Passenger Transport - April 6, 2012
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Port Authority Opens North Shore Connector

The Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh celebrated the opening of its newest light rail extension—the North Shore Connector—in ceremonies March 23. The connector opened for regular service two days later.

More than 500 guests attended the opening-day events, which included an opportunity to take the “first ride.” Speakers gave presentations at all three new stations on the line: Gateway, near Gateway Center in downtown; North Side Station, near PNC Park on the North Shore; and Allegheny Station, between Rivers Casino and Heinz Field on the North Shore.

Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Steve Bland called the launch of the North Shore Connector “a very exciting moment in this region’s history and an example of what we can achieve when we collectively set our sights on a goal.”The 1.2-mile light rail extension connects downtown Pittsburgh to the North Shore neighborhood across the Allegheny River. The $517 million project was funded 80 percent by the Federal Transit Administration, 16-2/3 percent by Pennsylvania DOT, and 3-1/3 percent by Allegheny County.

Some speakers spoke at stations where their organizations have entered into funding agreements that provide free fares to the North Shore. For example, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II and Rivers Casino General Manager Craig Clark spoke at Allegheny Station; their organizations have entered into a three-year agreement that essentially extends the Port Authority’s free Downtown Zone to that station on the North Shore. Similarly, a deal with the Pittsburgh Stadium Authority and Alco Parking extends the free zone to North Side Station, where Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spoke.

Numerous organizations from Pittsburgh’s North Side participated in the event by showcasing destinations now connected via light rail through this project. The North Shore Connector serves an area of the city’s North Side that has been a development hot spot during the past decade, housing such destinations as the National Aviary, Carnegie Science Center, Andy Warhol Museum, and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Other speakers included Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA); Dr. Alex Johnson, president, Community College of Allegheny County; Eric Shiner, director, Andy Warhol Museum; Allegheny County Councilwoman (and Port Authority Board Member) Amanda Green Hawkins; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; and Port Authority Chairman Jack Brooks. Also in attendance were former Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff, Pittsburgh Council President Darlene Harris, and former Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Al Biehler.


Hundreds of invited guests showed for the opening of the North Shore Connector, including these crowds entering the new Gateway Station in downtown Pittsburgh and standing on the entry stairs. 

Obama Signs 90-Day Authorization Extension

President Obama signed a 90-day extension of the SAFETEA-LU surface transportation authorization bill on March 30. Both the House and Senate passed the extension—the ninth since it expired Sept. 30, 2009—the previous day before sending it to the president in time to meet the March 31 deadline when the current extension would expire.

While the Senate has passed a two-year authorization bill, the House has struggled to move forward with a long-term bill and now looks to begin work on an authorization bill upon its return April 16. If the House successfully passes such a bill in the coming weeks, Congress could then move on to a conference to discuss differences between the two bills.

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy said in a statement: “The American Public Transportation Association commends Congress on approving an extension of the surface transportation law and commends President Obama for signing this 90-day extension into law. Now our congressional leaders need to make sure that a long-term surface transportation bill passes and reaches the president’s desk before the June 30 deadline.”

“Passage of this transportation extension has given our elected officials the time to work out differences and find a solution,” he continued. “The surface transportation bill is now two and a half years overdue and it is time to come to the table and pass this important legislation. We look forward to working with the House in a bipartisan manner to develop a surface transportation authorization bill that preserves funding and dedicated revenues for public transportation.” 

APTA members should continue to make the case for federal investment in public transportation and infrastructure during the two-week congressional recess, while members of Congress are in their districts. APTA members should invite their representatives and senators to visit their facilities and encourage them to pass a long-term multimodal surface transportation authorization quickly upon their return to Washington.

In other congressional action, a letter in the House has received bipartisan support urging a Managers Amendment that would restore parity between the pre-tax public transit and parking benefits to any surface transportation authorization bill. This would restore the monthly benefit to $240 instead of the current $125. Thirty-five members of the House, representing both parties, have signed the letter.

DOT Awards $13.1 Million in Fuel Cell Bus Grants

On April 2, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $13.1 million in federal funding for 11 innovative research and demonstration projects under the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) National Fuel Cell Bus Program. This program advances hydrogen fuel cell power for use in public transportation buses.

“With gas prices on the rise, we know that the availability of reliable transit as a transportation choice is a significant part of relieving the pain at the pump for millions of riders each day,” said FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff. “And the department is taking it a step further by investing in a new generation of clean-fuel technology to make transit an even more significant part of our nation’s overall approach to a secure energy future.”

Sharing the federal funds are CALSTART in Pasadena, CA; the Center for Transportation and the Environment in Atlanta; and the Northeast Advanced Vehicle Consortium in Boston. All three will engage in work to develop various fuel cell components, test US-made buses under real-world conditions powered by fuel cells, and conduct educational outreach.

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab and FTA, every fuel cell-powered bus put into service in the U.S. could reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by 100 tons annually and eliminate the need for 9,000 gallons of fuel every year over the life of the vehicle. For buses currently running on diesel fuel, that translates into a savings of more than $37,000 per year, per vehicle.

FTA created the National Fuel Cell Bus Program in 2005 to develop affordable hydrogen fuel cell buses for the nation’s public transit agencies, and to increase public acceptance of fuel cell-powered vehicles. The 11 projects were selected from among 26 proposals seeking $52 million in federal funds.

MTI Report: ‘Vibrant’ Downtowns Mean More Public Transit Use

Cities with vibrant downtown areas tend to show lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels from driving and higher public transportation use than areas with more suburban sprawl, according to a new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute.

“Many studies have shown that urban sprawl is associated with more driving and less public transit use,” said Matthew J. Holian, Ph.D., one of several authors of The Impact of Center City Economic and Cultural Vibrancy on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation. “However, the existing literature provides little guidance for policy makers on how to reverse sprawl and reduce vehicle emissions. Our report suggests that a vibrant urban core may plausibly affect land use and transportation patterns. So, that leaves us with a key question: Can policy makers promote green cities by fostering a vibrant center core?”

The report suggests that this change may occur if policy makers rethink current land-use regulations; continue investments to reduce center city crime; and increase the quality of local public schools.

The MTI report incorporates new econometric results, using several new micro and macro data sets, to quantify how proximity to a city center affects a household’s GHG production from driving and its likelihood of using public transit. It also examines the effect of downtown vibrancy on transportation and land use—defining “vibrancy” based on the downtown’s share of residents who are college graduates, the crime rate, the number of cultural and consumer-oriented establishments, and the downtown share of a metropolitan area’s jobs and population growth.

For example:

* Between 2000-2010, metropolitan areas with more vibrant downtowns reported less sprawl. San Francisco, Miami, and New York experienced sprawl rates of less than 1 percent, while Memphis, Tucson, and Phoenix had sprawl rates greater than 10 percent.

* If downtown is a place where people want to be, then they will live closer to it. Therefore, one effect of vibrancy is to influence land-use patterns. In turn, land-use patterns influence driving and public transit use.

* By encouraging sprawl, federal home ownership policies have unintentionally increased greenhouse gas emissions.

* When established cities block new construction, it forces people to seek housing in far-flung suburbs, where their carbon footprint will be greater.

The 90-page report is available for free PDF download.

GCRTA Sets a Record on St. Patrick’s Day

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority provided almost 100,000 rides in seven hours on March 17—possibly the largest single special event in the agency’s history.

About 100 transit police officers and hundreds of other employees helped with the crowds attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Cleveland.

Tower City Station, shown, reported long lines of parade goers and trains packed to capacity.


FTA Develops Safety Course for Public Transit Workers

In keeping with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s emphasis on the hazards of distracted driving, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has developed an online instructional course on this topic for public transportation workers.

FTA created the 30-minute course, “Curbing Transit Employee Distracted Driving,” in conjunction with Florida DOT. This tool will educate, inform, and increase awareness among all transit workers about the dangers and challenges associated with distracted driving.

Topics addressed in the free course include a definition of the term “distracted”; risks of driving while distracted; typical distractions; tips for preventing distracted driving; and regulations, laws, and company policies using wireless devices.

Information on how to register is available on the FTA website.

New Database Gives Global Perspective on BRT

Three global organizations have teamed up to launch a comprehensive, public database of bus rapid transit (BRT) systems around the world. The organizations are EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute’s center for sustainable transport; the Across Latitudes and Cultures-Bus Rapid Transit Centre of Excellence (ALC-BRT CoE); and the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The new website allows users to compare BRT systems and bus corridors in 134 cities in 36 countries around the world, which together provide 22 million daily passenger trips. The database includes 95 different indicators on system operations, design, and cost, including such metrics as number of passengers per day, commercial speed, and length of corridors.

“The new website provides reliable and up-to-date data to help researchers, transit agencies, city officials, and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] understand and make better decisions to improve BRT and bus corridors in their cities,” said Dario Hidalgo, director of research and practice, EMBARQ. “This is the first time that all of this publicly available data has been compiled in one place, but there is still more information available. We invite transit agencies and researchers to help us improve the knowledge base by sharing additional data to fill in the gaps.”

The three partners created this online database through a joint data-sharing effort: EMBARQ and ALC-BRT CoE collected data mostly from Latin America, while IEA contributed data from other regions.

Here are a few examples of the data available:

* Systems in 13 U.S. cities together carry nearly 600,000 passenger trips each day;

* Since 2000, 129 new BRT corridors have been implemented worldwide, and another 37 since 2010;

* Latin American systems move more than 50 percent of global BRT daily passenger trips;

* 25 Brazilian cities have 87 bus corridors, totaling more than 560 kilometers [348 miles]—more than any other country; and

* 18 of Asia’s 24 BRT systems began operations since 2006.

“Previously, there was no single point of publicly accessible information about the worldwide BRT industry, and it was especially difficult to get an assessment of the industry’s size and how it was changing over time,” said ALC-BRT CoE Director Juan Carlos Munoz. “We finally have the right tools to set standards for this dynamic industry.”

Québec Launches Public-Private Partnership to Produce Electric Buses

During a recent visit to the Nova Bus manufacturing facility in St-Eustache, QC, Québec Premier Jean Charest announced the launch of a provincial effort to support the development of electric buses. The province is investing $30 million (Cdn.) as part of a $73 million public-private partnership that will work to develop electric buses for the international public transportation market.

“The development of the electric vehicle industry is a priority for the government of Québec,” Charest said in a statement.

A non-profit organization, Consortium Bus Électrique, will lead the three-year project, which is expected to produce electric bus models in two different sizes. Nova Bus—joined by Bathium Canada, TM4, Giro, René Matériaux Composites, and Précicad—will use $27 million of the province’s investment to design and manufacture a 40-foot electric vehicle. The remaining $3 million will fund the design and manufacture of a 25-foot aluminum electric micro-bus by Infodev, STYL&TECH, and Structures CPI.

The Québec government's 2011-2020 action plan focuses on developing products for the electric vehicle industry so that the province can become an important player in this new global market. The government plans ultimately to invest $250 million in coming years to help deploy and promote the use of electric vehicles in the province.

Clément Gignac, the province’s minister of natural resources, noted that his government is working to have 95 percent of public transit electrified by 2030.

Bloomberg Rankings: New York Leads the World

New York City has outpaced London, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong as global business centers—and investment in public transportation is one of the reasons why, according to the Global Cities Index released April 2 by Bloomberg Rankings.

The study judged 66 of the world’s busiest commercial urban centers on 25 variables across five criteria: business activity, labor force, access to media and information, cultural amenities, and political influence. Government and corporate leaders cited public transit investment as a major consideration, along with education, public safety, sustainable energy production, and conservation.

A.T. Kearney concluded that New York’s diverse economy—driven by media, arts, fashion, technology, finance, and a diverse labor force—made the city the world’s most attractive to conduct business.

“Our goal was to find a measure that would help corporate and government decision-makers determine which of the world's cities will best attract and shape the future flow of people, ideas, capital and goods,” said Mike Hales, a partner at A.T. Kearney, a Chicago-based consulting firm that helped Bloomberg conduct the study.

The selection of New York for the top spot is the fourth in recent months. Studies published in The Economist and Euromoney magazines also cited the city as the world’s leading urban business center, and the city received the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize for “leadership and achievement” in conservation and safety policies last month in Singapore.

“With more than half the world's people now living in cities, and with three-fourths of the people on Earth expected to be city dwellers by midcentury, cities around the globe, including New York, must confront all the effects of this urban growth,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in accepting the award in Singapore. “Such projects can also be catalysts for private-sector investment.”

LeighFisher Acquires Transport Consultancy Business

LeighFisher, based in London, U.K., has acquired the London and Netherlands?based transportation practice of Booz & Company. This acquisition doubles the size of LeighFisher’s European operation, allowing the company to expand into new markets globally.

The newly acquired practice includes transportation policy and regulatory analysis, financial and business planning, rail technology and business operations, economic analysis and forecasting, and security planning.

LeighFisher has recently been involved in major infrastructure projects in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Asia, and India.

Harrell Joins Hampton Roads Transit

William E. Harrell joined Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in Hampton, VA, April 2 as its new president and chief executive officer.

He succeeds Philip A. Shucet, who had served in the post since February 2010.

Harrell comes to HRT from Chesapeake, VA, where he was city manager since June 2007.

He also has served as chief administrative officer for the city of Richmond, VA, and that city’s deputy city manager; assistant city manager, Greensboro, NC; and assistant city manager, Suffolk, VA.


Public Transit Holds Key to America’s Hidden Energy Reserve

BY SHIN-PEI TSAY, Director of Cities and Transportation, Energy and Climate Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC

This article originally appeared March 28, 2012, in The’s Congress Blog. Reprinted by permission.

With gasoline prices barreling upward, policymakers will undoubtedly continue debating the search for new North American oils. But this focus is misplaced. The real debate should be about our future mobility or how Washington can better manage federal transportation and oil investments. Ushering in a low-carbon, integrated transportation system is the key to navigating the pitfalls of global oil markets.

The connection between transportation and oil is undeniable. The U.S. transportation system is 94 percent dependent on oil, and the sector burns through 70 percent of U.S. oil consumption and 15 percent of world oil consumption. The inefficiency of the transportation system makes U.S. businesses and all Americans particularly vulnerable to gas prices.

Despite claims that increasing oil drilling in the United States would bring down the price at the pump, more than 80 percent of the price of gas is determined by the global market. That is why, even though domestic oil production has actually increased by 723,000 barrels per day on an annual average between 2008 and 2011, U.S. gas prices have gone up.

Given the scale of the world oil market, government policy can best reduce the burden of gas prices by providing options to reduce oil consumption—period. Though Washington has taken steps to incentivize the development of more fuel-efficient, low-carbon vehicles and a broader range of alternative fuels at the same time as stepping up domestic oil production, it has so far ignored a major opportunity: increasing public transit investments.

Broad signs of support for public transit proliferate. A new study conducted by the American Public Transportation Association found that public transit ridership has increased across the country, even in rural areas. Last year, Americans took 10.4 billion trips on public transit, the second highest year of annual ridership since 1957 (the highest was in 2008, at the start of the recession). This increase occurred even though only 46 percent of the American public has access to public transit.

Consumers have signaled other pro-transit trends. Vehicle miles traveled is on a downward trend: on a per capita basis this figure was 10,100 in 2004 compared to 9,500 in 2009. In 2009, teens between the ages of 16 and 19 held 200,000 fewer drivers licenses than teens of the same age in 2000. More and more people are moving to urban areas, where compact land uses and higher density facilitate transit service. Location efficiency—where there is a high concentration of housing, jobs and amenities in a geographic area—have been shown to save households up to $2,500 per year in transportation and housing costs compared to places with weaker location efficiency.

Economic benefits aren’t limited to individuals. Property values and retail rents tend to increase faster in areas with transit access. Times Square in Manhattan, a transit hub in the region bringing 300,000 daily commuters into a central business district, was one of the few neighborhoods in New York City that did not see its rent per square foot decrease during the economic recession. In fact, in line with the notion that every transit trip starts with a walking trip, the recent pedestrianization of Times Square helped local businesses with the uptick in foot traffic as much as it contributed to raising property values.

And all this happened with a lack of attention to improving public transit nationally.

Not everyone needs to live or work in a neighborhood like Times Square, but every U.S. citizen deserves mobility options that don’t lock them into high transportation costs and anchor the country to oil. A 2007 study found that if public transit investments were expanded so that ridership doubled, total national oil savings could be as much as 147 million barrels of oil per year.

With a standing opportunity to pass a new transportation bill, Congress can ill afford to miss this chance. Even the best case political scenario of maintaining transit funding at current levels is inadequate. The United States needs to unlock America’s hidden energy reserve—and this can only be found in a wholly integrated twenty-first century transportation system built on the bedrock of public transit.

It’s not about finding new sources of oil, but using oil more efficiently—this is what will actually help the average American.


Meet Mary Ann Collier!

Mary Ann Collier
Director of Operations
Swayzer Engineering, Inc.
Dallas, TX
Chair, APTA Human Resources Committee
Member, APTA Board of Directors

How many people does your business employ? 11

How long have you worked in the industry? 18 years

How long have you been an APTA member? 18 years

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I, like many other people, fell into this field. I relocated from Louisville to Atlanta, and one of the contacts I was given happened to be a transit board member from MARTA. I was hired to manage their Affirmative Action, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise programs. So that’s how I got started—and fell in love with the industry, as a matter of fact.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
It’s the networking, professional development, and staff support that helps me complete all the volunteer assignments I have, and continue to grow. The networking gives us the ability to reach out to other public transportation agencies to gain information that may be useful in our field of work. Plainly put, networking yields specific returns. It has also been important to have the support of each of my transit CEOs, as well as my current CEO, for that has allowed me to take advantage of many development opportunities at APTA. 

The small business breakfasts we have at the Business Member Board of Governors meetings have been especially helpful. I’ve met members like Jerry Premo at AECOM; that has led to additional business opportunities. I’ve met with people at Parsons—same result. Those are what I call the direct benefits of being engaged at APTA and using the resources APTA provides to us.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
All of us who work as volunteers on various APTA committees have full-time jobs. If it were not for the staff support helping to keep us focused and on target, we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we do. For example, when I look at what we’re doing on the Human Resources Committee, I see a collaborative effort—with staff, with subcommittee chairs, with committee members—it couldn’t happen without that collaboration.

What do you like most about your job?
Hmmm, how do you define “Director of Operations”? Well, I do the human resources part, plus I help with marketing and business development. What I like most is the human resources work, because that’s my strong suit. But a close runner up is my outreach efforts, because I get to meet and connect with potential organizations that we might either subcontract with or participate with in a joint venture.

What is unique about your agency/business?
I work for a black female-owned mechanical engineering firm—and there aren’t a lot of us around! So while we do a variety of projects, a niche market for us is commissioning: building facilities, rail systems, and operations. And I think that’s something that separates us from other mechanical engineering firms.

The interesting thing for me is that I’m familiar and comfortable working with the public sector environment, given my 15 years of experience in public transit. In like manner, I am comfortable with the private sector side as well. I attribute this level of comfort to having worked for MARTA, Houston Metro, and San Joaquin Regional Transit District.

So when we have contracts with clients like DART, airports, and school systems, I am able to represent Swayzer Engineering Inc. well, and can speak their language easily.

I last worked directly for public transportation in 2009, so it was a natural transition for me to work with the clients we have. I do know the community and the territory. Right now our clients are in Texas, but years ago the firm did some work in the DC area. In other words, we’re certainly open to looking at other opportunities outside Texas as we work to grow the business.

Make sure you see Mary Ann Collier’s video, now that you've read this!


Meet Joni Zielinski Carlton!

Joni Zielinski Carlton
Senior Legislative Representative
Government Affairs

What are your primary job responsibilities?
My primary responsibility is representing the consensus views of APTA and our membership to Congress, staff, and other key policymakers. I analyze how legislative proposals affect our membership and, in turn, communicate to Congress the impact to their constituents and public transportation services in their district. I focus primarily on passenger rail and issues related to commuter, intercity, and high-speed rail.

I also help plan and organize the annual APTA Legislative Conference and serve as staff advisor to the Commuter and Intercity Rail Joint Legislative Subcommittee.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the two most recent times you’ve helped out a member.
What’s unique about APTA is that nearly all of our members are involved in federal legislative policy issues because these issues directly impact their day-to-day work. Recently, for example, members have called me to discuss what we can do to advance legislation related to positive train control implementation, expanding workforce development programs, and making sure public transportation is eligible to participate in an interoperable public safety communications network. These are all issues that our members deal with daily—and yet they are also issues being considered by Congress.

Just this week I spoke with a member who wanted more information on positive train control implementation issues. He contacted me as the result of a conversation he had with a Congressional staffer. I worked with this individual, answering his questions and sharing supporting documents.

Fielding information requests like this is a typical part of my daily job.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Every year there’s a great sense of pride after we complete the Legislative Conference. This year, however, was quite a bit more chaotic because we had two authorization bills going through both the House and Senate at the same time we were trying to plan and prepare for the conference. Added to that, Congress was out of session the week of the conference so scheduling elected officials as speakers was a challenge because they were back home in their district offices. Despite these two issues, the conference went off without a hitch and was a great success.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I was working on Capitol Hill and had questions about a Federal Railroad Administration ruling on the decibel levels of train horns. I called APTA and immediately got the answer. That was basically my introduction to this association and I always remembered it as a positive and helpful experience. After having worked on Capitol Hill for a number of years, I knew I wanted to continue working in the transportation industry, so a few years later when I saw a job posted at APTA, I applied for the position. And the rest is history. I have been at APTA for three years.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
I worked on Capitol Hill for eight years for a now-retired Congressman from New Jersey. For six of those years, I worked on legislative issues, specializing in such areas as transportation, nuclear energy, homeland security, and telecommunications.

What professional affiliations do you have?
WTS, Women in Government Relations, American League of Lobbyists.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
Before coming to APTA, I backpacked throughout Europe and Asia, and rode public transportation in every country I visited. I’ve traveled on everything from express boats covered in tarps—to protect you from splashing water in the canals of Bangkok—to transit buses in rural Bavaria to high-speed rail in Kyoto. I have also had the privilege of completing a tandem skydive jump with the elite Golden Knights, a unit of the United States Army Parachute Team. It was awesome!

Make sure you see Joni Zielinski Carlton's video, now that you've read this!


Sound Transit Honors Civil Rights Activist with Portrait at Station Site

Representatives of Sound Transit in Seattle joined state, city, and neighborhood leaders at dedication ceremonies March 24 for a mural celebrating the life and accomplishments of civil rights activist Cal Anderson at the Seattle park that now bears his name.

The transit agency commissioned the portrait by local artist Kelly Lyles as part of the ongoing public art program around the construction site for the Capitol Hill light rail station. The 11-foot x 8-foot portrait will remain on the red construction wall facing the park throughout construction. 

Anderson represented Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in the Washington State Legislature from 1987 until his death in 1995. Earlier he had worked as an aide to Seattle City Councilmember George Benson and Mayor Charles Royer.

“Cal Anderson left a great legacy of public service in Seattle, and it’s fitting that we celebrate that legacy here in Seattle’s first Olmstead park [designed by the Olmstead brothers in 1901],” said Sound Transit Board Member and Seattle City Council Member Richard Conlin.

Sound Transit partnered with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Cal Anderson Park Alliance, and Broadway Business Improvement Area on the portrait dedication.


Artist Kelly Lyles poses with her portrait of activist Cal Anderson, commissioned by Sound Transit and located near the construction site for a light rail station.


Finding Art in New York MTA System? Now There’s an App for That

A new mobile app now allows users to browse through more than 200 works of contemporary art found throughout the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA): MTA New York City Transit, MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA Metro-North Railroad, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels.

The Meridian App for Apple and Android mobile devices now provides information about the MTA’s Arts for Transit collection. When a user selects a work of art, the app provides still images; text information on the background, inspiration, and significance of each work; and, at selected stations, video and audio clips featuring its artists.

For New York subway stations with wireless Internet connectivity, the Meridian App also provides turn-by-turn directions at select large stations to the precise locations of artworks. This indoor-navigation feature will continue to develop as the MTA adds cell and data service.

MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota called the app “a phenomenal use of technology. This app will help our customers recognize that New York’s transportation system, besides helping 8.5 million people get to work every day, is a world-class art museum with works by many of the most renowned artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Sandra Bloodworth, director of MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design, added that the art collection is “a part of riding the train that people love. Now we’ve made it easier to find out more about the collection. We’d already posted a significant amount of information about our art online, but with this app, it is as if you have a museum in the palm of your hand.”

Meridian Apps—a firm specializing in place-centered apps that offer spatial navigation for museums, convention halls, stadiums, and large stores—created the app, which is officially licensed by the MTA and was built at no cost to the agency. The MTA and Meridian have agreed to share any potential revenues generated by the app after Meridian recoups the expenses it incurred in building it.

Kiyo Kubo, chief executive officer of Meridian, said: “New Yorkers have access to a huge collection of world-renowned art, and we are delighted to be able to showcase the art using the same unique and innovative mobile technology we use for many museum clients.”

More information about the app is available here.

OCTA Unveils Indoor Transit Simulator for Paratransit Eligibility

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has unveiled a new indoor public transit simulator facility to be used to determine eligibility for OCTA’s ACCESS paratransit service. It incorporates a 40-foot OCTA bus, sidewalks, wheelchair-accessible curbs, a crosswalk, and operating traffic signals to fully replicate a bus stop.

“This facility mirrors OCTA’s commitment to ensuring public transit is accessible to all those who depend upon us for their mobility and independence,” said OCTA Chief Executive Officer Will Kempton. “The simulator creates a real-life experience, helping to provide a more accurate and efficient passenger evaluation, which in turn will improve our customers’ experience and reduce costs.”

Previously, OCTA evaluators took passengers outdoors to test their ability to navigate uneven surfaces and curbs, but did not take them on board a bus. The facility will allow testing of a customer’s ability to navigate a variety of different surfaces, board a bus, and pay the fare, all within a controlled environment.

C.A.R.E. Evaluators, which provides services to determine customers’ eligibility for using ACCESS, constructed the $52,000 facility as part of its contract with OCTA.

OCTA explained that subsidizing ACCESS service costs $50.17 per ride, versus $3.76 for fixed route buses. Standardizing the evaluation process helps to accurately determine if a customer can use the fixed-route service for some trips. ACCESS service currently transports 58,000 eligible riders, with approximately 500 people certified or re-certified to use the service each month.

CCRTA Initiates Internship Program

The Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCRTA) in Corpus Christi, TX, recently welcomed the first two participants in its Professional Management Internship Program.

Nyambura Njagi, a master’s degree candidate at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is working on a centralized database with the Planning and Maintenance departments. Sherri Clay, a graduate of Del Mar College and the University of Phoenix, will create an asset management program in collaboration with the Service Development, Finance, and Maintenance departments.  

“We are excited to introduce a great program that will allow students to apply classroom concepts to real-world work situations,” said John Valls, CCRTA board chairman. “It is our goal to assist talented students in gaining valuable work experience while introducing them to the transit industry.”

The Professional Management Internship Program—open to undergraduate juniors and seniors, graduate, and postgraduate students—provides an opportunity to gain practical work experience through a paid internship, related to the student’s academic field of study.

STV Celebrates Centennial Year

The engineering and architectural firm STV is commemorating its 100th anniversary in 2012. The company began in 1912 as Elwyn E. Seelye & Co., founded by Seelye in New York City; it was acquired in 1972 by STV Inc., a holding company created by architectural/engineering firm Sanders & Thomas and equipment manufacturer Voss Engineering.

“Elwyn Seelye’s enduring vision for excellence and innovation continues to inspire us,” said Dominick M. Servedio, P.E., executive chairman. “We have diversified into new practices, embraced going green, and utilized the latest technology to help us to grow in new directions while staying true to the vision of our founders.”

STV’s current public transportation projects include MTA Long Island Rail Road East Side Access and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s PATH Transportation Hub. The firm also participated in the rehabilitation of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

Valley Metro Hosts Events for Region’s Bike Month

Valley Metro in Phoenix encourages area residents to park their cars and ride bicycles instead with numerous Valley Bike Month events during April.

“With our favorable weather and extensive network of paths and trails, bicycling is a great travel option in the valley,” said Steve Banta, Valley Metro chief executive officer. “We’d like to see more people exercise their options when it comes to leaving a car behind.”

The agency’s support of bicycling events is part of the local Clean Air Campaign, a general public awareness effort to emphasize the importance of air quality and ways to reduce vehicle trips. Premier events during the month incorporate partnerships with REI, a national outdoor retailer, as well as many cities and towns in Maricopa County.

For example, the Great Bike Chase—April 22 in downtown Phoenix—features self-guided bike rides and a bike expo at Chase Field prior to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ baseball game. For the first time, free valet bike parking is available at all home Diamondbacks games in April at the Urban Commons Summit, adjacent to the ballpark.

Another major event, Bike to Work & School Day, will be held April 18 at locations in Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix/Maricopa County, cottsdale, and Tempe. Activities will include contests, prize drawings, food, and T-shirts.

A complete listing of Valley Bike Month events is on the Valley Metro website.

The Clean Air Campaign is sponsored by the Arizona Departments of Environmental Quality and Transportation, Maricopa Association of Governments, Maricopa Air Quality Department, and Valley Metro RPTA.

Sun Metro Introduces Solar Lighting at Bus Stops

Sun Metro in El Paso, TX, has installed a new solar lighting system at 13 poorly lit bus stops throughout the region. In addition to providing illumination, the solar units will enhance security for bus riders, improve visibility, and help prevent a bus from passing up riders the driver cannot see. Each solar lighting unit contains clear white, solar-powered LED lights. These lights will operate for up to 12 hours, illuminating the waiting area using a power of six Lumens.

KCATA Joins Pinterest Social Media Site

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) has joined the social media website Pinterest to share stories, inspirations, tips, and news. The agency previously instituted an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Transit trip planner, and its own website.

“Pinterest offers a way for us to share the story of transit in Kansas City and ideas about how to enjoy The Metro lifestyle,” said Marketing Supervisor Bridget Moss.

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets users organize and share things they find interesting, from craft projects to humorous pictures or vacation destinations. The website is one of the fastest growing social media sites, with more than 20 million users.

KCATA’s pinboards include Favorite Places, Riders, Arts + Transit, Fashion, Transit History, Humor, and Celebrities on Transit.

IndyGo Receives Mayor’s Sustainability Award for Second Consecutive Year

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has presented IndyGo with the third annual Indianapolis Sustainability Award in the air category. The award recognizes the public transit agency’s aggressive efforts in advancing sustainability throughout the community in 2011.

The primary component of IndyGo’s air quality efforts is the “Community Collaborations Program,” which encourages partnerships by providing in-kind sponsorships. In return, the partners promote IndyGo and route information specific to their events and facilities through ads, signage, brochures, and online.

When the program launched, its main goal was to grow awareness for public transportation, but IndyGo has surpassed this plan and has seen its ridership grow 10.2 percent over the previous year. This is the second consecutive win for IndyGo, which received the award last year for its “Go Green” Initiative.

“IndyGo’s innovative in-kind sponsorship provides access to the communications toolbox through a negotiation template that sparks ideas, creativity, and discussion for smaller scale or new collaborations,” the mayor said. “The reciprocal relationship between IndyGo and its community partners is symbiotic to reach the goal of improved awareness of public transportation and ridership.”

The IndyGo toolbox receives funding through the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program. The agency leverages grant dollars to generate sponsorships and increase community awareness through business relationships.

RTA New Orleans Launches Streetcar Public Safety Campaign

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in New Orleans recently launched a new campaign dedicated to promoting public safety around its streetcars, titled Tracks Can Kill: Live Outside the Lines. The overall goal of the campaign is to educate the public—specifically pedestrians, drivers, joggers, cyclists, and others who encounter the streetcars on a regular basis—about the safest ways to coexist with streetcars in an effort to eliminate all preventable accidents.

RTA is using television public service announcements; advertisements on its vehicles; brochures; flyers; and social media to encourage viewers to “think again” so they will avoid danger.

Although streetcars travel at a lower speed than most rail vehicles, they cannot come to an immediate stop. As RTA explains, the difference in time and inches can be a matter of life and death. This safety campaign brings greater awareness to the hazards associated with jogging and cycling on the tracks and encourages motorists to treat the median, or neutral ground, as an additional lane of traffic.

The RTA is partnering with businesses, organizations, schools, universities, and neighborhood associations located near streetcar lines to deliver the message.


Register Now for APTA Bus Conference

The 2012 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference is less than a month away—May 6-9 in Long Beach, CA. Register now to participate in four days of educational opportunities, hear a variety of speakers, and attend the Bus Roadeo Banquet honoring North America’s best bus operators and maintenance teams.

Highlights of this year’s schedule include:

* A half-day session conducted by the National Transit Institute, “Leading as a Mid-Manager in Today’s Public Transportation Environment.” The program will help public transportation professionals in supervisory and mid-level positions with skills to lead, manage, and supervise from the middle of the organization. It covers diversity and generational differences, emotional intelligence, time management, and leadership skills.

* APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy will meet informally with conference participants, sharing his vision for advancing the association’s agenda and discussing members’ ideas of how APTA can make their membership even more valuable.

* “Integration and Coordination: Transit, Paratransit, Human Service Transportation, and Regional Needs.” This session will examine ways that public transit providers—including those using complementary Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit—can offer service between regions with multiple service agencies. It will cover using transportation resources in new ways; creating alternative services; and examining how community partnerships in Hawaii, southern California, and Rhode Island have led to coordinating and streamlining multiple specialized operations.

* The third annual “Walk and Roll” Wellness Event, co-sponsored by Easter Seals Project ACTION and Long Beach Transit. Speakers and audience members can walk and/or roll along a predetermined route through downtown Long Beach, emphasizing the need to support accessible transportation for persons with disabilities. Accessible transportation will be available.

* The Bus Display and Bus Products & Services Showcase. Expert personnel will be on hand to answer your questions as they exhibit what’s new and innovative in the world of bus equipment and services.

More information about the APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference, including how to register, is available at the APTA website.

Also, business members are reminded to register by April 16 for the May 7 Business Member Networking Breakfast if they want their names to appear in the brochure. The registration form is available here.


Destinations Magazine

The exterior of the Long Beach Convention Center, site of the 2012 APTA Bus & Paratransit Conference.


DOL Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Addresses Embassy Roundtable

BY JULIA WALKER, APTA Program Manager-International Programs

A critical part of public transportation is its role in improving the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities. At the March 22 Public Transportation Embassy Roundtable, hosted by APTA, Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathleen Martinez spoke about this critical element of the industry. Lifelong disability rights advocate Michael Winter, senior program analyst, International Research Office, Federal Transit Administration, moderated the event, which was attended by representatives of foreign embassies.

In 2009, President Obama nominated Martinez, who has been blind since birth, to head the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. While discussing the many federal employment programs that support the productivity of persons with disabilities and seniors, she concluded, however: “Even the best employment program doesn’t work if people cannot get to work.”

Martinez explained how transportation affects many aspects of one’s livelihood, such as access to health care services, housing, and childcare. A lack of affordable, reliable public transportation, she reiterated, results in a failure of an employment system.

As the workforce ages, she said, more and more people will acquire disabilities and will need assistance to move from one place to another. Federal agencies are preparing for this situation by looking for ways to partner and enhance funding for accessible services, since there is an undeniable link between jobs and transportation.

As an example, Martinez described the United We Ride program to the international audience. The purpose of this federal interagency initiative and partnership of more than 10 government agencies is to improve the availability and quality of transportation services for persons with disabilities, the elderly, and lower-income residents.

Embassy representatives from Korea, India, Japan, France, England, Taiwan, and the Netherlands also shared experiences from their countries on the coordination of transportation and employment for persons with disabilities. All these countries are facing growth in their aging populations as people live and work longer, so they are continually searching for ways to implement regulations and policies to reduce mobility barriers.

The conclusion reached after the interactive meeting was that the connection between transportation and employment for persons with disabilities and the elderly is global. While nations may address and explore disability rights, policies, and services in different ways, it is evident that attitudes toward people with disabilities and the elderly are changing all across the world. That, the participants agreed, is the most crucial step to take in advancing the rights of transportation and employment for all.

Photo by Mitch Wood

Michael Winter and Kathleen Martinez, at end of table, introduce the history of the U.S. disability rights movement to foreign embassy representatives.

With BOSS, Public Transit Can Invest in Bus Operators

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Public transportation agency heads understand that their operators are as important an investment as the vehicles they will operate. APTA’s Bus Operator Selection Survey (BOSS) provides a tool that will help them make the correct hiring decisions.

“The hiring of employees is one of the largest, most important investments a public transit agency can make,” said Carl Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer, Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST), Monterey, CA. “It’s critical to hire the right people, not only to provide excellent customer service and ensure the safety of both customers and system employees, but also to limit the financial liability of the organization.”

APTA has offered the BOSS process for almost 15 years as a way to help public transit systems select reliable, safe, and customer-oriented bus operators for their fleets. The firm of EB Jacobs worked with DOT, the Department of Labor, and APTA member transit system CEOs and training directors to develop the program.

MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) is the largest subscriber to the BOSS program and a participant since its inception.

Walter Orlowski, NYC Transit assistant chief officer, safety and training, noted that the agency instituted BOSS around the same time it made internal changes to its training process to add a one-year probation period. “Between the two, we’ve been able to provide a better operator,” he said, noting that the agency hires an average of 1,000 bus operators each year.

According to Sedoryk, BOSS has shown evident benefits to MST: “We’ve reduced our turnover by 25 percent and lowered our insurance premiums, accident frequency, and severity since we began using BOSS in 2003 as part of an overall program focusing on customer safety and service.”

More specifically, he said, the implementation of BOSS has reduced the system’s recruitment and training costs by approximately $40,000 per year; cut the number of accidents and injuries; and lessened the amount of time MST spends on managing poor performers. These results parallel APTA’s study of more than 800 bus operators hired using the BOSS system, which projects an average of seven fewer missed days per operator and 20 percent fewer accidents per year.

Orlowski explained that human resources employees use BOSS, as part of the hiring process, to ask bus operator applicants how they would respond in a variety of on-the-job situations. “Their answers identify who’s an appropriate candidate for your system,” he noted. “These employees deal with customer service, people taking public transit to work… they need the proper tools to let them communicate with the public.”

While saying the program is not a “silver bullet,” Sedoryk said: “Programs like BOSS should be part of everyone’s program to ensure the highest levels of safety for both customers and employees, customer service, on-time performance, and improved employee attendance.”

Components of BOSS
The BOSS selection protocol includes a pre-employment screening survey and structured interview process. Applicants can take the 75-item BOSS survey either in person, with paper and pencil, or online. The virtue of the online “eBoss” application is that test results become available immediately.“We make BOSS part of our recruitment process,” Sedoryk said. “After applicants submit their applications and come in for an interview, the first thing we do is have them take the BOSS test. This can actually save time and effort because some people will show through their responses they don’t have a predisposition for the job. Others do, and that’s where the system will want to focus its attention.”

He continued: “When looking at our history, we found that once we started hiring employees with the help of BOSS—only selecting those with the highest rankings for safety and attendance—we reduced our involuntary terminations within the first year of employment by 25 percent.”

The BOSS process also includes a structured interview process that complements the survey; it offers standardized questions and behaviorally anchored rating scales linked specifically to the job of bus operator, as well as up to three hours of consulting assistance by phone.

In summation, Sedoryk said: “Is a public transit agency using any type of employment selection criteria in its hiring—for example, safety, customer service, on-time performance, attendance? If they are hiring and retaining individuals who are predisposed to be excellent in these areas, a program like BOSS should be considered.”

More information about BOSS is available from Cheryl Pyatt.


Who's Doing What in the Industry

Todd Cooper, Joseph Zimmer

CINCINNATI, OH—Todd Cooper and Joseph Zimmer have been named to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees.

Cooper is a partner at the law firm Squire Sanders, focusing on tax matters related to public finance, primarily the federal taxation aspects of municipal bonds.

Zimmer, executive secretary for the Greater Cincinnati Building & Construction Trades Council, also serves as president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council and of Sheet Metal Workers Local 24.

Paul Faucher
CAMBRIDGE, ON—Q’Straint and Sure-Lok announced the hiring of Paul Faucher as its new Canadian sales manager.

Faucher has more than 26 years of business experience, including an extensive background in sales support and project leader assignments. Most recently he was a training coordinator with McDonald’s Corporation.

Eddie Wilkinson, Aaron Schwass, Gary Ganaway
ELYRIA, OH—Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC (BSFB), a joint venture of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC and Dana Commercial Vehicle Products LLC, has named Eddie Wilkinson president; Aaron Schwass vice president and general manager; and Gary Ganaway director of marketing and global customer solutions.

Wilkinson is a 17-year veteran of Bendix, working since 2007 as vice president of quality and product safety—a position he will retain on an acting basis. Since last July, he also served, with Schwass, as interim general manager of the Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake wheel-end business. He began his career at Bendix and Honeywell Aerospace/AlliedSignal (former owners of Bendix) in 1995 and moved to the Bendix team in 1999.

Schwass joined BSFB in 2007, after 12 years in key leadership positions at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. He will also serve as acting product line director for air disc brakes until that position is filled.

Ganaway, a 20-year veteran of the commercial vehicle industry, came to BSFB in 2009 after serving as senior director of business and product strategy at ArvinMeritor.

Rock Miller
IRVINE, CA—Rock Miller, principal of the Transportation Planning & Traffic Engineering practice in Stantec’s Irvine office, has been elected to a one-year term as international president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) and named to the State of California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC). He previously was ITE vice president.

For CTCDC, Miller will serve with a team of industry leaders responsible for advising agencies on state, regional, and local traffic issues such as law changes, new treatments, and the State Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

Miller has worked in traffic planning, design, and operations for more than 35 years.

Cindy Siegel
HOUSTON, TX—Cindy Siegel, former mayor of Bellaire, TX, has joined the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. She was appointed by the 14 multi-city mayors in the agency’s service area.

Siegel joined the Ballaire City Council in 1998 and was elected mayor in 2004. She is a certified public accountant with more than 30 years of experience in the field, and owns a public accounting firm under her name.

She succeeded Jimmy Stewart, an eight-year board member whose term expired.

Richard Smith
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Richard Smith has been named a senior supervising estimator in the San Francisco office of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). In his new position, Smith is lead estimator for the California high-speed rail project.

Smith has more than 37 years of experience in the planning and execution of major infrastructure and transportation projects. Prior to joining PB, he worked for several major engineering and construction firms.

Robbie Makinen, Michael Short, A.J. Dusek, Steve Klika
KANSAS CITY, MO—The Board of Commissioners of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) re-elected Jackson County (MO) Commissioner Robbie Makinen as its chairman. Makinen is economic development coordinator for Jackson County and has served on the KCATA board since 2007.

Michael Short, representing Platte County (MO), will serve as vice chairman; A.J. Dusek, commissioner representing Wyandotte County (KS), is secretary; and Steve Klika, commissioner representing Johnson County (KS), is treasurer.

Additionally, retired Municipal Judge Thomas E. Sims was appointed by Mayor Sly James to represent Clay County (MO) on the board.

Kevin J. Cronin
BALTIMORE, MD—Gannett Fleming announced the appointment of Kevin J. Cronin, P.E., as a senior project director within the Transit and Rail Practice, based in the firm’s Baltimore office.

Cronin has more than 26 years of experience in project management, preconstruction planning, engineering, contract management, innovative project delivery, and risk management.

Doug McAllister, Marion Ashley, Barry Talbot
RIVERSIDE, CA—Murrieta Mayor Doug McAllister will chair the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) Governing Board. McAllister, a board member since 2005, succeeds District 1 County Supervisor Bob Buster.

District 5 County Supervisor Marion Ashley was elected first vice chairman and Canyon Lake Councilman Barry Talbot second vice chairman. Ashley joined the board in 2003 and Talbot in 2008.

Angelo J. Waters
PHILADELPHIA, PA—Urban Engineers Inc. announced the promotion of Angelo J. Waters, PE, LEED® AP, to environmental practice leader.

Waters’ nearly 12 years of experience includes green stormwater infrastructure, NEPA compliance, environmental management systems, sustainability initiatives, Phase I/Phase II environmental site assessments, in-situ and risk-based remediation, asbestos investigations, and brownfield site development.

Lamont Taylor
CINCINNATI, OH—Lamont Taylor has rejoined the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees.

He previously served on the board from 2003 to 2010, as its vice chair from 2004 to 2006 and chair in 2006-2007.

Taylor is human resources manager for Frisch’s Restaurants Inc., responsible for employee relations and non-exempt recruitment in five states.

Jonathan Benner
WASHINGTON, DC—Jonathan Benner, a former general counsel of the Federal Maritime Commission, has joined the Washington office of Thompson Coburn LLP as a partner and practice leader. He chairs the firm's Maritime Regulatory and Ports Practice and supports the Transportation and International Trade Practice Group.

Benner has significant experience in all modes of transportation, first as managing partner of the DC office of Haight Gardner Poor & Havens, then as practice group leader of Troutman Sander's Transportation Practice in Washington. He most recently worked as a partner at Reed Smith.