Passenger Transport - June 15, 2012
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NEWS HEADLINES

Ridership: 5% Jump in 2012 First Quarter

The growth in ridership for U.S. public transportation agencies for the first quarter of 2012 was big news at the APTA Rail Conference in Dallas.  APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy announced the 5 percent ridership increase—or nearly 2.7 billion trips—during the June 4 Opening General Session.

This quarter was the fifth in a row to report ridership growth, accounting for 125.7 million more trips than during the same quarter of 2011. All public transit modes saw increases, led by 6.7 percent for light rail and 5.5 percent for heavy rail.

Melaniphy credited high gasoline prices as one reason for the sizable ridership increase. “As we look for positive signs that the economy is recovering, it’s great to see that we are having record ridership at public transit systems throughout the country. In some regions of our nation, the local economy is rebounding and people are commuting to their new jobs by using public transportation,” he said, noting that nearly 60 percent of trips taken on public transit are for work commutes.

This big picture is drawn from numerous individual success stories in many U.S. metropolitan areas. Several public transit agencies reporting the highest first-quarter ridership in their history include Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, up 7.8 percent and the 15th consecutive month of growth; Charlotte (NC) Area Transit System, with ridership up 10.2 percent for the quarter; Lee County Transit in Fort Myers, FL, a 17 percent jump; San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, 21.8 million passenger trips in the quarter—1.7 percent above the previous record for the quarter, in 2009; and Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority in Tampa, FL, up 6 percent and reporting crowding for the first time on its buses. Intercity Transit in Olympia, WA, reported the highest ridership in its 31-year history.

In Indianapolis, IndyGo saw first-quarter ridership on its 30 bus routes jump 19.9 percent—or almost 2.5 million rides compared with 2.1 million in the first quarter of 2011—on the way to achieving its highest numbers in decades.

The agency suggested several reasons behind its ridership growth: a combination of unseasonably warm weather early in the year, rising gas prices, efficiency-focused service delivery, and the city hosting Super Bowl XVLI.

USA Today picked up on the good news from IndyGo, featuring the agency in a June 4 story that Melaniphy referenced during the APTA conference. National Public Radio also interviewed Melaniphy and IndyGo representatives for a story that was about to air as Passenger Transport went to press.

First Quarter Breakdown
Twenty-five of 27 U.S. light rail systems—including modern streetcars, trolleys, and heritage trolleys—reported ridership increases in the first quarter of 2012. The largest increases were in Memphis, TN (45.7 percent); Salt Lake City (34.1 percent); Seattle’s King County DOT (19.4 percent); Boston (12.6 percent); Cleveland (10.7 percent); Houston (10.3 percent); Seattle’s Sound Transit (10.3 percent); Los Angeles (9.9 percent); Sacramento (8.5 percent); and St. Louis (8.2 percent).

Among heavy rail systems, 14 out of 15 listed growth. Cleveland led the sector with 12.2 percent, followed by San Francisco (9.7 percent); Chicago (8.9 percent); Baltimore (7.8 percent); Boston (6.4 percent); Jersey City, NJ (6.1 percent); MTA New York City Transit (5.6 percent); Lindenwold, NJ (4.7 percent); MTA Staten Island Railway (4.5 percent); and Miami (4.2 percent).

Nationally, commuter rail ridership increased by 3.9 percent in the first three months of 2012, with 22 of 27 commuter rail systems reporting ridership increases. Five commuter rail systems in the following cities noted double-digit increases: Anchorage, AK (43.8 percent); Oceanside, CA (19.2 percent); San Carlos, CA (15.0 percent); Portland, OR (11.1 percent); and Seattle (10.8 percent).

Large bus systems reported an increase of 4.6 percent nationally. Leading the sector are St. Louis (15.6 percent); Dallas (11.9 percent); Arlington Heights, IL (11.1 percent); Boston (10.6 percent); Oakland, CA (10.5 percent); Fort Lauderdale, FL (8.7 percent); Newark (8.0 percent); San Antonio (8.0 percent); Washington, DC (7.9 percent). and Cleveland (7.8 percent).

Bus systems in urbanized areas with populations of two million or more showed ridership growth of 4.5 percent for the quarter. Growing at an even higher rate of 5.1 percent were bus systems in urbanized areas with populations of 500,000 to just under two million.

Demand response (paratransit) ridership increased by 7.0 percent and trolleybus ridership grew by 3.8 percent.

The complete report is available at the APTA website.

Szabo: ‘Transportation Bloodline of U.S. Economy’; McMillan Also Keynotes Conference in Dallas

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

“Transportation is, and always has been, the bloodline of our economy,” FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, the first of two keynote speakers along with FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, told a packed audience numbering more than 1,000 at the Opening General Session of the APTA 2012 Rail Conference in Dallas.

DART President/Executive Director and APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas; APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings; DART Chairman John Carter Danish; and Tom Waldron, senior vice president and America’s director for transit and rail, AECOM, also spoke.

Szabo recognized “APTA’s tireless promotion of public transportation.” He then talked about the future of the country—and how transportation needs will affect the economy.

He noted that the message of the UIC 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail, taking place in Philadelphia July 10-13, is that “high-speed and intercity passenger rail must be an integral part of our multimodal transportation system.”

“Today,” Szabo said, transportation is “saddled with gridlock and heavily dependent on foreign oil.” That notwithstanding, he pointed out that public transportation is both economically and environmentally efficient, observing that two railroad tracks can carry as many people in one hour as can 16 lanes of highway.

He cited an analysis that showed the changing travel habits of Americans: for instance, they drive 6 percent fewer miles today than they did in 2004, and young people in particular are driving less and riding public transit more. “Americans want—and, more importantly, they deserve—transportation choices,” he said.

“It is time,” Szabo said, “for Congress to understand that these are facts and we have to prepare for this trend.”

The FRA administrator also covered other topics, including the importance of the Buy America initiative, how economies of scale can continue to result from the standardization of specifications, concerns expressed by the industry about implementing positive train control, and the safety risk reduction program through which railroads can proactively identify and eliminate risks.

“Having a safe rail network that can ensure mobility and provide alternatives for the ever-escalating prices at the [gasoline] pump—these things are not luxuries, they are necessities,” he stressed.

Thomas’ response to Szabo’s speech was succinct and focused. “We heard your challenge,” he said. “We appreciate it, we’re up to the task, we’re ready.”

McMillan said that despite the many challenges facing the industry, “I think it’s an incredibly exciting time for public transportation. It’s becoming a gateway of opportunity for all ages, but particularly the young people.”

She noted that new public transit riders are becoming regular riders, saying this is because the attendees “are putting out a quality product. It means your hard work to bring more rail service to your communities is paying off.”

McMillan described the current circumstances as “under duress, without new federal legislation in an era of fiscal austerity—and at a time when citizens are questioning whether officials of government at any level can work together.”

She continued: “This much is clear. It is time to put aside the partisan posturing and end the gridlock and do what’s right for the American people.”

Thomas, wearing his host hat, began by thanking his staff profusely: “My DART colleagues have worked tirelessly for the last 16 years to deliver outstanding service day in and day out. You are the reason customers get on DART Rail!”

He next told the audience what he and Melaniphy had done at 5:30 that morning, which was to welcome Don Johnson, the passenger making the 250 millionth weekday trip on DART’s light rail system, at Dallas Union Station. (See sidebar.)

“A quarter of a billion represents a lot of firsts,” he said. “First time on a train, first trip to the first job. It’s really 250 million individual moments.”

Noting that DART has the most track miles of any light rail system in the country, he then showed a brief video.

Thomas spoke about the importance of APTA continuing to be the voice for public transportation—a policy and thought leader. As its chair, he noted, he is also working to increase the value of an APTA membership. “We have designed this conference, therefore, to provide you with valuable information as well as time for invaluable networking,” he said.

He also stressed APTA’s flexibility to respond to breaking events: “Perhaps the best example of our agility was how quickly we reacted when the House of Representatives declared an assault on dedicated funding for public transit.”

In his remarks, Melaniphy noted that Dallas is a city of many firsts: inventors of the drive-through bank, automated teller machine, car radio, 7-11 convenience store, even the first integrated circuit that led to the first microchip. As if that wasn’t enough, he said, the term Super Bowl was coined there!

He next briefly reviewed the state of rail: “We’re making technological leaps in many areas, including cyber security standards that incorporate defenses against intruders and train control and communications systems to combat them. We’re leading in rail wayside energy storage systems, which helps both our agencies and local utilities by reducing peak energy supply costs and adding revenue. We’re working to implement positive train control as this new technology is developed, and we’re also working on many industry standards for such elements as procurement, farecards, tracks, escalators, and worker safety.”

His biggest news, however—“introduced” with a trumpet fanfare—was the just released ridership numbers showing a 5 percent increase for the first quarter of 2012. (See related story on page 1.)

“We have a good story to tell everywhere in this country about record ridership numbers,” Melaniphy said. He held up that morning’s copy of USA Today, which featured a story on record-breaking ridership statistics in public transit systems across America.

The 5 percent increase, he said, means that “125 million more people rode our systems in the first quarter of this year vs. last year. We are on a tear—this is fantastic.”

He also noted another measure of support for public transportation: the ongoing success of ballot initiatives across the country, with people sending the message that they want more public transportation.

While citizens voting to tax themselves to increase their mobility is critical, Melaniphy said, he emphasized that “our job is to fight for an authorization bill because continued investment of capital is critical to our industry.” He was the first of several speakers to make that point.

He reiterated the need to keep up the pressure on Congress to pass a surface transportation authorization bill and urged attendees to participate in the planned Congressional phone bank the next day. “Let them know,” he said, “how important it is to invest in public transit.”

In support of the upcoming high-speed rail conference, he showed a brief video—and everyone donned 3-D glasses.

Rawlings told the audience that “people will not come to any urban center anymore unless we have multimodal transportation options and make sure they can get around easily. We want to make sure that the DART system is an economic driver for us.” He called DART “a prime example of how people with vision come together to create a transit system that works for everybody.”

The mayor delineated his approach to transportation: “We care about growth, about taking care of customers, and about our long-term vision to be a great city. Take care of the customers and do what’s right—and I think the rest will take care of itself.”

Said Thomas after Rawlings concluded his remarks: “Isn’t it great to have a mayor who gets it?”

Danish came right to the point: “Throughout our nation, the transit renaissance that started 10 or 15 years ago is really picking up steam. There are just so many startups and new and existing systems out there. The message is clear: the public wants transit. Light rail is being planned, built, or expanded, and the public is clamoring for more!”

AECOM, represented by Waldron, sponsored the Opening General Session.

“There’s much to be gained when executive directors and general managers and their lieutenants can meet eye to eye to discuss lessons learned—and when leadership from the FTA and FRA can be with us to point out the path forward,” he said.

He then quoted a Bruce Springsteen lyric about “a little of that human touch,” saying that “human touch needs to be integral to everything we do because, folks, we’re in the people business.” He added: “We are a vital component of America’s economic engine.”

Thomas, in closing the session, told the audience: “It’s you, doing your part, every day, to make our nation and our world run better.” Then he urged everyone to be sure to attend the Products & Services Showcase.

 

 

Thomas, left, responds to a media question about the high first-quarter ridership level as, to his right, Melaniphy, Szabo, and McMillan listen. The media conference call convened immediately following the Opening General Session.

Opening General Session speakers, from left: Thomas, Waldron, Rawlings, McMillan, Danish, Szabo, and Melaniphy. 


DART Celebrates 250 Millionth Rider on Light Rail

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) recognized Don Johnson as its 250 millionth light rail rider in ceremonies June 4 at Dallas Union Station. APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas, also APTA’s chair, greeted Johnson as he left a Red Line train at the station, joined by a crowd of spectators and news cameras.

“I started riding DART because of gas prices about 10 years ago,” Johnson said. “But it’s comfortable and gives me a chance to read while I’m on the train so I stayed. I love DART.”

DART randomly selected Johnson, who is from DeSoto, TX, and works at Vent-a-Hood in Richardson, from among its Monday morning commuters to represent all riders of the 72-mile, 55-station system throughout the past 16 years. He received four monthly DART regional passes good for use in July, along with tickets to popular destinations such as the Dallas Zoo, Children's Aquarium at Fair Park, Hawaiian Falls, Dallas Summer Musicals, and the Museum of Nature & Science.

"This is a great day and a neat milestone for us,” Thomas said. “But I’m also thinking about the individual trips and special moments that preceded this one. School kids made their first trips to the zoo, or a Mavericks or Stars game, on DART. People have met, gone on first dates, and found their spouses on DART. Our customers plan special outings around our service. We’ve really become woven into the fabric of the region and that’s what’s exciting to me.”
 
DART opened the first 11 miles of its 20-mile Light Rail Starter System in 1996, and the system continues to grow. The next opening—a five-mile section of the Orange Line, from Bachman Station in northwest Dallas to Irving—is scheduled for July 30. A second section of the Orange Line, as well as a five-mile extension of the Blue Line from Garland to Rowlett, will open Dec. 2.
.

 

Don Johnson, right, poses with Gary Thomas, president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and APTA chair, after being declared DART's 250 millionth light rail rider the morning of June 4 at Dallas Union Station.

Democratic Senators Urge Continued Industry Outreach

The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee in the U.S. Capitol met June 13 to discuss how APTA, represented by President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, and other industry groups can help advance the surface transportation authorization bill now being negotiated in a House/Senate conference committee. 

In addition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Steering and Outreach Chairman Mark Begich (D-AK), Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark L. Pryor (D-AR), Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Udall (D-CO), John Kerry (D-MA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) were in attendance.

Many coalition partners of Americans for Transportation Mobility had been invited as well, including Melaniphy on behalf of the association’s member organizations. Also at the meeting were Lee Gibson, executive director of the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County, Reno, NV, and others representing businesses and organizations.

Senators candidly expressed frustration about their inability to advance a conference agreement with House conferees and charged those present with doing everything possible to reach out to members of the House and Senate and urge them in the strongest possible terms to conclude their negotiations and bring a bill back to both houses that can be sent to the president. 

Boxer noted that her Republican counterpart on the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), had worked closely with her in the development of the bill and continued to reach out to his House colleagues in the conference process.

While Congress will keep pushing for resolution of a bill by the June 30 expiration of the current extension, the senators felt that if they were unable to conclude the process by that date, they could still complete the conference in early July.

UTA Welcomes Train to Utah County

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) delivered its first FrontRunner commuter train to the future Lehi FrontRunner Station in Utah County on June 11. UTA has completed track work on the new, 45-mile commuter rail line that will connect Provo to Salt Lake City, and will test the train on the track until the line opens for service on Dec. 10.

“Almost exactly six months from today, we will begin carrying passengers on FrontRunner from Provo to Salt Lake, and will have a total of 90 miles of commuter rail along the Wasatch Front,” said UTA General Manager Michael Allegra. “Once open, this line will connect Utah County directly into a network of more than 140 miles of passenger rail that will be completed by 2014, stretching from Provo to Weber County. Our communities will have more transportation choices and connectivity than ever before.”

The new FrontRunner extension will feature stations in Murray, South Jordan, Draper, Lehi, American Fork, Orem, and Provo, with a future station in Vineyard. It will connect to the existing FrontRunner line at Salt Lake Central Station.

Ames, IA, Cuts Ribbon at Intermodal Facility

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff was among the honored guests who participated in June 9 ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Ames Intermodal Facility in Ames, IA. Funding for the $9.2 million facility came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Iowa’s intercity bus program.

During his visit to Ames, Rogoff also held a White House Roundtable with 25 local officials to discuss public transit and other issues of importance to the community.

“This ribbon-cutting event marks a new era in the coordination of transportation services within the Ames community through its connections with regional and national public transit providers, as well as a critical initial piece in the Campustown Business District revitalization,” said Sheri Kyras, Ames transit director.

Kyras continued: “This is an exciting time for transportation in the Ames community. This facility brings tremendous amenities to the Campustown area that will be welcomed by residents and visitors to our city. We are delighted to be celebrating this reinvestment in one of our city’s established business districts.”

The facility serves as a terminal for intercity and regional bus carriers, with access to local CyRide routes within one block and integrated bike path connections. It offers 384 parking spaces for short and long-term use; 20 free parking spaces for qualified car and vanpool participants; and a taxi stand for transportation within the community. Iowa State University’s Parking Division will operate the parking facility on behalf of the city.

‘XpressWest’ Signs Deal to Connect with Los Angeles

Representatives from DesertXpress—a proposed high-speed rail line between Southern California and Las Vegas—and Los Angeles Metro met June 7 to sign documents agreeing to strategize on ways to build a 50-mile line between Victorville and Palmdale, CA, eventually extending service to Los Angeles. This line would connect to Metrolink commuter rail and later to California’s high-speed rail network.

Following the announcement, the DesertXpress project was renamed “XpressWest” to more accurately reflect its role as the first leg of a larger western high speed rail passenger network.

XpressWest is a private venture that ultimately aims to build a 185-mile high-speed rail line that will operate on exclusive, new double track. Built primarily within or adjacent to the I-15 freeway, the high-speed rail line will have no at-grade crossings with vehicle or pedestrian traffic. Plans call for the service to operate with fully electric, next generation 150 mph high-speed trains.

The company has submitted a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan application to the Federal Railroad Administration for evaluation.

“In the next decades, the I-15 corridor between LA and Las Vegas will only become more congested,” Lewis Goetz, founder of the American High Speed Rail Alliance, said of XpressWest’s plans. “Connecting DesertXpress with California’s proposed high-speed rail network is a smart move that will only enhance passenger comfort and ridership.”

FAX Opens New Paratransit Site

The City of Fresno/Fresno Area Express (FAX) in Fresno, CA, opened a new facility for its Handy Ride paratransit operation on May 22. City Council President Clint Olivier and Transportation Department Director Ken Hamm cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the Handy Ride Center.

The new facility replaces a leased warehouse where FAX had based its paratransit service for the past 15 years. It creates greater opportunities to assist persons with disabilities with modern services at a central location. The 90 employees at the new facility now have improved workspaces.

FAX funded Handy Ride Center with $3.2 million in State of California Public Transportation Modernization, Improvement, and Service Enhancement Act funds, better known as Proposition 1B Bond Funds. This capital investment saves the public transit agency $87,000 annually in lease payments from its operating budget.

“This is an exciting day for me.” Hamm said. “When I arrived in 2006, the Handy Ride facility became one of my top priorities. The MV Transportation employees have done outstanding work for the past seven years without ever complaining about a less than ideal facility. It is a joy to open this new facility for today and the future.”

 

Fresno City Council President Clint Olivier, at left holding scissors, and Director of Transportation Ken Hamm cut the ribbon at the Handy Ride Center, FAX’s new paratransit facility.

 

Skiver Is New Executive Director of Delaware’s DART First State

Lauren Skiver is the new executive director of the Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), which operates DART First State’s statewide buses and trains.

Skiver has worked in the public transportation industry for 16 years, most recently as deputy chief operating officer for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). She began her career in 1996 as a bus maintenance clerk with the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority in Tampa, FL, where she was promoted to director of paratransit operations and customer service in 2000 after completing the agency’s Executive Internship Program.

She joined MTA in 2006 as director of mobility and was promoted to her most recent post in 2009.

For APTA, Skiver is vice chair of the Access Committee and a member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, Legislative Committee, Older Adult Transportation Subcommittee, and Small Operations Committee.

Prior to her transit career, she served almost 10 years in the U.S. Army with a tour in Iraq as an imagery intelligence specialist.

Clauson Promoted to Executive Director of Kitsap Transit

Kitsap Transit (KT) in Bremerton, WA, announces the promotion of longtime system employee John Clauson to executive director.

Clauson began his career with KT as a bus driver more than 28 years ago. For the past 25 years, he has been service development director, overseeing marketing, customer service, service planning and scheduling, rideshare, and transportation demand management.

Clauson succeeds Richard Hayes, who served nearly 30 years as the only executive director in the agency’s history.

He called Hayes “a tough act to follow,” adding: “I will do my best.”

FRA Final Rule on Emergency Notification Systems

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced new regulations June 12 requiring railroads to install signs at highway-rail grade and pathway crossings with telephone numbers the public can use to alert railroad companies to unsafe conditions.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said LaHood. “The sooner railroads can be made aware of potentially unsafe conditions, the faster they can respond to ensure the safety of everyone driving over or walking across highway-rail crossings.”

Under the final rule published in the Federal Register, railroads must establish Emergency Notification Systems (ENS) by installing clear and readable signs with toll-free telephone numbers at crossings so the public can report unsafe situations and for railroads to respond to malfunctioning warning signals, vehicles stalled on the tracks, or other emergency situations.

“The signs will help reduce the risk of certain highway-rail crossing collisions,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “They will tell the public who to contact if they come upon a vehicle stalled on the tracks, or see problems involving flashing lights and gates.”

This regulation applies to any rail system that dispatches or otherwise authorizes train movement through a crossing.

Based on comments received in response to its proposed rule, railroads without an existing ENS will have until July 2015 to establish one. Railroads that currently have an ENS in place may be able to retain existing signs, or will have until July 2015 or July 2017 to replace signs depending upon several factors.

COVERAGE OF THE 2012 APTA RAIL CONFERENCE

An Executive Roundtable on Need for Mid-Level Manager Development

BY SUSAN R. PAISNER, Senior Managing Editor

The looming retirement of Baby Boomers is on everyone’s mind, raising such issues as how to replace them and how to replenish the workforce.

These and other issues were the motivating factors for three agency leaders—Gary C. Thomas, APTA chair and president/executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART); Arthur T. Leahy, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Metro; and Phillip Washington, general manager, Regional Transportation District, Denver—who met last year and developed an innovative, cooperative, inter-agency program to develop their mid-level managers. They shared their insights at a June 5 General Forum, “Mid-Level Manager Development: An Executive Roundtable.”

As Faye Moses-Wilkins, DART board member who moderated this freewheeling informal session, pointed out: “We need to be sure we do the best job we can to ensure they move forward. At some point in the near future, the Baby Boomers of the industry will retire—or consult.”

Thomas began the session by explaining the thinking behind the development of this program. “People stay in organizations because they feel like they are growing, engaging, learning, part of the team, accomplishing something,” he said. “How do we engage our team members and make sure they feel like they are part of what it’s all about?”

Leahy added: “We face an expanding set of projects with expanding service across the country, but we have a rapidly aging workforce. In Los Angeles we’ve been wrestling with this, asking ourselves: what do we do to prepare? We have a great task before us to get the next generation of professionals and blue-collar workers ready.”

Each of the three leaders selected eight mid-level managers who then spent a week visiting the other two agencies, taking the opportunity, as Thomas said, “to see what the other folks in the industry are doing—what they’re doing right, and what they’re not doing right.”

The specific areas of focus in the program were safety, bus operations, rail operations, human resources, labor, and capital programs. The idea was to minimize the learning curve and talk about best practices and lessons learned.

One challenge, Thomas noted, was figuring out how these groups could share what they’d learned once they returned. “How do we capture that, learn from that, engage those thoughts and ideas?” he asked. His DART solution was to include the team in executive management meetings. “From an agency perspective, that’s great. From an employee perspective, they have the opportunity to grow. They develop peer relationships with their counterparts in Los Angeles and Denver,” he explained.

A point made repeatedly was that if this program enhances the marketability of the participants, other agencies might try to hire them. In rebuttal, Leahy said: “It is healthier for the organization if you prepare your people to compete for jobs than if you try to hide from the problem. We aren’t preparing people for jobs, we’re preparing them to compete for jobs.”

“I don’t think there’s any greater responsibility as managers than taking care of our people—and right up there is training and professional development,” said Washington.

But, he added, before he sent his team out, he talked to them about the critical importance of “implementing innovation.” He said they are putting information from the team on their internal Internet and tracking the progress of the implementation of what’s been learned. He cited one of the Los Angeles participants who talked about a best practice he’d learned and could implement that would save $145,000.

“That statement and that action,” Washington said, “made the whole program worth it for me.”

Next Steps
In an earlier conversation with Washington, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff suggested that agencies add a fourth, older one to their effort so the teams can understand more about state of good repair and maintenance. He and Washington also discussed the possibility of a regional approach to this program.

Another lesson learned, Thomas said, concerned the selection process. Should they match disciplines, for instance lining up a systems person with other systems people, or should they just select promising mid-level managers regardless of the positions they hold?

“Rather than matching people,” said Washington, “I will weigh in on transit in general and leadership. We need well-rounded folks. I want someone who understands all of transit, from finances to bus and rail operations.”

Washington commented that some consultants have talked to him about taking part in the program: “I don’t know what that looks like right now. Would they be a part of the team or do we just spend a day with them?”

They are also contemplating slightly increasing the size of a team, from eight to 10 participants, and trying a one-day exchange with nearby agencies. And should budgets allow, they will try an international set of exchanges.

 

Speakers at the General Forum, from left: Faye Moses-Wilkins, presiding; Gary C. Thomas, Arthur T. Leahy, and Phillip Washington.

 

 


 

Host Forum Presents Speakers Citing Regional Accomplishments

BY KATHY GOLDEN, Editor

Regionalism and coordination were the topics at the June 3 Host Forum during the APTA Rail Conference in Dallas, with speakers focusing on the many accomplishments of the North Central Texas area.

Timothy H. McKay, chair, APTA Rail Conference Planning Subcommittee, and executive vice president, growth and regional development, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), served as moderator.

Richard L. Ruddell, president and executive director, Fort Worth Transportation Authority, told the audience, “You really can’t talk about regionalism in transportation without talking about the Trinity Rail Express (TRE),” which he noted is jointly operated with DART. Calling the commuter rail system “fantastically successful” in its well over 10 years of operation, he said it is used as a model throughout the country.

Ruddell noted that TRE is owned and operated by two separate and independent transit authorities and provides passenger rail service between downtown Fort Worth and downtown Dallas. “It works well,” he said, “because of that cooperation.”

He also was enthusiastic about TEX Rail, a large upcoming commuter rail project in Tarrant County and Fort Worth that will encompass approximately 40 miles with 11 stations. It will operate over three different railroads, which Ruddell called “our biggest challenge.” The line will provide direct service into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport while also transporting riders across the county.

James C. Cline Jr., P.E., president, Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), spoke next about the authority—a county-wide agency serving Denton, Lewisville, and Highland Village with rail and bus service.

DCTA’s focus on education has an impact on ridership, with the system providing more than 2.5 million rides last year. It serves more than 50,000 college students and moves students from North Central University of North Texas and Texas Women’s University while also operating a campus shuttle.

Strategic partnerships, such as these with universities and with FTA, FRA, and DART, Cline said, “have been keys to our agency’s success.”

But, he noted there are challenges ahead. For example, he said, “If you look at the North Central Texas area, more than 40 percent of the population is not served in a region that will have a population of nine million.”

To better address this, DCTA is examining ways to expand these areas, close the gaps, and identify unique funding mechanisms. “We build on what we can do best,” Cline said.

DCTA is working hard to implement the new Stadler rail vehicle, a key initiative of his agency, and Cline said the agency is looking forward to operating outside this corridor. “The ability to have a lighter vehicle that can also operate in other corridors opens up many opportunities, not just for DCTA but also for the whole region,” he said.

Noting the presence of a Stadler rail car on display at Dallas Union Station, Cline hinted that there would be a positive announcement the following day. In fact, the next day at a special press event, FRA announced that it had granted DCTA’s request for an alternate vehicle technology waiver to operate the Stadler rail cars on the same tracks as freight trains—the first such waiver the FRA has granted.

Cline then introduced Gary C. Thomas, APTA chair and DART’s president/executive director, giving him credit for the DART Green Line—“the longest light rail project that was under construction and then opened in North America.” Thomas in turn acknowledged Bob Strauss, vice chairman of the DART Board of Directors, for his leadership.

Thomas discussed a key challenge facing his system: how to continue to provide transportation choices more quickly than what is currently available, but simultaneously with DART’s growth in a 12-county area where there are three public transit authorities.

“We need to get people out of cars and off the road,” he said. “Out of parking lots and onto buses and trains.” And even though he acknowledged this was the Rail Conference, he still took a moment to recognize that DART was named the Grand Champion at the recent APTA Bus Roadeo; he followed this with a short video of the winners.

Back to the subject of trains, Thomas said that another challenge is how to convince people to dedicate funding to continue to expand public transit service in North Texas.

He followed with a brief history of DART, noting that the system opened its first light rail line in 1996, followed by commuter rail. DART operates 72 miles of light rail, he said, “more than anyone in the country.”

Noting that a comprehensive public transit system pays off in many ways, Thomas pointed out that around the light rail system stands more than $8 billion in current and projected transit-oriented development.

“Put all this together, and what all three agencies are doing,” said Thomas, and “you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of regional cooperation in the United States.” He also stressed that partnerships, particularly with FTA and FRA, are critical and “made the system what it is today.”

He added that workforce development—especially supporting the next generation of  public transit industry leadership—is critical. In response to this need, he said, DART created the Leadership DART program—modeled after Leadership APTA—to prepare future mid-level managers.

Thomas concluded by inviting the members in the audience to come back in late July for the opening of the DART Orange Line or in the fall to see new buses in operation.

 

Gary C. Thomas, at podium, addresses the Host Forum, "Regionalism Through Tri-Party Coordination." Additional speakers are James C. Cline Jr., left, and Richard L. Ruddell. 

Plan Now for the Next Generation Workforce

BY LORI STAHL, For Passenger Transport

Current and future public transportation workers will need new skills and training to prepare them for high-speed rail technologies, but the U.S. lags other countries in preparing for the changeover.

That was the consensus of a group of researchers who have examined rail systems in various pockets of the country. They presented their findings at a June 6 session, “Training Partnership Programs for the Rail Industry’s Next Generation Workforce,” during APTA’s 2012 Rail Conference in Dallas.

The consistent feedback from employers is that they “can’t find enough home-grown talent,” said Jeffrey Wharton, co-chair, APTA Business Member Business Development Committee, and president, IMPulse NC LLC. He noted the lack of undergraduate degree programs in railway engineering, explaining that existing classes tend to focus on traffic and planning—although employers report their desire for more engineers, researchers, technical workers, and manager.

In contrast, he said, Europe, India, China, and South America are providing far more educational opportunities, although U.S. universities are “starting to see the need.”

Wharton was one member of an “elite panel” that provided a wide range of “new concepts, lessons learned, and out-of-the-box models,” said moderator Carol Wise, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Dallas Area Rapid Transit. “What a critical and timely topic for our session today,” she added.

Each of the panelists provided a detailed peek into the inner workings of existing rail systems in different regions of the country.

The findings are clear: workers need more training, they want to be engaged, they want to be able to problem-solve as part of their jobs, and they’re already sold on the idea of preparing for new technologies, said Brian Lester, a senior consultant with Educational Data Systems in Dearborn, MI.  He studied the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia.

Lester said the qualities he cited are interconnected and “a piece of what we hope is a pyramid.” Taken together, he said, these elements provide a portrait of future workers that is “ready to go forward.”

Robert J. Cerra Jr., regional manager, New York Metropolitan Area, for LTK Engineering Services, said existing training procedures are sometimes unevenly applied, making it difficult to measure employees’ knowledge gaps until there’s an outside review. “Largely, the information existed, but it just hadn’t been assembled in this manner,” he said.

Employers who invest in measuring workers’ abilities and providing additional training realize a substantial return on their investment, Cerra said. They become more efficient, reduce downtime, make fewer mistakes, and are better at diagnosing problems.

Dr. Peter J. Haas, education director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) in San Jose, CA, sounded a similar note. His organization partnered with the California State University system several years ago to do a needs assessment study after the state’s voters approved a high-speed rail system.

The study revealed that much of the anticipated spending would go toward construction, much of that to cover labor costs, and that the high-speed rail project would require workers from a wide range of educational backgrounds.

“What this really shows you is, to create a high-speed rail system, you need the entire [educational] spectrum,” Haas said.

Although progress on the project has slowed significantly because of the economy, he said, the research has already spurred collaborations that did not exist until all stakeholders were made aware of the gaps in preparing for a high-speed rail workforce. “We found that by showing everyone that there were lots and lots of needs…they were eager to work together,” Haas explained.

Wharton said MTI’s experience shows how energized organizations can become when presented with solid information about future needs. “We need to leverage that within our own organization,” he added.

 

Speakers at the session on training partnerships included, from left, Jeffrey Wharton, Brian Lester, Carol Wise, Robert J. Cerra Jr., and Dr. Peter J. Haas.

 

Bi-State Takes Top Rail Rodeo Award at Banquet

The Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis received the top honor—the Rail Transit Team Achievement Award—in the 20th Annual APTA International Rail Rodeo, held June 2 in Dallas in conjunction with the 2012 APTA Rail Conference.

This award goes to the competing public transit system with the highest combined score for rail operator and rail maintainer team combined score. Rail operators Robert Yawn and Christina Hicks and rail maintenance team members Chris Lynch, Kevin Moore, and Matt Fisher placed second in their events.

The bus operators from Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)—Devon Brumfield and Antaeus Chandler—took first place in their competition. Denver’s Regional Transportation District ranked first among maintainers with the team of George Sweeney and Kevin Steele.

Third-place honors went to operators Sheila Celestain and Carolyn Kelly, Los Angeles Metro, and maintainers Mike Seeley, Gary Candrell, and Ted Christian, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART).

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy welcomed a capacity crowd to the June 3 rodeo banquet, when the honorees were announced. “The rodeo provides a terrific learning opportunity for everyone involved. And that includes our host, the committee members, and—most importantly—the contestants,” he said.

Melaniphy offered a salute to the 13 competing teams, representing agencies from across North America. “The rodeo has always been about the promotion of front-line employees as the face of our industry,” he said, “and this is one way we can thank them for their tireless effort, day in and day out.”

He acknowledged the leadership of the rodeo committee, citing the efforts of Chair Mark Stowers, BART; Doug Smith, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, vice chair, maintenance; Mike Richard, BC Rapid Transit Company Ltd. (SkyTrain), vice chair, operations; and Todd Williams, Penn Machine, secretary.

Melaniphy next welcomed APTA Chair and Rail Conference host Gary C. Thomas—president/executive director of DART—to the stage and presented him with the host plaque.

Thomas thanked Melaniphy and APTA for the honor, then highlighted the hard work of DART’s three rodeo coordinators. He also thanked his team of maintainers and operators, saying: “I appreciate what you do every single day for our customers.”

He then turned the evening over to Michael Miles, interim vice president, government relations—DART’s longest tenured employee—to present the rodeo awards.

 

Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis took the top rail rodeo honor, the Team Achievement Award, at this year’s APTA International Rail Rodeo. Operators Robert Yawn, fifth from left, and Christina Hicks, sixth from left, and maintenance team members Matt Fisher, fourth from right; Kevin Moore, third from right; and Chris Lynch, second from right, placed second in their categories. APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy is at left in all rodeo photos and APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas is at right.

 

George Sweeney, third from left, and Kevin Steele, third from right, representing Denver’s Regional Transportation District, placed first in the maintenance competition.

 

The first-place rail operator award went to Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Devon Brumfield, third from left, and Antaeus Chandler, third from right.


 

‘What’s Next?’ Panelists Consider Service ‘Game Changers’

BY CHAD CHITWOOD, Program Manager-Communications

Gary C. Thomas, APTA chair and president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), convened a June 5 luncheon session titled “What’s Next? Game Changers for Rail Service” at the APTA Rail Conference in Dallas. DART was host system for the conference.

The session, sponsored by HNTB, featured panelists from across the country: Uwe Brandes, senior vice president, initiatives, Urban Land Institute; Dave Kubicek, deputy general manager of operations, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; Jacky Grimshaw, vice president of policy, Center for Neighborhood Technology; and James M. Crites, executive vice president, operations, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

Each panelist examined a specific issue or trend that will help determine the future of the public transit industry. For example, Brandes noted that increasing numbers of young people—who could live anywhere—are “choosing to live in cities and use public transportation.”

Kubicek’s remarks provided insight into life in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. He described balancing the need of a public transit system to maintain a state of good repair while also “focusing on changes to service to reflect how they provide a car-free lifestyle.”

He also pointed out the role of public transit development in changing an area’s economy: a developer in the Washington area is investing $1 billion in a single location near a specific Metrorail station because of the boon public transit brings to a community.

Grimshaw talked about the flexibility of public transit, reporting that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) helped the city accommodate NATO world leaders, tourists, a Cubs/White Sox baseball game, protesters, workers, and worshippers—all on the same day.

While “survivor” guides for visitors to the city strongly suggested that people refrain from using public transit on that day, Grimshaw said, CTA nonetheless continued its service.  Aside from rerouting on 37 bus lines, the agency’s service continued, she said, “and rail ran as expected with CTA employees working 12-hour shifts to accommodate riders.”

Crites emphasized the simultaneous growth of DART and DFW: “We want to create a 24/7 airport center, providing information with a focus on real-time plane and transit arrivals. That includes common apps and integration, providing a whole kit to allow better planning. If your train or plane is late, you can relax at the airport, your home, or hotel with up-to-the-minute information.”

Thomas offered a personal moment about the intersection of DART expansion and DFW growth. On a recent trip to the airport, he said, “I was running late for a flight and saw construction as I arrived. My first thought was, ‘Oh no, I’ll never make it.’ But then I realized—this construction was part of the new Orange Line station—and I was thrilled!”

All told, the session and the panelists, reflecting on a promising future for public transportation, agreed on one salient point: that no single issue will define where the industry is headed.

Also at the session, Huelon Harrison, vice chair, American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), and principal, Legacy Resource Group, and Robert E. Furniss, vice president, Bombardier Transportation, reported on the foundation’s activities at the Rail Conference, including a fundraising golf tournament and a silent auction at the host reception.

Joseph Casey, general manager, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, invited rail professionals to the 2013 Rail Conference in Philadelphia, hosted by his agency.

 

Panelists at the General Luncheon, from left: Gary C. Thomas, Uwe Brandes, Dave Kubicek, Jacky Grimshaw, and James M. Crites. 

Rail Agencies Must Know How to Deal with NTSB

BY LORI STAHL, For Passenger Transport

Good communication and advance planning are keys to working with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in case a major rail system has to deal with an accident, the former NTSB general counsel said at the June 6 Closing General Session of the APTA Rail Conference in Dallas.

“You’ve got to prepare for the accident and the NTSB investigation,” said Gary Halbert, who spent five years as NTSB’s general counsel. He explained that the board rather than the rail system has priority in accident investigations.

Although the five-member NTSB has no regulatory or enforcement authority, he said, it wields influence through a highly visible bully pulpit—and its investigators are not reluctant to publicly reject local officials if they overstep the chain of command, he said. With regard to the internal workings of the investigative process, he noted: “There are things you can say and things you can’t.”

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, it’s not uncommon for 10 or so agencies to be represented in the investigative group, he explained. Usually that includes the public transit operator, lawyers, risk managers, public safety officers, and media relations staff. The main source of tension between the parties is what NTSB considers a breach of its protocol to be the lead agency.

Most problems “are related to poor communications,” Halbert said. Public transit operators are typically under extreme pressure from several directions after an accident: they are being hounded by media and local officials for answers; determining when it’s safe to resume operations; and complying with NTSB requirements to turn over paperwork that might contain confidential or damaging information. In addition, officials may have legitimate disputes over the results of internal findings.

Halbert, who is now a partner with Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, acknowledged that public transit operators are under more scrutiny than ever by NTSB investigators in the aftermath of a major accident. Distraction, fatigue, and the system’s safety culture are primary considerations, he said, adding: “The operational structure is receiving much more scrutiny from the NTSB than it did even 10 years ago.”

Halbert was introduced by Joseph J. Giuletti, co-chair, APTA Commuter & Intercity Rail Legislative Subcommittee, and executive director, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority/Tri-Rail, Pompano Beach, FL.

More Scenes from the 2012 Rail Conference

 

 

Photo by Reginald Loftin

Opening General Session crowds put on 3-D glasses to watch the special video highlighting the 8th UIC World Congress on High-Speed Rail in Philadelphia next month. 

Checking out the cab of the Denton County Transportation Authority's (DCTA) new Stadler GTW train at Dallas Union Station are, from left, Gary C. Thomas, APTA chair and president/executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; DCTA President James C. Cline Jr., P.E.; and APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.

 

 

A representative of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority invites conference participants to attend next year's APTA Rail Conference in Philadelphia. 

The Rail Products & Services Showcase brings conference attendees together with APTA business members displaying their newest and most innovative technologies. 

 

 

During the Opening General Session, Melaniphy shows the crowd the USA Today feature article on record 1st quarter ridership.

Conversing at the Monday morning Business Member Networking Breakfast are, from left, Lolalisa DeCarlo King, AIA, NCARB, MBA, LEED-AP, president, Architect for Life, PC; Sophia Green-Robinson, business development manager. Parsons Corporation; and Evalynn Williams, president/chief executive officer, Dikita Engineering. 

 

 

Gordon Mott, program manager, PTC policy, Association of American Railroads, makes a presentation about positive train control from a freight rail perspective during a June 5 technical session. 

Photo by Holly Murdoch

Thomas meets with exhibitors on the floor of the Rail Products & Services Showcase. 

 

 

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, seated, tries out a train operations simulator at the Rail Products & Services Showcase.

Representatives of DART, the host system, provide information on the city to conference participants.


All conference photos by Layne Murdoch unless otherwise noted.

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Michael DePallo!

Director and General Manager
Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation
Chair, APTA Security Affairs Steering Committee

How many people do you employ?

1,200 employees and a police force of approximately 180, and about 200 contract employees.

How long have you worked in the industry? 34 years

How long have you been an APTA member? As long as I can remember.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I received my master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, specializing in transportation and land use planning. Since then, public transportation has always been of interest to me.

I have been extremely fortunate in my career to have worked at four of this nation’s largest properties. I was blessed to get a job in public transit right out of graduate school at Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Authority, where I held a number of different positions in the areas of planning, project management, maintenance, and operations.

After there, I went to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston, followed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in Oakland, CA. Then I came to the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) in the New York/New Jersey region, and I have been here as its director and general manager for the past 16 years.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
I think it is attending and participating at the various workshops and conferences, including the networking that takes place. I really learn a lot from attending the meetings, especially interacting with my fellow chief executive officers and general managers.
 
Please explain why or how this has helped.
I’ll give you an example. When we were getting ready to move forward with our integrated rail car and signal system replacement program, I had an opportunity to meet and discuss with other GMs and professional experts about all the trials and tribulations of changing to a new technology—such as communication-based train control and advance design rail cars. Learning from others was a tremendous opportunity for us to fashion a program to reduce risk and ensure success. It was also a cost and time saver in that we were able to learn from others and avoid mistakes already made!

What do you like most about your job?
I think there’s a great satisfaction in knowing that the service you provide is so valuable to the people who use it, and for all the regional population who—even though they may not use it—can benefit from public transportation.

It is gratifying that PATH carries over 250,000 people a day who rely on us to provide safe, efficient, quality service. And knowing that we do just that—is really satisfying. It’s also great working with such a terrific, dedicated group of people who I can count on to succeed on a day-to-day basis, even under the most adverse conditions—whether it be blizzards, hurricanes, or terrorist attacks.

What is unique about your agency?
PATH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is really a critical link in the regional transportation network. We provide the intermodal connection between New Jersey Transit and MTA New York City Transit—and such other rail providers as Amtrak and MTA Long Island Rail Road.

In 2011, PATH set a ridership record in its 50-year history with 76.6 million passenger trips, surpassing the previous 2008 record by 1.7 million trips.

Last year, the Port Authority completed its three-year phase-in of 340 new rail cars, a $744 million program that gave PATH one of the nation’s newest railcar fleets after years of being one of the oldest. Our new $580 million Signal System Replacement Program will replace an aging, mechanized system with a state-of-the-art Automatic Train Control System that will allow PATH to increase system capacity by permitting trains to run closer together while maintaining safety requirements.

Something else unique: We are the only heavy rail rapid transit system in the country that falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration. This is an historic connection, leading back to when the system was called the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad over 100 years ago.


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

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Matt Dickens!

Policy Analyst
Policy Department

What are your primary job responsibilities?

I research and write reports about issues affecting the public transportation industry. For example, a couple of recent ones were on how public transit affects and boosts our economy and how transit agencies can improve their operations. I produce the quarterly ridership report and other yearly reports about public transit agency facts and figures on vehicles, fare structures, and infrastructure. And I respond to research requests from APTA staff, APTA members, and the public.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the two most recent times you’ve helped out a member.
Working with members is an exciting part of my job. Requests for information or research from members help me learn more about the industry every day. These inquiries also help direct us when we go to review what we should be collecting as part of our various statistical reports. Most of the time it’s pretty simple stuff. But overall it’s fulfilling trying to help members find information that might be hidden that will help them do their jobs better.

Many public transit agency members want to know how their system fits in with the bigger picture of the industry. We help them find information on comparable systems that we’ve collected for our statistical reports and find the comparisons and patterns that make sense. Recently I’ve had people looking for information on what other agencies are doing on providing service—such as, what kind of standards do those agencies have for how much service they should provide at any given time, given how many passengers ride their buses.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
I enjoy doing the quarterly ridership report because we get press on it, so I feel as if it’s something people see. That’s a point of pride and it gives me a sense that I’ve contributed something important. I like producing something that goes out to the public—no matter what the topic is—and I find that fulfilling because you feel like people are paying attention to the documents we produce. When I see a number quoted in a major newspaper and I’m the one who pulled all that information together, it gives me a boost.

How did you “land” at APTA?
I was a geography major in college and I was searching for jobs that had something geography-related in them. This job popped up and it seemed interesting. I’d studied urban geography and had done some research about public transit, so I applied for it. I enjoyed school and the learning opportunities that came with it, and a research position with APTA seemed like a perfect fit and a good cause to contribute to.

How long have you worked here? Nearly 4 years next month.

What professional affiliations do you have?
Young Professionals in Transportation.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I am originally from a very small town in Maine (population 1,800), but I love city living. I try to get out as much as possible to experience the variety our city has to offer; cultural events, museums, the theater, and food.

Since coming to APTA, I’m now considered the public transit expert by my friends. They all live in DC and take transit all the time and are always asking me questions about anything transit-related.

I’m an avid bicyclist and ride for both transportation and fun. I bike to work (a short trip) and on the weekends (much longer trips). I usually ride around 60 miles a week when it’s nice and have completed a couple century rides (100+ miles).


Make sure you see Matt Dickens' video, now that you've read this!

APTA NEWS

Make Plans Now to Participate in Dump the Pump Day

The seventh annual Dump the Pump Day is just around the corner—Thursday, June 21! Join APTA and other public transportation systems and businesses throughout the U.S. in this public awareness observance sponsored by APTA.

The purpose of National Dump the Pump Day is to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take public transportation instead. In light of high gas prices, the theme of this year’s event is “Dump the Pump. Save Money. Ride Transit.”

To assist participants in conducting local activities, APTA has developed an online toolkit that includes downloadable items such as fact sheets, logos, ads, and button/sticker artwork. To access the toolkit, click here.

Also, organizations participating in this year’s Dump the Pump Day are asked to contact Virginia Miller.

Counting Down to UIC World Congress

Only three weeks remain until the UIC 8th World Congress on High-Speed Rail begins in Philadelphia on July 10. This is a prime opportunity to hear from prominent speakers and decision makers in the international transport and railway sector on the development and operations of high-speed rail systems across the world.

Delegates from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia/Oceania, and Europe are attending the world congress and trade exhibition. The schedule offers a choice of 130 presentations; informative sessions about the latest theories and practices in high-speed rail; discussions of the most recent developments, technologies, and policies; and opportunities to build new and expand existing business relationships.

The program is available here.

Register Now for Transit Board Members Seminar

APTA invites public transit agency board members and board support staff to register for the 2012 Transit Board Members Seminar & Board Support Employee Development Workshop, July 21-24 at the Sheraton Atlanta.

Tami C. Gaines, Sage Enterprises LLC, who worked with board support personnel at last year’s workshop, headlines a General Session on “Handling Difficult Conversations.” She will help participants learn their most effective approaches to conversation and help them work together to move all participants forward.

Other highlights of the board members’ program include reports from legislators and elected officials; a session about moving beyond Americans with Disabilities Act compliance to great customer service; and technical tours to two Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority facilities.

Gaines will also lead other sessions for board support employees on the topics “Developing the Skills of a Leader” and “Developing the Mind of a Leader.” MARTA General Manager/CEO Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., will address the July 24 Board Support Luncheon.

More information on the seminar and workshop is available here or from Lynne Morsen.

CASE STUDY

Donations Provide A New Life

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Public transportation agencies often find themselves with vehicles that have outlived their years of service. This may coincide with nonprofit organizations in the same community needing a vehicle to help a specific population such as schoolchildren, homeless people, or residents of remote areas not served by fixed routes.

By donating such vehicles to community organizations, public transit systems can create a win-win situation. Here are two agencies that have institutionalized that practice.

Riverside Transit Agency
In Riverside, CA, the Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) “gives taxpayer-purchased vehicles a new life” by donating its retired vans to nonprofit groups in the community, according to Marketing Manager Bradley Weaver. “We’ve had this program for years, so a lot of organizations come to us about the possibility of a donation. But since we have a finite number of vehicles available, we have to measure the type of benefit such a donation would have for the community.”

Weaver noted that RTA donated 11 of its retired small vehicles—mostly paratransit vans—to nonprofit organizations during Fiscal Year 2011, although in other years the number has exceeded 20. “They’ve gone to anyone from school districts to churches, police departments, senior centers,” he said. “Although they’ve surpassed their recommended life, they’re still in good condition and offer such amenities as wheelchair lifts.”

The most recent recipient of an RTA van was a homeless shelter operated by Path of Life Ministries, which uses the vehicle to provide transportation to job training and child care. The 2006 Ford El Dorado van seats up to 12 people and can accommodate three wheelchairs. Weaver noted that another van recently went to a group that provides support to runaway and homeless children.

“Some of our stakeholders will notify us if they see a need in the community for one of our retired vehicles,” he continued. “We’ve learned a lot from being out there and talking about the program.”

Community Transit
The regulations are different in Washington State, but Community Transit in Snohomish County has established a similar program. Martin Munguia, public information officer, explained that the agency created its “Van Go” policy after the state capped its motor vehicle excise tax at $30, replacing the previous graduated fee. Public transit agencies had received about 30 percent of the graduated fees, but the revenues raised by the current version go instead to more general funds.

“In 2000, the change in the fee meant Community Transit faced a one-third cut in funding,” Munguia said. “Our chief executive officer, Joyce Eleanor, met with people in the community to explain that we would have to reduce our service. A lot of nonprofit groups—dealing with wheelchair users, or providing necessary transportation to people outside our service area—let her know that, if we cut back our service, they would have more demand coming their way.”

Like RTA, Community Transit has surplus vehicles in its fleet that have exceeded their useful life. Because state law requires that such vehicles must be auctioned, the agency cannot just donate them to nonprofit organizations—but it can award them to organizations that submit applications telling how they would use a vehicle to provide service to otherwise underserved populations. Over the 11 years of the program, the agency has awarded 106 vehicles, he said.

“For example, a church may apply for one of the vans,” he continued, “both to provide transportation to services and to help with other needs: delivering children to a summer day camp, say, or bringing single mothers to the church to attend workshops. The applicants add up the number of trips they can provide; we examine the applications and award vehicles to the ones we think will fulfill the greatest needs.”

The vans are well maintained but past what public transit systems consider the point of useful life for revenue service. The organizations then can keep their vans for as long as they continue to run, maybe one year, maybe 10 years, he added.

 

The Riverside Transit Agency recently donated a retired van from its fleet to Path of Life Ministries for use at its homeless shelter. Participants in the vehicle donation ceremony include, from left, Riverside County Supervisors Bob Buster and John Tavaglione and Path of Life representatives Bryan Feller, vice president of the Board of Directors; Damien O’Farrell, vice president of operations; and Tracy Fitzsimmons, chief operating and finance officer.

 

COMMENTARY

Recognition of Notable First Quarter Ridership Increases

Editor's Note: First quarter 2012 ridership numbers were announced at APTA's Rail Conference in Dallas. Below are excerpts from just some of the media coverage highlighting public transportation's stunning ridership increases.