Passenger Transport - November 30, 2012
BY CHRISTIAN RICHARDS, APTA Legislative Analyst
Congress returned from its Thanksgiving recess the week of Nov. 26 to begin finalizing a number of year-end legislative issues. At the top of the list, it must find a solution to the “fiscal cliff”: a combination of sizable tax increases and spending cuts, set to automatically take effect at the beginning of the new year. Some analysts believe that the combination of tax increases and spending cuts could send the economy into another recession.
Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate remain at odds over exactly how to fix this issue, which could require action on expiring tax laws, existing taxes, and discretionary domestic and defense spending.
The two major pieces of the puzzle under consideration are the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequestration plan, which begins Jan. 2, 2013, and triggers automatic cuts to discretionary programs, and the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts on Dec. 31, 2012. While the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) programs would not be subject to sequestration, programs funded by the General Fund, such as New Starts, would face automatic cuts.
In addition to sequestration and the expiring Bush tax cuts, a number of important but lesser discussed items may play a part in any year-end deal. These include the Medicare “Doc Fix,” the payroll tax holiday, the Alternative Minimum Tax, the farm bill, the debt ceiling limitation, and any number of tax incentives not covered under the traditional extenders legislation, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, child credit, and American Opportunity tax credit, among others.
The final major puzzle piece would be tax extenders legislation: a package of tax credits that for years have been bundled and renewed en masse. The Senate, but not the House, has pending tax extenders legislation before it; this bill includes the Commuter Tax Benefit and the Alternative Fuel Tax Credit, both important issues to commuters and the public transit industry alike.
All these items could be used to produce a revenue and spending balance acceptable to both parties and would, at least in the short term, prevent the country from falling off the metaphorical cliff.
Whether Congress makes one or two small changes, such as simply pushing sequestration back to later in 2013, or a series of smaller revenue and spending tweaks, or attempts to seek agreement on a “grand bargain” that encompasses many of the legislative issues, remains to be seen. Resolution of these issues is the primary focus for leadership in both the House and Senate, as well as for the Obama Administration, and efforts to reach a compromise are ongoing. Given the number of issues present, it may be weeks before a package is finalized.
FTA Schedules Webcast on MAP-21
FTA has scheduled a live public webcast, “Overview of MAP-21 Apportionment Notice and Guidance: What Does It Mean?” for Dec. 4, 1:30-3 p.m. EST. No RSVP is necessary. Interested persons can view the live webcast by logging in.
Topics will include an overview of MAP-21; an outline of the Fiscal Year 2013 Apportionment Notice; key provisions and interim guidance; FY 2013 apportionment tables; and next steps—future implementation.
For more information, click here.
Milwaukeeans turned out in droves to “Stuff the Bus!” the day before Thanksgiving. The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) partnered with Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, a radio station, and a supermarket for the 15th annual event. Radio personalities broadcast live for 12 hours in the supermarket parking lot, encouraging the public to donate nonperishable food items, which were then packed into MCTS buses for delivery to a warehouse. To kick-start the event, the first bus arrived half full with donations from agency employees. Members of the community stuffed five full buses of food—a total of 305,276 pounds—by the end of the day. MCTS Managing Director Lloyd Grant Jr., declared the event an unqualified success: “Serving the community is at the center of our mission at MCTS. We are proud to help those in our area who are the most vulnerable, especially during the holiday season.”
Representatives of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Santa Cruz METRO), joined by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and other dignitaries, recently broke ground in Santa Cruz, CA, for the agency’s new operations facility. Also on hand were family members of the late Judy K. Souza, in whose memory the new building will be named.
The ceremony marked the final phase of METRO’s MetroBase consolidation of operations and construction of a new, state-of the-art facility to replace a 30-year-old structure that was built to last five years. The agency expects the project to create more than 300 construction jobs over the next two years.
Souza, who died in 2011, began her 32-year career with METRO as its first female bus driver and supervisor. Ultimately she served the agency as its first female superintendent of operations.
Photo by Steve Duncan
A new report from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Center for Environmental Excellence shows the success of state DOTs and other transportation agencies in implementing sustainable transportation practices that are fast becoming the norm for doing business.
AASHTO worked with FTA and FHWA to prepare the report, Leaner and Greener: Sustainability at Work in Transportation, which showcases the range of ways transportation agencies nationally are simultaneously cutting costs, helping the environment, and strengthening communities. It cites three primary reasons for this success: fiscal responsibility, community quality of life, and a commitment to a better environment.
The report spotlights the efforts of DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and public transit providers to speed up project delivery and cut costs while protecting and even improving environmental resources. Their programmatic environmental solutions cover everyday maintenance as well as project development.
“Achieving sustainability in transportation is an ongoing, collaborative process,” said FHWA Administrator Victor M. Mendez. “The FHWA is proud to work alongside all our partners to advance sustainable transportation practices that serve us now and will serve us in the future.”
The text of the report is available here.
FTA is accepting applications through Dec. 21 for the fourth round of its Environmental Management Systems Training & Technical Assistance Program for Transit Agencies.
An environmental management system (EMS) is a set of management processes and procedures that allow an organization to analyze, control, and reduce the environmental impact of its activities, products, and services, and to operate with greater efficiency and control. FTA’s program walks public transit agency personnel through the development and implementation of an EMS using the ISO 14001 Standard through a series of workshops, on-site technical support visits, electronic materials and resources, and consultation.
This series of four workshops will convene in Roanoke, VA, with the support of Virginia Tech. Application instructions, a list of past participants, and final reports from previous offerings are available here.
For questions, contact Antoinette Quagliata.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Board of Directors has named Frederick G. (Bud) Wright as the organization’s new executive director. He will succeed John Horsley, who is retiring Feb. 1, 2013.
“Bud Wright has almost four decades of experience in both the private sector and as a top executive at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA),” said Kirk Steudle, AASHTO president and director of Michigan DOT. “Wright’s proven leadership in critical areas such as transportation safety, policy and legislation, budget, and financial oversight will be extremely beneficial to AASHTO as it works with our membership and lawmakers to shape the next surface transportation authorization bill.”
Wright, a transportation consultant based in Alexandria, VA, joined FHWA in 1975 as an economist in its Office of Planning. He ultimately served as FHWA executive director from 2001 to 2008. He has received the Presidential Rank Award for federal government executives, the Secretary of Transportation's Special Achievement Award, the Federal Highway Administrator’s Superior Achievement Award, and the Secretary of Transportation’s Team Award for his work on development of TEA-21.
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) in Orange, CA, has named Darrell Johnson, the current deputy chief executive officer, to take over as CEO effective March 1, 2013. He will succeed Will Kempton, OCTA CEO since 2009, who will step down Feb. 28 to become executive director of Transportation California, a nonprofit organization dedicated to transportation advocacy and education.
Johnson joined OCTA in 2003 and has served in his current post since 2010. Before that, he worked at Amtrak for 12 years, holding positions in operations, planning, and finance and contributing to the development of passenger rail services in California, Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia.
“Darrell’s superior leadership skills and in-depth knowledge of OCTA are a winning combination for this agency,” said Kempton. “He is well respected among leaders in the transportation industry, as well as employees, and I am confident he will continue moving this agency on a successful path.”
Johnson is an at-large director on the APTA Board of Directors and a member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, Commuter & Intercity Rail Legislative Subcommittee, and High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Committee.
John P. LaForce, 79, an employee of Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for more than half a century, died Nov. 20—just days before his 80th birthday.
LaForce joined the former Philadelphia Transportation Company as a streetcar operator in 1954, ultimately rising to the position of deputy chief engineer, infrastructure. SEPTA presented him with a special citation in 2004 in recognition of his 50 years of service.
SEPTA Director of Public Affairs Richard C. Maloney said of LaForce: “For a transportation system as technically huge and complex as SEPTA, John was the one guy who knew how virtually everything worked—down to the last screw and circuit-breaker. He had a photographic memory of the entire SEPTA infrastructure for the last 50 years—literally.”
LaForce joined the U.S. Navy when he was 17, serving in the Pacific fleet after World War II and in the Atlantic fleet during the Korean War. He earned an engineering degree at Temple University.
For APTA, he was a member of the Power, Signals, and Communications Technical Forum.
Thanks to assistance from the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) can now automatically brake its trains when earthquakes threaten to rattle the region, allowing time for trains to slow down before the ground starts to shake.
BART worked with seismologists from the University of California, Berkeley, who connected the agency with data from the more than 200 stations throughout Northern California of the California Integrated Seismic Network.
Electronic signals from seismic stations travel much faster than seismic waves, BART explained. For quakes outside the bay area, this data gives BART’s central computers advance notice that shaking is on the way; for quakes in the area, they provide more rapid warning.
If the messages from the seismic network indicate ground motion above a certain threshold, the central computers, which supervise train performance, institute what BART calls “service” braking, which is a normal slowdown to 26 miles per hour. The farther the quake from the bay area, the more time trains have to slow from speeds up to 70 mph.
BART has long had accelerometers—devices that detect strong ground movement—positioned along the tracks. They ring an alarm bell in the Central Control Facility when the local shaking exceeds a specific threshold. Supervisors then would make the decision whether to contact train operators and tell them to initiate emergency braking to a full stop.
A year ago, BART instituted automatic service braking when the system’s own shake sensors detect ground movement; however, this only works when shaking reaches the BART system. In contrast, the new system gives warning as soon as shaking is felt at remote sensors, which can be sooner because of the time it takes for the strong shaking to radiate from the epicenter.
Metro in Cincinnati has partnered with the city’s Office of Environmental Quality (OEQ) and the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District to reward residents with free Metro passes when they make the green choice of actively recycling. The “Recycle & Ride” program kicked off last month in five communities: Bond Hill, Clifton, Hyde Park, Oakley, and Price Hill.
The program is administered through RecycleBank, a national organization that awards points for rewards in exchange for a green action—in this case, recycling. Metro riders can redeem their points for passes for six free rides in Metro’s Zone 1.
“More than 70 percent of Cincinnati households recycle, taking action for a more sustainable city and planet,” said OEQ Director Larry Falkin. “Driving less is another great way to help the city and planet become more sustainable. This program is the city’s way of helping recyclers to become transit riders.”
“You can make a positive impact in your Cincinnati neighborhood by recycling and riding the Metro,” said Kim Lahman, Metro ridership development manager. “Both are green choices that you can make every day.”
More information about this effort is available here.
The Phoenix area environmental advocacy organization Valley Forward recently presented the Phoenix Public Transit Department with its Crescordia Award in recognition of the refurbishment of Central Station, the city’s downtown public transit hub. The award honors excellence in providing multimodal transportation and transit connectivity.
The $3.7 million station refurbishment incorporated both aesthetic and practical elements-such as increased shade to passengers, solar energy sustainability features, and recycled construction components—to create a brightly colored and deftly landscaped passenger space.
“We know that our passengers want facilities that are attractively designed and easy to navigate,” noted Phoenix Public Transit Department Interim Director Neal Young. “The Central Station refurbishment project really brings those two elements together in a way that also meets high environmental standards. It’s an excellent effort by our staff and contractors, and an honor to win.”
The organization also presented its Award of Merit to the public transit agency for construction of a new park-and-ride facility at 27th Avenue and Baseline Road. The park-and-ride is the first in the Laveen community, a mostly rural area that has seen sharply increased demand for public transit service as the population has grown. It provides a service hub for local bus routes and new commuter passenger service to downtown Phoenix.
The Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT), in partnership with the city of Citrus Heights, CA, introduced “City Ride”—a curb-to-curb, “dial-a-ride” service for the general public—on Oct. 29. The new shuttle service operates between all destinations within Citrus Heights and Mercy San Juan Medical Center on Coyle Avenue in Carmichael. In the near future, RT also plans to expand service to Kaiser Medical Offices on Riverside Avenue in Roseville.
City Ride operates weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., using vehicles that can seat 12-14 passengers with space for two wheelchairs, and requires reservations. Regular RT basic and discount fares apply.
“Residents of Citrus Heights will benefit from City Ride and other bus service improvements implemented in September as part of TransitRenewal,” said Citrus Heights Mayor Jeff Slowey. TransitRenewal is the public transit agency’s comprehensive operational analysis, designed to improve service in Citrus Heights and connections throughout the Sacramento region.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff recently visited Mesa, AZ, to announce the release of $75 million in FTA money to help fund Valley Metro’s 3.1-mile light rail extension into downtown Mesa.
“People are riding light rail, Bus Rapid Transit, and streetcars because they want options,” LaHood said. “With this light rail project, you’ve joined together with your vision and you are creating jobs as you build and run the system, leaving behind something valuable for the next generation.”
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith welcomed the federal dignitaries, including Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ), at an event held near the site of a future light rail station, just north of the Mesa Arts Center at Main and Center streets. The Central Mesa extension will expand light rail service from Sycamore and Main streets to Mesa Drive, adding four light rail stations and a park-and-ride lot.
“We appreciate the support of our federal partners,” said Steve Banta, Valley Metro chief executive officer. “They have seen the success of our transit system and are willing to support its growth for the benefit of our riders and local economy.”
The light rail system reported average weekday ridership of almost 50,000 in September, 3.7 percent above the same month in 2011.
The expansion, which should begin service in late 2015, is anticipated to serve nearly 10,000 daily riders. The total cost of the extension—approximately $200 million—will come from federal sources and the regional half-cent countywide sales tax dedicated to fund a regional transit system in Maricopa County.
DOT Secretary Ray LaHood signs the funding agreement for Valley Metro. Steve Banta, CEO of the agency, is in the background.
The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) in Riverside, CA, recently hosted “Trolley Dances Riverside,” a program of site-specific dancing based aboard an RTA trolley-replica bus. Tickets included a trolley pass. The event was a production of the San Diego Dance Theater, Riverside City College Dance, and P.L.A.C.E. Performance, funded by the James Irwin Foundation and the city of Riverside.
Representatives of Los Angeles Metro recently joined a host of elected and community officials to dedicate the state-of-the-art El Monte Bus Station, which underwent a thorough overhaul and expansion.
The upgrade of the El Monte facility, which originally opened in 1973, is part of the Congestion Reduction Demonstration Program known as Metro ExpressLanes, funded by a $210 million DOT grant.
The $60 million station consists of a new two-story building that will house a public bus and terminal station with limited retail space, a customer service center, and surface parking.
It is twice the size of the old facility, equipped with such amenities as variable message signs, intercoms, closed circuit television, solar panels, wayfinding equipment and information displays, new elevators and escalators, a transit store, bike stations, and lockers.
Metro and Caltrans District 7 are partnering with Foothill Transit, Gardena Transit, Los Angeles DOT, and Torrance Transit in a one-year demonstration project during which existing carpool lanes on the I-10 El Monte Busway and the I-110 Harbor Transitway will be converted to high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes called Metro ExpressLanes. The project includes funding to improve transportation facilities in El Monte near the I-10 San Bernardino Freeway and the Harbor Gateway Transit Center in Gardena adjacent to the I-110 Harbor Transitway.
Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina added: “El Monte is the transit hub of the San Gabriel Valley, and this bus station is a major connection point for thousands of daily commuters. We're proud to offer a new, top-quality facility to Metro bus riders.”
Artist Donald Lipski designed “Time Piece” as a contemporary clock tower for the El Monte Station. The work incorporates three functioning clocks, suspended by a cable system within a stainless steel arch.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is making rider safety not only easy to learn but fun with its introduction of the “Safety Slide” dance. Almost 13,000 viewers have already watched the system’s entertaining, educational video.
MARTA passengers—joined by Star, mascot of the Atlanta Dream women’s basketball team—learn the following safety lessons during the video:
* Wait for bus in shelter
* Wait for bus to leave before crossing
* Don’t run after bus
* Keep aisle clear
* Walk to catch train
* Stand behind the gray line in station
* Never enter tracks
* Never lean on train doors
* Stand to the right on escalator
* Never try to stop a closing elevator
* Hold child’s hand on escalator
One of the 11 safety lessons included in MARTA’s “Safety Slide” video.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has begun promoting—through ads on board its buses and subway trains—a program that offers rewards of up to $2,000 to public transit riders or others who offer details to police after witnessing a crime against a public transit system employee. Information about the program is also available here.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo introduced the Transit Watch program earlier this year, following a joint conference convened by the MTA and the Transport Workers Union Local 100 to address an increase in the number of assaults on agency personnel. Assaulting an MTA employee is a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Customers who see a crime take place are asked to call the NYPD’s CrimeStoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS. All calls are kept strictly confidential, and you need not provide your name.
Transit Watch falls under a national program administered by FTA and made possible by the New York City Police Foundation.
Deputy General Manager and Chief Operating Officer
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
How many people do you employ at your agency?
MARTA has 4,523 employees, not including contract employees.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
More than 32 years.
How long have you been an APTA member?
I have been active in APTA since 1997, so 15 years.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I was 23 years old and I needed a job. I started my career as a bus operator, which was a very good job. Then I was fortunate enough to work my way up from there.
I began at DART—it was still the Dallas Transit System then—in 1980, drove a bus for 10 years, and received several promotions. I’m the only person in the history of that organization who was promoted directly from being a bus operator to a management position, assistant manager, without serving in a supervisory position in between.
I worked for DART for 19 years, then I came to MARTA as senior vice president for operations. I worked at SEPTA as chief bus operations officer; at RTA New Orleans as general manager; as executive vice president and chief operating officer at Capital Metro in Austin, TX; then came back to MARTA in 2008 in my current position.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource—that helps you do your job?
The network. APTA membership means I’m able to have access to colleagues and peers across the country. I can draw on that experience as MARTA seeks new and innovative ways to do what we do. I also enjoy serving as a resource for other public transit agencies.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
Years ago, while I worked in Dallas, we had a portion of our service that had been privatized, Houston Metro had done the same thing, so its employees could present us with lessons learned on the contracting process, the things that did and didn’t work for them.
When I was in New Orleans, I was able to call MARTA and get suggestions from that network of people.
Now, especially, as we all struggle with becoming more efficient, better shepherds of taxpayer dollars—I’ve spoken with people at the Maryland Transit Administration in Baltimore about their performance management process. I’ve asked employees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority about the TranStat process, and how they use performance data to help them shape their decisions. That’s all part of the network.
What do you like most about your job?
The diversity and complexity of it. It’s not boring and it’s constantly different.
In my position, I am responsible for all bus and rail operations, but also for the transit police department, program and project management, and safety. It’s the number-two position here at MARTA.
For example, on a single day I could start out talking about the police, then bus maintenance, then elevators and escalators, and end the day talking about legislative initiatives at either the local or federal level. It’s very diverse and I like that part.
Most importantly, I like that MARTA makes a difference in the quality of life of the people it serves. We provide access to church, school, work, shopping, and all the things we do help facilitate this.
I work directly with the heads of bus operations, rail operations, police, safety, program and project management, architecture, and design.
MARTA’s architecture group also is responsible for sustainability efforts; we’ve had a lot of success with our green initiatives. We have adopted a standard that all new facilities will be LEED-certified—our new paratransit facility will be certified LEED Silver.
We received federal TIGGER money to install a solar panel array at our largest bus facility. It’s the largest installation of its type in the southeastern U.S. We use it to offset our power costs. Especially during the summer, with the longer days, we are able to sell power back to the grid.
MARTA is a signatory to the APTA Sustainability Commitment. We’ve tried to reduce the amount of paper we use: we’ve automated our board process, which formerly was very paper-intensive, so it’s paperless now. Our recycling effort since 2009 has kept more than 431 tons of paper out of landfills. We installed hand dryers in all our facilities and eliminated all paper towels; our single-stream recycling process brings together paper, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and glass.
We recently completed an FTA environmental training and assistance program, so we are going to receive ISO 14001 certification for our largest rail facility.
What is unique about your agency that readers would be surprised to learn?
MARTA operates the eighth largest police department in the entire state of Georgia. We have well over 300 police officers. The force includes uniformed officers in our stations, a bus patrol, approximately 18 bomb dogs, and a bomb squad. In fact, we have provided bomb disposal support for police departments in some of the smaller cities around the area that don’t have the resources we have.
Make sure you see Dwight Ferrell’s video, now that you've read this!
Corporate Affairs Department
What are the three job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?
I wear many hats here at APTA. My main focus is always to put the association’s members first.
My top three duties are the daily processing of checks, scheduling conference rooms, and ordering supplies for the association. Also, I work with our local vendors to ensure pricing, distribution, and maintenance on the office copiers and fax machines.
I strive to establish a good working relationship among APTA staff members and help ensure a good work environment. When needed, I also assist in other areas throughout the day with the staff and members.
I handle all outgoing FedEx shipping for membership packages, communications and marketing, and receiving.
Do you have direct contact with APTA members? If so, please talk about recent times you’ve helped out a member.
I was working as the front-desk receptionist in the APTA offices one day when an association member—who was visiting the office to attend a meeting—asked me a question about how he could register for an upcoming APTA conference. Since I was familiar with APTA’s NetForum software, I helped him register for the meeting—not knowing he was a vice president of a major company.
After I left the front desk, this member asked another APTA employee for my name and the name of my supervisor. He then sent an email to Evelyn Lozano, office services manager, to inform her of my “outstanding” help here at APTA.
What initiatives, projects, or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?
The two main projects I have worked on at APTA are the Annual Meeting and the International Public Transportation EXPO. Although I did not attend either of these events, I was part of the necessary preparation process, which gave me the opportunity to work with the entire APTA staff in areas apart from membership, marketing, and communications.
Working on the Annual Meeting and EXPO allowed me to become part of a team to ensure accuracy and time-sensitive planning for shipping, mailings, and photocopying related to the events. I prepared copies of documents, booklets, and programs for distribution during the meetings.
I was able to use my skills and learn each about the working methods and daily duties of other APTA employees to help create a very successful EXPO and Annual Meeting.
How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here?
I learned about APTA through a temporary employment agency. I have worked for APTA for two years.
Have you held other jobs in the public transportation industry besides working at APTA?
No. However, I worked in the defense industry for 13 years, as a logistics manager for the National Defense Industrial Association.
Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?
Here are a few things: I am an advocate for further education. I am the only boy in a family with nine sisters. I am a comedian who loves to entertain family and friends. My APTA motto is: “I am here to do my part for the association.”
During the holiday season I play the local neighborhood Santa Claus and give out presents: gifts, food for thought, or a holiday jingle. I also do local standup Christian comedy at my local church as part of certain events.
I also try to contribute to meeting the needs of my community. I participate in a local coat drive to collect and distribute coats to those in need during the winter months. I also provide transportation in my community to neighbors who don’t have a way to get to and from doctor’s appointments or grocery stores.
Make sure you see Greg Woodland’s video, now that you've read this!
BY NEAL PEIRCE
Jeff Speck’s new book—“Walkable City”—starts off with a chilling quote as he laments the fate of the many American cities plagued by “fattened roads, emaciated sidewalks, deleted trees, fry-pit drive-thrus, and 10-acre parking lots.”
Speck has seen a lot of urban disasters in his career advising cities on their development choices. But the thrust of his book is anything but downbeat. Rich rewards, he argues, await cities that move to tame traffic and put pedestrians first, create attractive streetscapes, mix uses, foster smart transit, and create unique, quality places. In another word, truly walkable places.
Currently only a handful of American cities are making all those moves correctly—Speck mentions New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
But the formula of those top cities is precisely what today’s “millennials”—born after 1981—vastly favor: urban communities with active street life, entertainment, stimulation. Or as demographer William Frey puts it, “A new image of urban America is in the making. What used to be white flight to the suburbs turning into ‘bright flight’ to the cities.”
And it needn’t just be the millennials: “Empty nesters” (the vast-post World War II generation) include millions tired of maintaining their suburban homes and ready, in many cases, to opt for walkable, livable communities.
So opportunities for cities are exciting. Though, Speck argues, this means reining in specialists who don’t see the whole city’s needs. He singles out school departments that push for larger facilities instead of cheaper-to-maintain neighborhood schools. Or public works departments that insist neighborhoods be designed principally around trash and snow removal.
He reserves special criticism for transportation departments that keep pushing wide roadways to let traffic move more rapidly—roadways so big and dangerous they trigger vast numbers of serious accidents (adding to America’s world-leading total of 3.2 million traffic fatalities).
The nation’s sprawling development patterns mean that autos get used not just for long commutes but also for rounds of small daily errands. Vast wealth flows out of communities to pay for gasoline. Sedentary auto-dependent lifestyles exacerbate obesity levels that throw a dark shadow over our national future.
The solution Speck carries to cities: “Put cars in their place.” Discourage big new roads. Tear down obsolete urban freeways. Recognize that “free” or low-cost streetside and employer parking gets paid for in taxes, goods, meals or services paid for by everyone, drivers or not. Stop minimum parking requirements for office, shopping and housing complexes because they just trigger more costs and sprawl. Put subsidies instead into public transit—the golden complement to walking.
Speck does favor welcoming cars (as long as they pay a fair parking price) on shopping-area streets—they bring customers, real city income. But for vibrant street life, he advocates pushing ugly open-air parking lots and garages some blocks away from major shopping areas.
But for a truly walkable, accessible, friendly American streetscape, Speck adds two other key factors: trees and bikes.
Why trees? They add loveliness and pleasure to walking, at maturity even a cathedral-like street canopy. They are nature’s best shade providers. They reduce temperatures in hot weather—more vital than ever as global warming advances. They significantly increase property values. They absorb tailpipe emissions, cleansing the air. They slow cars, meaning fewer life-threatening accidents. And they also absorb significant amounts of rainwater, reducing the threats of fresh- and sewage-water commingling in storms.
Small wonder that Speck inveighs against traffic engineers who want to remove street trees for fear cars will crash into them.
And bikes? Speck argues that “cycling has got to be the most efficient, healthful, empowering, and sustainable form of transportation there is.” With the same amount of energy as walking, a bicyclist can travel three times farther. Bike commuters get the exercise car drivers don’t. And happily, city bike riding is on a dramatic upswing right now.
I subscribe without reservation to Speck’s bicycle pitch—perhaps because, like him, I live in Washington, D.C., and have been cycling all over town for several decades. Like him, I enjoy the fresh air, the exercise, and easily beating auto (and often even subway) travel time.
Washington, to be sure, is especially bike-friendly: One finds parks, the National Mall’s roadways or quieter streets to avoid the heaviest vehicular traffic. And now an enlightened city government is installing bike lanes—some especially well-protected from traffic by vertical plastic posts—all around town.
From New York, Minneapolis, Portland, Tucson and other cities, Speck amasses evidence that biking is less dangerous, reduces accidents, and saves more money than popularly thought.
Could we really have less motorized, calmer, quieter, truly livable global cityscapes? Two feet, on the ground or on pedals, may be our best formula ever—and now.
Contact Neal Peirce.
©2012, The Washington Post Writers Group
Laurence (Larry) Jackson
LONG BEACH, CA—Laurence (Larry) Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Long Beach Transit for the past 36 years, has announced his plans to retire in the fall of 2013. He is one of the longest tenured presidents of a public transit agency and received APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation Manager award at the 2012 Annual Meeting.
Jackson is a past APTA president, board chairman, and secretary-treasurer, a member of the board of directors since 1984, and a Legislative Committee member for more than 30 years.
IRVINE, CA—Terry Gohde has joined Stantec as U.S. alternative delivery program manager in the company’s transportation practice, based in Irvine.
Gohde has more than 37 years of experience in project, construction, and program management, including nearly 30 years in the public transit/rail industries. Most recently, he was vice president of alternative project delivery for a global, multi-disciplinary design firm.
PITTSBURGH, PA—John Tague has joined the Port Authority of Allegheny County Board of Directors, appointed by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
Tague is principal of JT Consulting Services, advising companies and organizations on the creation of disability policies and training programs.
OMAHA, NE—HDR announced the appointment of Patrick Hickox, P.E., as its bridges & structures director.
Hickox has more than 24 years of experience in design, construction, and asset maintenance of complex, long span bridges with a specialty in cable stayed bridges. Prior to joining HDR, he was senior vice president/construction engineering director at Figg Engineering.
Steve Jones, Miguel Pulido, Gary Miller, Matt Harper, Al Murray, Jeff Lalloway, Tim Shaw, Gail Eastman, Lori Donchak, Frank Ury
ORANGE, CA—The Orange County Transportation Authority announced that 10 new members are joining its board of directors following appointments made by the City Selection Committee of Orange County.
They are Garden Grove Councilman Steve Jones, First District, succeeding Bill Dalton; Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, reappointed in the First District; Seal Beach Mayor Pro Tem Gary Miller, Second District, succeeding Larry Crandall; Huntington Beach Councilman Matt Harper, Second District, succeeding Don Hansen; Tustin Mayor Pro Tem Al Murray, Third District, succeeding Carolyn Cavecche; Irvine Councilman Jeff Lalloway, Third District, succeeding Jerry Amante; La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw, Fourth District; Anaheim Councilwoman Gail Eastman, Fourth District, succeeding Lorri Galloway; San Clemente Councilwoman Lori Donchak, Fifth District, succeeding Peter Herzog; and Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury, Fifth District, succeeding Paul Glaab.
Tom Hickey, Aaron James, Reginald Mason
DENVER, CO—CH2M HILL welcomes three new members to its Transit & Rail Practice.
Tom Hickey, East Coast planning manager based in Philadelphia, has more than 30 years of experience in public transit planning and management. He has served public transit agencies including the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Houston Metro), Port Authority Transit Corporation, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, Metro in St. Louis, and MTA New York City Transit. He is vice chair of the APTA Streetcar Committee and serves on several other APTA committees.
Aaron James, senior program management director in the firm’s Baltimore office, is former director of the FTA Office of Engineering. He has worked more than 30 years in program management, strategic planning, project and product management, systems engineering, and business development.
Reginald Mason, senior safety director, is also based in the Baltimore office. He has 15 years experience with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Houston Metro, and Valley Metro Rail in Phoenix. He is an at-large member of the APTA Executive Committee, chairs the Bus Safety Committee, and is a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2010.
PORTLAND, OR—The National Guard has honored Michael Bedlion, First Transit general manager for paratransit services under contract to the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon, with the Patriot Award for the support he provides his employees who serve in the military.
Bedlion has two employees who are reserves in the National Guard.
A nominee must demonstrate support for service in the National Guard and Reserve, publicly acknowledge the contributions of reserve component employees to the nation’s defense, support National Guard and Reserve employees beyond the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and support guard and reserve employee families during mobilizations.
LIVONIA, MI—ROUSH CleanTech announced the appointment of Randy Veenhoven as executive director of sales for public transit.
Working with state DOTs, original equipment manufacturers, local agencies, and state transportation boards, Veenhoven has spent 25 years serving the public transportation industry. He most recently acted as regional sales manager for USSC Group. For American Seating, his various assignments included regional sales, dealer development, and education.