Passenger Transport - November 2, 2012
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NEWS HEADLINES

East Coast Systems Cope in Sandy’s Wake - Service Resumes Gradually in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Hurricane Sandy, the largest tropical storm on record, slammed into the Eastern seaboard this week, creating major damage to public transportation infrastructure in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and wreaking havoc with system operations.
 
The world has seen the images: power lines strewn like toothpicks across railroad tracks; New York City subways inundated with both sea and rainwater; boats sitting on top of  an upstate New York train track and in front yards; and Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk reduced to a pile of lumber.    
 
Before Sandy was forecast to hit, public transportation agencies in the path of the storm took the unprecedented step of shutting down service.
 
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has agreed to provide full funding for public transportation and power restoration efforts in New York and New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, through Nov. 9.
 
“This was not a New York disaster, or a New Jersey disaster or a Connecticut disaster, but a national disaster, and FEMA and the federal government should be providing help to the region to the full extent they can,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in a Nov. 1 statement.
 
“APTA and our industry partners extend our sympathies to those who suffered losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy. At the same time, we are so proud of how the transit industry, public, private, and federal partners alike, have pulled together to offer support and assistance to those systems that have been adversely impacted. The dedication, skills, and hard work demonstrated by countless workers pumping out flooded stations; figuring out how to remove boats, trucks, and debris from rail lines; and the many other tasks too numerous to delineate are nothing short of heroic. Once again, public transportation has shown how critical it is to our cities and our economy, and how truly outstanding the people are that make these systems work day in and day out,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy.
 
As Passenger Transport went to press, NYC Transit had begun providing limited subway service along segments of roughly half of the system’s 23 lines. Because of the lack of electricity to power the third rail or to operate signals south of 36th Street in Manhattan, subways cannot operate between 34th Street and downtown Brooklyn. Limited bus service resumed the evening of Oct. 30 and has returned to near-normal levels. Both LIRR and Metro-North restored limited service Oct. 31.
 
MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph J. Lhota said the damage the hurricane caused to the 108-year-old subway system was the worst in its history. During a press briefing, he stated: “Sandy wreaked havoc on the entire transportation system—the subways, the buses, Metro-North, and Long Island Rail Road—in every single borough of the city and every single county in the MTA region.”
 
NJ Transit canceled all service Oct. 28 as the storm approached. At that time, agency personnel moved locomotives, train cars, buses, and other equipment to locations where they could be protected as much as possible from the storm.
 
Since the storm subsided the morning of Oct. 30, NJ Transit crews have worked around the clock to inspect more than 500 miles of track, equipment yards, buses, and train sets, making repairs or cleanups where necessary as the first step toward restoring service to normal operations.
 
However, according to an NJ Transit statement: “Hurricane Sandy caused major damage throughout the state, leaving behind long-term mechanical and operational challenges that NJ Transit is working tirelessly to overcome. This will take time, and the blow delivered by Hurricane Sandy will continue to impact customers for days to come.” As of press time, most bus service was restored at NJ Transit. 
 
Connecticut Transit (CTTransit) shut down service for an entire business day on Oct. 29—“for the first time that any of us can remember,” according to General Manager David Lee.
 
“We reopened Hartford at noon on Tuesday [Oct. 30],” Lee added, “while New Haven and Stamford remained closed. As of Wednesday [Oct. 31], service had returned to normal with sizeable detours in New Haven and Stamford as the cities deal with storm debris.”
 
He noted that, while “coastal Connecticut has taken as bad a beating as they have ever seen,” the aftermath of the storm is not as severe as in New York City. 

 

 

 

Hurricane Sandy brought flood waters and debris into NYC Transit's South Ferry Station.

An NJ Transit train stands on the tracks, surrounded by debris spread by the heavy rain and high winds of Hurricane Sandy. 

Water inundates the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) station in Hoboken, NJ. As Passenger Transport went to press, PATH service had been suspended until further notice. 

 

 

 
 

MAP-21 Authorizes Emergency Relief Funds for Public Transit

As public transit systems around the northeastern U.S. continue to study the damage of Hurricane Sandy and repairs begin, federal, state, and local authorities are assessing the damage and its financial implications. 
 
The FTA Emergency Relief Program created under Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) authorizes—for the first time—the appropriation of funds to relieve the strain on public transportation systems facing the aftermath of emergencies and natural disasters such as this one. This program will be critical to public transit systems as they seek assistance.
 
While this program was not funded through the Continuing Resolution, Congress has an opportunity to provide funding through an emergency supplemental appropriations bill when they return to session later this month.  In the interim, the Federal Emergency Management Administration has agreed to fund transportation and fuel costs through Nov. 9 with its existing disaster relief funds. 
 
The federal highway program has had a similar Emergency Relief program in place for decades, with $100 million authorized each year to restore highway infrastructure following a natural or man-made disaster.  DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has already begun to provide grants under this program to the affected states.  
 
APTA will continue to monitor action and is prepared to work with Congress securing assistance for the affected public transit systems.
 
“Congress had the foresight to create this fund,” said APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy, “and it will be vital to our members going forward to ensure that they receive the assistance they need. While the focus now is getting the systems back up and running to provide service to those who rely on them, it is critical that Congress acts when they return to session and provide the necessary funds to the FTA Emergency Relief Fund.” 

SEPTA Works to Restore Service After Hurricane

BY ANDREW BUSCH, Press Officer, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Philadelphia, PA

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) crews worked around the clock to fix damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which moved through the Philadelphia area on Oct. 29 and 30.

To help ensure public safety, SEPTA suspended service during the storm.

“Suspending our service in the face of an unprecedented storm like Sandy was in the best interest of the safety of our customers and employees,” said SEPTA General Manager Joseph M. Casey. “It also helped us protect our vehicles and infrastructure, which put us in position to restore service as soon as possible after the storm.”

The service suspension began at 12:30 a.m. Oct. 29, as the storm’s winds and rains began bearing down on the region. Crews worked around the clock, both during and after the storm, to clear downed trees from rail tracks and keep drains clear to prevent flooding.

These efforts played a major role in allowing SEPTA to begin restoring service at noon Oct. 30—only a few hours after the worst of the massive storm moved through the Philadelphia region.

By that afternoon, SEPTA had resumed subway service and operations on most city and suburban bus routes. Commuter rail—SEPTA’s Regional Rail system—returned in time for the rush hour Oct. 31.

Before, during, and after the storm, SEPTA coordinated efforts with local officials including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The mayor praised the agency’s efforts at a post-storm press conference Oct. 30 when SEPTA announced service resumption plans.

“SEPTA has exceeded expectations,” Nutter said of the authority’s efforts to get buses, trains and trolleys back in service in Sandy’s aftermath. “SEPTA’s operation is critical to this city and this region. It is the way we move people, goods, and services around this region, and that’s why we’re such strong supporters of SEPTA and mass transit.”

 

 

A SEPTA wire train crew worker heads up to work on catenary on the Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail Line. The wires were damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

 

 

ERPP Can Help Public Transit Agencies Recover from Catastrophic Storm

BY DAVID HAHN, APTA Senior Specialist-Safety and Security

Hurricane Sandy had a disastrous impact on many public transportation agencies. In some areas, the sustained winds toppled trees, causing power lines to be broken or downed, landing on rail tracks. Flooding of public transit system tunnels has been the worst result of Sandy, filling them in many areas and causing some agencies to suspend service for at least the next few weeks. 
 
A few of the larger agencies survived the wrath of Sandy. Almost all East Coast public transit agencies initially shut down on Oct. 29, but some—after reassessing their properties and the weather the following day—were able to return to normal service. For example, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority restored “Sunday-level service” at 2 p.m. Oct. 30 after completing damage assessments and determining that it was safe to resume operations. 
 
Other public transit agencies were not so lucky and are working diligently to pump out the flood water and evaluate the damage. Electrical components do not fare well submerged in water. Several substations are flooded. Many agencies are prepared and already have pumps to drain the water from tunnels, pits, or affected areas.
 
A Resource for Disasters
 
The Emergency Response Preparedness Program (ERPP) is an online resource that assists public transit agencies in need after a disaster. APTA set up the program, in partnership with FTA, to help them restore normal service and operations after a catastrophe.
 
APTA’s ERPP is an online “mutual aid” database tool designed to assist in times of natural disasters and other situations. This site provides a venue by which fellow public transit systems and industry partners can volunteer and /or access resources to prepare for an expected event or in the wake of an unforeseen situation.
 
The program also has a human side: APTA staff actively assist applicants with locating and obtaining the requested resource, much of which may be difficult to find. It also ensures that an agency gets in touch with the correct person.
 
Public transit agencies can sign up for the ERPP at www.aptaerpp.com. They should keep agency contact information updated so APTA can reach the correct individual in the event of an emergency.
 
Dealing with the Problem
 
The major problem with Hurricane Sandy is the amount of water she brought ashore and dumped in the agencies’ facilities, overwhelming the existing pumps. Several tunnels are completely flooded beyond the mouth of the tunnel. In some instances, neighboring jurisdictions or local government agencies have been able to provide pumps and other supplies, but the need for assistance remains.
 
The Army Corps of Engineers and the states of New York and New Jersey provided initial support, supplying public transit agencies with massive, industrial-size pumps, but additional requests may be made at any time. After draining water from the tunnels, agency personnel will go in and reassess the condition of their tracks and equipment. At that time, they may or may not request specialists in track, signal, or communication issues.
 
The agencies’ needs depend on their current situation, which will continue to change. 

FFGA: $942 Million for San Francisco Subway

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) recently joined San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee to present the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) with a $942.2 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the Central Subway project.
 
The agreement finalizes the financing for extending the San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) Metro’s T Third Line through the South of Market, Union Square, and Chinatown neighborhoods. 
 
“This historic investment in San Francisco’s modern public transportation system will not only connect our city’s diverse neighborhoods and create thousands of jobs today, but it will vastly improve our transit system for our city’s growing population and workforce,” the mayor said at the signing event, held at the future site of the subway line’s Union Square/Market Street Station.
 
“When the Central Subway is complete, our city will see a stronger economy, a larger workforce, decreased pollution, less congestion, and faster, safer commutes,” Pelosi added. “Working with partners and leaders from government, business, and the community, this project will serve as an economic engine for our city, improve and enhance our infrastructure, and connect the diverse communities of San Francisco.”
 
The FFGA will help fund construction of the subway tunnels, subway stations, surface-level stations, train tracks, and operating systems that make up the service extension. New vehicles, utility relocation and project design, planning, and administration are also included in the total project cost.
 
Out of the total $942.2 million in the FFGA, the Central Subway project has received $94.2 million in New Starts funds. The remainder will be distributed in annual allocations as the project progresses.
 
The second phase of the two-phase Third Street Light Rail Project, the Central Subway is expected to cost about $1.6 billion; state and local funding sources will cover the balance beyond the FFGA.
 
SFMTA projects that, with the opening of the Central Subway, the T Third Line will become the most heavily used line in the Muni Metro system by 2030. About 65,000 customers per day are projected to ride the T Third Line in that year—about 20 percent more than are projected to ride the most heavily used existing Muni Metro line, the N Judah Line.

 

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, at podium, joins other officials and community leaders in present the FFGA for San Francisco’s Central Subway project. 
 
  

Scranton’s COLTS Assumes Responsibility for Paratransit

The County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS) in Scranton, PA, has assumed responsibility for providing shared-ride and paratransit services for older Americans and persons with disabilities. The county government previously provided these coordinated transportation services.
 
The transfer of services became official last month following approval by the Lackawanna County Commissioners. Pennsylvania DOT will pay the consolidation costs for the change, which will go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
 
Lackawanna County officials said they expect the fusion of services to improve operations, reduce costs, and eliminate redundancy. The current coordinated transportation system operates at a deficit, with the county government covering the difference between actual costs and funding received from the state and other sources. The subsidy costs county taxpayers about $950,000 annually.
 
The county will subsidize the coordinated transportation services with $1.1 million to COLTS over the next four years, after which time the subsidies will cease. 

T&I’s Rose to Head Operation Lifesaver

Joyce Rose, staff director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, is joining Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OLI) Dec. 3 as its president and chief executive officer.
Rose is a veteran congressional staffer with more than 20 years of experience in transportation policy.
 
She became staff director for the Railroads Subcommittee in 2008, after serving as a professional staff member on the T&I Highways and Transit Subcommittee. Earlier she worked for the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In her current position, Rose drafted, negotiated, and helped secure passage of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. She also helped draft the transit provisions of the previous surface transportation authorization bill, SAFETEA-LU, in 2005.
 

Ways to Attract Veterans to the Transportation Arena Dominates Forum Discussion

BY BARRINGTON SALMON, Special to Passenger Transport

Veterans and the public transportation industry seem to be a perfect fit in a number of ways, but some formidable obstacles stand in the way of bringing these entities together.
 
The consensus that arose from three hours of discussion at an Oct. 18 forum, “Veterans Transportation Career Opportunities,” is that all partners must attempt to do everything they can to make the transition of soldiers from the military to the civilian workforce as seamless as possible.
 
DOT and the Department of Labor jointly convened the forum, which attracted a diverse group of almost 200 participants including APTA members; local, regional, and national transportation officials; federal employees and military personnel; representatives of civic organizations; unions; and members of the private sector.
 
In his opening remarks, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood called U.S. soldiers “a generation of heroes who have risked their lives all over the world. Giving opportunities to talented and skilled veterans is the least that we can do … We want to engage all of you. We’re not doing this just because it’s the right thing to do. They have practical and on-the-ground experience that we need. There are no more better skilled workers—men or women—than veterans.”
 
During the event, the group members considered the successes and myriad trials they face in linking skilled veterans with decent, well-paying jobs and careers both challenging and productive.
 
Dick Ruddell, president/executive director, Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T), Fort Worth, TX, and a Vietnam veteran, presented the efforts of public transit agencies around the country as an example of how to successfully hire qualified veterans. He said the public transportation agencies represented by APTA employ between 20,000-30,000 veterans, adding: “APTA is doing a great job spreading the word.”
 
Toward the end of the panel discussion, Ruddell unfurled a scroll-like banner with the names and divisions of veterans employed by The T. He also discussed activities by APTA to honor veterans this year and encouraged fellow public transit officials to develop inventive ways to pay tribute to those who have served this country.
 
He exhorted the audience not to waver in their commitment to veterans, regardless of the challenges, and asked forum participants to continue building on the tradition of hiring veterans.
 
“When I came out of the service in 1972, I knew nothing about transit,” said Ruddell. “Those were tough economic times with unemployment, but somehow the U.S. found a way to meet veterans’ needs. We need to find ways to employ vets. Transportation is a great way to do this.”
 
Alice Tolbert-Wiggins, director, project development, with Parsons Brinckerhoff in Atlanta, a past member-at-large of the APTA Executive Committee, promised to use APTA “to spread the gospel.” She said she plans to contact corporations and Department of Defense (DOD) officials and create a task force to share information and collaborate efforts.
 
Problem and Solutions a World Apart
 
Practical issues—such as integrating injured veterans into the workforce; dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); and disparities in employment requirements, training, and civilian certifications for trucking and commercial drivers’ licenses (CDL)—translate into a wide gap that must be bridged, forum participants noted.
 
Kristen Joyner, executive director of the South West Transit Association, said public transportation systems need veterans and spoke of her association’s efforts to match veterans with private industry and public transportation providers. She asked panelist Frank C. DiGiovanni, DOD director of training readiness and strategy, if service personnel would be eligible for weekend part-time driver positions being made available by Sun Metro in El Paso, TX. He said individual installation commanders can make that decision.
 
Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, who represented Secretary Hilda Solis, said simplicity is the key. “We all learned in grade school that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s the philosophy we need to apply here,” he said. “The shortest distance from a military career to civilian jobs is a job that resembles a military job, such as pilots and sailors, who can easily transition.”
 
But this process may be much more difficult in other occupations, Harris acknowledged. “We have to work out the problems that they have between civilian certification and licensing [and the military],” he said. “This is so important because so many of these careers are in transportation.”
 
Harris explained that 2,600 American Job Employment Centers provide veterans with assistance including placement, counseling and job services. These centers served 1.6 million veterans last year, 500,000 of whom went directly into jobs. Further, 87,000 veterans received what he called special “Gold Card” services, which include career options found online, one-stop employment services and placement assistance, job skills, and related assistance. 
 
The Conundrum of Licenses, Certification, and Testing
 
Anne S. Ferro, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, lauded audience members “who have been working on this for many years.” She said increasing “progress has been made the last couple of years in removing barriers.”
 
One fundamental obstacle Ferro cited centers around veterans securing CDLs. The crux of the problem has been twofold: Soldiers must prove they have at least three years’ experience, because without that experience they will not be hired or insured; and other barriers confronting military personnel must be lowered, allowing them to secure these licenses without jeopardizing overall safety.
 
Several panelists reported on new rules, laws, and initiatives that help to erode those barriers. For example, a final rule released in May gives states the leeway to accept prior experience and documentation that would allow military drivers to take a written test and forego a skills test if they have two years’ experience. To date, 39 states have adopted this waiver. 
 
In addition, the domicile requirement has been removed, so a soldier who lives in South Dakota, for example, would be considered a Virginia resident if he or she is stationed at Quantico.
 
Ferro said the recently passed transportation authorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, includes provisions affecting veterans and CDLs, further identifying gaps that prevent or challenge movement across careers.
 
Attendees at each table received two topics on the issue to discuss. Military and civilian participants soon engaged in detailed conversation about waivers; transition assistance programs; credentialing; automatic versus standard transmissions; gaps in Class A, B, and C across the civilian-military divide; and a host of other issues.
 
Collaboration and Partnerships Bridging the Divide
 
Jane Oates, DOL assistant secretary of employment and training administration, praised the collaborations between the departments, across a number of states, particularly people’s willingness to roll up their sleeves and prioritize securing jobs for veterans.
 
“There are two customers: Job seekers and employers. It’s deeply disturbing to hear employers say that they can’t find veterans,” she said.
 
Oates, who served for nearly a decade as senior policy advisor for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), encouraged participants not to hesitate if things aren’t clear enough or if the Department of Labor isn’t being a good partner.
 
“The Department of Transportation is absolutely aggressive in seeking partnership with the Department of Defense,” said DiGiovanni. “Things are happening … paradigms are changing. We have pilots who walked across the street to become commercial pilots. There’s something to this initiative.”
 
Panelist Ross Cohen agreed. “I don’t think by any means that we need to take our feet off the pedal,” said Cohen, who served in the U.S. Army for three years and is now senior director of programs and operations for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes program. “This has been an unprecedented public-private partnership and we are seeing unemployment beginning to decline. The key to collaboration has been solved over the last four years. It’s very exciting, very encouraging.”
 
After speaking with veterans suffering from PSTD, DiGiovanni said he gleaned three common themes: leadership; teamwork; and decision making (adaptability and critical thinking). “When you look at industry, they’re ahead,” he said. “They operate in highly dynamic, complex environments, and this makes vets stand out from the ordinary.”
 
DiGiovanni said 300,000 military personnel leave the service each year and currently DOD spends $950 million on unemployment compensation for veterans—an incentive for the federal government and its partners to direct these vets into jobs and lessen that burden. He cited a recent National Defense Authorization Act study that identifies five career fields offering the best opportunities for ex-military to get jobs and get credentialed: transportation; airframe and power plants; logistics; automobile mechanics; and healthcare, referring to veterans such as corpsmen and medics.
 
Panelists, who included veterans and federal officials, spoke about the need to integrate veterans into the job market but said prospective employees and others needed to be mindful that vets may have unique skills, but also may have trouble taking their place in the business world.
 
What is equally important, said Polly Trottenberg, assistant secretary for transportation policy, DOT, is looking at, and catering to, the varied needs of spouses and military families.  “We need to be very careful to look at the whole picture,” Trottenberg added.
But moderator John K. Moran’s comments crystallized a concern shared by many at the forum. “Everyone and their brother is trying to do good for vets; however, we may have so many efforts that we confuse the people we seek to serve,” said Moran, DOL deputy assistant secretary for veterans’ employment and training service.

 Photo by Barrington Salmon

 Photo by Barrington Salmon

Among the APTA representatives participating at the DOT-DOL forum, “Veterans Transportation Career Opportunities”are, from left, Pam Boswell, vice president-program training and educational services; Dick Ruddell, president/executive director, Fort Worth Transportation Authority; Art Guzzetti, vice president-policy; and Kristen Joyner, executive director, Southwest Transit Association.

Alice Tolbert-Wiggins speaks during the forum.

 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston is commemorating the state’s fallen heroes from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom with its “Gold Star Memorial Coach.” The commuter railcar, which bears the name of the state’s military personnel who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, operates on various routes in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. 
 
 
 
 

Moderate Incomes ‘Losing Ground’

BY BARRINGTON M. SALMON
Special to Passenger Transport
 
A new report by the Center for Housing Policy (CHT) and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) finds that Americans with moderate incomes have seen their transportation and housing costs jump 44 percent since 2000. In the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, these households spend an average of 59 percent of their income on these two items, affecting their ability to cover other expenses such as food, healthcare, and education.
 
The report, titled Losing Ground: The Struggle of Moderate-Income Households to Afford the Rising Costs of Housing and Transportation, portrays the challenges families and individuals face as the twin costs of transportation and housing consume an increasingly larger share of household incomes. 
 
Newly available data allowed researchers to assess the impact on combined costs of the rapid rise and fall of home prices during the 2000s, the recent rebound in rents, and the nation’s increased suburbanization over the past decade.
 
“If we really want to understand whether housing is affordable, we need to consider housing and transportation costs together,” said CHP Executive Director Jeffrey Lubell. “Along with utilities, which we include within housing costs, these are the true ‘costs of place’ and our report shows they have grown much faster than incomes since 2000.”
 
Researchers found the highest cost burdens in the Miami area, where moderate-income households spend 72 percent of their income on housing and transportation. The next highest burdens are in Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, 69 percent; Tampa, FL, 66 percent; and the Los Angeles area, 65 percent. A middle-income household for the purposes of this study is one earning between 50 and 100 percent of each metro area’s median income.
 
The report lists policy options that elected officials at the state and local levels can adopt to help reduce these costs and move these expenses to more manageable levels. These include creating and preserving affordable housing near job centers, public transit stations, and other locations described as “location-efficient” areas, and making public investments to ensure that transportation is lower in the future, among others.
 
“Given the substantial increases that we expect in coming years in the demand for housing within walking distance of public transit, it will be essential to act proactively to ensure that affordable housing is preserved and included within new development in these areas,” said CNT President and Co-Founder Scott Bernstein.
 
Bernstein said the public needs to factor in a range of elements when trying to figure out the true costs of living in different communities. 
 
“Both housing and transportation costs need to be more affordable,” he said. “Letting the public know that the full cost of a location includes both housing and transportation is a first step; targeting resources that lower the cost of transportation, such as improved public transportation, to areas where it will help America’s families, is also essential.” 
 
The text of the report is available here.

Report Examines ‘Complete Communities’

Reconnecting America recently released its newest report: Are We There Yet? Creating Complete Communities for 21st Century America, a wide-ranging report that uses “complete communities” as a benchmark for progress.
 
The organization defines complete communities as places where people can live, work, move, and thrive in a healthier, more equitable, and more economically competitive way. The purpose of the report is to present advancements being made toward this goal throughout the U.S.—regardless of zip code, wealth, urban or rural location, or size.

The study examined all 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas and found that 317 have at least one Opportunity Area. These areas received grades in categories such as Living, Working, Moving, and Thriving.
 
The term “opportunity area” refers to a residential area with smaller blocks and moderate density housing and/or jobs. Because of the infrastructure, these areas provide a range of transportation options, including public transit, walking, and biking. The Moving component of the study looked at the availability of these modes of transportation and their impact on the community.
 
APTA, the Ford Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation all contributed to this report. The complete text can be found here.

Barlow Dies; Retired VTA Chief Technology Officer

George Williams Barlow, 52, retired chief technology officer with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, CA, died Oct. 12.
 
Barlow was a 12-year VTA employee. He joined the agency in 1995 as deputy director of maintenance, managing maintenance of the agency’s multimodal fleet, light rail system, facilities, and right-of-way.
 
During his tenure with VTA, Barlow led the agency’s pursuit of a “low-emission diesel path” to comply with California Air Resources Board regulations to reduce nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from public transit buses. He led the Zero Emissions Bus Program in 2005, when VTA demonstrated hydrogen fuel cell technology.
 
Barlow came to VTA from the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, where he gained 10 years of transit industry experience in operations, personnel, and maintenance management. Earlier he served six years in the U.S. Navy, supervising the operation and maintenance of nuclear reactor plants.
 
He was active in the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

APTA Hosts Energy Efficiency Commission

The Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy, part of the Alliance to Save Energy, recently convened at the APTA offices in Washington, DC. The commission is preparing recommendations to the next administration on how to double the rate of energy productivity in the U.S. by 2030; APTA has had a leading role in writing the transportation section of this report. . The commission has broad reach across all energy sectors including power companies, appliance makers, building construction, and others.  

 

Meeting participants included, from left: Kateri Callahan, president, Alliance to Save Energy; Dr. Dan Arvizu, director and chief executive, Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Susan Tierney, managing principal, Analysis Group; Jorge Carrasco, superintendent, Seattle City Light; Tom King, president, National Grid US; Michael Melaniphy, APTA president & CEO; David Goldstein, energy program co-director, National Resources Defense Council; Michael Eckhart, managing director, Citigroup; Anthony Eggert, executive director, University of California-Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy; and Hank Courtright, senior vice president, Electric Power Research Institute

 

 

APTA MEMBER PROFILE

Meet Evalynn Williams!

Evalynn (Eve) Williams
President
Dikita Enterprises Inc.
Dallas, TX

How many people do you employ?
About 55 people. We have offices in Fort Worth and in San Bruno, CA, in addition to the main office in Dallas.
 
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
Since 1987.
 
How long have you been an APTA member?
Since 2006.
 
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
My firm is a family-owned business. My father and I are the principal owners. He drew me in because he needed an accountant and a business partner.

Dikita is a consulting firm that provides engineering, planning, and construction/program management. For the public transit market, the company provides rail program management and civil engineering design of light rail systems. For transportation—roads and highways—we provide civil engineering and construction inspection. The other markets and services we provide include program and construction management for building K-12 and higher education schools. We’re white-shirt guys: we provide oversight for contractors and usually represent the owner.

We have worked on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail system for the past 22 years, providing oversight or design services in some capacity for all 77 miles of DART’s ongoing light rail project (the longest light rail system in the U.S.). Our projects range from planning and design to inspection and oversight. Our services have included civil engineering design, systems integration and testing, estimating, change control, quality assurance, light rail car inspection during manufacturing and assembly, and even track power electrification.

In addition to its engineering practice, Dikita Enterprises has a second division called Dikita Management Services (DMS). DMS provides marketing research—data collection of ridership information—for the public transit industry. We provide these services all over the U.S.

Personally, supporting transit planners is what drew me into the public transit arena. I consider ourselves experts in collecting ridership statistics; I like to be innovative and it’s rewarding to formulate better strategies for obtaining rider and non-rider information.
 
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
APTA is our first source of information: if something is going on in the public transit industry, APTA is where we can really track it down. I may read about projects or issues in industry publications, but as an APTA member I can actually meet the people quoted in those publications.

Probably the most important member benefit to me is the ability to network and the opportunity to meet with people in larger companies and agencies. Before joining APTA, I wasn’t as familiar with public transit agencies other than DART and Houston METRO. Being a part of APTA has helped me realize that there are global opportunities in this field.
 
Please explain why or how this has helped.
It’s helped me understand the different procurements that are surfacing. For instance, I never really paid attention to funding issues—how grantees get their money—and I didn’t know when and to whom to market my services. Understanding the issues surrounding public transit allows me to do long-term planning and pinpoint specific locations to market. I also feel comfortable with the knowledge I receive, which has helped me become a better advocate in pushing the public transit agenda. 

What do you like most about your job?
I enjoy developing win-win strategies and developing innovative techniques. I also like working with larger companies and watching people’s reactions as we exceed their expectations. We’re a competent small firm and happen to be a minority-owned business. I also enjoy volunteering as a leader in my community or on APTA committees.
 
What is unique about your business that readers will be surprised to learn?
 Even though we’re a small company, we invest tens of thousands of dollars in developing new technology to help us do our jobs better. With all the new technologies—iPads, social media, texting—we’re always experimenting with different ways to collect a higher quality of data, faster, better, and cheaper.

Another thing that readers probably won’t know is how visible we are in the Dallas area. The company’s name appears on the outside of our building, which people can see on their way to Love Field Airport. That’s a sign of stability—Dikita has been in business 33 years, in our building for 22 of those years.

We have a diversified workforce that includes engineers, planners, construction managers, construction inspectors, a market research team, supervisors, administrative staff, as well as architects, estimators, and quality inspection staff. While we do not have depth in specific disciplines, we do have the breadth to handle management opportunities.

Make sure you see Evalynn Williams' video, now that you've read this!

MEET THE APTA STAFF

Meet Hai Tran!

Hai Tran
Computer Support Specialist
Corporate Affairs

What are the top job elements you focus on the most?
As a member of the Information Technology Department here at APTA, my primary responsibility is to support all staff members with any computer issues they encounter—anything from “My computer won’t turn on” to “Can you help me set up this webinar?”

I also act as a backup to our IT manager in dealing with the servers and switches and to the web manager in dealing with our website.

I provide support for the electronic version of Passenger Transport, posting classified ads and APTA member and staff videos—like the one I’ve done to accompany this profile—to the APTA website.

Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about the most recent times you’ve helped out a member.
I seldom have direct contact with APTA members—only when they’re here for meetings and needed help with hooking up to our projector or get connected to our Wi-Fi network.

We recently made improvements to the APTA website, but with those improvements came a few challenges. Some users had trouble logging into “myAPTA” because the old cookies were bad. I helped a couple of members on the phone showing them how to clear their cookies.

Also, I recently helped a member who had difficulty accessing APTA’s FTP server to upload files.

What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
Every year since I’ve been at APTA, I’ve put together a computer auction for the staff just before the Christmas holidays. It’s usually old computers, printers, and monitors that we have replaced. It’s a fun time for everyone who participates, since they can get a computer for around $10.

I called it “Haibay,” but I don’t get to keep the money!

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I’ve been working at APTA for five years now. I was looking for a new challenge and saw an ad on Craigslist. I was told that I was like the 10th person they interviewed for this position.

Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry (besides working at APTA)?
No.

What professional affiliations do you have?
None. I have a Microsoft certification. I’m a MCITP, Microsoft Certified IT Professional.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
I’m a “slug.” I live about 25 miles south of Washington, DC, off Interstate 95. If you know the DC area, you know how bad the traffic can get during rush hours. The good thing about I-95 is that it has dedicated high-occupancy vehicle lanes for three or more people in a car.

Slugging is basically carpooling with total strangers who meet up at predetermined sites along I-95, usually at a park-and-ride lot or a large shopping area with plenty of parking spaces. I take the train for a few stops to the APTA offices, but this is how I get into the city.

In the morning, I’ll drive about two miles to the park-and-ride, park my car, and get into a line. There are several lines that refer to various points in and around DC. When a car pulls up and it’s your turn, you just get in and says “Good morning” or “Thanks.” Once three people are in the vehicle, it’s time to go. I do the same thing for the afternoon commute home.

This is a win-win situation for both the drivers and riders. The driver wants to drive and doesn’t want to get stuck in traffic for two hours, compared with only 30 minutes if they pick up slugs. Passengers can get a free ride into the city and don’t have to spend money on gas and parking.

Something else few people know, even my co-workers at APTA: I have two little daughters.

Make sure you see Hai Tran's video, now that you've read this!

2012 APTA-TRB LIGHT RAIL CONFERENCE

APTA, TRB Convene Light Rail Conference in Salt Lake City

“Sustaining the Metropolis: LRT & Streetcars for Super Cities” is the theme of the 12th National Light Rail Conference Session being convened by APTA and the Transportation Research Board Nov. 11-13 at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City.
 
This year’s event will focus on how mid-size metropolitan regions can benefit by investing in light rail and streetcars and ways that these moves can improve connections between Americans and employment opportunities.
 
Conference activities will begin Sunday evening, Nov. 11, with the Opening Reception and—in the same room—the Light Rail & Streetcar Products and Services Showcase. 
 
The Opening General Session convenes Monday morning, Nov. 12, with speakers presenting numerous perspectives on the light rail and streetcar industry across the U.S. Concurrent sessions during the morning will examine topics such as the effect of a public transit agency’s devision to invest in rail transit on the agency’s performance and the travel behavior of its patrons; the use of proof-of-payment fare collection; light rail and streetcars in urban and university centers; and the ongoing evolution of light rail vehicle and streetcar techonology.
 
The General Luncheon, “Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Rapid Network Implementation,” will report on how Salt Lake City’s Utah Transit Authority (UTA) met the challenges of creating a modern-day rail system. UTA provides service on TRAX light rail and FrontRunner commuter rail.
 
Monday afternoon sessions will consider the flexibility of light rail transit in adapting to changes in the region it serves; the community decision-making process; the relationship between transit-oriented development and investment in light rail and streetcars; and traffic engineering innovations. The “Evening Forum,” which begins at 7 p.m., will feature an interactive panel discussion of federal Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century legislation, which includes fundamental changes to the program development path for light rail transit and streetcar projects.
 
More educational sessions convene Tuesday morning, Nov. 13, on such issues as the relationship between urban streetcars and regional light rail; right-of-way treatments to enhance system operations and aesthetics; and lessons learned from France’s state-of-the-art light rail operations.
 
UTA will host numerous technical tours on Tuesday afternoon. Tour participants will have a choice among visiting the Jordan River Service Center; the entire route of the TRAX Airport line, which opens in April 2013; the TRAX University Line, including a presentation at the Rice Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus; early construction of the Sugar House streetcar line; and a tour and discussion of TOD sites.

 

UTA currently operates TRAX light rail on three lines. 

 

 

 

UTA: Improving Community Connections with New Rail Lines

By: Michael Allegra, General Manager

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) welcomes participants in APTA-TRB 12th National Light Rail and Streetcar Conference to Salt Lake City! We are excited for this opportunity to meet our colleagues from around the world and share what we have accomplished here in the state of Utah.
 
UTA is a multimodal transit agency that currently operates three light rail lines on 35 miles of trackway and 44 miles of commuter rail. We are in the midst of a major expansion that will grow our light rail system to 46 miles of track and our commuter rail system to nearly 90 miles. In addition, we are currently constructing Utah’s first modern streetcar line, a two-mile project connecting the existing light rail system to the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City.
 
Four new lines will enter service by the end of 2013:
* FrontRunner commuter rail from Salt Lake City to Provo, opening Dec. 10, 2012;
* TRAX light rail from Salt Lake City to the Salt Lake City International Airport, opening April 14, 2013;
* TRAX light rail Blue Line extension from Sandy to Draper, scheduled to open in August 2013; and 
* Sugar House streetcar, expected to open in December 2013.
 
Once complete, the UTA rail network will serve the largest destinations in the state, including the Salt Lake City central business district, Salt Lake City International Airport, the University of Utah, and many others.
 
During your visit, we invite you to participate in the technical tours of several UTA facilities and construction sites. These include: 
* Jordan River Service Center, UTA’s newly renovated 300,000-square-foot light rail service facility and TRAX operational control room;
* The Airport TRAX Line, a six-mile light rail line that is nearing completion. The new line is in the testing phase and will begin revenue service in April;
* The University TRAX Line, a four-mile line that serves the University of Utah campus and medical center. The initial segment opened just prior to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City; and 
* The construction site of the two-mile Sugar House modern streetcar line, which has already generated hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in new developments.
 
Tour participants will have an opportunity to understand the partnerships that have contributed to the success of each project.
 
An Integral Part of Life
 
UTA has become an integral part of life for more than two million residents who live, work, and play in its six-county service area. Our network of trains and buses reduces congestion, lessens impacts to the environment, and supports the economic growth of the region.
 
The agency’s role in the community will become even more important to quality of life as the region grows and relies more and more on the public transit options we are building today. 
 
Smart growth takes more than just adding more public transit, however; it requires the entire community to come together to plan for the future. 
 
UTA is a key partner in an important regional planning initiative called the Wasatch Choice for 2040 plan. This strategy calls for placing one-third of all future growth on 3 percent of the region’s developable land. Centering new homes, jobs, and retail in urban centers and near transportation hubs would provide our residents with places where they can live, work, and play without having to own a car. This approach has the potential to reduce congestion and improve the environment while providing more choices for our citizens.
 
We’re excited to share with you our vision for Utah. We hope you will take the opportunity to ride the rails and see just a little of this beautiful state.

 

 

Construction continues on UTA’s Airport TRAX light rail line, which is scheduled to begin operation in April 2013.
 
 

Seattle Streetcar Program Expanding as Initial Segment Approaches 5-Year Anniversary

By: Ethan Melone, Rail Transit Manager

The city of Seattle has developed a modern streetcar line that serves its South Lake Union, Denny Triangle, and Downtown Retail Core neighborhoods, and is now in various phases of planning and construction for expansion of its streetcar network.
 
The initial streetcar segment provides local transit service, connects to the regional transit system, supports economic development, and contributes to neighborhood vitality. The $53 million South Lake Union line started operations in December 2007.
 
The line has exceeded initial ridership forecasts: average weekday ridership increased from 1,000 in the first months of operations to nearly 3,000 daily riders by Fall 2012. The project also has been successful as a catalyst for private investment in South Lake Union, with more than $2.5 billion invested since the streetcar was approved for construction in 2005, and an additional $3 billion in the development pipeline along the alignment.
 
Local businesses funded a demonstration program in 2010 to increase service during the afternoon peak, and subsequently extended this operating support through 2014.
 
Amazon.com moved to South Lake Union in 2009 and is increasing its presence along the streetcar line. The company recently proposed to fund the purchase of an additional streetcar and 10 years of operating support for increased all-day frequency as part of the public benefit offset for its development plans in the area. 
 
In November 2008, voters in the Puget Sound area approved “ST2,” the public transportation expansion plan for the region. This measure builds on the Sound Move plan approved in 1996 to expand light rail, commuter rail, and express bus service in our region.
 
The ST2 Plan includes funding for the First Hill Streetcar connector project, which links employment centers to the light rail system via connections on Capitol Hill and in the International District.
 
Construction of the 2.5-mile First Hill Streetcar line began in April 2012. Final assembly of the six-vehicle streetcar fleet will take place in Seattle, with operations set to begin mid-2014. The project includes two unique features: the vehicles will have an on-board energy storage system, allowing for off-wire operation, and the alignment incorporates a two-way cycle track to safely integrate bicycle and streetcar modes in Seattle’s Broadway corridor.
 
Seattle recently secured local funds and federal grants to complete planning, environmental review, and preliminary engineering for the half-mile Broadway Extension, which would expand the reach of the First Hill line through the Broadway commercial district.
 
With an FTA planning grant, Seattle has also begun alternatives analysis for the Center City Connector, which will connect the South Lake Union and First Hill lines through the city’s central business district. Seattle is also partnering with Sound Transit, the regional public transportation agency, to study mode and alignment options for a seven-mile corridor to northwest Seattle that could operate with light rail or streetcar. This Ballard to Downtown line is projected to serve as many as many as 26,000 daily riders. 
 
Most recently, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has proposed funding in his 2013 budget to begin planning another potential streetcar corridor, the University/Eastlake line, which could serve up to 25,000 daily riders.
 
Each of the new streetcar lines under evaluation was recommended in the city’s Transit Master Plan, adopted in the spring of 2012.

 

This map shows the proposed streetcar routes in the Seattle area. 

 

CAF’s URBOS Streetcar: New Technologies for Green Operation

BY JITENDRA S. TOMAR, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, CAF USA, Washington, DC

CAF’s new URBOS streetcars—now operating in Zaragoza, Spain—use innovative technologies to provide environmentally friendly service for urban mobility.
 
The firm has implemented “Product Sustainability Function”—an eco-design methodology in engineering and manufacturing processes—in construction of the URBOS streetcar. The ultimate goal is to optimize the entire operating life cycle of these vehicles.
 
As a result of this effort, CAF has developed a unique Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®) certified tram. The environmental impact Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study on the Zaragoza Streetcar follows ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards.
 
Environmental Declaration
 
The definition of an environmental declaration, as it appears in ISO 14025, is quantified environmental data for a product with pre-set categories of parameters based on the ISO 14040 series of standards, but not excluding additional environmental information. EPDs add several new market dimensions to inform about environmental performance of products and services with key characteristics and guiding principles, resulting in a number of advantages both for organizations creating EPDs and those making use of EPD information.
 
The traction equipment on CAF’s URBOS streetcars operating in Zaragoza includes Insulated-Gate Bipolar Transitor (IGBT) technology in conjunction with a hybrid Rapid Charge Accumulator unit and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries that allow the vehicles to operate without catenary up to 1.8 kilometers. This feature contributes to an improved integration of urban transport in cities while also minimizing visual impact in heritage and historical districts.
 
The super-capacitors can be fully charged in about 20 seconds, while the train is stopped at a station. The system also recovers both braking energy and energy stored on the journey.
 
The roof-mounted accumulator can work with any new or existing installations or infrastructure, and the NiMH batteries serve as backup for solving super-capacitor failure situations.
 
The vehicle body design features a 100 percent low floor for better passenger flow and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
 
Motor trucks with individual motors for each wheel provide comfortable ride quality.
 
CAF uses environmentally friendly and recyclable materials from renewable sources in the  manufacture of this streetcar.
 
Immediate Benefits
 
In the first year since introducing URBOS streetcars, Zaragoza has seen a 35 percent decline in traffic levels through the city center and a 7 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions.
 
Tramways & Urban Transit, an international magazine based in the United Kingdom, named the Zaragoza streetcar project its 2012 International Project of the Year for light rail project development, economic contributions, sustainability, modern design, and innovative technology. The International Association of Public Transport (UITP) honored it with the 2012 Best Urban Integration Project award during the International UITP Local Rail Summit in Warsaw, Poland.
 
The city of Cincinnati has selected CAF to supply sreetcars for the first phase of its streetcar project. These vehicles—based on the URBOS platform with adaptations to meet U.S. operating requirements—will be manufactured at CAF’s facility in Elmira, NY.

 

CAT’s innovative URBOS streetcars have entered service in Zaragoza, Spain. 

 

 

 

Alstom Presents LRT Innovations

Special to Passenger Transport

Alstom has developed a range of light rail vehicle technologies offering communities wide flexibility in addressing both their near-term and long-term transportation needs.
 
With its 100 percent low floor design, the Alstom’s Citadis range of light rail vehicles provides fully accessible urban transportation for all passengers—from parents with strollers to senior citizens. The low floor eliminates the need for public transit agencies to provide raised station platforms and combines the downtown capabilities of a streetcar with the speed needed to provide no-transfer suburban connections.
 
Alstom also has developed support technologies for light rail, including: Beyond vehicles, Alstom has developed:
* Off-wire propulsion systems, which can optimize route alignments and preserve a community’s historic character and downtown streetscapes. It uses a safety-proven, in-ground power supply that is only energized when in contact with the vehicle. Alstom light rail vehicles also can be equipped with batteries and super-capacitors for off-wire operation; and  
* Regenerative substations for agencies interested in energy efficiency. Alstom’s “smart substation” can capture up to 99 percent of a vehicle’s recoverable braking energy and transfer it back to the local power grid.
 

 

Alstom’s Citadis light rail vehicle, in operation in France.

 

 

Status of North American LRT Systems: 2012 Update

BY JOHN SCHUMANN, Senior Transportation Consultant, LTK Engineering Services, Portland, OR

In 1975—at the time of the First National Light Rail Conference, which convened in Philadelphia—only seven U.S. metropolitan areas, one in Canada, and one in Mexico operated legacy streetcar and proto-light rail systems. The succeeding 37 years have seen much progress in developing such systems.
 
As of 2012, and considering only systems operated as part of a region’s public transit system (i.e., excluding museums), the statistics show:
U.S.
 
Legacy light rail transit (LRT)/streetcar systems: 7 (Boston, MA; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Cleveland, OH; New Orleans, LA; San Francisco, CA)
 
New-age electric LRT systems: 18 (San Diego, CA; Buffalo, NY; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; San Jose, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Baltimore, MD; St. Louis, MO; Denver, CO; Dallas, TX; Salt Lake City, UT; Jersey City, NJ; Houston, TX; Minneapolis, MN; Charlotte, NC; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; Norfolk, VA)
 
New streetcar systems (historic or replica vintage vehicles in italic): 8 (Lowell, MA; Memphis, TN; Portland, OR; Tacoma, WA; Tampa, FL; Little Rock, AR; Kenosha, WI; Seattle, WA)
 
New light diesel multiple unit (DMU) lines: 4 (Camden-Trenton, NJ; Oceanside, CA; Austin, TX; Denton County, TX)
 
Canada
 
Legacy streetcar/LRT system: 1 (Toronto, ON)
 
New-age LRT systems: 2 (Edmonton, AB; Calgary, AB)
 
Light DMU: 1 (Ottawa, ON)
 
Mexico
 
Legacy streetcar/LRT system: 1 (Mexico City)
 
New-age LRT systems: 2 (Guadalajara, Monterrey) 
 
Three of these new start-ups opened to revenue passengers since TRB and APTA held their last National Light Rail Conference in 2009: the DMU lines in Austin, 2010, and Denton County, 2011, and Norfolk’s electric light rail line, 2011.
 
In addition, several systems extended existing lines and added new branches: Dallas, Edmonton, Jersey City (Bayonne), Los Angeles, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Portland (streetcar), Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and San Francisco. 
 
Looking forward, the following cities have made commitments to construction of further LRT and/or streetcar extensions: Calgary, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Edmonton, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Ottawa (light DMU), Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Seattle, and Tucson. New streetcar lines are under construction in Atlanta, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Tucson, AZ; and Washington, DC.
 
Though not yet advanced into the final design or construction stage, several cities are pursuing plans to develop “new-start” streetcar circulator lines or systems. These include Detroit, MI (Woodward Avenue); Fort Lauderdale, FL; Milwaukee, WI; Kansas City, MO; Northern Virginia; Oklahoma City, OK; Providence, RI; San Antonio, TX; and Santa Ana, CA.
 
After nearly four decades of continuous development, the future for LRT, streetcar and similar light DMU projects continues to look bright. The APTA-TRB Light Rail Conference in Salt Lake City in November will provide much more information about modern-day surface electric rail transit systems.

 

Sound Transit’s Link light rail system in Seattle.
 
 
 

Hampton Roads Transit’s The Tide: The Little Light Rail Line That Could—and Did

Special to Passenger Transport

When Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) in Norfolk, VA, opened The Tide, Virginia’s first light rail system, at 6 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2011, the only crowds present at the Newtown Road terminus were employees, politicians, demonstrators, and media. Hanging heavy in the air was a central question: would the projections of 2,900 daily riders prove true, or would light rail be an embarrassment?
 
The answer came quickly. The citizens of Hampton Roads arrived 70,000 strong that first weekend. Demand was so high that HRT decided to extend the complementary period from three days to a full week.
 
Even after the initial excitement, Tide ridership has remained strong and continued to grow throughout the first year of operations, from 4,000 to 6,000 daily riders. 
 
The light rail project in Norfolk—the smallest city to receive a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement for light rail—was not without its challenges. The 7.4-mile starter line links a medical complex near downtown Norfolk with a community college, a AAA baseball park, a shopping district and neighborhoods on the city’s west side. Few public infrastructure projects brought as much anticipation and promise to the seaside communities.
 
However, the project suffered from numerous delays and cost overruns, and public confidence was not high that HRT could manage such an important project or operate it efficiently. Could this small agency that had never built anything more complex than an administration building rise to the challenges of launching light rail in an old, urban city?
 
During the height of the turmoil, HRT was also in the process of remaking itself. This reorganization process eliminated layers of inefficient management from the project and gave responsibility to key individuals for clearly defined outcomes with firm deadlines.
 
In early May 2011, the agency’s chief executive officer presented the staff with a list of critical assignments, directing them either to complete the projects by Aug. 1 or not to bother showing up for work on Aug. 2. He made clear that failure to achieve the desired outcomes was unacceptable.
 
HRT senior management monitored and reviewed their progress daily and shifted resources as needed, completing key assignments one by one until none remained on the list. In mid-July, contracts were closing out, systems integration testing was wrapping up, safety and security certifications were on track, and pre-revenue operational testing was moving at full speed.
 
“The last 90 days of the project were among the best I had ever experienced in my professional career,” said Jim Price, HRT’s chief transit officer.
 
Staff confidence was very high the morning of Aug. 19. The trains ran on time and safely, and rail operations personnel were properly equipped, well trained, and motivated to succeed.
 
When the crowds started arrive by the thousands, HRT stood ready and able. The entire agency workforce participated that day: employees and citizen volunteers, dressed in red T-shirts and called Tide Guides, helped people navigate the new system.
 
The huge opening-day turnout resulted in long lines at stations. Trains arrived on time and left packed. The first public hurdle facing agency employees was simply counseling patience to the many people who stood in long lines to ride The Tide. Workers found themselves distributing bottled water to keep customers cool as temperatures soared into the humid 90s. This little touch was greatly appreciated by the public.
 
During its first year of operation, The Tide has demonstrated its value to the region. The light rail line has consistently provided better than 98 percent on-time performance, exceeded average daily ridership projections, and carried tens of thousands of people to special events such as the 2011 Grand Illumination Parade and 2012 OpSail Festival, an international flotilla of sailing ships that called on Norfolk.
 
The Tide has survived a hurricane, a minor earthquake, a number of floods in low-lying Norfolk, and a host of other operational challenges. As it awaits its two millionth boarding, the light rail operation has performed reliably, efficiently, and safely. The Tide has integrated itself into the fabric of the region and, in doing so, has become a point of pride.
 
On Nov. 6, voters in neighboring Virginia Beach (also part of the HRT service area) will decide if they want city leaders to pursue light rail in that city. Also, the Norfolk City Council has asked HRT to begin studying an extension to the Norfolk Naval Station, the world’s largest Navy base.
 
By any standard of measurement, The Tide has been a success. On its opening day, the employees may have been the only group present not surprised.

 

Passengers wait on the platform for The Tide to arrive.


 

 

 

New Orleans Rail: A Historic Asset Paving the Way to a Brighter Future

BY JUSTIN T. AUGUSTINE III, Vice President, Veolia Transportation North America, and Chief Executive Officer, Regional Transit Authority, New Orleans, LA

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in New Orleans has been on the forefront of the light rail system renaissance in major metropolitan areas for decades. At present, the RTA operates three rail lines: the historic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, the bustling Canal Street Streetcar, and the majestic Riverfront Streetcar.
 
These lines serve three of the busiest transportation corridors in the city, moving more than 15,000 riders to work, school, and entertainment venues every day.
 
The light rail system, or streetcars as they are lovingly called in New Orleans, has been a staple of the city’s public transit network for generations. The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar is the oldest continuously running street railway system in the world, operating continuously for more than 175 years.
 
The other New Orleans light rail lines were replaced by bus service in the period between the late 1940s and the early 1960s; preservationists worked with the RTA and the city government to protect the St. Charles Avenue Line and secured historic landmark status for this iconic line. That action provided the base for the RTA to launch a return to rail well ahead of other U.S. cities.
 
The RTA successfully developed and built the Riverfront Streetcar in 1988. This scenic line, nestled between the French Quarter and the banks of the Mississippi River, connects the convention center with the French Market—helping to drive business to the area’s small, locally owned boutiques, restaurants, and novelty shops.
 
The original Canal Streetcar was removed and replaced with bus service in the 1960s. Forty years later, in 2004, the RTA returned rail to the corridor to provide improved access to the Central Business District. This project, funded by $17 million in federal grants and $4 million in RTA funds, spurred a resurgence and renaissance in the residential neighborhoods along the line. Tragically, these newly built railcars sufferered severe damage from the floods during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
 
Recognizing the importance of this rail line to revitalization of the community, the agency and its craftsmen completely rebuilt and refurbished all 31 red Canal Street streetcars and returned the line to service in 2006. Since then, the surrounding business and residential area has seen an economic boost: small and boutique businesses and restaurants thrive and a $38 million shopping center is set to open along the corridor. It has also become a neighborhood of choice for families and individuals.
 
In February 2010, the Board of Commissioners of the RTA—along with the management team of its private operating partner, Veolia Transportation—secured a $45 million federal Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant for a new rail project. The agency broke ground on the Loyola Avenue/Union Passenger Terminal streetcar expansion project that June.
 
This line will improve access to the city’s transit network from the Central Business District and reduce travel time among residential areas, employment centers, and major activity centers. It will also improve connectivity among convention, tourism, entertainment, energy, health care and biosciences facilities and enhance livability for downtown residents.
 
Investors understand the benefits of this new streetcar line. Mega-developments along the corridor include the $243 million renovation of the recently reopened Hyatt Regency Hotel, a planned $100 million office-sports-entertainment complex, a $185 million “transit-oriented” apartment–retail development, and a major supermarket. The project has been the impetus for more than $2 billion in private investment to date.
 
With a completion date scheduled for mid-January 2013, the new line should play a major role in New Orleans hosting the 2013 Super Bowl due to its proximity to the local football arena and festivities surrounding this event.
 
Most recently, RTA has entered the final design phase of its next rail project. The agency, working with the Veolia Transportation management team, issued a successful $75 million sales tax bond in 2010 to finance this next phase of its ambitious streetcar expansion project.
 
This new line, which will connect to the Canal Streetcar line and travel down North Rampart Street to Elysian Fields Avenue, will provide a significant population with direct access to employment opportunities in the Central Business District. In advance of ground breaking expected in 2014, this project has already encouraged investment, such as major projects to restore historic buildings along its projected route and development of housing, business, and entertainment venues already underway.
 
The agency continues in its efforts to secure additional available dollars to expand the light rail network throughout the community and serve as an economic engine driving growth, investment, and jobs creation in New Orleans. The agency recognizes that existing and future rail lines breathe life into the transportation system and the economy.
 

Bombardier's New Railcar Offers 'Freedom'

BY JACQUES DROUIN, Product Manager, Bombardier Transportation North America, Saint-Bruno, QC

Public transportation is facing challenging times. The effect of global climate change, combined with rising energy prices and significant growth in urban populations, mean that the need for sustainable mobility—particularly in cities—has never been greater.
 
By 2025 there will be 27 cities in the world with 10 million inhabitants or more. The increasing number of road-based vehicles—2.5 billion estimated for 2030, compared with 580 million in 1997—will lead to a dramatic increase in congestion.
 
In light of these developments, streetcars and light rail vehicles are currently experiencing a worldwide renaissance as they provide a sustainable solution for all these challenges.
 
The issue of urban congestion has focused attention on the need for improved public transportation. Many cities around the world recognize that streetcars and light rail are effective in transporting large volumes of commuters efficiently and without detriment to the environment. As a result, numerous public transportation agencies are opting to either rejuvenate their existing light rail infrastructure or construct complete new systems from scratch.
 
Increased environmental consciousness and soaring fuel costs are also motivating more and more people to opt for public transportation. Streetcars and light rail vehicles are energy-efficient, consuming three to five times less energy per passenger than automobiles traveling with an average of 1.2-1.4 people. These public transit vehicles can transport up to 250 passengers at a time and, as a rule, operate for a period of 30 years or longer.
 
Bombardier Transportation manufactures light rail vehicles to meet city transportation requirements with its BOMBARDIER FLEXITY family. The company has created its latest vehicle—the FLEXITY Freedom—specifically to meet the needs of North American cities and public transit systems.
 
Bombardier designed the FLEXITY Freedom as part of its modular light rail vehicle platform, combining proven elements with innovative technologies to save energy, emit no carbon dioxide, and reduce visual and noise pollution.
 
The vehicle offers a 100 percent low floor, entirely step-free interior; an extra wide (8-foot, 8-1/2-inch) carbody; two-by-two seating with maximized aisle width; and an easy-to-configure interior layout. The FLEXITY Freedom can be adapted for urban and suburban rail networks; is available in three- and five-module configurations; can be either uni- or bi-directional; has a maximum capacity of 251 passengers; and can be coupled to form trains of up to four cars, yielding an overall capacity of more than 30,000 passengers per hour per direction.
 
Its key features include optional catenary-free operation; the combination of low floor technology with conventional axle wheel-set bogies for a smooth ride; and a modular design that provides easy access to components and systems. 
 
Bombardier is currently building 204 streetcars and 182 FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicles for the Greater Toronto Region.
 

 

An artist’s rendering of the Bombardier FLEXITY Freedom light rail vehicle on a proposed track near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

 

 

COMMENTARY

System Failure: Why the Public Transit Debate is Stalled

BY ALVIN NICHOLS, Board Member, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Washington, DC

This article is adapted from one that originally appeared in Kogod Now, a publication of the Kogod School of Business, American University, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission.

We need to stop calling public investment in “public transportation” a subsidy. America’s economic engine, and the very fabric of our society, is held together by its transportation infrastructure. We are a transit-dependent society that has  built its very essence around the ability to go places safely and dependably. Our transportation networks are the arteries that nourish and sustain our way of life.

This is why “subsidy”—the very definition of which is “a grant or gift of money”—is not a suitable term. Nothing in my 35-year career in public service and private industry evidences the case for labeling public spending on public transportation this way.

Public spending on public transportation, in all of its many forms, is undeniably an investment. These investments relieve road congestion, improve air quality and access to leisure and commerce centers, enable the development of new “transit-oriented” communities, and are the anchor to sustainability efforts.

Regrettably, as a society, we have built an inappropriate yet universally embraced vocabulary around public infrastructure issues.

We blithely conduct critically important local and national dialogue using the term “public transportation subsidy” in one form or another.

Consider these examples:

* The Internal Revenue Service Public Transportation Subsidy Program (PTSP) was established to encourage employees to use public transportation when commuting to and from work.

* A column in the Huffington Post, “A Sustainable City Requires Increased Mass Transit Subsidies,” noted that “Bridge tolls and business taxes have been used to subsidize mass transit, along with funds from the state’s budget.”

* The Senate on March 14 passed a surface transportation bill (S. 1813) that includes a measure to increase the mass transit portion of the employee transportation subsidy to $240 per month, wrote the Federal Daily News.

This polarizing national dialogue, so intensely focused on the notion that public spending on public transportation is a subsidy, has throttled the economic progress of our communities. When it comes to funding daily maintenance, repairs, and expansion of our transportation infrastructure, it is the friend that we pretend not to know in its time of greatest need.

Meanwhile, the trains and the rails that carry them, the roads that shoulder our buses and cars, and indeed even the pathways that our bicycles traverse fall into disrepair.

Critical Juncture
America’s diminishing investment in its vital public infrastructure has reached a crisis stage. This alarming state of our public affairs is not new or surprising information to most Americans. It is a condition and risk that we have come to accept with seeming indifference, until the next inevitable catastrophic infrastructure failure jolts us to our very core.

And even then, our outrage and demand for change and renewed investment are often short-lived; we soon drift back to a dangerous state of underinvestment.

The evidence of lack of investment in our public infrastructure is well documented, and few argue that substantially more investment in the country’s infrastructure is urgently required. However, framing the discussions and investment decisions, and building support for making those investments, continues to be our undoing.

In spite of the seemingly obvious need for greater and accelerated investment in our infrastructure, we have failed miserably to make the case.

My professional career, in both the public and private sectors, was launched and largely built around development and implementation of transportation public policy, infrastructure investment, and transit facilities construction and maintenance.

In my experience, whether sponsored and financed with public resources or private ones (and often a combination), the pathway to final “go/no go” decisions is always preceded by careful cost/benefit analysis, with particular emphasis on public benefit.

However, somewhere along the way in our society, we lost track of the idea that funding and ensuring safe, effective, and reliable transportation systems is a necessity for the prosperity of our communities. It is not an optional public investment that can be dramatically curtailed.

My career in public service is largely rooted in state and local government and quasi-government agencies, where “on-the-ground” transit investment decisions are shaped, formalized, and implemented. Lives, communities, and economies are shaped and changed by those decisions and actions.

Case in Point
Currently, I serve as a member of the board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Metro, as it is commonly known, operates the regional rail and bus transit system. It is the nation’s second-largest heavy rail system, sixth-largest bus network, and fifth-largest paratransit service.

With its $2.5 billion annual budget, Metro’s economic impact by its spending alone has extraordinary effects on the region and its quality of life.

WMATA’s budget tells only a fraction of its story. On peak days, ridership approaches 1 million people; in 2011, Metro accounted for 217,052,000 rail passenger trips and 124,173,000 bus trips. Ferried by a workforce of 11,000 WMATA employees, these trips carried workers to their jobs, tourists to national monuments, students to school, elderly residents to health-care providers—you get the picture.

Forty-two percent of employees working in Washington, DC’s center core—which includes parts of Arlington County [VA]—use mass transit. And more than a third of the federal government workforce depends upon Metro for its daily commute.

All these figures add up to the point that public spending on public transportation, whether in DC or in the nation at large, is not an optional subsidy, it is an economic necessity. It is a required investment in our very survival and success.

It is a fact that state and local governments fund 42 percent of the daily operating cost of WMATA and its fleet of buses and rail operations. But it is also a fact that without this investment in the region, the local and regional economy would collapse under its own weight.

This public funding of our public transportation enables the jobs, industry, and vitality that support our region. It’s time to aggressively support sufficient and sustained investment in our public transportation facilities, for the preservation of our way of life.

Alvin Nichols, MPA ’78, is principal of the real estate development advisory firm Nichols Creative Development.