Passenger Transport - October 5, 2012
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Murray: Public Transit Professionals Must ‘Speak with One Voice’

BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called on public transportation professionals to “speak with one voice on the role of public transit in rebuilding the U.S. economy” when she addressed the Oct. 1 Opening General Session of the 2012 APTA Annual Meeting in Seattle.

“If we are going to build livable communities, we must make a commitment to transit development,” Murray said, citing efforts in the Puget Sound region that include King County Metro Transit’s new Rapid Ride service, Sound Transit’s light rail connection to SeaTac International Airport, and Washington State Ferries. “We have these investments,” she explained, “because the region committed to a smart growth policy based on public transportation.”

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy offered welcoming remarks at the opening session. Other participants were outgoing APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas and incoming Chair Flora M. Castillo; King County Executive Dow Constantine; Kevin Desmond, general manager of King County Metro Transit, host system for the meeting; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; Alan S. Boyd, the first secretary of DOT; and Thomas R. Waldron, representing AECOM, which sponsored the session.

In his remarks, Rogoff went into detail about the increasing importance of public transportation to DOT operations. He called the recently passed Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) act a vindication of the Obama Administration’s goals for FTA, such as reducing dependence on foreign oil, putting people back to work, and allowing people to keep more of their paycheck rather than facing rising gasoline prices.

“President Obama may have taken more trips on public transit than all other modern presidents put together,” Rogoff said in emphasizing the president’s support for the sector. “Transit has secured a seat at the table.”

He noted that more than one-third of federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery grants have gone to public transportation projects; that FTA approved a record number of Full Funding Grant Agreements last year and is on track to beat that number this year; and that MAP-21 includes the first safety measures under FTA jurisdiction in the agency’s history.

Castillo, the first Latina to serve as APTA chair, gave her personal testimony to the importance of public transportation. Castillo moved to the U.S. with her family from El Salvador when she was 15, and her mother traveled to work on “four buses and two subways per week, from New York to New Jersey.”

“I know firsthand the value of public transportation and how important it is to those who need it most,” she said. “And this is why I have such passion for the vulnerable communities and cherish the chance to give these communities a voice for their issues.”

During the session, Castillo unveiled the theme for her term as chair: “It’s All About the People!” She explained: “Our customers; the employees who make our systems run; our partners—in both the public and private sectors—who help make our industry move…I plan to focus my year as chair on efforts that support not just our groups of stakeholders, but the people in each of those groups.”

Her other emphases during the year will include workforce development—the importance of investing in human capital; reaching out to nontraditional potential partners such as health-related organizations and insurance companies; and making plans for the surface transportation authorization bill that will follow MAP-21 when it expires in 2014.

Castillo has served 13 years on the New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors, an experience she called “extraordinary” in the way it has given her exposure to all facets of public transportation.

The more than 1,800 APTA members and guests in attendance rose to their feet to welcome Boyd, who served as DOT secretary from 1967-1969. He stressed the importance of building public transportation at the same time as other utilities such as water, sewer, electricity, and cable rather than the more difficult and expensive choice of doing it later: “It’s time the public understood that public transportation should go along with other improvements instead of being an afterthought.”

Boyd also noted “the growth of older and older U.S. populations” who are unable to get or keep driver’s licenses, “so either they travel by public transportation or they stay locked in place.”

Thomas presented an overview of his year’s experiences. “We are part of a wonderful industry and a strong association. I urge you not to take that for granted,” he said. “Stay engaged, and let’s never forget to support one another, speaking with one voice.”

He noted that his year as chair began with the EXPO in New Orleans, “showcasing the best in public transportation services and products, and this summer we hosted the UIC World Congress on High-Speed Rail for the first time in the United States.”

Melaniphy cited “the power and the promise” of public transportation professionals in their response to a difficult economy and the ongoing lack of a long-term authorization bill. “We were tested…and because of you, we passed these tests,” he said.

He listed four qualities—investment, imagination, leadership, and excellence—that drive the public transit industry. For example, at a time of congressional gridlock, MAP-21 passed with increases in the federal transit program, and U.S. ridership rose for the sixth consecutive quarter, totaling more than 2.7 billion trips in the second quarter of 2012.

“This is a great indicator for our country,” he said of the ridership numbers. “Public transportation is increasing as the economy rebounds. People use public transportation to get to work and it puts America back to work.”

He also listed some highlights of the past year, including APTA’s recognition by National Journal as having one of the 15 most influential brands in Washington, DC, and its creation of a new initiative to help mid-level managers gain skills that will help them lead the industry.

Desmond announced that King County Metro’s introduction of new service, including two Rapid Ride Bus Rapid Transit routes, which coincided with the APTA Annual Meeting. Forty percent of commuters into downtown Seattle use public transit, he said, and the agency partners with a business community that supports its efforts.

"Public transit has never been so relevant," said Waldron. "If you don't have a seat at the table, you're likely to be on the menu."


Among the speakers at the Opening General Session, from left: APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy; outgoing APTA Chair Gary C. Thomas; incoming Chair Flora M. Castillo; FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff; Alan S. Boyd, the first secretary of DOT; and Thomas R. Waldron of AECOM, the session sponsor.


New APTA Officers: Castillo, Varga, Barnes

APTA's 2012-2013 officers, from left: Doran Barnes. secretary-treasurer; Peter Varga, vice chair; Flora Castillo, chair; and Gary Thomas, immediate past chair.

Rogoff, McMillan Discuss FTA Priorities

BY NOLAN HESTER, Special to Passenger Transport

In the wake of passage of a new federal surface transportation law. top FTA officials fielded numerous questions at an Oct. 2 General Forum during APTA's Annual Meeting in Seattle.

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP 21) act, signed into law July 6 by President Obama, authorizes $20.3 billion for public transit in Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff said MAP 21 is too new for his agency to offer detailed answers to many of those questions, but he did explain some of its safety provisions, which cover all modes of public transit, not just rail systems as originally proposed.

Rogoff said the law stresses the importance of systems safety management, or SMS as it’s called in air safety, where the approach is far more developed. “Unlike aviation and freight transportation, we’re really starting with a green field,” he said. While aviation has developed such an approach over years, he said, “We have the benefit of starting with a green field. We expect to be quite nimble about it.”

He stressed that FTA will not take a one-size-fits-all approach to this situation, noting that some public transit systems will need to focus on equipment while for others the focus might be driver education.

Rogoff added that this change will only affect aspects of public transit not already controlled by existing federal regulations. For example, the Coast Guard already oversees ferry operators, so FTA has no desire to step into that area. And while he said he sees crime prevention as an important part of public transit safety, “It’s critically important that [the Transportation Security Administration] handle its responsibility well” rather than have FTA step too far into that area.

With many aspects of the MAP-21 regulations still being worked out, Rogoff said interim guidelines will be published in the next few weeks in the Federal Register and on FTA’s website. Interested agencies can visit to sign up for real-time e-mail alerts as further guidelines are developed. FTA also plans to offer online webinars explaining the impacts of MAP-21.

“This is really new stuff,” added FTA Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, explaining that FTA is still working with local agencies to develop many specifics.

McMillan pointed out that MAP-21 includes a requirement that Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) boards in regions with populations greater than 200,000 include a dedicated seat for a public transit representative, who must be seated within two years. “I would urge you as transit officials to begin conversations with your MPOs,” she said, rather than waiting for the two-year deadline. “At the same time, you will have to be your own champion at every MPO board meeting.”

Also under MAP-21, public transit is now eligible for Surface Transportation Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), and Transportation Alternatives funds. Again, guidance details are still being developed since, for example, CMAQ is jointly administered with the Federal Highway Administration. 

Salene Faer Dalton-Kumins, director of the FTA Office of Oversight and Program Guidance, provided an overview of the FY 2013 Triennial Review Program, which she said aims to take “a more proactive, risk-based approach that’s less reactive” than previous triennial reviews.

FTA Deputy Associate Administrator Kate Mattice outlined the National Transit Asset Management System (NTAMS) and one critical component of the system, State of Good Repair funding. “We need your help to define what State of Good Repair means,” she said.

NTAMS also requires more detailed reporting by public transit agencies of performance targets, asset inventories, and conditions, according to Mattice. “Again, we’d like your help in how we can be smart and strategic,” she said, in making those assessments and identifying effective asset-inventory tools.


Panelists at the FTA session were, from left, Therese McMillan, Peter M. Rogoff, Kate Mattice, and Salene Faer Dalton-Kumins.


Portland Streetcar Introduces ‘Central Loop’ Service

The city of Portland. OR, introduced service on its newest streetcar line—the Central Loop—on Sept. 22. “Get in the loop” was the day’s theme.

The Central Loop is a 3.35-mile, double-tracked extension with 28 new streetcar stops. Tracks and stations opened for service from the existing line in the Pearl District and downtown, across the Broadway Bridge, and on to the Rose Quarter, Lloyd District, Convention Center, and Central Eastside, ending at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI).

Along with elected officials and local leaders, the ceremony featured the first “Made in USA” streetcar in 50 years. As part of the project, the city of Portland ordered six new streetcars that will be manufactured at United Streetcar in Clackamas County, OR.

“Reintroducing streetcars to Portland has been a phenomenal success. Wherever the streetcar goes, investments in neighborhoods and jobs follow,” said Portland Mayor Sam Adams. “I think 20 years from now this area will be more valuable, livable, and sustainable, and we’ll be thankful that we acted now.”

Neil McFarlane, general manager of the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), noted that the Central Loop became a reality through a partnership that included TriMet, the city, Portland Streetcar Inc., and FTA. “That partnership will continue to benefit riders,” he continued, “as we complete a new bridge over the Willamette [River] that will not only extend light rail from the South Waterfront to the Eastside and Milwaukie, but also complete the Streetcar loop.”

In coordination with TriMet’s Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project, Portland Streetcar and the city plan to “close the loop” by funding the final connections to put the streetcar on a new bridge that will connect the Central Eastside and South Waterfront. Plans for a central city circulator have been in city plans since the late 1980s.

The Central Loop line runs from SW Market Street Downtown on existing tracks to the Pearl before crossing to the Eastside on new tracks and turning around at OMSI. It connects seamlessly with the existing streetcar line, now renamed the North South Line.


Cutting the ribbon on opening day of the Portland Streetcar’s Central Loop are, from left, FTA Region 10 Administrator Rick Krochalis; Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR); and Portland Mayor Sam Adams.


Rogoff Attends Cleveland Ground Breaking

With FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff in attendance, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) broke ground Sept. 19 for reconstruction of the Cedar-University Rapid Transit Station on the Red Line. The $18.5 million project will take two years, and the station will remain open to the public during construction.

"Working with the community has been the key to getting this station shovel-ready and now funded," said GCRTA General Manager Joseph Calabrese. "With ridership increases over the last 16 consecutive months RTA-wide, and especially on the Red Line, this is a perfect time to be reconstructing this station."

The station—formerly known as the University Circle Rapid Station and originally built in 1956—is one of the highest transfer points within the system and a critical node for efficient operation. It has had minor retrofits for repairs and partial compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This project will completely rebuild the station, bringing it into full ADA compliance. GCRTA will reconstruct not only the rail station building and platform, but also the associated bus transfer loop and slip ramps.

Funding for the project comes from a combination of federal, state, and local sources, including private industry assistance. The largest amount, $10.5 million, comes from a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER II) grant.

MARTA's Scott to Head MBTA

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) in Boston has named Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D., general manager/chief executive officer, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), and APTA chair in 2008-2009, as its next general manager. She joins MBTA on Dec. 15.

Scott had worked for MARTA since 2007, following five years as general manager/CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. She is also a former general manager of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority in Providence and has served in high-level executive positions with public transit agencies in cities including New York and Washington.

She began her public transportation career in 1977 in Texas through Texas Southern University, as one of four national recipients of a Carnegie Foundation Fellowship. She holds a doctorate in political science, with specialization in public administration, from Howard University.

Workforce development was a major priority for Scott during her tenure as APTA chair. She established a one-year, blue-ribbon panel tasked with promoting workforce development in the public transportation industry, which brought together experts from the industry’s public and private sectors with representatives from labor unions, academia, and the next generation of APTA leaders.

Scott currently sits on the APTA Board of Directors as both a designated transit system member director and an honorary member. She also serves on the American Public Transportation Foundation Committee; Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee; Human Resources Committee; Legislative Committee; Major Capital Investment Planning Subcommittee; Policy and Planning Committee; Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee; and Rail Transit Committee.

Capital Metro Breaks Ground on MetroRapid Station

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) in Austin, TX, recently broke ground for the Chinatown Station on its MetroRapid Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line.

Chinatown—located on Rapid Route 801, North Lamar/South Congress—is one of 76 stations planned along that route and Rapid Route 803, Burnet/South Lamar. Both routes, covering a combined 37.5 miles, are scheduled to enter service in late summer 2014.

Over the next 15 months, Capital Metro will construct 40 MetroRapid stations along Route 801, as well as four stops planned within the Tech Ridge Park-and-Ride and South Congress Transit Center. Station construction for Route 803 will begin next year.

The unique design of the stations will incorporate a canopy, benches, and digital signage with real-time vehicle location information.

MetroRapid consists of partially interconnected corridors, each running parallel to the two main highways serving central Austin: I-35 to the east and Loop-1 to the west. The purpose of the new high-capacity transit service is to provide a reliable alternative transit mode with competitive transit times.

The two routes will serve the densest and highest-ridership transit markets in the Austin region, connecting downtown companies, state offices, universities, regional retail centers, and major medical facilities to neighborhoods, workers, and students.

Capital Metro President/Chief Executive Officer Linda S. Watson calls the BRT system "a game changer for our region’s mobility, and it’s going to change the way people think about public transportation. Everything about MetroRapid is designed to connect people quickly to the best parts of Austin."

Watson added: "Everything about MetroRapid is designed to move people quickly, like technology on board that will keep traffic lights green when the vehicle is running behind schedule; multiple-door boarding and limited stops; and transit priority lanes through downtown so MetroRapid can bypass traffic. This rapid bus service will reduce travel time by limiting the number of stops and increasing the frequency of service. MetroRapid service will be every 10 minutes during rush hours. Routes will be easier to understand and, for the first time, riders can access real-time arrival information."

Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said: "Mobility is one of the greatest challenges we face as Austin continues to grow and attract new business to the area. We have to keep people moving, and the city, Capital Metro, and other regional entities are working together for long-term solutions."

Funding for the $47.6 million MetroRapid project includes a grant from FTA’s Very Small Starts program.


A Chinese-style arch marks the site of the future Chinatown Station on Capital Metro’s MetroRapid BRT line.


KCATA Breaks Ground in Kansas City, KS

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) in Kansas City, MO, joined the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS, (UG) to break ground Sept. 19 on the Midtown KCK MetroCenter in Kansas City, KS. KCATA provides service to both cities.

"The new, $4.5 million Midtown MetroCenter will become a hub for economic development," said Kansas City, KS, Mayor Joe Reardon. He called the new station "the most significant investment made in public transit to date [that] will undoubtedly serve as an essential project to begin the transformation of the Indian Springs site."

A central component of the transit center project is the addition of an 11,000-square-foot facility that will house:

* A substation for the Kansas City, KS, Police Department’s midtown unit, providing a round-the-clock police presence;

* A new headquarters for the Area Agency on Aging’s mobility management services; and

* A Transit Community Space available for a broad range of community meetings and activities.

When the Midtown KCK MetroCenter opens in August 2013, it will accommodate eight buses. However, the plan allows for future development that would expand the capacity to 12 buses if needed.

Another public transit facility in the city—the Downtown KCK MetroCenter—is also under construction at 7th & Minnesota Ave. Both public transit centers will offer improved customer waiting areas and real-time passenger information. At the centers and along the route, KCATA and UG will build passenger shelters and benches, add bus stop platforms and landscaping, and improve pedestrian connections.

"More and more people are figuring out that transit is an excellent way to save money and go green," said KCATA General Manager Mark Huffer. "We are excited to partner with the Unified Government to bring better facilities and a better passenger experience to our transit customers in Kansas City, KS."

State Avenue/KCK Connex improvements are also included in the program. This 14-mile public transit route begins at the 10th & Main MetroCenter in downtown Kansas City, MO; travels through downtown Kansas City, KS; and ends at Village West at 109th & Parallel Parkway.

The total project represents a $13 million infrastructure investment, funded primarily through the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. Additional funding sources include the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, FTA, and UG.

OCTA Breaks Ground for Anaheim Intermodal Center

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), Orange, CA, and the city of Anaheim broke ground Sept. 18 for the $184 million Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center or ARTIC.

When it opens in late 2014, the 67,000-square-foot multimodal facility will serve the entire Southern California region, allowing passengers to transfer seamlessly among public transit services. ARTIC will house 10 different transportation modes when it opens, including Metrolink commuter rail, Amtrak, OCTA buses, taxi, bicycle, international buses, and tour and charter buses.

ARTIC is anticipated to provide service for the more than 40 million annual visitors to Anaheim and Orange County as well as the county’s three million residents. ARTIC is also planned for future modes of transportation services, as well as retail, restaurant, and office space, truly making it a multi-purpose civic space.

"This is a big day for Anaheim," said Mayor Tom Tait. "ARTIC will change the way people move around our city and our county. ARTIC will be Orange County's Grand Central Station."

OCTA Chair Paul Glaab, also mayor of Laguna Niguel, added: "As our county grows, so must our transportation networks. ARTIC will establish a regional hub for all transit modes, making it convenient for residents, commuters, and visitors to utilize our transit systems. OCTA is very pleased to see this project get underway and break ground on what will be Orange County’s transportation gateway."

Research cited by the Orange County Business Council indicates that traffic congestion costs California $20 billion per year in wasted fuel and lost time. Upon completion of ARTIC, existing public transportation options in and around Anaheim, Orange County and beyond can expand, leading to reductions in vehicle congestion, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

To accommodate the projected increase in commuters and travelers, ARTIC will house approximately 1,000 parking spaces, a railroad bridge, a pedestrian concourse bridge and tunnel, a baggage tunnel, rail station platforms, as well as aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly landscaping and artwork depictive of life in Southern California.

ARTIC’s three-level terminal building has been designed to meet LEED Platinum certification. It features steel framing; an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene roof system—the same material as the 2008 Olympic Games Water Cube Aquatics Center in Beijing—and glass cladding.


Breaking ground at the site of the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center are, from left, Natalie Meeks, public works director for the city of Anaheim; OCTA Chief Executive Officer Will Kempton; Lorri Galloway, OCTA board member and Anaheim councilwoman; Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Harry Sidhu; Rep. Loretta Sanchez, (D-CA); Paul Glaab, OCTA chair and mayor of Laguna Niguel; Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait; Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido; and Anaheim Councilwomen Gail Eastman and Kris Murray.



Host Session: ‘This Region Really Loves Transit’

BY NOLAN HESTER, Special to Passenger Transport

“This region really loves transit,” said Kevin Desmond, general manager of King County Metro Transit, chair of the APTA Sustainability Committee, and a member of the APTA Board of Directors, in describing the public transportation mix in Washington State’s Puget Sound region. “Partnership Strategy Moves Puget Sound Region Toward Its Vision,” the Oct. 1 Host Session at the APTA Annual Meeting in Seattle, highlighted the region’s embrace of public transportation and the mesh of jurisdictions, funding, and operations required to deliver those services.

Harold S. Taniguchi, director, King County DOT, moderated the session. Other panelists were Washington State DOT Secretary Paula Hammond; Joni Earl, chief executive officer, Sound Transit, Seattle; Kate Joncas, president and CEO, Downtown Seattle Association; and DeLee Shoemaker, senior director, state government affairs, Microsoft, Redmond, WA.

Besides offering an integrated mix of buses, light rail, and commuter rail across multiple cities and counties, Puget Sound boasts the nation’s largest public ferry system, the largest publicly operated vanpool, a region-wide smart card used by one million passengers, and a private bus system used by 13,000 Microsoft employees. “Transportation choice is really the key” to the multi-faceted system, Desmond said.

Two new Seattle streetcar lines reflect the increasingly common cooperation among Puget Sound’s public transportation agencies. On one line, Desmond said, the city raised the $1 million needed for construction, while King County Metro operates the line. On the other line, Sound Transit, a regional agency, provided the $150 million in financing and the city takes care of operations.

Creating that level of cooperation has taken decades, as the development of downtown Seattle’s public transportation mix demonstrates. Squeezed between Puget Sound on the west and steep hills and major lakes on the east, the downtown area has only six major north-south streets, Joncas said.

Construction of a bus tunnel in the early 1990s snarled downtown traffic, she said, and generated “a huge lack of trust” between public transportation agencies and the association’s business members, she explained. When Sound Transit announced its plans to add a new light rail line to the tunnel less than a decade later—potentially sending buses back onto surface streets—she said the association’s members became “mean, ugly, unhappy, demanding adversaries” of the public transit agencies.

Eventually, however, instead of battling each other through the media, the groups managed to sit down and work out a strategic, long-term downtown plan. The result was the Third Avenue bus-only corridor, which considerably eased area congestion.

In the years since finding common ground, Joncas said, “We’ve actually created a common vision between our agencies and the private sector.” Three association board members now specialize in public transportation and help educate other board members about those issues. As a result, the association helped lobby the King County Council when King County Metro sought additional funding.

Sound Transit serves only the urban areas of Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties, the most populous in the state. Because the agency is only 15 years old, Earl noted, it had to focus on cooperating with existing agencies from the beginning. As a result, she said, “We work very closely with our partners.”

With shrinking or static budgets, more residents, and growing challenges, Hammond said, strategic cooperation will become ever more important: “This is a way of life for us now and we’ve got to collaboratively make this work.”

Shoemaker agreed, noting that, with more than 40,000 Microsoft employees in Puget Sound, the company has become a strong supporter of “cost-effective public transit.” One reason: when recruiting new employees, the software giant must compete against California’s Silicon Valley, where workers can choose among hundreds of high-tech firms. One big challenge, she said, is “recruiting these young people who are used to lots of transportation options.”

Microsoft introduced its private bus system, The Connector, in 2007. By offering onboard Wi-Fi and pickup locations throughout the region, The Connector has helped Microsoft reduce its rate of single-driver commuting to 60 percent of its workforce—16 percent less than the national average.

Taniguchi asked the panelists whether Puget Sound has finally shifted away from the longstanding either-or debate of roads vs. public transportation. Hammond said that may be the case, noting that existing state gas taxes no longer generate enough revenue to meet highway maintenance needs.

Legislators from the state’s rural eastern half, traditional opponents of public transportation, are beginning to recognize that public transit can reduce the demands on highways. Shoemaker said when legislators visit Microsoft’s campus and see firsthand how much the private firm depends on public transportation, “it opens their eyes a bit.”


Speakers at the “Partnership Strategy Moves Puget Sound Region Toward Its Vision” forum, from left: Kevin Desmond, Harold S. Taniguchi, Paula Hammond, Joni Earl, Kate Joncas, and DeLee Shoemaker.



Moosajee: Creating Harmony Among Modes; Organizer of First BRT System in Africa

BY NOLAN HESTER, Special to Passenger Transport

Many public transportation officials learn to coexist with private taxi systems, which can view public systems as an economic threat. But few face the challenges laid out by Rehana Moosajee of Johannesburg, South Africa, who led the successful effort to build Africa’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

She spoke at the Oct. 2 General Session of the 2012 APTA Annual Meeting in Seattle, presented by APTA’s Business Members. Charles R. Wochele, chair, Business Member Board of Governors, presided at the session.

Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo appointed Moosajee in 2006 and gave her responsibility for creating a public transit system from scratch for the city’s 2010 hosting of soccer’s World Cup. The initial BRT line opened on time and on budget, but only after extensive negotiations with the mini-bus operators who carry 72 percent of the nation’s public transportation passengers.

The Rea Vaja BRT line currently covers only 16 miles, although plans call for it to eventually run about 185 miles. It transports one million passengers a month.

Moosajee said the mayor asked her: “How do we use the pressure that the eyes of the world will be upon us” to create a lasting legacy beyond “when the last whistle is blown.”

With a metropolitan population of seven million, she said, Johannesburg is a city where “wealth resides amidst extreme poverty.” The city continues to reflect its apartheid past: under the old laws, black people were not allowed to ride city buses when commuting from black areas to white areas. Mahatma Gandhi’s transformation as an equal-rights champion, she noted, began when he was thrown off such a bus.

Considered the third worst city in the world for commuting, she said, Johannesburg has a layout that forces many households to spend more than 10 percent of their income on transportation. The city has lots of heavy rail, a legacy of its mining economy, but “very little investment in public transportation.”

The black population remains dependent on an extensive network of 10,000 legal black-owned mini-buses (and many more unlicensed ones). Recognizing that the Rea Vaya bus line would directly affect mini-bus revenues, Moosajee said one of her first requests when she took the job was to sit down with the three top mini-bus fleet operators. The fierce business rivals refused to meet in the same room, so she had to meet with each one individually. 

“The historic response of the industry to anything the government puts on the table is to resist,” she said. Often operating in the legal shadows in the past, the mini-bus industry also had a “propensity to violence.”

Some government officials look down on the operators but, she said, they share the general population’s patriotic aspirations for South Africa. Given “a little respect,” she found that they could become allies.

The often contentious negotiations between Rea Vaya and the mini-bus associations eventually identified which operators would be most heavily affected by the new line. Rea Vaya paid to have 585 mini-buses crushed as scrap in areas where the BRT line would make mini-buses obsolete.

The ongoing shift has not been easy: those scrapped mini-buses, she said, “put food on the table” for operators and their families. Mini-buses remain an essential part of Johannesburg’s public transportation mix, so the city also has a recapitalization program to help mini-bus operators upgrade their aging, polluting vehicles.

Beyond dealing with the mini-buses, Moosajee said Rea Vaya’s launch involved an extensive community outreach program. For example, a youth volunteer group was so enthusiastic about the prospect of the new bus service that administrators decided to provide its members with special training to become “our ambassadors of the system.” After that, they fanned out into communities to explain the upcoming line’s operation and benefits.

In another case, she said, “The architects had come with a vision for a station and we said no.” First, they were told, they needed to meet with members of the community surrounding the proposed station. Too often, she said, “Communications is an afterthought: ‘We’ll get the operations going and do the other on the side.’”

Scenes from the 2012 Annual Meeting



Gary Thomas. 2011-2012 APTA chair, with Flora M. Castillo. 2012-2013 chair.

Kevin Desmond. general manager, King County Metro Transit, addresses meeting participants during the opening session. 



Michael Melaniphy, APTA president & CEO, welcomes participants to the Opening General Session. 

FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff shared information about the federal transportation program during the opening session. 



King County Executive Dow Constantine shared his enthusiasm about public transportation in his remarks at the opening session. 

The APTA Board of Directors and numerous committees held meetings during the weekend before the Annual Meeting. 



A representative of Google Transit gave a presentation during the Host Session, "Customer Information Technology Round Table." 

Recipients of AdWheel first-place awards gather onstage to learn which of their organizations received Grand Awards. 



APTF scholarship recipients spoke about their research and technologies during the Monday afternoon program that also recognized this year's honorees. 

Mid-level managers gathered Oct. 1 for a breakfast and networking session to help them broaden their skills and professional connections.



Annual Meeting attendees networked at the Welcoming Reception while visiting booths at the Products & Services Showcase. 

Alan S. Boyd, the first secretary of DOT, received a standing ovation from the audience during the opening session. 



APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy congratulates Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, winner of the 2012 APTA Local Distinguished Service Award for his support of public transit. 

Members of the "Powerful Women" panel addressed the APTA/WTS Breakfast on Oct. 3. 


Winners of the 2012 APTA Awards assemble onstage at the conclusion of the Oct. 2 luncheon ceremony.

Pike Place Fishmongers Share Keys to Successful Workplaces

Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Fishmongers closed APTA’s Annual Meeting Oct. 3 with an interactive and inspiring presentation that included, among other things, some fish tossing!

APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy—who caught the first fish—presided at the session.

John Yokoyama, owner of the market, and Jim Bergquist, consultant/coach, bizFutures Consulting, told the packed audience how the fishmongers became “famous” by providing outstanding service to their customers. They also offered ideas on how the workplace can be fun and creative if leaders are committed to empowering their employees. 

See the next issue of Passenger Transport for more coverage of this session and others at APTA's 2012 Annual Meeting in Seattle.


Taking Annual Meeting enthusiasm to new heights, APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy prepares to catch a fish tossed by one of the world famous Pike Place Fishmongers.


2012 AdWheel First-Place and Grand Award Winners

Here is the complete list of first-place winners in the 2012 AdWheel Awards competition. Grand Award winners are listed in bold italic.

Group 1: Public transportation systems with four million or fewer passenger trips per year.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Save Gas Ride The Bus,” Cambria County Transit Authority, Johnstown, PA
Advertisement-Promotion: “Bringing You Home,” Antelope Valley Transit Authority, Lancaster, CA
Annual Report: “MATBUS Annual Report of 2011,” MATBUS of Fargo-Moorhead, Fargo, ND
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “A Faster Way to Santa Fe,” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Brochure: “Student Rider Guide,” Ventura County Transportation Commission, Ventura, CA
Direct Mail: “Spectrum Residential Postcard,” City of Irvine, Irvine, CA
Newsletter: “Xpress Magazine,” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Passes & Tickets–Transit Fare Media: “Rail Runner Groupon,” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Poster: “New Ithaca College Late-Night Service Poster,” Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit Inc., Ithaca, NY
Promotional Materials: “Pennant,” Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, Burnsville, MN
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “2011-2012 Transit Guide,” Lawrence Transit System and KU on Wheels, Lawrence, KS
Illustrated Vehicle: “Advertising the Advertising Program-‘There’s a Better Way to Reach People,’” Blacksburg Transit, Blacksburg, VA

Electronic Media
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “COLTS Campus Connections,” County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS), Scranton, PA
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Getting Noticed,” Knoxville Area Transit, Knoxville, TN
Video Presentation: “Marie Madsen, 2011 Access Services Spirit of Accessibility Award Video,” Access Services, El Monte, CA
Internet Homepage: “YCAT New Website,” YCAT, Yuma, AZ

Promotional Campaign: “Advertising the Advertising Program—‘There’s a Better Way to Reach People,’” Blacksburg Transit, Blacksburg, VA
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “Your Ride to a Better Environment,” Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Woodbridge, VA
Shoestring Campaign: “Blue Line Campaign,” York Adams Transportation Authority (dba rabbitransit), York, PA

Social Media
Social Networking: “Rail Runner Facebook Page,” Rio Metro Regional Transit District, Albuquerque, NM
Twitter: “GoTriangle Twitter Page,” Triangle Transit, Research Triangle Park, NC
Viral Video: “It’s Easy, Baby,” Triangle Transit, Research Triangle Park, NC

Special Event
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “PRTC 25th Anniversary Celebration,” Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, Woodbridge, VA
Promotional Special Event: “Everett Station 10 Year Celebration,” City of Everett, Everett, WA

Group 2: Public transportation systems with more than four million, but fewer than 20 million passenger trips annually.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “CARTA Counts, Taking Cars Off The Road-Car Ad Wrap,” Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, Charleston, SC
Advertisement-Promotion: “Feeling The Squeeze,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Annual Report: “2011 Activity Report,” Agence metropolitaine de transport (AMT), Montreal, QC
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “Outdoor Advertising,” Riverside Transit Agency, Riverside, CA
Brochure: “Year in Review,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX
Direct Mail: “Transport Yourself,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX
Map: “DASH-The Free Trolley Easy to Read, Easy to Ride Map,” Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, Charleston, SC
Newsletter: “T Rider News,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX
Passes & Tickets-Transit Fare Media: “Transition to Clipper,” SamTrans, San Carlos, CA
Poster: “DASH- The Free Trolley Poster,” Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, Charleston, SC
Promotional Materials: “Scratch Off Game Card,” Salem Area Mass Transit District, Salem, OR
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “El Camino Throat Timetable,” SamTrans, San Carlos, CA
Transit Card: “Feeling the Squeeze,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Illustrated Vehicle: “Earth Day Bus,” Salem Area Mass Transit District, Salem, OR

Electronic Media
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Gas Price Blues,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Live Outside the Lines,” Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
Video Presentation: “StarMetro-Online, On Time,” StarMetro, Tallahassee, FL
Internet Homepage: “LANTA Website Home Page,” Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, Allentown, PA
Digital Ad: “Go Smart,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA

Promotional Campaign: “Metro Money Grab,” Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority/Metro, Cincinnati, OH
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “Live Outside the Lines,” Regional Transit Authority of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
Shoestring Campaign: “Route 204,” El Paso Mass Transit Department (Sun Metro), El Paso, TX

Social Media
Social Networking: “The T Fort Worth Facebook Page,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX
Blogs: “Omnitrans Blog,” Omnitrans, San Bernardino, CA
Viral Video: “Car Free Day Goes Viral,” Central Ohio Transit Authority, Columbus, OH

Special Event
Promotional Special Event: “Spur Launch,” Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “In Town Without My Car All Week Long!”, Agence metropolitaine de transport (AMT), Montreal, QC

Group 3: Public transportation systems with more than 20 million passenger trips annually.

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Human Trafficking,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Advertisement-Promotion: “Late Night Service,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Annual Report: “2011 Annual Report,” Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Cleveland, OH
Billboards/Outdoor Advertising: “UTA TRAX Lines Launch Outdoor,” Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT
Brochure: “MARTAnomics Brochure,” Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Atlanta, GA
Direct Mail: “Welcome to the Neighborhood-Scratch-and-Sniff,” Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
Map: “Platform Wayfinding Backlits,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Newsletter: “Metro Insider,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Passes & Tickets-Transit Fare Media: “OCTA/Metrolink OCLINK Pass,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA
Poster: “Embrace the Madness Poster,” Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), Houston, TX
Promotional Materials: “VIA ‘Looking 4 Me?’ Promotional Wipe,” VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX
Schedule Notice/Timetable: “RockiesRide Schedule,” Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
Transit Card: “Late Night Service,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA
Illustrated Vehicle: “CTA Holiday Train 2011,” Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago, IL

Electronic Media
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Gas Pumpitis,” Charlotte Area Transit System, Charlotte, NC
Television Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Choices,” New Jersey Transit Corporation, Newark, NJ
Video Presentation: “Catch a Ride on Metrolink,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA
Internet Homepage: “If You See Something, Say Something!”, Maryland Transit Administration, Baltimore, MD
Digital Ad: “Late Night Service,” Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Los Angeles, CA

Promotional Campaign: “2012 Ridership Campaign,” Sound Transit, Seattle, WA
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “UTA Rail Safety Campaign,” Utah Transit Authority, Salt Lake City, UT
Shoestring Campaign: “Metrolink Inaugural Bike Car Launch,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA

Social Media
Blogs: “The Buzzer Blog,” TransLink, Burnaby, BC
Social Networking: "Pet Peeves Facebook Campaign,” TransLink, Burnaby, BC
Twitter: “Better Trips Through Twitter: The TransLink Twitter Page,” TransLink, Burnaby, BC
Viral Video: “Catch a Ride on Metrolink,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA

Special Event
Promotional Special Event: “Angels Express Events: Opening Game & Bobby Grich Events,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Special Event: “O.C. Jobs Now Initiative,” Orange County Transportation Authority, Orange, CA

Group 4: Business members (manufacturers, suppliers, contractors, consultants, associations, transportation management organizations).

Print Media
Advertisement-Advocacy/Awareness: “Don’t Let A Clown Rehab,” Complete Coach Works, Riverside, CA
Advertisement-Promotion: “Camera 9,” Apollo Video Technology, Woodinville, WA
Brochure: “Veolia’s Rail Maintenance and Infrastructure Brochure,” Veolia Transportation, Silver Spring, MD
Direct Mail: “Nova Bus Pinstop Collecting Challenge,” Nova Bus, Plattsburgh, NY
Newsletter: “INIT Company Newsletter,” INIT, Innovations in Transportation Inc., Chesapeake, VA
Poster: “Solutions to Keep America Moving-Poster,” Siemens Industry, Sacramento, CA

Electronic Media
Radio Advertisement or Public Service Announcement: “Commuter Advertising Survey PSA,” Commuter Advertising, Dayton, OH
Video Presentation: “A Tribute to the Resilience of New Orleans,” Veolia Transportation, Silver Spring, MD
Internet Homepage: “Keolis Transit Website,” Keolis Transit America, Los Angeles, CA

Promotional Campaign: “Q’POD Reaction Campaign,” Q’Straint, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Public Relations/Awareness or Educational Campaign: “Employee Spotlight Campaign,” Veolia Transportation, Silver Spring, MD

Social Media
Blogs: “Mass Transit TV Network (MTtv),” Mass Transit Magazine, Fort Atkinson, WI
Viral Video: “Commuter Advertising’s Cover of ‘Call Me Maybe,’” Commuter Advertising, Dayton, OH

Special Event
Promotional Special Event: “2011 APTA EXPO Booth,” Keolis Transit America, Los Angeles, CA

Niche Award
Off-Peak Marketing & Communications: “MetroRail Night Rail Promotion,” Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Austin, TX


2013 APTA Photo Invitational Theme: ‘It’s All About the People’

Calling all photographers…

Are your transit photos so good you think they should be on display somewhere important? Then enter the 2013 APTA Photo Invitational by Oct. 29.

This year’s theme is “Public Transportation: It’s All About the People.” This is also the theme chosen for our industry by 2012-2013 APTA Chair Flora Castillo, a member of the New Jersey Transit Corporation Board of Directors.

Send us your best shots of your customers riding your public transit system and your fellow co-workers delivering that service. People are what make this industry continue to thrive and your photos featuring people in action will be the ticket for a winning entry. Winning entries will be featured in the 2013 APTA Calendar.

Oct. 29 is the deadline to submit entries. For complete details, click here or contact Mantill Williams.

Comments Sought on Standards Documents

The APTA Standards Development Program has nine documents posted for public comment. The public comment period ends Oct. 31.

Please ensure that you and your agency are part of the consensus-based program development process.

To submit comments, click here.



Meet Phillip A. Washington!

Phillip A. Washington
General Manager
Regional Transportation District
Denver, CO
Member, APTA Executive Committee

How many people do you employ in your agency?
Nearly 3,000. That includes consultants and part-timers who are integrated into the organization.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry? 12 years

How long have you been an APTA member? 12 years

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
When I retired from the U.S. Army in 2000, I learned of an opportunity in public transportation in Colorado, followed up with an interview, and was brought on board. It was really nothing that I planned.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource that helps you do your job?
I think that how APTA advocates for public transportation is the most valuable asset. That advocacy, on national and worldwide levels, is so key and such a benefit to transit agencies around the country. We can point to APTA even at the local levels—such as reports and other documents APTA has published.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
Here’s the most recent example: How APTA was able to articulate the pros and cons of public transportation authorization (now MAP-21) as Congress was deliberating, and explain how what the House was proposing would be a detriment to public transit. Other examples include key safety standards, the lobbying APTA does, and explaining more about MAP-21, including its public-private partnerships and pilots for Bus Rapid Transit provisions.

APTA’s diligence in helping to explain the expediting of the New Starts process has been a direct benefit to me as I go out and talk to stakeholders on how we can mix the various funding opportunities—local and federal—as well as grants. I call that a direct connection.

What do you like most about your job?
The people. Not just the people working here at RTD, but the entire region and the community we serve. So every single day, it’s a good day when my operations person says to me: “We got everyone home safely after the rush hour.”

What I like most is dealing with our riders, our passengers, and the stakeholders of the region. Further, making sure that people arrive home safe every day is the best part of my job—especially when you’re talking about moving almost 400,000 people daily!

What is unique about your agency?
Our unique claim is that we are constantly executing innovation. A lot of people talk about being innovative, but that’s not enough for me. I want to execute and implement innovation, I don’t want to just talk about it.

These ideas come from employees through the agency: the driver, the mechanic, the cleaners. I wanted to understand the ideas that come from every area of the organization and, if they make sense, I want to (and will) implement them. What we’ve put together is a culture of receptivity in terms of ideas and innovations, and we turn around and executive that innovation.

The way we have approached transit-oriented development (TOD), which I prefer calling “transit-oriented communities,” is we no longer have the mindset that we are simply the “T” of this. We want to do more than build a station; we want to spur development around the station. For example, do you need the 1,000-space parking lot, or can you get away with 700 spaces in exchange for some development that can create a vibrant station? As a result of this way of thinking, we changed our policy on TOD and took a look at our parking policy—all of which combines to make it easier for developers to come in and produce structures and retail with our stations as the hub.

Another example is WIN (Workforce Initiative Now), our workforce program. Through it, we identify, assess, train, and put to work people in the corridors where we are building the infrastructure. We wanted to go to the zip codes affected by various rail lines we’re building and help put people there to work—in their own neighborhoods. That’s very personal to me—that they help build in their own communities. This is particularly important as a way to engage the young people who live in those communities where we build our infrastructure.

Make sure you see Phillip A. Washington's video, now that you've read this!


Meet Adam Martin!

Adam Martin
Meeting Planner
Member Services

What are your primary job responsibilities?
I coordinate and manage logistics and/or registration for APTA’s conferences and workshops, and manage the budget for some of these meetings. My responsibilities include everything from menu selection—a favorite is reception food—to audio-visual needs or room setups. This kind of work invariably involves many changes onsite. That’s one thing about meeting planning: you can plan to the smallest detail beforehand, but something always comes up and you have to adjust very quickly.

Among the events I support are the Legal Affairs Seminar, Legislative Conference, Sustainability and Public Transportation Workshop, International Rail Rodeo, and Public Transportation and Universities Conference.

From time to time, I also solicit corporate sponsorships for certain events such as receptions. And I was responsible for the Products & Services Showcase at the 2012 APTA Annual Meeting in Seattle.

As I said before, meeting planning sees its fair share of glitches—the most frequent being that microphones don’t work or PowerPoint presentations project as a solid blue screen. But I remember one time in particular when I’d checked into my hotel room and the doorknob fell off and I couldn’t get out—until I reattached it ...

From time to time, we are called upon to perform “other duties as assigned,” so for the past few years I’ve served as the substitute Vanna White, handing out the AdWheel Grand Award trophies!

Do you have direct contact with APTA members?
Frequently, members need assistance in registering online for conferences, and when that happens I walk them through the process. Often, I am one of the first faces they see when they arrive at the registration desk for a conference, and then I’m asked to resolve such issues as ensuring that the companion for a member with physical challenges is properly credentialed or that the special dietary requirements of a member are met.

Given that I work with members daily, I get the chance to put faces with names. When they check in at registration, sometimes all I need is the member’s last name and I immediately recognize them. They either like that instant recognition—or they are slightly taken aback.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
With the importance of the Legislative Conference, I definitely take pride in managing and completing that event—seeing it from the planning phases through to conclusion. While this conference takes place locally, here in Washington, DC, one might think that that makes producing it easier. But that is just not the case. Every conference wears the cloak of an “away game,” regardless of the actual location.

How did you “land” at APTA?
I answered a Washington Post ad for an administrative assistant post in government affairs at APTA. While I readily admit that my interest in this position was not motivated by a focus on public transportation, after having been a customer and seeing things from the other side of transit, I now have a better understanding and a much fuller appreciation of this industry.

Fairly soon after my initial work in the Government Affairs Department, I moved to Member Services. And after awhile there, I was promoted to my current position of meeting planner. I have to say, I never expected to be working in this industry, but since I’ve been at APTA, I now refer to my coming here as a serendipitous event.

How long have you worked here?
Seven years in October.

What professional affiliations do you have?
International Association of Exhibitions and Events and Hospitality Industry Professionals Network.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I do great impressions—particularly of select APTA staff! I love to read, especially political thrillers and crime novels. You can’t go wrong with John Grisham, James Patterson, or Nelson DeMille. I’m now starting to read classic American literature as well. I’m a huge movie fan, some might even say fanatic—just as long as they aren’t musicals. I average about one a week, alone, because I don’t want anyone talking to me while the movie is playing.

And, I put out a fire at APTA headquarters. It was a small fire (in the microwave) but there were flames. Yes, small, but a fire is a fire.

Make sure you see Adam Martin’s video, now that you've read this!


New York MTA Connects Manhattan, Queens Tunnels

On Sept. 20, sandhogs working on the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s East Side Access megaproject broke through the final piece of reinforced concrete separating newly built tunnels in Queens from newly built tunnels in Manhattan. In so doing, they created a continuous tunnel running more than three and a half miles from a cavern 12 stories underneath Grand Central Terminal to four concrete-lined, 22-foot-diameter tunnels just feet below the Sunnyside rail yard in Queens that will soon be connected to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) main line.

“For the first time since the East Side Access project began, there is now a continuous path through newly built tunnel from Queens to the east side of Manhattan,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “This is the path Long Island Rail Road trains will follow when this project is completed.”

This segment of tunnel is unique in that it supports the weight of both a six-lane highway and two MTA New York City Transit subway lines, one underground and one elevated. Project workers drove a new set of foundation pilings into the ground to temporarily support the Astoria Line tracks and their elevated structure during construction, then shifted the track from its permanent foundation supports to the temporary site. The permanent foundation had protruded into the right-of-way where the new tunnel is being built and is being modified to rest on top of the newly completed section of LIRR tunnel.

“This is the most complicated and challenging 120 feet of tunnel we’ve built on any of our construction megaprojects,” said Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction, the agency building the East Side Access project. “That it is being completed as intended is a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance.”

Because the ground is soft at this site and difficult to control during excavation, it has been frozen to allow for increased control and rigidity.


Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Nichole Guernsey

Sandhogs working on New York MTA’s East Side Access project break through the last piece of wall separating the new Manhattan and Queens tunnels. The contiguous tunnel is more than three and a half miles long, from Sunnyside Yard in Queens to 37th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan. The work took place in the tunnel drift at left.


Jacksonville Implements STAR Fare Payment Technology

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) in Jacksonville, FL, reports success in its introduction of the Simply Tap And Ride (STAR) electronic payment fare collection system earlier this year. The system went live after only six months of implementation, compared to a usual 12-18 months.

STAR allows JTA customers to pay their fares on all of the agency’s modes—bus, trolley, and shuttle—with a single, reloadable contactless card or ticket. The cards are good for up to three years and can be reloaded with any of JTA’s value passes or with stored cash value. STAR tickets, which are made of paper and expire after 30 days, are geared toward visitors to the city or people who do not use public transit regularly.

JTA staff performed more than 2,500 hours of community outreach during the four months before the launch, working directly with the public educating them on the benefits of STAR and how to use the new fareboxes and Ticket Vending Machines (TVM). As a result, customers were comfortable with the new system on day one: 60 percent of JTA riders used the new fare media in their first month.

The agency has distributed more than 30,000 STAR cards to its riders, including regular fare, senior, and reduced fare passengers. JTA’s change in media included replacing fareboxes in its buses, trolleys, shuttles, and paratransit vehicles, as well as installing new TVMs at higher-ridership locations throughout the city.

Another benefit of the STAR system—beyond an enhanced riding experience and faster boarding—is its Balance Protection System, which enables passengers to register their cards online. If a registered card is lost or stolen, JTA can deactivate the card and replace the value on a new card.


What we can learn from Denver’s Mile High vision

BY STUART LEAVENWORTH, Editorial Page Editor, The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, CA

Republished with the approval of The Sacramento Bee, where this column originally appeared on Sept. 23, 2012.

The future of the capital region is inextricably tied to the health of its largest city, as well as Sacramento’s relationship with the rest of the region. Both the health of this city and its outward relationships should be cause for concern.

As I argued in a July 29 column, much of the rest of the region is outpacing Sacramento in providing well-run governance, schools, services, and a climate where businesses might like to locate and grow. Yet instead of learning from its neighbors, Sacramento’s elected leaders too often disparage them, blaming the suburbs for the area’s transportation challenges, “sprawlapalooza” and efforts to grab sales tax revenues.

Thirty years ago, the city of Denver had a similarly toxic relationship with its neighbors. The city resented that suburban residents refused to contribute to city services they enjoyed. The suburbs resented Denver’s arrogant attitude and ability to manipulate the wheels of state government.

Today, there are still tensions between Denver and its surrounding municipalities. But there also is a record of cooperation that has reaped rewards for the Mile High region, as I learned in a recent trip to Denver.

In 1989, this seven-county area passed a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax to create the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. Since then, the tax has generated about $40 million yearly to support Denver’s cultural giants—its art museum, botanic gardens, zoo, the Museum of Nature and Science and the Center for the Performing Arts—as well as smaller endeavors, ranging from film festivals to art shows.

In 2004, voters in the Denver metro region approved a $4.7 billion sales tax to expand light rail and other transit. In four years, transit ridership doubled. Although the recession has reduced expected tax revenues, delaying rail and bus extensions, construction for “FasTracks” lines is under way to Golden, Boulder and Denver International Airport. The city is also using FasTracks funds to remodel its historic Union Station, which will be the hub of new transit lines that could eventually stretch 119 miles.

As nearly everyone in Denver will tell you, the city and region have benefited from strong leadership, including visionary mayors such as Federico Peña and John Hickenlooper, who is now Colorado’s governor. Less known, however is the strong role that mayors of smaller cities have played in pulling the region together.

In 1993, on the prompting of Peña, the region created the Denver Metro Mayors Caucus, which has now grown to include 40 municipalities. It has been instrumental in supporting both renewing taxes for the Scientific and Cultural District and the passage of FasTracks.

Randy Pye, a former mayor of Centennial, a town of 103,000 south of Denver, says the caucus was needed so mayors could get to know each other, speak candidly about concerns and create their own power base. Although Denver mayors haven’t been as active in the caucus as mayors from suburban cities and town, the collective clout of this group means that it can’t be ignored.

Pye says mayors in regions like Sacramento would be wise to follow suit.

“Somehow your elected officials have to get friendly with each other outside of just being elected officials,” said Pye, who was elected three times by his fellow mayors as chair of the Metro Mayors Caucus.

Here in Sacramento, Mayor Kevin Johnson convened a meeting of the region’s mayors in 2009, but it hasn’t become a regular gathering. Christopher Cabaldon, mayor of West Sacramento, says some elected officials interact in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, but that tends to be a formal process. Do local mayors have a forum where they can share ideas and get to know each other? “We don’t have anything like this,” said Cabaldon.

Two weeks ago, I joined Cabaldon and about 80 other elected officials, business leaders and community activists on the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s study mission to Denver. In three days, we toured the city and some of its surrounding attractions, including Red Rocks Park and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. We saw the construction under way in Denver’s railyard – giving us some hope for our own – and the transformation of once humble Lower Downtown (“LoDo”), which is now a thriving entertainment district.

One thing that sets Denver apart is the strength and collaborative nature of its business community. As in Sacramento, the chamber of commerce in Denver mobilizes when it wants to stop a policy or regulation it doesn’t like. But it hardly stops there. Denver’s chamber has been a force in rallying the business community around improved public services, arts, culture and education.

For more than a decade, Denver has marketed itself as a home for young people and young professionals. It’s worked. According to the Brookings Institution, Denver was the top destination in the country for people in the age group between 25 and 34 during 2008 and 2009.

Kelly Brough, president and CEO of the Denver chamber, said improved rail and bus service have been instrumental in helping to attract a younger generation. “When young people come to a city, they see transit as almost a given,” said Brough, who previously served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff.

Comparing Denver with Sacramento can be misleading. Denver is bigger. Its region dominates the state in wealth and population. Its mayor has more authority than Sacramento’s mayor, and it is an epicenter for banking and commerce that stretches into several Rocky Mountain states.

Nonetheless, Denver has shown what can happen when cities and suburbs put aside their provincial jealousies, work together and plan for the future.

All of us in Sacramento wince when someone calls our area a “cow town.” Denver once had that name. Not anymore.