring breakfast and remarks from members of the House and Senate.  The afternoon is open, with conference participants encouraged to go to Capitol Hill to brief their representatives about their system or business and advocate for continued dedicated federal investment in public transportation.

APTA will partner with the Amalgamated Transit Union to host the Tuesday evening Closing Reception on Capitol Hill. This annual event brings together public transportation professionals with policy makers and their staffs, providing a chance to talk transit in a relaxed setting.

More information about the conference schedule and the registration process is available online.

New This Year: Combined Fare Collection Workshop, TransITech

For the first time, APTA is holding the Fare Collection Workshop and TransITech at the same time and place: March 20-22 at the Worthington Renaissance in Fort Worth, TX. Early registration and the hotel block both will close March 3, so make arrangements now!

The two conferences are a perfect fit with each other, as professionals involved in collecting fare revenue and all aspects of transportation technology can learn from the educational opportunities at both events. Registration for either conference allows attendance at any session at both.

The schedule includes three general sessions for participants in the Fare Collection Workshop and TransITech. Standard fare collection topics will include Fare Collection 101 and 102, as well as the popular project roundtables. Other programs will include a Chief Information Officers’ Roundtable, New Fare Collection Technology, and Electronic Payments, as well as a combined vendor showcase.

To register, click here. For additional information, contact Bill Baum.

APTA Employee Helps Judge ‘Future City’ Competition

As part of this year’s observance of National Engineers Week, Feb. 19-25, middle schools across the country participated in a competition on designing the Future City. The 2012 theme was based on the projected world population of seven billion and ways that engineers can meet the challenges facing the world.

This competition—with an emphasis on engineering, science, and mathematics—allows students in grades six-eight from across the U.S. to learn engineering skills while working to solve real-world problems.

The importance of transportation is one component of the students’ plan to design a city of the future, in addition to criteria including livability, energy use, and the use of advanced technologies.

Martin Schroeder, APTA chief engineer, served as a judge for a DC-area middle school.  He noted that this is just one of many outreach efforts APTA makes to reach young students – to introduce them to the public transportation industry as a possible career.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

Doug McAllister, Marion Ashley, Barry Talbot
RIVERSIDE, CA—The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) has elected Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister as chairman of the agency’s governing board; District 5 County Supervisor Marion Ashley, first vice chairman; and Canyon Lake Councilman Barry Talbot, second vice chairman.

McAllister, a board member since 2005, succeeds District 1 County Supervisor Bob Buster as RTA board chairman.

Ashley joined the board in 2003 and Talbot has been a board member since 2008.

Jason Dunn
CINCINNATI, OH—Jason Dunn, director of multicultural affairs and community development for the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau, has joined the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees.

Dunn develops and manages the bureau’s comprehensive multicultural strategy, working to more deeply engage the local community, region-wide partners, and the bureau’s sales team to provide support in analyzing and pursuing new business opportunities.

Fred Gilliam

DENVER, CO—Fred Gilliam, a 48-year veteran of the public transportation industry, has joined the transportation market group of RNL.

Gilliam retired in 2009 as president/chief executive officer of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, TX. Earlier, he was executive vice president for Chance Coach, a bus and trolley manufacturer in Wichita, KS, and executive vice president/chief operating officer for Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.

He began his public transit career in 1961 as a traffic checker for the Memphis Transit Management Company. Gilliam joined the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority in Tulsa, OK, as operations manager in 1972 and was named executive director the next year. He returned to Memphis twice to serve as general manager of the Memphis Area Transit Authority and also has held transit leadership positions in New Orleans and Denver.

Gilliam is a former member of the APTA Executive Committee and currently serves on the Bus Operations Committee; Bus Safety Committee; Bus Standards Policy and Planning Committee; Legislative Committee; and Member Services Committee. He has received honors including Texas DOT’s Friend of Texas Award and the Texas Transit Association’s Outstanding General Manager and Lifetime Achievement awards.

Arul Edwin
OAKLAND, CA—Arul Edwin has joined AC Transit as director of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program.

Edwin has worked on large-scale public transportation projects for 25 years, including as area traffic manager of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project in Boston for the Massachusetts Highway Department; project manager for Seattle’s I-405 Design-Build/BRT Project; and project manager for the Santa Clara County Measure A Program in San Jose, CA.

Ronald L. Epstein
ALBANY, NY—Ronald L. Epstein, chief financial officer (CFO) of New York State DOT since 2009, has received the President’s Transportation Award for Public Transportation from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The award recognizes individuals who have performed exemplary service fostering and advancing activities that benefit transportation nationwide or on a regional basis.

As CFO, Epstein is responsible for developing the department’s annual budget, steering its financial policies, managing resource allocation, and ensuring fiscal accountability. Earlier he served New York State DOT as director of the Public Transportation Bureau.

He is a member of the APTA Executive Committee.

Barbara W. Reese
RICHMOND, VA—Barbara W. Reese, former Virginia deputy secretary of transportation and chief financial officer of Virginia DOT, has been named a Principal Consultant in the strategic consulting group of Parsons Brinckerhoff, based in the firm’s Richmond office.

Most recently, Reese was director of finance for the city of Richmond. Her career spans more than 25 years and also includes serving as deputy director of policy in the Virginia governor’s office.


Gary Schulman, Margarita Gagliardi, Tom Ragland, Jay McRae
DENVER, CO—CH2M HILL announced the following leadership appointments within its North American Transit and Rail business.

Senior Vice President Gary Schulman, formerly the Booz Allen Hamilton State & Local Government Consulting partner who led the firm’s U.S. transportation business prior to the August 2011 acquisition by CH2M HILL, is now the transit and rail market segment leader.

Margarita Gagliardi has been named the chief technologist. She formerly was a senior vice president with Halcrow Group Limited, which was acquired by CH2M HILL in November 2011.

Tom Ragland, a vice president at CH2M HILL, is assuming responsibility for Transit and Rail’s business development activities across North America.

Jay McRae, who previously managed the company’s highway and bridge business in the western U.S., is assuming the role of operations leader for the Transit and Rail market.

Also, CH2M HILL has reorganized its North America Transit and Rail Group into five geographic regions. Tom Donahue leads the Midwest and Southeast regions; Janet Gallegos, California Region; Dan Heilig, West Region; David Strong, Northeast Region; and Doug Willoughby, Canada.

James Monsees
NEW YORK, NY—James Monsees, senior vice president and technical director for underground structures at Parsons Brinckerhoff, has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Tunnels & Tunnelling International magazine. He was honored for extensive contributions to the tunneling industry, both in technical accomplishment and as an inspiration to future tunnelers.

Monsees is an expert in the design and construction of underground structures and in soil and rock mechanics, with a career spanning half a century. His public transportation projects have included serving as chief tunnel engineer for the Los Angeles Metro Red Line; a senior advisor for the Eastside Extension of the Los Angeles Metro Gold Line; the Central Link light rail in Seattle; and the extension of MTA New York City Transit’s No. 7 subway line.

Ray Lopez
SAN BERNARDINO, CA—Omnitrans has named Ray Lopez as director of safety and regulatory compliance.
 Lopez has more than 21 years of transit experience. He comes to Omnitrans from VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, TX, where he began his career as a coach operator and worked his way up to safety manager.