Passenger Transport - March 9, 2012
Participants in ceremonies at the site of Chatham Area Transit’s new downtown intermodal center in Savannah, GA, are, from left, Valerie Ragland, CAT marketing manager; Mark Joseph, chief executive officer, Veolia Transportation; Calvin Kennedy, president, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1324; and Dr. Chadwick Reese, CAT executive director.
The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and eight other leading university transportation centers, functioning together as the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC), have begun operating under a $3.49 million Federal Transit Administration grant distributed through the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).
The federal funds will be used for research, education, and other projects that help improve public transportation, matched with funds from local departments of transportation and other sources.
The nine MNTRC universities include:
* MTI, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA, lead institute for the consortium;
* Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and the Intelligent Cyberphysical Systems Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ;
* Howard University Transportation Safety Data and Research Center, Howard University, Washington, DC;
* Four members of the Michigan-Ohio University Transportation Center, led by the University of Detroit-Mercy, Detroit, MI, with Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH; Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI; and University of Toledo, Toledo, OH;
* Nevada University Transportation Center, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV; and
* Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute’s Bus Research and Testing Center, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
Among the research projects to be completed within the MNTRC are:
* Analysis of Bus Transit Crashes in the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Area, in which Howard University will identify predominant causal human factors of bus crashes;
* Assessing Socioeconomic Impacts of Transit Systems on the Small Regional Community and Improving Service Quality of Transit Authorities in Small Urban Areas, in which Bowling Green State University will identify the leading causes of low transit ridership, evaluate the operating efficiency of the current public transit system relative to other benchmark systems, and assess the various impacts of transit on the local community welfare;
* Evaluation of New and Modified Bus Models, in which Penn State’s Larson Institute will use RITA funding to meet the secretary of transportation’s strategic goal for safety by engineering and testing vehicles, equipment, and infrastructure;
* A Study of Factors that Inhibit and Enable Effective Development of Sustainable Regional Transit Systems in Southeastern Michigan, in which Detroit-Mercy will analyze the factors that inhibit and enable the effective planning, development, and operation of regional transit systems in southeastern Michigan; and
* Transit Users’ Perceptions of Bike-Friendly Policy Impacts on Accessibility to Transit Services: The First and Last Mile Bridge, in which Penn State will partner with MTI to assess the extent to which geographic access to public transit services is greater as a result of particular facilities and policies.
“The consortium will be a resource to help the Federal Transit Administration provide safe, reliable, convenient, and environmentally friendly transportation that is affordable for all people,” said David Klinikowski, director of bus research and testing at Penn State.
The research project reports will continue to be available for download from the MTI website as consortium leader, as well as through public meetings, symposia, professional conferences, and other distribution outlets.
Besides research, the MNTRC universities will continue to offer a variety of education and workforce development programs, including multi-disciplinary and more traditional undergraduate, masters, and doctoral-level degree programs.
Mineta Institute Reviews Bus Attacks in Israel
Also, MTI has released a new report on bus security that presents 16 case studies of attacks against Israeli bus targets between 2000 and 2005. The purpose of this document is to help public transportation professionals understand the possibility of terrorist attacks against bus transit and the effectiveness of mitigation efforts.
The report, Security Awareness for Public Bus Security: Case Studies of Suicide Attacks Against the Israeli Public Bus System, includes statistical data from MTI’s proprietary Database on Terrorist and Serious Criminal Attacks Against Public Surface Transportation. This database lists 2,287 attacks against public surface transportation between Jan. 1, 1970, and Nov. 1, 2011, in which 7,581 people were killed and 29,212 were injured. Sixty-five percent of these attacks targeted buses, bus stations, and bus stops.
According to MTI’s findings, suicide delivery was the dominant method of attack. In 12 cases, devices were worn by or carried by the attacker; one case involved detonation of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device by a suicide driver alongside a bus; and bombs concealed in bags or other items left behind were responsible in three cases.
The report also shows that—in eight of the attacks that were considered failures or only partial successes—security measures and awareness played a role in stopping the attack or mitigating its consequences. In seven of those cases, poor attacker techniques and bomb-making were also factors.
Primary topics addressed by the report include:
* Which security measures were effective against suicide and non-suicide attacks?
* Which terrorist bombs were most and least lethal?
* Which terrorist methods of delivering bombs were most and least lethal?
MTI said it undertook the research project through a collaboration with an expert on Israeli security.
“The 16 cases were selected not because they are statistically representative, but because they provide a variety of interesting observations,” the report states. “They include both lethal and non-lethal attacks, attacks where security measures were effective or were not followed or were ineffective, and attacks in which the attackers’ tactics and/or devices were lethal or failed or reduced the lethality of the attacks.”
The 104-page report includes 64 maps, photographs, and other figures that illustrate each case study. It is available for free PDF download here.
The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Board of Directors voted March 1 to name Daniel Grabauskas as the agency’s chief executive officer/executive director to oversee the Honolulu rail transit project.
Grabauskas, whose contract is for three years, will begin his new role in mid-April, heading the agency responsible for construction, operation, and maintenance of the $5.2 billion rail project.
Grabauskas is currently chairman and senior strategic adviser of the Bronner Center for Transportation Management and formerly served as general manager of Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. He also is a past Massachusetts secretary of transportation.
Interim Executive Director Toru Hamayasu will continue leading the agency until the new CEO arrives, and will then continue with the project in a senior leadership position.
Detroit DOT and the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) in Burlington, VT, have announced their new chief executives.
Ronald Freeland, administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration from 1997 to 2001, is the new chief executive officer of Detroit DOT.
He has been a senior executive and board chair of bus and rail systems and ports in Maryland and Virginia and also worked in New York and California.
Bill Watterson became general manager of CCTA on March 5. He has 20 years experience in public transportation, having worked in Washington State, Colorado, and most recently as transit manager for Charlottesville Area Transit in Virginia.
Andy Byford, who joined the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as its first chief operating officer last year, has assumed the duties of acting chief general manager on Feb. 21. He succeeds Gary Webster.
Byford came to TTC from Sydney, Australia, where he was chief operating officer of RailCorp. Earlier he held several positions in the United Kingdom, including operations and safety director at South Eastern Trains and general manager of the London Underground.
BY GARY C. THOMAS, Chair, APTA
Welcome to APTA’s 2012 Legislative Conference! As we convene in Washington, DC—and our conversations focus on Congress and authorization—I find myself thinking increasingly about the challenges our industry has been facing, and how we are facing them—and rising above them.
Our legislative activities and outreach over the last month, in particular, have shown that APTA and the public transit industry are both strong and vocal: our voice was heard!
We who make up APTA rallied to show that we could effect change. That we could respond to the House of Representatives bill that would have eliminated public transportation funding in such a way that the bill is being rewritten!
That’s one big accomplishment. And we could not have done it without you, our members. It showed that we are the policy leader and voice for public transportation. It showed that we are indeed a thought leader.
And that’s just one of my three initiatives as APTA Chair. The other two? Agility and value.
Well, we certainly showed our agility to respond on a dime. To be timely and flexible. For APTA staff, it showed how we could disseminate critically needed information in a hurry. For you APTA members, it showed your agility in assessing the information we provided to you and using it to press the message that federal investment in public transit simply cannot be eliminated!
In short, my fellow APTA members—you did good.
But we can never rest on our laurels. We must continue to educate and advocate aggressively for public transportation.
To help you do that, APTA offers an array of resources that I think are highly valuable. These resources will help you stay informed, up to date on what’s happening with authorization bills, and they will help all of us to continue to exert our influence, especially on Capitol Hill. What kind of resources am I talking about? Well, they include:
* Legislative Alerts.
* Calls to action.
* Tool kits with templates for op-eds and letters to the editor.
* Conference calls.
* Ongoing stories in Passenger Transport about legislative activity.
* Press releases.
* Support—informational and in-person, when you testify.
I know how critical federal investment is to our industry, and I truly know the value of having all the information and data you need, literally, at your fingertips. Make a call, send an e-mail, write a text—APTA is there to help you, to support you, to cheer you on.
Because APTA members, Congress, the administration, our partners, and the public must be drawn to our association as their source of “big picture” thinking.
Conversely, we must use our collective voice to continue to advocate aggressively and to build momentum for Congress to pass a meaningful, robust, multi-year, multimodal surface transportation bill. I urge you while you’re here (and also when you return home) to contact your elected officials and make plans to visit them or their staff—and make the case for increased investment in public transportation.
APTA’s vision can and should serve as the basis for any discussion of public transportation—and we must continuously expand its already strong outreach to maintain APTA’s role in shaping the near, middle, and distant future of public transportation.
There is, as “they” say, no time like the present. So if you haven’t been very active in terms of reaching out to convey our message, then let me suggest that you start now. Our message as we move forward? “Public Transportation Takes You There—Public Transit Takes People to Work and Puts People to Work.”
One of the key points you can make is that investing in public transit is investing in business—and jobs—in the private sector. Because if there’s one message we’ve ALL gotten from this past election and the political conversations this year—it’s that job creation is paramount.
But that’s not our only message. We’re excited about our increasing ridership numbers. As more people choose to take public transportation, those same people are opting to stay with public transit.
And that helps drive our economy, enable people to save money, enhance our environmental efforts, dramatically reduce traffic congestion, and—reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
So let’s keep all your actions going, and let’s keep those three recommendations at the ready: value, agility, thought leader. That’s you, that’s me, that’s us, that’s APTA.
BY MICHAEL P. MELANIPHY, APTA President & CEO
As I write this, I fully expect that much will change before the APTA 37th Annual Legislative Conference, because there is a tremendous amount of activity on Capitol Hill.
I want to start by welcoming you to the conference. It is truly a dynamic and challenging time for our industry, and we are so glad you are here in Washington.
Under the leadership of APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas, we have been really gearing up for this event.
We put a lot of thought into creating a strong agenda with expert speakers and an array of sessions that will help you as you carry our message forward—that investment in public transportation is essential to America’s economy, independence, security, and mobility.
From residents in large cities to those in small urban and rural areas; from the child who needs to take the bus to see a doctor to the employee who is working retail late into the night; from the older American who has no car to the person with a disability—all of these people depend on us to get them to their destinations. And they depend on us to get them there safely, securely, and reliably.
Yet we now find ourselves in the midst of our biggest battle in 30 years. And we have shown—loudly, proudly, and clearly—that we intend to fight as long as necessary to secure a multi-year, robust multimodal authorization bill.
The House of Representatives’ proposal to eliminate a stable and dedicated funding source would have been a step backward that would have dire consequences for public transportation—and for our nation’s citizens.
So APTA has been very busy in the last month. I am proud of what we have achieved, and I am even more proud of our members. Together we have mobilized and worked around the clock to get our message out.
You participated in webinars and organized press conferences from Los Angeles to Chicago to New York to Denver, wrote op-eds, and sent letters to Congress telling members that we will not accept a proposal to eliminate guaranteed federal funding for public transportation by discontinuing the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund.
Ultimately, it was your calls and your letters that led your House members to voice their opposition to this proposal and helped convince the House leadership to retool this legislation. We still have much work ahead of us, but I am convinced we can make great things happen. We have the momentum and the energy to succeed.
At a time when local economies are coming back, unemployment is down, and gas prices are up, people are choosing to take public transportation in record numbers. APTA members’ annual ridership numbers reveal this!
So, on Tuesday afternoon, I urge every one of you to reach out and meet with your designated legislators. If your representative is back home in his or her district, then plan to meet with that individual’s staff.
Because staff are important! Believe me, as the new guy on the job, I rely on my staff at APTA!
Hill staffers not only know what’s going on in the minds of their legislators, they sometimes might know more. Why? Because Hill staffers tend to become veterans, while each election brings a new class of members of Congress. We need to reinforce our message to both new and established members that investment in public transportation is critical.
We are all eager to see a surface transportation authorization bill move out of Congress as soon as possible. Rest assured, APTA will continue to work with the relevant committees and House Leadership to achieve the best possible bill.
While our primary focus has been on the major changes to the House proposals, we are also actively engaged with committees and staffs on numerous issues in the Senate bill. We have heard from APTA members about a number of concerns they have with components of the Banking and Environment & Public Works titles, and we are working closely with individual Senate offices to address these concerns. This is why I am urging you to stay in close communication with your Senators, just as you do with your Representatives.
Tell them how public transportation creates and supports jobs—and provides access to those jobs. Remember, every $1 billion invested in public transportation results in 36,000 jobs.
Let them know that federal investment in America’s public transportation systems is vital to ensuring the safety of and security of all Americans, to reducing dependence of foreign oil, and to enhancing competitiveness in the global marketplace. And it also saves Americans money, as gas prices rise.
Investment in public transportation is key to maintaining a strong foundation for our national and regional economic health. Communities all across America are dependent on an efficient, interconnected, and balanced transportation network.
Our legislators need to know that public transit does not live in a parallel universe relative to the highway network. Public transit is part of the transportation network—the very network that moves people and commerce throughout our country.
Having public transit as an integral part of our nation’s transportation network is cost-effective and environmentally friendly. It is a capacity enhancement tool that not only uses scarce land resources efficiently, but also serves as a catalyst for redevelopment in blighted and brown field areas.
I cannot stress enough that public transit is not competing with our nation’s roadway network. Rather, it complements it and needs to be paid for on an even playing field.
So, as we begin what I know will be a very successful conference, let me thank you, our members, for all your dedication and commitment. You should take pride, every day, in what you do for our nation.
As Congress debates the surface transportation authorization bill, there has never been a more important time for the public transit industry to make sure members of Congress understand the importance—economic and social—of this service. Hundreds of public transit professionals have come to Washington, DC, to learn what’s under consideration and make their voices heard during the 37th Annual APTA Legislative Conference, March 11-13.
Conference activities kick off at the JW Marriott Hotel during the weekend with numerous committee meetings, the Sunday “Welcome to Washington” session featuring political reporter Major Garrett, and the Welcoming Reception.
LaHood Headlines Monday’s Events
The full day of events on Monday, March 12, starts with a breakfast session, “The Insider Perspective for the Transit Industry.” DOT Secretary Ray LaHood presents the keynote address at the Opening General Session, “What’s Ahead for Transit—New Opportunities in 2012,” after which congressional staff members present their “View from the Hill” at another General Session.
Following luncheon and a performance by the satirical group The Capitol Steps, the “Update from U.S. DOT” brings together Peter M. Rogoff, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Joseph C. Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, with information on federal program updates and initiatives.
The day concludes with “Expanding the Transit Coalition: Partners in Transportation Authorization.” Representatives of stakeholders in the authorization process will discuss their organizations’ advocacy efforts for a long-term bill. APTA is partnering with a broad spectrum of groups who share the goal of advancing public transit’s message.
On Tuesday and Wednesday
Tuesday, March 13, begins with breakfast and comments from members of Congress. During the afternoon, conference participants travel to Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress and their staff and advocate for continued growth in the federal investment in public transportation.
Again this year, APTA will partner with the Amalgamated Transit Union to host a Capitol Hill reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Meet and greet lawmakers and their staffs in a relaxed atmosphere.
Following the conference on Wednesday, March 14, APTA hosts a half-day workshop on changes in the FTA’s New and Small Starts programs. Participants are asked to register in advance at the APTA registration desk at the JW Marriott Hotel or click here.
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
The process that takes a public transportation funding bill through Congress to enactment has many distinct steps, and it isn’t always easy to see where one follows another. To aid public transit professionals in understanding this progression—including explaining how bills are enacted and why the process may seem to take a long time—Passenger Transport provides below a brief guide through the Capitol Hill legislative maze.
Where Does the Budget Process Begin?
The administration launches the legislative process for major bills such as budgets and multi-year transportation authorizations by submitting its version of the legislation to Congress, which rarely enacts the administration’s bill without making changes.
These are atypical times regarding transportation legislation. The last public transportation authorization bill, SAFETEA-LU, expired two years ago, and that has left many transportation programs receiving their current funding under the latest in a series of temporary extensions. The Senate is currently moving legislation that would authorize transportation programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2012 through FY 2013; the House is currently moving legislation authorizing transportation programs for the remainder of FY 2012 through FY 2018; and the administration recently proposed an authorization plan for transportation programs from FY 2013 through FY 2018 in conjunction with its request for the FY 2013 budget.
Aside from the administration’s proposals, any of the 435 members of the House or 100 Senators can launch the procedure by writing a bill on any subject and submitting it to the full chamber, which refers the legislation to a specific committee for consideration. Which committee will receive the legislation, though, is less obvious.
Which Committees Have Authorization—Over What?
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) considers authorizing legislation for transportation, which includes public transit, but the Ways and Means Committee has responsibility for public transit financing, including the Highway Trust Fund and commuter benefits. The House Appropriations Committee takes care of the apportionment of funds.
While authorization sets out how much federal money is available for the various public transportation programs, annual appropriation bills set aside the actual money. The appropriations bill that includes DOT also covers the Department of Housing and Urban Development; public transit security falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security, which has its own appropriations bill.
The situation is even more dispersed in the Senate. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee covers public transit; the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee oversees highways; and the Commerce Committee has responsibility for passenger and freight rail, including intercity rail. The Senate Appropriations Committee takes care of transportation appropriations, but the Senate Finance Committee is responsible for the Highway Trust Fund.
Bills that cover topics under the jurisdiction of different committees can receive multiple referrals.
The Capitol Hill Process
Members of Congress introduce a large number of bills, many of which never progress beyond consideration by a committee or subcommittee. Legislators must have a reason to move a specific bill, such as funding specific needs or dealing with a particular problem.
In general, the process goes like this:
A member of Congress introduces a bill to the full House or Senate, which assigns the bill to the committee of jurisdiction.
The legislation receives consideration first in a subcommittee, then in the full committee. Along the way, senior committee staff plan hearings on topics related to the issues covered in the bill; they receive input from members of the committee, consult with interested organizations, and ultimately invite witnesses to testify.
The subcommittees incorporate information obtained during the hearings as they prepare draft legislation for the full committee. Separate bills on similar topics may make their way through the House and Senate at the same time, each with its own schedule for hearings, committee meetings, and procedural votes.
Subcommittee members “mark up” (amend) the draft bill until the majority agrees to submit the revised bill to the parent full committee, which then holds its own mark-up session. The full committee may insert entire new sections to the bill, even to the point of preparing a completely different version.
If components of the legislation fall under the jurisdiction of another committee, it goes there once it has passed the primary committee by majority vote. After the committees finish their oversight, the bill is then “reported out” to the full chamber of its respective body of Congress.
Following the full House and Senate debating, amending, and voting on their respective surface transportation bills, a conference committee is formed to reconcile differences between the two and arrive at a mutually acceptable compromise.
Once the conference committee agrees on a final version of the bill, it is returned to each body of Congress for final passage. The full House and Senate must vote on conference bills in their entirety, exactly as presented by the conferees. When the conference bill has passed both houses, it goes to the president for signature.
However, not all of these steps are always necessary to complete the legislative process, according to Justin Harclerode, communications director for the House T&I Committee. For instance, a committee can discharge a bill without considering it at the subcommittee or full committee level, and the bill can go straight to the House floor. Either the House or Senate can generally take up a piece of legislation passed out of the other body and approve it, in which case there is no need for a conference.
Planning a House Hearing
Harclerode also presented an overview of what goes into a congressional hearing. “The process of arranging and conducting committee hearings can vary in length, but typically takes several weeks,” he said. “Once a hearing topic is determined, potentially relevant witnesses must be identified and invited, making sure that they can offer valid insights on the topic at hand, and that their schedules will work with the date or dates being considered.”
While witnesses prepare their remarks on their own and submit the written testimony before the hearing, the committee members and staff develop background information in preparation to ensure that the hearing will be as thorough and informative as possible.
Hearings can also be assembled more quickly if necessary to address urgent issues in a more timely fashion.
The text of the written testimony appears on the committee’s website following the hearing. Also, the official record remains open for additions, supplemental information, and further written testimony from any other interested stakeholders who were not part of the official witness panel.
“While there are a lot of moving parts to the legislative process, don’t make it harder than it is,” said David C. Gillies, chief of staff/press secretary to T&I Committee member Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL). “At its most basic level, the House produces a bill, the Senate produces a bill, the two chambers reconcile the differences, and send the final version to the president for signature. Keep it simple.”
BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor
It’s that time again—time for you, APTA Legislative Conference attendees, to make every minute count during your visit to Capitol Hill, whether you represent a public transportation system or a business.
How best to do this? What are the most efficient and effective ways for you to present the case for investment in public transportation?
Here are some tips and techniques to help you achieve maximum success, culled from many disparate people, all of whom share significant longtime advocacy experience on the Hill and locally as well.
Before Your Visit
* Do your homework. Before going to Capitol Hill, become familiar with the issues. You’ll achieve maximum effectiveness if you are fluent not only with your agency’s situation, but also with what Congress can do to help find a solution. In other words, the more you know, the better off you’ll be. Study the legislator’s past record; identify any prior public transit support.
* Concentrate on members of Congress from your home state. Legislative advocacy is most effective when done by constituents. Start with these representatives—regardless of their committee assignments—then, if you have time, meet with other decision-making members who do not depend on your vote.
* Anticipate questions—and prepare answers. Before you set foot in a Congressional office, take the time back home to prepare for the visit by thinking through your questions and answers, even rehearsing your approach with a colleague. Develop your message (try to make it abbreviated into “talking points”). Research the legislator’s past votes or statements on the issue, the position of the legislator’s party, his or her committee assignments, and where his or her specialties lie.
* Understand the legislator’s position. A member of Congress must deal with many competing interests and requests for funding and assistance. Even the best legislator has to balance these requests and determine which ones take precedence. Recognize these political realities when making a request.
* Remember that politics is consumer driven. A legislator needs to know the importance of your position to the people who live in his or her district—and there’s no better way to bring the issue home than by sharing real-life examples of how public transit benefits people in your community and state. For example, describe how service improvements will allow a faster commute for constituents, or how additional station accessibility will make public transit more available to more residents. Business members can stress the number of jobs a particular project will create or support in the district and state.
* Make sure you talk to the right person. Identify the staff member responsible for transportation issues before the visit, and cultivate a relationship with that person. Always identify yourself and reiterate what your issue is each time you contact that individual. It is to your advantage to speak with the person most likely to have a background in your specific issue or project. Lastly, remember that many Capitol Hill staffers are likely younger than you (!), but don’t make the mistake of thinking that they lack importance and/or influence.
* Schedule in advance. Make your appointment in advance so you won’t waste the staffer’s or your time when you arrive, hoping the staffer will be able to meet with you.
During the Visit
* Keep the visit brief and focused. Your visit to a Congressional office will be most effective if you speak simply yet specifically, saying: “This is who I am, this is what my organization needs, and these are the facts.” Most veteran advocates recommend staying no more than 15 minutes. At the start of the meeting, if applicable, thank the legislator or staffer for his or her previous support.
* Be clear and to-the-point. Bring concise, to-the-point materials to leave behind—nothing voluminous or hard to read. Think user-friendly, with limited text, charts, and graphs—and have extra copies for staff. Don’t use jargon.
* Ask for the legislator’s position. While you should know this going in, circumstances might arise that you need to ask what the legislator’s position is on a particular bill, which you can follow up: “Why did you vote (or why do you plan to vote) that way?” Also, try to spend time with members whose position is the opposite of yours. By engaging in conversation with that individual, you can sometimes lessen the intensity of the opposition—or perhaps even change it.
* Don’t make unannounced changes. Don’t bring more people to the meeting than you have already scheduled—without first checking with the legislator’s office.
* Be local. Consider that your effectiveness is based on geography, so relate situations to the legislator’s state or district, and always be aware that you humanize the issue if you present stories or anecdotes.
* Be specific. Simply expressing something vague, such as: “Our public transit agency needs more money”—won’t change anything. Instead, provide details of specific projects. Describe what you need with numbers and be very clear what you’d like the legislator to do. If you want the legislator to vote for a particular bill, cite the bill number. Then listen to what the official says he or she can provide—or not.
* Be professional and be punctual. Time is in short supply for legislators, so arrive promptly for your appointment, adding in enough time to clear security. Being on time also adds to your professionalism while emphasizing your commitment to your issue.
* Be honest and even-tempered. Once you meet the member of Congress or staffer, be scrupulously honest and trustworthy—and always stay calm. Avoid criticizing others when making the case for your issue, but don’t be afraid to take a stand. Don’t be argumentative; don’t confront or pressure; and don’t put the individual you are meeting with on the defensive. Above all, don’t engage in partisan critiques.
* Be aware of counter-arguments; be ready for what you don’t know. If you don’t know an answer, just admit that, and promise to find out the answer and provide it quickly.
* Remember that the process is a dialogue. Don’t do all the talking. Ask directly and politely for the policymaker’s views and position on the issue. Do not let the policymaker or staffer distract you with other topics; gently steer the conversation back to your issue. Avoid responding to subjects that veer from your key points.
* Don’t worry about the meeting location. Be receptive to wherever you meet. Capitol Hill offices are often small and staff frequently don’t have offices with a door. So if you’re asked to meet in the office lobby, the corridor, or even a hallway as you walk with the official who must attend a committee meeting, do not take offense. Where you meet is not a sign that you are not being taken seriously.
* Take nothing for granted. Never assume that a legislator supports or opposes a position strictly because of party affiliation. Look for common values and work to build a communications bridge. But always know the legislator’s views on the issue.
* Stay focused. Remain on point when making your presentation. Have a message and stick to it—and be as polite as possible. Remember, this is your field of expertise. Before leaving the office, always thank the legislator or staffer for his or her time.
* Be patient. Realize that building a relationship takes time. The goal is achieving consensus, which may take many more steps.
* Say “thank you.” Thank the official or staffer sincerely—and often.
After the Visit
* Follow up. Be sure to send a thank-you note after your visit and offer to provide further assistance, information, or materials. Don’t be in touch only when you want something from your representatives, and remember to thank them additionally when they take a position you agree with. Also point out that you will let others know that the legislator voted on the industry’s behalf.
* Keep the lines of communication open. Even if the representative does not agree with your cause, offer that individual the opportunity to communicate with you and hear your perspective. Make your contact with the legislator or staffer go beyond the actual visit: call, write letters, and e-mail.
Remember that each individual Hill visit you make is part of a comprehensive strategy. By working together, public transportation professionals can ensure that members of Congress know definitively that federal public transportation transit funding is critical for the nation’s continued economic success.
APTA members and staff mobilized across the country—writing letters and op-eds, holding webinars and press conferences, and strategizing—all to respond to the proposed House Ways and Means title that would have radically reduced public transit funding by eliminating the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund. The pictures below are representative of the many efforts made that paid off in House leadership deciding not to go forward with this change.
Members of Congress joined other public transportation supporters speaking in New York City’s Grand Central Station. From left are Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-NY); Charles Rangel (D-NY); Marvin Holland, PAC director for Transport Workers Union Local 100; Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a sponsor of an amendment that would restore dedicated federal funding for public transportation; Joseph J. Lhota, chairman and chief executive officer, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
Representatives of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority—Shawna Russell, assistant vice president, government relations, and President/Executive Director Richard Ruddell, also South West Transit Association president—staff the Congressional Call Center at the recent SWTA Annual Conference in Denver.
Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) addresses the media at an event in Chicago attended by public transportation leaders and other government officials.
TJ Ross, executive director, Pace Suburban Bus, Arlington Heights, IL, speaks at the Chicago event.
Rob Healy, left, APTA vice president-government affairs, and APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy lead an APTA webinar on federal funding issues.
Joe Costello, left, executive director, Regional Transportation Authority, Chicago, joins Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) at the Chicago press event.
Executives of Puget Sound-area public transportation agencies gather in Seattle to stress their support for federal public transportation funding. From left: King County Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond; Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Joni Earl, Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson; Todd Morrow, chief of strategic communications, Community Transit; Pierce Transit Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith; and Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson.
Joining the discussion of federal public transportation authorization during the SWTA Annual Conference are, from left, Fred Gilliam, RNL; Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; and Melaniphy.
Congress continues to debate the future of federal public transportation spending, with a March 31 deadline to enact a federal transportation authorization bill.
As participants in the APTA Legislative Conference use the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail system to transport them to Capitol Hill, they will see evidence of an aggressive advertising campaign spotlighting the benefits of public transportation at the stations that serve the U.S. Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings: Union Station (Red Line) and Capitol South (Orange and Blue lines). The ads also appear on Metrobuses and inside railcars.
APTA chose these stations for its “station domination” effort because they are the ones used by members of Congress and their staffs.
APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy said: “Our goal is to highlight the urgency for Congress to pass a multi-year transportation bill that protects critical public transportation infrastructure and provides for long-term investment. The message is crystal clear: in addition to moving Americans, public transportation helps to create jobs, boosts our economy, and provides for energy independence as the nation faces rising gas prices.”
The WMATA ads are part of a larger APTA advertising campaign centered on the theme that “Public Transportation Takes Us There.” It also includes ad placements online and in Washington, DC-area publications.
To view photos of the advertisements, click here.
The "station domination" effort in two Metrorail stations included banners above the farecard machines and illuminated posters on the station platform.
Photo by Bobbie C. Crichton, Miami-Dade Transit
Gabrielle Rodriguez of MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) won APTA’s 2012 Call Center Challenge, held Feb. 28 as part of the APTA Marketing & Communications Workshop in Miami. From left are APTA President & CEO Michael P. Melaniphy; Tom Costello, committee member and master of ceremonies; Rodriguez; and APTA Chair Gary Thomas. APTA sponsors the Call Center Challenge to spotlight the importance of customer service within public transportation call centers and to recognize individuals who excel in providing top customer service. Seven finalists competed in front of a live audience and were judged on their ability to resolve customer service scenarios. Rodriguez joined LIRR in 2006 and has worked in customer service for more than 15 years.
History was made when APTA sponsored the first national public transit security communications drill during the recent Marketing & Communications Workshop in Miami. The subject of the session: What would public transit agencies do if a terrorist attack occurred on public transportation, and what would government agencies do separately and in coordination with transit systems?
Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) participated in the program, running through an emergency scenario with public transit communicators.
Brian D. Farber, FTA associate administrator, communications and congressional affairs, said the exercise “put an exclamation point on the importance of preparation in the event of a terrorist attack on a transit system. In the aftermath of a disaster, the Federal Transit Administration will provide whatever assistance is needed in support of the president, the Department of Homeland Security, and Transportation Safety Administration.”
Bonnie Arnold, director of marketing, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL, described the setup as it unfolded in real time: “It began with an explosion at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) Five Points Station, and we didn’t know if it was terrorist-related. Fourteen minutes later, there was another explosion at another site in Atlanta; almost three hours after that, responders found a bomb at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco. The final incident was finding white powder on a Tri-Rail train, which investigators presumed to be anthrax.”
At each step during the event—the initial explosion, 15 minutes later, 30 minutes later—panelists representing both public transit agencies and the federal government explained what steps they would take while public transit agency communicators in the audience shared what they would do. For example, at what point do you notify the agency’s general manager? Its chief of police? When does the agency ramp up security? At what point should service shut down? What should public transit communicators tell local media? When would DHS lead a conference call for members of the federal government; When would the FBI come in?
“I thought it was extremely helpful for us to work through this type of scenario with our federal partners,” said Cara Hodgson, manager of communications, MARTA. “We’ve done several emergency drills at MARTA and we include our partners, but much of the time that means we work with actual law enforcement personnel. This exercise gave us an opportunity—as communicators—to work with our partners on the federal level and get an idea of what resources are available to us.”
Hodgson also noted that the session allowed public transit agencies with their own routines to see how other organizations respond to similar incidents. “It’s interesting to hear what other systems in our industry are doing or would do during an emergency situation, share lessons learned, best practices,” she explained. “We know what we think our targets would be; this project let us hear what other systems, both larger and smaller, see as targets and how they would react in this situation.”
“I was honored to be selected to participate in this drill,” said Luna Salaver, public information officer, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority. “I learned the role that APTA plays—and also, on the federal level, TSA, DHS, and FTA—in working together on safety and security issues….I think we learn so much from each other.”
In preparation for its 2012 Multimodal Operations Planning Workshop, July 30-Aug. 1 in Baltimore, APTA invites its members to submit abstracts to be considered for presentation. The Maryland Transit Administration is hosting the meeting at the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront.
This year’s workshop will focus on the following topics, but submissions on other topics are also welcome:
* More Expectations, Fewer Resources: Looking for Efficiencies
* Ridership Changes Based on Public Transit Benefits Changes and Other Factors
* Service Planning and Scheduling for Special Events and Natural Disasters
* Developing Relationships with City Planners
* Operations Scheduling
* Facilities Planning
* Innovations in Vehicles, Service Planning and Scheduling
This workshop promotes and advances the work of America’s professional public transportation planners and schedulers. It provides an information sharing opportunity for both established professionals and newcomers in the field.
Abstracts are due by Friday, April 6, to Kevin Dow.
Kelly Halcon, director of human resources/risk management for Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) in Monterey, CA, has received the American Public Transportation Foundation’s (APTF) Frank Lichtanski Scholarship for 2012. Coincidentally, the late Frank Lichtanski, namesake of the scholarship, was the longtime head of MST.
Halcon joined MST in 2008 as human resource manager and was named to her current post in 2010. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree in human resource management from Chapman University.
The scholarship provides $2,500 in tuition support for an eligible candidate from a small or medium-sized public transit agency to attend the Eno Center for Transportation Leadership’s Transit Executive Seminar.
Andrews Retires from Board
APTF also announced that longtime board member and former Chair John Andrews has retired from the board.
Andrews is managing director of Accord Transportation Consult in Orlando, FL. He was recognized as the largest individual donor to the foundation’s scholarship fund and an “eight-star” donor in the APTF Fellows program.
“Your dedication, contribution, and support of APTF have been tremendous to the foundation over the years,” wrote APTF Chair Bonnie D. Shepherd, “and we are all grateful and privileged to have such a legacy of talent and genuine passion for the transportation as an APTF board member.”
She added: “You’ve shared your knowledge over the years with the APTF board and will leave a strong legacy of leadership.”
The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) has issued a call for study topics for its 2012 Synthesis Program from the public transportation industry and individuals with an interest in improving the management and operations of public transit and in finding solutions to concerns facing the industry.
While ideas for study topics may be submitted by anyone at any time, the closing date for consideration of ideas in Fiscal Year 2012 is March 15.
Purpose of Reports
The purpose of the program reports is to produce a compendium of the best knowledge available on those practices found to be the most successful in resolving specific problems or issues within the transit industry. Syntheses are relatively short, averaging 40-60 pages plus reference materials, and become immediate, useful documents that report on the current practices in the subject.
A project panel that meets annually peforms a preliminary screening and ordering of topics, then makes the final recommendations, which are forwarded to the governing board of the Transit Development Corporation (TDC), which also serves as the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee.
For each topic, the project objectives are to locate and assemble documented information; to learn what practice has been used for solving or alleviating the problem; to identify all ongoing research; to learn what problems remain largely unsolved; and to organize, evaluate, and document the useful information that is acquired.
The following criteria have been established to aid the project committee in the selection of topics for synthesis:
Generality of practice on the topic.
Lack of uniformity and variation in quality of practice—to measure the degree to which a synthesis document might service to improve current practice.
Criticality and timeliness of the topic with respect to safety, economic impact, and social impact—to measure the importance of the topic, either on its own or in relation to other topics.
Quality and quantity of useful available information.
Absence of ongoing research or other forthcoming potential releases of significant information—to avoid a synthesis undertaking likely to be rendered obsolete by the release of new information shortly after its completion.
Information on the submittal process is available here. Information on the TCRP Synthesis Program, including studies currently underway and all completed studies, is online.
Chief Commercial Officer
Daimler Buses North America
How many people does your company employ?
Daimler Buses North America employs in the range of 1,000 dedicated employees representing the brands of Orion, Setra, and Sprinter buses.
How long have you worked in the industry? 24 years.
How long have you been an APTA member? 24 years.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
It was more circumstance at the outset. I was fortunate to be given an opportunity to join a great company (at the time Orion Bus Industries) as a good friend's family owned the business. As I grew within the company and the industry, the opportunity to work with professionals and to enhance the mobility of our nation became very appealing. From there, additional opportunities arose at Detroit Diesel Corporation and then at Daimler Buses North America, where I was able to work as both a component supplier to the industry as well as a full line vehicle provider.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
I have always viewed APTA as an excellent representative and advocate of every aspect of our industry to better position our businesses at all levels of government, the media, and the general population. To this end, the advocacy efforts—including position papers—have allowed me and our company to properly inform and educate our elected officials. Specifically, we meet regularly with our Congressmen and Senators—and APTA’s background information on issues is invaluable in these efforts.
Further, by attending APTA’s meetings and conferences, I have the opportunity to interact with all segments of the industry—whether developing strategic directions on industry issues or being on the ground level for key initiatives. By serving on various APTA and BMBG committees, I can undertake these initiatives, but undertake them with the kind of background knowledge and information that will increase my chances of success.
For example, there have been recent bills in Congress on authorization that have required swift action from us to educate our elected officials. To accomplish that, we have used the details and data from APTA in our meeting with our New York State member of Congress to ensure that some of the less logical items in these bills do not gain momentum.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
Business members have been significantly active in the authorization efforts over the last few years. We use talking points and business case for public transportation data—supplied by APTA—whenever we meet with our elected officials. I can say categorically that it would be difficult to make such a compelling case on a regular basis without APTA’s resources and support.
For every authorization period, we received significant support from APTA—and the data we used was bolstered by the information APTA provided.
What do you like most about your job?
In my role with Daimler Buses North America, I encounter new opportunities and challenges every day. Those, in turn, ensure that my daily routine is significantly varied!
The most enjoyable part of my work, though, is meeting and talking with customers. Through those meetings, I can understand their specific requirements and the challenges they face, which means that we can more closely match our products and services with their needs.
What is unique about your business (what would readers be surprised to learn)?
Daimler Buses North America is part of Daimler Buses worldwide, which is the largest builder of buses and coaches greater than 8 tonnes. We produce over 40,000 vehicles annually and are present in virtually every major global market.
Make sure you see Patrick Scully's video, now that you've read this!
Editor's Note: Daimler created this video for APTA's very successful 2011 EXPO in New Orleans.
Communications & Marketing Department
What are the three job elements you focus on the most (your primary responsibilities)?
I primarily work on the design and layout of Passenger Transport, our biweekly newspaper.
I receive text, photos, and illustrations from our editorial team and determine how best to incorporate both into issues that are readable, attractive, and informative. I particularly enjoy creating the huge issues—the ones we call “behemoths.”
I also develop graphic designs for a range of APTA documents and publications, including:
* Leadership APTA flyers;
* APTA Awards call for nominations postcard and award winners booklet;
* The handy, pocket-size Facts at-a-Glance informational tri-fold;
* American Public Transportation Foundation brochures and invitations; and
* An APTA-branded cover design used annually for such publications as the Public Transportation Fact Book and the Management Compensation Report.
This past year, I developed a template for the Policy Department’s white papers and designed a book providing suggested responses and counterpoints to frequently made criticisms of high-speed rail projects. I also work on some of the graphics displayed on the APTA website.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you been part of at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Definitely the ARRA book (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act)—a massive collection of clippings from Passenger Transport that delineated the value of federal investment in the industry, particularly in terms of creating and supporting jobs.
In 2008, we redesigned Passenger Transport, incorporating more color, photos, in-depth stories, and original reporting. Since that time, we have won a number of awards from different professional organizations, all publication related, including a silver award for Most Improved Newspaper from Association Trends magazine.
On a less serious note, I have the pleasure of designing the “farewell” Passenger Transport front pages that we give to departing employees.
How did you “land” at APTA?
I landed here formally after 15 years at a local [Maryland] printing company. While I worked for that company, which was and is still a vendor that APTA uses, I spent a significant portion of my time designing layouts for APTA’s preliminary and final conference programs.
Before that, I worked for a typesetting company in Washington, DC, doing composition and paste-up for Passenger Transport. So I feel like I’ve come full circle.
Also, prior to working at APTA, I served for many years as an AdWheel judge.
And may I add—how printing has changed since I started, since now it’s all electronic. Give me InDesign and computer-to-plate printing over Linotype machines, X-Acto knives, and bluelines any day!
How long have you worked here? 5 years.
Do any of your job responsibilities give you direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Even though I don’t communicate directly with members, I feel many times as if I do, having been working on APTA issues and documents for 25+ years.
I had a particularly memorable experience that directly involved working with a member in 2009. During APTA’s Telling Our Story Capitol Hill advocacy day, I was tasked with taking photos of a transit user from Myrtle Beach, SC, as she presented APTA’s petition book, signed by thousands of individuals supporting federal investment in public transportation, to then-Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC). It was so gratifying to see APTA facilitate the engagement of citizens and know that its grassroots effort could have a positive impact at the highest levels of government.
What professional associations do you belong to?
Association Media and Publishing (serving as a judge for its annual Excel Awards).
National Capital Area InDesign Users Group.
Is there something readers would be surprised to learn about you?
As a high school student in suburban Detroit, I attended an American History civics class assembly and had the honor of meeting civil rights icon and public transportation “saint” Rosa Parks. When I was in college at Georgetown University, I was managing editor of our student newspaper, The Hoya.
Make sure you see Mitch's video, now that you've read this!
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor
What does “customer service” mean? It’s such a broad term – that public transportation agencies wanting to benefit their communities will need to define it first before they can make the most of their customer service operations.
The primary aim of public transportation customer service is to treat customers—in this case, the passengers—in such a way that they will want to return to their public transit system. In other words, that they will become repeat customers. So while clean facilities and updated technologies are important, human interaction is at the core of good customer service.
Camille Keith, an original employee of Southwest Airlines, has said that the company’s policy is to sell an experience—and to treat each passenger as a guest. She shares several examples of truly personal service, ranging from a Southwest employee who changed a customer’s flat tire to one who helped a customer deal with breast cancer to many who provide baby gifts.
Keith also emphasized that developing team spirit among employees is the basis of good customer service. She cited humor, compassion, and an ability to say “I’m sorry” as important parts of the Southwest culture.
Southwest is an extremely successful business. How, one might ask, can public transit agencies apply Southwest’s philosophy to their own efforts?
As part of its effort to recognize the outstanding customer service efforts of public transit employees, the APTA Marketing & Communications Committee oversees the annual Customer Service Challenge competition at the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference and the Call Center Challenge at the committee’s annual workshop. The competition for bus operators, co-hosted by the APTA International Bus Roadeo Committees, presents real-life scenarios that test drivers on their ability to resolve them. Specific challenges have included a passenger demanding change on board a vehicle where the driver does not make change; riders who board with unusual items (pets,or large pieces of furniture or lumber); and passengers who are running late and try to pressure the operator to make up lost time.
Bus operator Richie Bell of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), winner of the 2007 Customer Service Challenge, cited an agency-wide focus on customer service as one reason for his success.
“We went through a lot of scenarios similar to things you’d see on the bus,” Bell noted. “The program taught us about body language, tone of voice … Another thing I got out of it was to be consistent toward the customer. The customer picks up on everything you’re doing. We learned that we should show we’re confident and know what we’re doing, be clear, be funny, make people laugh, be energetic. Come to work happy, try to go back home happy. I think the customers pick up on that and it kind of makes their day.”
Al Syas, operations supervisor with The T, oversees The T’s program. He explained: “When we structured our training program, we looked at the perceptions customers had of our company and their expectations as customers. We did workshops, activities, videos—basically put together a program that would be viable so we could have a customer-friendly company.”
Syas noted that all new T employees participate in the 8-hour training course as well as refresher classes every other year.
Another example of an organized customer service effort comes from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), which begins its skills assessment during the employee hiring process. It appears this training has paid off, with MARTA employees winning the Call Center Challenge in two consecutive years: Robin Jeoffroy in 2009 and Iris Bernard-Glover in 2010.
Donna DeJesus, manager of MARTA’s customer care center, said she usually will not accept resumes of potential [job] candidates unless they score an 80 or above on the MARTA customer service assessment. The important thing, she added, is “to know you’re getting a candidate who’s got some customer focus.” New hires at MARTA also attend a mandatory customer service course.
DeJesus noted that MARTA’s call center employees tend to stay in the job for more than 10 years, and that the system has hosted its own Call Center Challenge, modeled on the APTA event, for the past three years. The winner of the local event moves on to the national competition.
Reorganize the Process
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) changed the way its customer service office operates, leading to a productivity increase of more than 50 percent while reducing the size of the workforce by 20 percent. Specifically, the office now comprises an 11-person Customer Relations group and a 39-person Customer Information group. The first responds to customer commendations and complaints, including the lost and found items, and the other answers trip planning and schedule questions.
“I feel proud when I am able to speak with an initially angry customer and effectively address and resolve his or her issue, so that they are no longer upset about their Metro service,” said longtime WMATA employee Helen James. “Often, customers are calmed by simply knowing that you empathize with them and understand their experience.”
Added 18-year customer service professional Karen Goings: “I believe effective customer service is a skill just like other careers, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge with those new to the field.”
Here are a few ways that public transportation agencies can help make their customers feel welcome:
* Provide front-line employees with training that emphasizes the importance of friendliness and consideration. Employees at every point of customer contact must accept the importance of addressing the customer’s needs.
* Use a variety of methods to emphasize the expectation for high levels of customer service. For example, address the topic in internal agency publications and at staff meetings. Invite employees to generate company-specific suggestions—perhaps as a competition or contest. This will not only encourage bottom-up participation in the process, it will also motivate employees to be thinking about continual improvements to their customer service efforts.
* When filling public contact positions, look specifically for employees with a strong customer focus. Integrate customer service training into all new employee training programs: this will lead to greater importance of customer service in the agency’s culture.
* Give frontline staff the tools to deal with customer concerns. One approach: provide employees with mobile phones so they can contact a supervisor at the time an incident occurs.
A third way of examining whether public transit employees are giving proper service to their customers is with the help of “mystery shoppers” who may purchase a product, ask questions, register complaints when appropriate, and then provide detailed reports about their experiences.
In Montreal, the Agence métropolitaine de transport has enlisted existing public transit customers to help with the evaluation process.
The Value of Training
Many public transportation employees deal with the public, whether from behind a steering wheel or while seated at a console. Efforts to improve customer service, experts note, must go beyond the customer service department to the entire agency.
To begin with, public transit agencies will benefit if they provide customer service training to any employee who has direct contact with customers. The system should stress the importance of maintaining a high standard of service at every point of customer contact while demonstrating a friendly, considerate attitude. Employee newsletters and staff meetings will provide additional opportunities to spread the word, and will allow the employees to make additional suggestions and assist with the process.
To ensure the participation of all system employees, public transit agencies can incorporate customer service training into all programs for new employees. Increased access to information, such as computer support technology, will also help employees provide both more accurate and more detailed help to customers.
A delegation of employees from The T in Fort Worth welcomed Richie Bell, center, at the airport after he won APTA's first Customer Service Challenge in 2007.
Contestants in the 2010 Call Center Challenge included, from left, Judy Mosley, Natarshal Miles, Sandy Evans, winner Iris Bernard-Glover, Sarah Farahani, Veronica Salas, and Michael Moran.
BY KRISTIN GEIGER, Press Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia, PA
The recent opening of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) unique Accessible Travel Center expands the freedom to travel independently on public transportation in the Philadelphia region to larger numbers of people with disabilities.
The center, funded in part by a $140,000 Federal Transit Administration New Freedom Grant, is located in the concourse of SEPTA’s Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia.
“Creation of the Accessible Travel Center demonstrates SEPTA’s commitment to accessibility,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph Casey. “The disabled community asked for this facility; we listened and we responded. Suburban Station is an ideal location for the center, as it is served by multiple accessible transportation modes and is reachable by both city and suburban residents.”
The center features a mockup of the front third of a ramp-equipped SEPTA bus—complete with farebox, wheelchair berths, and stop announcements. Replicated subway and regional rail platforms provide an opportunity for SEPTA’s passengers with disabilities, their aides, and companion animals to practice safe boarding procedures. The center’s realistic graphics make it appear as though users are riding a bus or waiting on a station platform. These riders can also use audiovisual teaching materials in the center’s classroom to familiarize themselves with SEPTA vehicles and services.
“There is no part of our society more dependent on public transportation than people with disabilities,” said Rod Powell, chair of the SEPTA Advisory Committee for Accessible Transportation. “The ability to use public transit opens the door to opportunities for employment, increased independence and mobility, more access to community activities, and additional independent living skills for the disabled community.”
“Supporting independence and mobility is our goal. Travel training enables passengers with disabilities to use public transportation for specific trips on their own and gives them more personal freedom,” said Cynthia Lister, SEPTA regulatory coordinator. “We will be able to provide a broader, more aggressively marketed program of travel instruction and system orientation, which will significantly expand travel instruction opportunities for people with disabilities.”
Prior to the center’s opening, SEPTA customers with disabilities had to cope with limited practice time, vehicle availability; weather (sessions were held outdoors), privacy concerns, on-street distractions, and other passengers’ impatience as they practiced boarding different SEPTA modes. For travel training to be successful, trainees need thorough, repetitive individual practice sessions. SEPTA’s Accessible Travel Center significantly expands instruction opportunities for these individuals as it offers an ideal setting for this type of training to take place.
Besides convenience, independence, and enhanced self-esteem, another benefit to persons with disabilities who use SEPTA’s regular fixed route service is saving money. For example, a rider with a disability, traveling a short distance from home to a part-time job, will pay the $1 base fare for persons with disabilities compared to the $4 paratransit base fare.
The unemployment rate in the disabled community is currently 70 to 80 percent. Lower transportation costs for these riders could improve employment rates for the community.
Also this year, SEPTA also is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its paratransit service, CCT Connect. During that time, SEPTA has invested several billion dollars to make its vehicles, facilities, and services usable by and accessible to its riders. With the exception of trolleys, all of SEPTA’s modes of transportation are now accessible, as are nearly 100 of its stations. SEPTA’s elevator maintenance and repair program, a critical issue for wheelchair users and others with limited mobility, has established a national standard for excellence.
SEPTA is making its Accessible Travel Center available to professional travel trainers, orientation and mobility instructors, and service animal trainers throughout the agency’s service area.
This mockup of a SEPTA bus allows users of the Accessible Travel Center to practice safe boarding procedures.
The entrance to SEPTA's Accessible Travel Center.
The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus dedicated its first two passenger shelters on Capitol Square at ceremonies Feb. 17.
The state-of-the-art shelters—designed with copper roofing and metal scrollwork, inspired by a 19th-century streetcar passenger shelter at the U.S. Capitol and similar in architectural style to the nearby Ohio Statehouse—feature time- and temperature-controlled heaters and internal lighting triggered by the level of light around the structure. Together, the two shelters will serve approximately 5,000 boardings each weekday and 35 lines while providing enough shelter for about 190 people at a time, both inside and under the roof extension.
The shelter project cost approximately $295,000, from design to installation, with 80 percent coming from federal sources and 20 percent COTA local funds.
Cutting the ribbon at one of COTA’s two new passenger shelters on Capitol Square in Columbus are, from left, COTA President/CEO W. Curtis Stitt; COTA Board of Trustees Member Robert J. Weiler Sr.; Columbus City Council Member Eileen Paley; Paul Sipp, vice chairman of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District; Bill Carleton, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board; and COTA Board of Trustees Member Jim Kunk.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Pennsylvania honored Red Rose Transit Authority (RRTA) in Lancaster, PA, and engineering firm Camp, Dresser & McKee Inc. (CDM), for the design and sustainable technologies included in the 2010 renovation of the agency’s operations center. CDM designed the updated elements, which include a geothermal heating system, solar panels, and a green roof.
CDM received a Diamond Award Certificate for Engineering Excellence under the Modern Renovations category for its work on the project. The competition recognizes Pennsylvania engineering firms and their clients for their outstanding contributions that enhance the state’s social and economic welfare.
Because of the upgraded sustainable technologies and their energy efficiency, RRTA reported approximately $43,000 savings in annual utility/operating expenses—a 55 percent energy reduction in the first year.
The overhaul of the facility also included installation of two waste oil burners to recycle discarded engine oil from the buses to heat and cool the bus storage building, as well as sustainable interior finishes such as skylights and energy-efficient lighting to reduce lighting needs. Other components of the project included expansion and reorganization of the administrative offices, addition of a larger upper-level mezzanine in the maintenance area, and expansion of the bus storage building.
The renovation project received $4.7 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and a $2.45 million federal Transit Investment Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction grant.
RRTA’s renovated operations center received a state award recognizing its green elements, including solar panels and a geothermal heating system.
After being shuttered for more than 40 years, the 4th Avenue-9th Street station house on MTA New York City Transit’s (NYC Transit) F and G subway lines in Brooklyn reopened for service Feb. 23.
The reopening of the structure, located at the east side of 4th Avenue between 9th and 10th streets, is part of station component work being done by NYC Transit in conjunction with the massive Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation Project. The project included a full restoration of the station house with new lights and floors, repainted walls, and new turnstiles.
The new entrance means that residents of the Park Slope neighborhood no longer need to cross busy 4th Avenue to get to the station, which serves more than 11,400 customers on an average weekday.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called the opening “a big win for the community and the first stage of what will be the eventual transformation of Fourth Avenue into a grand ‘Brooklyn Boulevard.’ Soon, the area adjacent to this entrance will be filled with retail and the exterior archways and windows will be opened and restored to their original glory.”
Although this entrance is now open, construction will continue through Fall. Future work will include the installation of new doors and restoration of the historic arch spanning 4th Avenue, which had been closed in with advertising billboards on both sides.
NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast examines construction at the reopened 4th Avenue-9th Street station house serving the F and G subway lines.
The Lane Transit District in Eugene, OR, was among the sponsors of a recent “Connecting Communities” event that brought together more than 200 elected officials, community stakeholders, and citizens for a discussion on creating quality growth and walkable urban areas.
Keynote speakers included Christopher Leinberger of the Brookings Institution and John Robert Smith, chief executive officer of Reconnecting America. A panel of representatives from the local development, business, and environmental communities also addressed the event.
The program considered how communities can benefit from creating multi-use neighborhoods that incorporate transportation. Aging Baby Boomers are joining with the current Millennial generation to form a movement of people who desire to live, work, and play in an environment that combines housing, transportation, and services. Leinberger described the “upside” of this situation: supply is lagging well behind demand, which means tremendous economic development opportunities for communities willing to undertake the hard work necessary to create walkable urban areas.
John Robert Smith
MV Transportation Inc., a privately owned passenger transportation contracting firm, has announced plans to relocate its global headquarters to Dallas from Fairfield, CA.
The company will move all administrative overhead departments currently housed in Fairfield—including Human Resources, Treasury and IT Support—to the new office over the next few months. Overall, MV plans to bring more than 200 jobs to the Dallas area this year.
MV also plans to lease office space in Solano County, CA, to house the procurement team and to serve as a west coast hub for employees traveling to the area.
The company was founded in the San Francisco Bay area in 1975 and has been headquartered in Fairfield since 1996.
Bombardier Transportation is now accepting entries for its interactive YouCity contest. This online competition is open to students and professionals with a vision for the future of urban mobility—from developed cities to emerging cities of the future.
Three Possible Workstreams
Candidates will develop their concepts in one of three workstreams, focused on engineering (product definition, technical concept); business (business model, stakeholders, financing strategy); or urban planning (network layout, urbanism concepts, integration). They will be asked to apply their proposals to one of three types of cities: mature markets, represented by London; Belo Horizonte, Brazil, representing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China); and Vientiane, Laos, for new emerging markets.
Teams of up to five members must register on the YouCity website by May 13, 2012, selecting which city and which stream they wish to compete in. The deadline for final submissions is mid-June 2012.
The winning concepts will be evaluated by experts at Bombardier and voted for by YouCity's online community and on social media. Then, designers of the top concepts in each stream will be invited to Bombardier Transportation’s head office in Berlin, Germany, to collaborate on a final proposal. This proposal will be presented in September at InnoTrans in Berlin.
In hosting this online competition, Bombardier is building on the success of its YouRail design competition, presented at the last InnoTrans in 2010. That competition attracted 4,239 entries and 8,565 comments on the future interior design of passenger trains, many of which fed into ongoing research and development projects.
“With more than two thirds of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, these commercial and cultural hubs urgently need to evolve in terms of improving the mobility of their populations and driving sustainable economic growth,” said Martin Ertl, chief innovation officer for Bombardier Transportation.
“Our YouCity contest will provide innovators of the future a unique platform to demonstrate what smart urban mobility will look like on the horizon.”
For more information about the contest, click here.
Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts/Boston recently created the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index). This new tool will help people measure the income that older adults must have to meet their basic needs and age in place with dignity.
The Elder Index, specific to household size, location, housing status, and health status, includes the cost of transportation, housing, health care, food, and miscellaneous essentials. It does not, however, include any such elements as gifts, vacations, or meals out. The index outlines the basic living costs for singles and couples with and without a mortgage or renting a one-bedroom apartment.
To learn more about this tool, click here.
The index is a major component of WOW’s national Elder Economic Security Initiative, which offers concrete ways to shape policies and programs to build economic security for elders and their families. The initiative combines organizing, advocacy, and outreach at the national, state, and community levels. It is currently active in 17 states.
Almost 200 mayors of U.S. cities, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), signed a letter to leaders of Congress—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-OH), and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)—calling for enactment of bipartisan transportation authorization legislation.
“Next year, cities and their metro areas will generate 90.4 percent of our Gross Domestic Product and 85.6 percent of the nation’s jobs. Our local areas are the engines of the U.S. economy, and investment in our future is an investment in the nation's future prosperity,” states the letter, signed by 188 U.S. mayors including USCM leaders.
Signatories also reiterated their strong opposition to a House Ways and Means Committee proposed bill that would have eliminated gas tax revenues going to public transportation: “As mayors, we urge adoption of final bipartisan legislation that provides adequate funding, at least at current levels with an adjustment for inflation, to help us invest in needed transportation infrastructure and preserves the fundamental elements of current law. As such, this explains why we so strongly oppose the pending House proposal to redirect existing federal gas tax commitments away from public transportation, undermining years of bipartisan support in Congress for balanced investment in our nation's highway and transit systems.”
The mayors cautioned that—absent dedicated funding—many transportation projects would be halted and many jobs would be lost from inaction. “There is a significant demand for major transportation now, at a time when construction is less costly and the resulting jobs are so urgently needed in our local and regional economies,” the mayors wrote. “The current extension expires March 31, and the Highway Trust Fund runs out of funds next year. If Congress does not address these challenges, the potential consequences for the nation could be devastating.”
They also emphasized their support for “innovative financing to help leverage limited federal resources with local, state, and private investment in rebuilding and expanding our transportation,” as well as public-private financing mechanisms.
“As mayors,” the letter concluded, “we believe it is crucial that bicameral, bipartisan surface transportation legislation move forward to help us accelerate the financing of highway and transit infrastructure, create well paying jobs and help get our economy back on track.”
The full text of the letter is available online.
Peapod, an online grocery and delivery service affiliated with supermarket chains throughout the U.S., has introduced a service in the Philadelphia area that uses scannable QR codes on advertising boards in Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority rail stations.
To access the service, a person first uses his or her smartphone to scan the QR code listed in the ad to load the Peapod app. The next step is to use the barcode icon to begin scanning the items on the ads and, once in the app, browse as if examining shelves in a store. Peapod then delivers the groceries to the shopper’s address.
The philosophy behind this effort is simple: when people have idle time on their hands—and a smartphone!—why not have them shop on a platform rather than go to the store? Further, they can order their products on their way in to work, and if they like, rather than have them delivered, stop by to pick them up on the way home. Further, this service might be particularly appealing to consumers when their time is a scarce commodity.
In conjunction with this year’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Columbus, OH, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) will serve as a venue for the city-wide “Finding Time: Columbus Public Art 2012” project.
Throughout the year, Finding Time will transform downtown Columbus into an open-air gallery in public spaces, plazas, parks, streets, and alleys in the downtown core and the riverfront. More than 50 international, national, and local artists will create 14 temporary public art projects.
By demonstrating the value of art in the public realm, this initiative aims to spur the ongoing integration of public art into the fabric of the city.
Artists Martin Keil (Odessa, Ukraine) and Henrik Meyer (Berlin, Germany)—who work together as Reinigungsgesellschaft, which translates from the German as “The Cleaning Society”— will partner with COTA on a project titled “ColumBUS” that will bring creative insight to the regional public transportation system, its role in the city’s future, and to exploration of concepts of public transportation in the Midwest.
Their system-wide “site” will include drivers, riders, management, buses, transit centers, and print pieces such as schedules and maps that are part of the everyday business of COTA.
Keil and Meyer are not strangers to Columbus: they first visited the city a decade ago through the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Dresden sister-city exchange program and returned in 2009 for a residency at the Columbus College of Art and Design.
The artists working with COTA as a public art space, based in sister city Dresden, Germany, are in residence until March 17.
COTA spokesperson Beth Berkemer noted that the artists spent early March in the city, “absorbing everything they can about COTA, Columbus, culture, customers, etc. They will return to [their home in Dresden,] Germany with the information they collect to design their art project to incorporate into COTA, and will be returning in May to install it.”
The artists describe their work as an “artistic venture at the point of intersection between art and society.” Their works are research-based, often taking their form from an intensive period of investigation into a business or cultural institution.
They investigate the role of institutions in the larger cultural context, incorporating maps, signs, photographs, and films into their efforts.
The entire Finding Time project represents a public and private partnership among the Columbus Art Commission, the city of Columbus, Ohio State University, Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, and others.
It will reflect the broad range of contemporary public art in multiple forms and media, incorporating everything from sculpture and murals to unexpected installations, sound works, and site-specific performances and installations in nontraditional sites.
The site-responsive artworks will explore the physical and philosophical measurement of time, generating questions on the notion of time, passing of time, use of time, measurement of time, the chronology of life, world time, and the notion of temporary and permanent.
Finding Time addresses three of the 10 core principles of the 2010 Downtown Columbus Strategic Plan: invest in arts and culture; develop parks and public spaces; and celebrate the urban experience that only exists downtown.
Residents of central and west-central Columbia, MO—just one of many locales the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls a “food desert”—will soon have increased access to healthy, local foods. The definition focuses on low-income communities that lack major grocery stores.
The Columbia City Council, which won a competitive $41,791 grant from the USDA, recently contracted with Columbia Farmer's Market to provide two buses that will make stops through the food deserts and underserved areas.
The bus route will run on 30-minute cycles from April 7 to Oct. 27, beginning at 8:15 a.m. Normal Saturday transit doesn't begin until 10 a.m. and runs in 80-minute cycles, which is inefficient for someone trying to get to the market before most food is gone, and then home, in a timely manner.
To raise awareness of this program, ads will appear on two city buses, covering all three sides, that inform people about the new public transportation to Columbia Farmers’ Market.
Metro in Cincinnati beat the neighboring Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), 58-56, in the recent second annual Cross-River Basketball Shoot-Out—but the real winners are the Everybody Rides Metro Foundation and Project RAMP, which will split more than $5,000 generated by the game to benefit low-income individuals in the city and northern Kentucky.
About 300 fans attended the game at the Dixie Heights High School gymnasium in Crestview Hills, KY.
The Everybody Rides Metro Foundation subsidizes public transportation for low-income riders with contributions from corporate donors, other foundations, federal grants, and individuals. Project RAMP provides financial assistance to Regional Area Mobility Program (RAMP) riders in need; RAMP is the paratransit service operated by TANK.
“The charity basketball game is a great opportunity for the Everybody Rides Metro Foundation and Project RAMP. We had the chance to increase awareness about our organizations and raise some much-needed funds,” said Everybody Rides Metro Executive Director Joe Curry. “We hope that this is a tradition that we can continue and expand upon.
The Austin Business Journal in Austin, TX, has named the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) Central Texas’ Healthiest Employer in recognition of the agency’s award-winning employee wellness program, its commitment to employee health, and its industry-leading tobacco-free initiatives. Capital Metro placed first in the medium-size employer category.
“This award really underscores Capital Metro’s ongoing commitment to its employees,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Linda S. Watson. “They are the greatest asset we have, the foundation of our business.”
The public transit system introduced its comprehensive wellness program in 2003 with one onsite wellness educator. Today, this program boasts four 24-hour fitness centers staffed with either a full-time or part-time health fitness specialist; onsite personal training and nutrition counseling; onsite Weight Watchers and smoking cessation classes; group fitness classes, a walking club, and bike loan program; cash incentives for meeting health and weight loss goals; and onsite healthy cafeteria and vending options and discounts on healthier foods.
“I can’t think of a better investment than one that safeguards and improves the well-being of our workforce while reducing Capital Metro’s healthcare premiums and absenteeism costs,” Watson said. “That investment also means we are prepared to provide the best possible service in the community.”
As a result of its investment in wellness, Capital Metro reported an overall annual savings in healthcare and absenteeism costs of $3 for every $1 spent to operate the program.
The agency expanded its efforts in 2010 by adopting Tobacco-Free Workplace and Tobacco-Free Facilities policies. Its comprehensive tobacco cessation program for employees incorporates free classes, full health insurance coverage of nicotine replacement therapy drugs, and cash incentives for quitting tobacco. New signage at more than 2,700 bus stops now discourages tobacco use within 15 feet of a stop.
As March is Florida Bicycle Month, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA)/Tri-Rail in Pompano Beach is offering free bike lockers at almost all its train stations.
Tri-Rail riders can use the lockers on a first-come, first-served basis for a refundable $20 security deposit per locker and no registration fee.
“More and more people are realizing the advantage of biking to and from a Tri-Rail station, especially with the rapidly escalating cost of fuel,” said SFRTA Executive Director Joseph Giulietti. “Biking also adds a healthy component to the daily commute and is environmentally friendly.”
William Millar, William R. Mooney
CHICAGO, IL—William Millar, president of APTA from 1996 until his retirement in 2011, has joined Lochner. He will work with the firm’s operations and leadership teams in a senior advisory role.
James W. Bishop, P.E., president and chief executive officer of Lochner, cited Millar’s “stellar reputation as a world-class leader and contributor to the rail and transit industry.”
William R. Mooney has joined Lochner as a vice president and one of the leaders of the firm’s rail- and transit-related endeavors, including alternative delivery (design–build and public–private partnerships), Bus Rapid Transit, Class I railroads, commuter, freight, high-speed, structures, and urban rail.
Prior to joining Lochner, Mooney served more than 33 years with the Chicago Transit Authority, where he was appointed chief operations officer in 2007.
Timothy (TJ) Thorn
CINCINNATI, OH—Cincinnati Metro has named Timothy (TJ) Thorn its system safety director. In this role, he will lead and manage the industrial hygiene, environmental and safety programs within the organization.
Thorn has more than 25 years of experience in environmental health and safety within the manufacturing and transportation industries. He was previously environment health and safety group leader for Pilkington North America, an automotive supplier in Versailles, KY. Thorn also worked for more than three years at LexTran in Lexington, KY, where he held positions including assistant general manager and director of risk management and special projects.
Todd Swales, Fred Andersky
ELYRIA, OH—Todd Swales has joined Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC in the newly created position of director of fleet sales.
Swales comes to Bendix from Meritor, serving as manager of field sales and service for Meritor WABCO since 2010. His other positions at Meritor included senior manager of global customer satisfaction and product line manager.
Also, Bendix announced the promotion of Fred Andersky to director of government affairs for the business organization. Andersky joined the company in 2005 as marketing manager of electronics and most recently was director of marketing for the controls group.
Marty Thies, Ed Hildreth, Nathaniel Jones, Ryan Warner
OLYMPIA, WA—Intercity Transit has named Marty Thies to chair its board. Thies, the most senior of the board’s citizen representatives, has served the agency since 2007 and was vice chair for the past two years.
Tumwater City Councilmember Ed Hildreth, the board’s new vice chair, has been a board member since 2009.
Newly appointed board members are City of Olympia Councilmember Nathaniel Jones, an asset manager for the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services, and citizen representative Ryan Warner, statewide Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for Washington State DOT.
Linda S. Watson
AUSTIN, TX—Linda S. Watson, president & chief executive officer of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has been named to the board of directors of the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor at the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).
Watson will serve a four-year term.
The Hall of Honor is located at TTI’s Gibb Gilchrist building in the Texas A&M University Research Park in College Station, TX.
Richard M. (Rick) Paczewski
MALVERN, PA—Johnson Matthey has promoted Richard M. (Rick) Paczewski to process industries sales manager for the firm’s Stationary Emissions Control (SEC) group in North America.
Most recently, Paczewski was engineering manager for the SEC Group, which he joined in 2005. He managed a team of electrical and mechanical engineers responsible for the design, fabrication, installation, commissioning and field service of emissions control equipment for stationary engines and locomotives. From 2001 to 2005, he worked in Johnson Matthey’s Gas Purification Technology business as quality manager.
FORT WORTH, TX—Dick Ruddell, president and executive director of the Fort Worth Transportation Authority), has been elected president of the South West Transit Association.
Ruddell is an at-large director on the APTA Board of Directors and serves as vice president for Metro agencies on the Texas Transit Association board.
SAN DIEGO, CA—Cubic Transportation Systems has appointed Ab Jenkins as its general counsel and secretary.
Jenkins has worked for Cubic Corporation since June 2003, most recently as senior counsel of ethics and compliance. He acted as primary legal counsel for Cubic Global Tracking Solutions and Cubic Security Systems in addition to managing the Cubic Corporation Ethics and Compliance program and providing legal support to Cubic Corporation and all its subsidiaries, including acquisitions, benefits, real estate. and other corporate related support.